Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Thinking - 20 July 2012 - Handbook for New Employees at Valve, some thoughts of the smart city and random bits.

In Mining the matrix this week here are some interesting articles that think are useful dots that can be connected to provide some landmarks in the topography of the emerging digital environment and economy. The order is not meant to be part of the coherence necessary to see a picture.

·        Valve’s – Handbook for New Employees
·        Smart phone sensors serving a ‘smart city’
·        The rise of the ‘Connected Viewer’ – Pew Research Report
·        Getting healthy and preparing for a Zombie Apocalypse
·        What does Internet Governance have to do with Open Data?
·        Scientific particles collide with social media to benefit of all
·        Facebook users not as satisfied as Google+ users
·        Google+ grows 43% in June – reaches 31,9 million unique visitors in the US
·        Microsoft Office 15 review: built for touch and the cloud
·        The Global Innovation Index 2012
·         Open Letter from the Broadband Commission to the G20 Leaders Meeting, June 2012

Something that was very exciting to me was this wonderful ‘Handbook For New Employees” – by the gaming company VALVE. I found this to be a great inspiration. This is something that any type of organization should consider including a science organization, which also that needs the passion of its employee to thrive and one that should encourage responsible autonomy to harness that passion in the best way. 

It’s not that all work in the future will be like working at Valve – but more work will be – simply because it enables the social computing (that is the message of the digital environment). For anyone interested in organizational culture – this is a must read.
Handbook For New Employees (links to the pdf)

Here’s the preface:
In 1996, we set out to make great games, but we knew back then that we had to first create a place that was designed to foster that greatness. A place where incredibly talented individuals are empowered to put their best work into the hands of millions of people, with very little in their way. This book is an abbreviated encapsulation of our guiding principles. As Valve continues to grow, we hope that these principles will serve each new person joining our ranks. If you are new to Valve, welcome. Although the goals in this book are important, it’s really your ideas, talent, and energy that will keep Valve shining in the years ahead.
Thanks for being here. Let’s make great things.

Here’s  their rationale - ‘Welcome to the Flatland’
Hierarchy is great for maintaining predictability and repeatability. It simplifies planning and makes it easier to
control a large group of people from the top down, which is why military organizations rely on it so heavily.
But when you’re an entertainment company that’s spent the last decade going out of its way to recruit the most
intelligent, innovative, talented people on Earth, telling them to sit at a desk and do what they’re told obliterates
99 percent of their value. We want innovators, and that means maintaining an environment where they’ll flourish.
That’s why Valve is flat. It’s our shorthand way of saying that we don’t have any management, and nobody “reports
to” anybody else. We do have a founder/president, but even he isn’t your manager. This company is yours to
steer—toward opportunities and away from risks. You have the power to green-light projects. You have the power to ship products. A flat structure removes every organizational barrier between your work and the customer enjoying that work. Every company will tell you that “the customer is boss,” but here that statement has weight. There’s no red tape stopping you from figuring out for yourself what our customers want, and then giving it to them.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow, that sounds like a lot of responsibility,” you’re right. And that’s why hiring is
the single most important thing you will ever do at Valve (see “Hiring ,” on page 43). Any time you interview a potential hire, you need to ask yourself not only if they’re talented or collaborative but also if they’re capable of literally running this company, because they will be.

As I said this is well worth the read.

This year I had a flash of insight that the ‘smart city’ is a fundamental disruptive technology that can plausibly evolve in the next 10-15 years (e.g. Google's launch of 'Google Fiber' in Kansas City - where a true testing of the Google Glasses could also take place). The smart city is not a single technology but the basic platform for assembling and implementing in a ‘do-able’ way the first foundation of a ubiquitous digital environment. The smart city is also a ‘right sized’ arena for the development of new institutions, and economics relevant to the digital environment. A number of drivers come together to shape and encourage the development of the smart city.
·        Demographics
o   will push the development of smart homes for better health monitoring,
o   may also push for driverless cars as pre-boomer and boomer generations continue to want driving independence and safety
o   likely to move into the city for ease of social leisure and life-style
·        The push to provide ubiquitous wifi in the city
o   A number of countries (along with the UN) have declared Internet Access a human right. The Australian Government is providing ‘fiber optic’ cable to over 90% of Australian households
o   Ubiquitous wifi enables the digital economy to expand services and enables new forms of work.
·        The rapid evolution of the smart phone, tablet and potentially an augmented reality device like Google Glasses which is supposed to become commercially available this year are opening a new domain of ‘wantables’ – data/information visualizations. What do I mean by ‘wantables’? Steve Jobs did not do a survey to assess what Apple clients wanted – they in fact did not know what was ‘wantable’ till the nano, the iPhone, and the iPad were released. Or think of 1998 Google’s first year it answered an average of about 9,000 questions a day that year (3.6 million question for the year). In 2011, Google was answering 4.7 billion question a day!!! Who knew that the ability to ask any question anytime could be a ‘wantable’. I think that customizable on-demand data visualization are the new ‘Google Questions’.

Along the lines of the smart city as a platform and data visualizations as its ‘Apps’ this article outlines several new domains of the digital environment, including – open data, participatory crowdsourcing of value creation, citizen as journalist/scientist/sensor, and of course the smart city. Thanks to Robert Merton for this article.

Street Bump App Detects Potholes
Street Bump, an Android app piloted by the City of Boston. The app, which should be available to the public this summer, makes the smartphone's accelerometer do the job of sensing potholes. If you're driving and you hit a pothole while the app is loaded, Street Bump pairs up data about the size of the bump with a GPS coordinate - and sends that to a city database….

Discouraged by the muddy data, the city decided to launch a global challenge in partnership with a group called InnoCentive. Liberty Mutual donated $25,000 in prize money for the group or groups that could use equations to distinguish between a pothole-y bump and all those other run-of-the-road vibrations.

Three winners were announced, and the city is working to implement their algorithmic solutions now….

Certainly an indication of the emerging digital environment as well as further along the line of the emergence of the smart city, here’s a new Pew research report (12 pages). The increasingly rapid transformation of the music business, print publishing, and television/film industries also provide some impetus to the emergence of a smart city. I’ve noted in the last month that Rogers (the local Cable company) no longer rents DVD’s – they expect customer to watch movies online (while also enforcing download caps).

Half of all adult cell phone owners now incorporate their mobile devices into their television watching experiences. These “connected viewers” used their cell phones for a wide range of activities during the 30 days preceding our April 2012 survey:
·         38% of cell owners used their phone to keep themselves occupied during commercials or breaks in something they were watching
·         23% used their phone to exchange text messages with someone else who was watching the same program in a different location
·         22% used their phone to check whether something they heard on television was true
·         20% used their phone to visit a website that was mentioned on television
·         11% used their phone to see what other people were saying online about a program they were watching, and 11% posted their own comments online about a program they were watching using their mobile phone
·         6% used their phone to vote for a reality show contestant
Taken together, 52% of all cell owners are “connected viewers”—meaning they use their phones while watching television for at least one of these reasons.

According to the International Telecommunications Union – at the end of 2011 there were 6 Billion mobile subscriptions (the equivalent of 87% of the world’s population – of course these subscriptions include those many people with more than one mobile subscription. As Cisco has recently predicted – by 2015 there will be 25 billion connected devices). In 2010 there were 5.4 Billion mobile subscription and in 2009 4.7 Billion.

Now how in the world can a city be smart city if it isn’t ready for the Zombie Apocalypse??? Here’s an inkling of more types of smart city apps. The 3 minute video is fun and entertaining – worth the time to watch.
Zombies, Run! is an ultra-immersive running game for the iPhone, iPod Touch, Android and Windows Phone. We deliver the story straight to your headphones through orders and voice recordings - and back home, you can build and grow your base with the items you've collected.
Run Anywhere
Zombies, Run! works anywhere and at any speed. You can jog in a park, run along a beach, or walk along a trail, even on treadmills!
Keep the survivors alive
You automatically collect items like medicine, batteries, and ammo while running - but when you're back home, who needs them more: the soldiers or the doctors? Which buildings need extra defenses? It’s up to you - and the bigger your base, the more missions you can play.

Open data can be defined by three basic requirements – accessible online, machine readable and licensed for re-use.

…. In 2009 David Eaves put forward ‘three laws of open government data‘ that describe what it takes for a dataset to be considered effectively open. They boil down to requirements that data should be accessible online, machine readable, and under licenses that permit re-use. Explore these three facets of open dataoffers one route into potential internet governance issues that need to be critically discussed if the potential benefits of open data are to be secured in equitable ways…..

This is another interesting discussion of scientist, social media and the transformation of science, publishing and more. 

IN 2008 CERN switched on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva – around the same time it sent out its first tweet. Although the first outing of the LHC didn’t go according to plan, the Twitter account gained 10,000 followers within the first day, according to James Gillies, head of communications at Cern.
Speaking at the Euroscience Open Forum in Dublin this week, Gillies explained the role social media plays in engaging the public with the particle physics research its laboratory does. The Twitter account now has 590,000 followers and Cern broke important news via it in March 2010 by joyously declaring: “Experiment have seen collisions.”
“Why do we communicate at Cern? If you talk to the scientists who work there they will tell you it’s a good thing to do and they all want to do it,” Gillies said, adding that Cern is publicly funded so engaging with the people who pay the bills is important…..

The social media ‘wars’ are nowhere near even beginning – as business models struggle to find the balance between close/proprietal walled-gardens/Malls versus more open models that focus on user experience. Even the Massive Multiplayer Online Games have to ensure that players are duly ‘satisfied’ with their experience or else they will immigrate – that is unless the virtual environment is so addictively game-ified that users create significant lock-in/‘sunk-costs’ that they becoming very reluctant to immigrate. 

Personally, I have left Facebook, I haven't yet closed my account but I no longer post regularly frequent my page. I love my friends/community on FB, but I can no longer let myself be harvested the way that FB is trying to reap profits from genuine relationships. I think we definitely need a new institution related to space like FB, an institution that ensures that the quality of being a public space comes with relevant rights. Malls are great - but they give me a creepy feeling of having what looks and feels like public space (with corresponding rights) becoming subverted into private property - another form of privatizing the commons. 

Facebook's reputation for customer satisfaction continues to tarnish, while Google+ pops up on a customer satisfaction index for the first time and makes it to the top of the social network pyramid.

…. "Facebook and Google+ are competing on two critical fronts: customer experience and market penetration. Google+ handily wins the former, and Facebook handily wins the latter, for now," Larry Freed, ForeSee's president and CEO, said in a statement. "It's worth asking how much customer satisfaction matters for Facebook, given its unrivaled 800 million user base. But I expect Google to leverage its multiple properties and mobile capabilities to attract users at a rapid pace. If Facebook doesn't feel the pressure to improve customer satisfaction now, that may soon change."….

And more current data from the Social Media wars.
Google+ grows 43% in June – reaches 31,9 million unique visitors in the USThe June social network traffic numbers from Compete are now available, and confirms that Google+ had a huge visitor and traffic increase in June. This month Google+ had 31,9 million visitors to it's site, compared to 22,3 million visitors in May, an increase of 43,1%.

Has gained 14,2 million visitors in 2012
Since the year started, Google+ has gained 14,2 million visitors, from 17,6 million visitors in December to 31,9 million visitors in June. For the first time, according to Compete statistics, Google+ is now larger than Linkedin, who had 24,6 million visitors in June. Linkedin had a 6,5% decrease in visitors in June compared to May.

The Social Networks
These are the social network numbers (in million visitors) for June, including the percentage change compared to May.
Facebook 158,6 (+1,0%)
YouTube 153,8 (+0,75%)
Twitter 42,6 (+0,9%)
Google+ 31,9 (+43,1%)
Linkedin 24,6 (-6,5%)
MySpace 21,9 (-8,0%)
Tumblr 21,6 (+0,1%)
Pinterest 19,4 (+0,4%)

Over 100 million worldwide visitors from desktop only?
The Compete numbers are US only and desktop only. If US still represents about 30% of the Google+ global community, as earlier statistics have shown, Google+ now has more than 100 million worldwide visitors via desktops each month.
During the Google I/O Conference in June, Google’s +Vic Gundotra announced that the Google+ mobile traffic is now larger than the desktop traffic. Gundotra also announced that Google+ has 250 million accounts, 150 million active users during a month and 75 million active daily users. The June statistics from Compete seems to confirm the published figures from Google.

Well perhaps by the time government workers get Window/Office 2010 - workers in the private sector will be working on their new ‘Surface – Tablet’ from a cloud environment, maybe by that time Ottawa will be a smart city. Maybe by then our government will be considering whether we should be thinking of having a ‘smart government organization’. J
Early unveiling shows a product that has been rethought for a world where we use tablets and cloud computing

New Windows, new Office. That has been the pattern for the last few years, with Office 2007 arriving shortly after Windows Vista, and Office 2010 following Windows 7Microsoft claims that Office 2010 has been its most successful ever; but the new Office unveiled yesterday in San Francisco has the challenge of making sense on (or of) Windows 8, an operating system made for touch control on a tablet as well as for use with traditional mouse and keyboard.
This is also the cloud era, and Microsoft says that the new Office has been designed accordingly. "We're transitioning Office as a cloud service" said CEO Steve Ballmer, introducing Monday's launch.

Just so we don’t give up hope that some sensible approach to Internet Access appropriate to the digital economy can be enacted, here is an interesting piece. As it happens I came across this article after I had already switched my Internet service to Tek Savvy ($53/month for 28 mbps and 300gb cap, if I use more than 300gbs then I pay $65 and have ‘unlimited’ downloads).
June 29 2012 by Ellen Roseman
A $19 billion class action against Canada’s major wireless companies over undisclosed extra fees can proceed, thanks to the Supreme Court of Canada. About 30,000 people have joined the case, says lawyer Tony Merchant.

The issue is the “system access fee” that wireless carriers routinely added to customers’ bills. They blamed the government for making them charge an extra $7 to $9 a month, giving the impression they had no choice in the matter.
This particular fee may be gone except for customers with older plans, but extra fees still linger on wireless bills. For example, Rogers started in 2009 to charge a government regulatory recovery fee .

However, new customers are no better off, since the major carriers simply increased their prices to replicate the fees they say went toward paying for their licenses and purchasing wireless spectrum, as well as maintaining and upgrading their expensive wireless networks, said a Toronto Star story.

Another class action suit alleges that Bell Canada was using illegal expiry dates on its prepaid wireless contracts. Lead plaintiff Celia Sankar says Bell’s seizing of customers’ credit balances contravenes Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act.
Bell is angering many customers again. Not only is it charging a $2 fee for paper bills, but it is cutting its bundle discounts to $4 per service (from $5).

Bundle discounts are supposed to keep you loyal to Big Telecom and reluctant to switch elsewhere. But one customer did the math and switched his Internet service to Teksavvy (even before the bundle discounts were reduced in June).
I’m getting lots of feedback about Bell’s double play. See a few comments below from disgruntled clients. How can telecom companies raise prices for customers under contract? This is unfair, even unconscionable. A contract should be binding on both parties, not just one side.
Let’s hope that an enterprising lawyer sees abusive contracts as the next class action to fight in court.

Finally - According to the newly release World Innovation Index produced by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Canada ranks 12thin the world.
Stronger Innovation Linkages for Global Growth

In recent months, policy discussions about how to reignite confidence in the world economy have questioned the focus on austerity measures. The economic policy debate is placing renewed emphasis on achieving an appropriate policy mix that fosters growth and employment while promoting sustainable public finances.

Policies to promote innovation should feature prominently in these discussions—even if innovation cannot cure the most immediate financial difficulties, it is a crucial element of sustainable growth. Future generations will ask whether the stimulus programmes of 2009 and any upcoming initiatives successfully married short-term demand stimulus with longer-lasting growth objectives. They will also ask whether policy makers seized the opportunity presented by the current crisis to put forward-looking measures in place to lay the foundations for future prosperity. Finally, they will judge whether firms and other innovation actors invested appropriately in the future, and attempt to determine why some emerged from the crisis more strongly than others.

OF interest is the final chapters of this document:
Chapter 9: Broadband, Inevitable Innovation,and Development
By Robert Shaw, ITU, and Bruno Lanvin, INSEAD eLab and Broadband Commission
Chapter 10: The Internet: An Unprecedented and Unparalleled Platform for Innovation and Change
By Lynn St. Amour, Internet Society
Chapter 11: We Are All Content Creators Now: Measuring Creativity and Innovation in the Digital Economy
By Derek Slater and Patricia Wruuck, Google
In support of these three chapters here is
The Broadband Commission for Digital Developmentaddresses this open letter to world leaders, policy-makers, industry leaders, participants and citizens attending the G20 Leaders Meeting.


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