Rethinking the Office

Tim Ferriss not only gave us “The 4-hour Workweek”, but he is also giving us a blog where he continues his writings about his life-style experimentations… as always its interesting stuff, however one article caught my interest more than others seeing that Hello is currently looking for new office space and all here hence are thinking about how its gonna be.

One thing that strike me, is that it’s been very hard to convince management about the reasons to experiment with the office layout… it would be so cool to try and work on a distinct project basis, in office islands centered around the project… my computer could be reduced to a laptop and a server somewhere in the basement compiling the code for all…. we should have alternative areas with a very unbiased purpose… something like depicted in the photo below…

Anyways… check out the article…


An instant classic…

When the email linking to this cartoon arrived in my inbox, I instantly saw the timelessness and universality of the situation… fencing, foosball, table tennis or simply chilling… developers will always be able to raise the excuse of “compilation in progress… hence waiting”


What happened with Mark Shepherd ?

Sometimes it happens that wiz’es show their face… only to disappear shortly thereafter, one such phenomenon is Mark Shepherd… he arrived to the blogosphere in the end of 2006 as a Computer Scientist at Adobe… and then he seems to have disappeared.

Is it perhaps the blogosphere’s pendant to music-industry’s “one-hit-wonders” or is there a more clever explanation to the apparent disappearance of Mark Shepherd ?

His works features among many other things, a Graph implementation as well as interesting visualizations of unrelated data.

I don’t know Mark Shepherd, but I think it’s interesting to witness and document his complete disappearance… I suppose the statelessness of the web and the inherent lack of persistent history makes it easy for people to appear, disappear and reappear…


Ecologically Friendly Hosting

Next time you are out looking for a hosting provider, perhaps it would be an idea to consider an ecologically friendly provider… and perhaps even to prioritize this aspect higher than prize… but honestly, doing so would need for alternative benefits to submerge in order to make it through management.

Many hosting providers offer the customers to flash their green profile on the website, but the effect and actual value of such a label is hard to determine…

It would be interesting if governmental institutions would demand that sub-contractors would present “green books” and e.g. only use a hosting provider for their solutions that have a green profile and would be in compliance with a green standard… and hence showing this on their website with an “eco-label”.

Especially hosting would be a good place to start, because the potential benefit is high and it’s easy to be green because there is no inconvenience…

A quick search on Google reveals a number of conscious hosting providers…


Artist vs. Craftsman (1)

I can identify three distinct events in my life that have forced me to reflect on the inherent conflict between abstract role-types.

  1. When I found out that legendary artist and/or craftsman Maurits Cornelis Escher (17 June 1898 – 27 March 1972), usually referred to as M. C. Escher… distinctly referred to himself as a craftsman, and NOT an artist… and eventually ended up resigning when people would refer to him as an artist.
  2. When I was in College, I as did most of my peers, flirted with Marxism and Socialism. This involved reading Marx and eventually accepting (and copying) his perception of the struggle between different roles in society. One that I always found fascinating about this was the conflict Marx pointed out as being part of the working class itself, and hence not as part of the more famous struggle between classes. Marx pointed out that within the working class there is a conflict between the intellectuals and the physical workers… but eventually his conclusion was that the more important struggle between the classes could not be won unless the intellectuals and physical laborers would join forces… to apply Marx’s famous dualism to this phenomena intrigued me to think about the inherent diversity between what I later came to know as “Artists and Craftsmen”.
  3. When I read “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” by Anthony Bourdain… where he very strongly claims that he would never want an “artist” to work for him as a chef… and that he always ONLY would hire “craftsmen”… and on a completely irrelevant sidenote: states that among some of the strongest nations in providing Chef’s with strong craftsmen capabilities is Puerto Rico, the little known protectorate of the USA.

All these events came back to me today, when I could see that Morten Wulff and Anders Morgenthaler had touched down on this topic in their delightful and provocative (crazy) drawings with innocent look-and-feel…

Check it out…



MyHome : Advertisional Murals (1)

While I was waiting for the system to compile a test-deployment for the fantasillionth time, I just thought I might just post one of the pictures of the large advertisements that are surrounding the “MyHome – Your Intelligent Home” system…

I can tell you… it’s a truly humbling experience to be part of a project of this size and magnitude…


The MyLifeBits Project

I try to keep the clutter on this blog to an absolute minimum, I try to attain this by carefully considering what to blog about and by having a personal blog which tries to cover all the non-technical stuff I find relevant to share.

However, sometimes very interesting comes along which does not exactly reside in my knowledge domains but is technical enough to belong here, and hence “forces” me to blog about it in “The Combined Corner”.

One such things is The MyLifeBits Project by Mr. Gordon Bell at Microsoft.

Ever try to remember who you bumped into at the store a few days back? Or exactly what the company president said at the morning meeting?

Well, you’re not alone. And IBM researchers are working on software that just may help you better recollect all the forgotten pieces of your life.

This week, the company unveiled software that uses images, sounds and text recorded on everyday mobile devices to help people recall names, faces, conversations and events. Dubbed Pensieve, the software organizes bits of collected information, stores them and then helps the user extract them later on.

“Today, we’re flooded with information. It’s an information overload and we’re not capable of handling it,” said Eran Belinsky, an IBM project leader. “This would relieve us from the anxiousness or need to try to remember everything. And there’s the issue of trouble with recollection. [It’s like] your index is broken. You know you know something, but you can’t get there. This could help people having trouble with their memory reconstruct their memories.”

IBM’s project is akin to one that of Mr. Gordon Bell and a couple of other scientists at Microsoft Research have been working on for the past nine years. Bell, a longtime veteran of the IT industry and now principal researcher at Microsoft’s research arm, is developing a way for people to remember different aspects of their lives.

MyLifeBits has Bell supplementing his own memory by collecting as much information as he can about his life. He’s trying to store a lifetime on his Dell laptop. Collecting telephone conversations, music, lectures, books he’s written and read and photographs he’s incessantly taken, Bell is amassing a great database of his life.

Interesting stuff… 🙂


Workaholics United : Playing the Percentages

Whenever management lays down some new policies for customers or employees, there will inevitably be some degree of blowback. Any change, from moving to a outsourcing to India to moving furniture from one department to another, disrupts our sphere of comfort.

Since I can’t get away with simply saying, “Well, that’s different from what I’m used to,” I would be inclined to gather some negative results designed to invalidate the new policy. One time I was asked to implement an email autoresponder with text I disagreed with. After a few days, I got a couple of complaints from customers, so I argued to the boss that we should scrap the autoresponder. Referring to the complaints, he asked the question I’d come to expect from him:

“What percentage of the time does this happen?”

I sighed, knowing that not only had I been shot down, but that he was right in principle. I felt foolish telling him that I had received three complaints out of hundreds of email exchanges.

With any new project, some things are bound to go wrong. A zero-defect mentality is a zero-action policy. For practical goal realization, the operative principle should be to contain risk, not eliminate it. A certain amount of risk analysis is healthy. The trick is to identify the point of diminishing returns where further steps to reduce risk are actually attempts to eliminate risk, which is unrealistic.

There’s no formula for determining that point, only an intuition or an arbitrary definition that involves asking an answer certain questions:

* How seriously would the problem impact this?
* What percentage of the time does the problem happen?
* What percentage is acceptable?
* Is the problem irreversible?
* What other problems could happen?
* What steps could be taken to fix the problem?
* What steps could be taken to prevent the problem without abandoning the project?
* What problems would result from abandoning the project?
* Does the positive impact of success outweigh the negative impact of failure?

Psychologically, risk is “contained” when it’s given precisely the amount of attention appropriate to it, not more. The focus is predominantly on the likelihood of a negative outcome rather than the details of it. Problems are converted into projects, defined in terms of successful outcomes and next actions.

Recognize the difference between creating slack and being a slacker. Define your margin for error and embrace the art of strategic failure as a practical price to pay for accomplishing bigger goals.