Centralisation of IT

News.com writes:

In the old versions of centralization, IT infrastructure costs were simply allocated among business units, which had little control over the system and few incentives to manage its usage effectively. The new model strikes a balance between the simplicity of central control and the transparency and accountability of local control.

At the center of this new arrangement are service managers, who usually have technical backgrounds but later graduated to management. Service managers work for IT organizations and support specific technologies, such as servers or mainframes. They gather requirements from their client organizations and develop price guides (for instance, a choice between high- or low-end servers and laptops), much as they would for hardware companies or systems integration companies.

Central IT departments manage the supply of products and services–data lines, servers, technical support, and so on. The business units, in turn, base their requests for services on how much data they transmit as well as on the number of servers and the level of help-desk support they feel they must have. Businesses get the service they require and pay for it. They therefore have more incentive to buy only what they need, while the IT group must hold to the previously agreed cost and service levels–an arrangement that alleviates the suspicions of managers that IT departments are either overcharging or underserving them.

This service-based approach has helped both to improve the reliability of corporate IT infrastructures and to reduce spending on them by as much as 30 percent; the more a decentralized infrastructure is consolidated, the more savings a company can expect.

This bodes well for many of the things we are working on – like Emergic Freedom, which centralises computing and storage for SMEs on a Linux server.

Blogs Connect Minds

Writes Steven Johnson in a Wired article:

We’ve lived so long under the notion of the Web as a space of connected documents, it seems almost unthinkable that it could be organized any other way. But it could just as easily be assembled around a different axis: not pages but minds.

The explosive growth of blogging is creating the opportunity to do just that. Hundreds of thousands of individuals now maintain their own weblogs, updating them regularly with links, commentary, and personal anecdotes. There are some wonderful group weblogs, to be sure, but the general principle of blogspace is one per person. Following a well-maintained, up-to-date personal blog is – short of shacking up with someone – the most efficient method yet invented to keep track of what’s going on in another person’s head over extended periods: what they’re working on, linking to, obsessing about, listening to, reading. On a day-to-day basis, I am more intimately aware of the latest happenings in the world of my 10 favorite bloggers than I am of what’s going on with my closest friends. And of those 10 bloggers, I’ve met only two or three in person. As one of them, Rael Dornfest, likes to say: “Following someone’s blog is like doing a TiVo season pass for a person.”

Your mind becomes a part of the space as well. Your own personal site becomes an extension of your memory, as in Vannevar Bush’s vision of the Memex, but your memories also become part of the Web’s collective intelligence.

Social Software

Darwin Magazine writes:

Social software is likely to come to mean the opposite of what groupware and other project- or organization-oriented collaboration tools were intended to be. Social software is based on supporting the desire of individuals to affiliate, their desire to be pulled into groups to achieve their personal goals. Contrast that with the groupware approach to things where people are placed into groups defined organizationally or functionally.

People sign up in the system (for example, by downloading an IM client and registering an ID there) and then they affiliate through personal choice and actions (I add you to my buddy list, and you decide to remove me from yours).

Traditional software approaches the relationship of people to groups from a top-down fashion. In the corporate setting, its hard to imagine a person existing without being specifically assigned membership to top-down groups: your team, your division, the budget committee and so on.
Over time, more sophisticated social software will exploit second and third order information from such affiliations friends of friends; digital reputation based on level of interaction, rating schemes and the like. And this new software will support David Weinberger’s notion of enabling groups to form and self-organize rather than have structure or organization imposed.

Social software starts with individuals: People start with their own interests, biases and connections, and these become reflected in social relationships, from which a network of groups emerge from the interchange.

Lee Bryant has a more detailed article on social software: “This paper aims to provide an overview of what is being called social software or online social applications, tracing their roots in online community thinking and identifying some of their underlying features. It will also examine some of the emerging perspectives on social networks and online behaviour that might help us understand how to develop better online social applications, and it will suggest a methodology for creating meaningful online social applications around existing social networks and stakeholders.”


From Evectors:

k-collector is an enterprise news aggregator that leverages the power of shared topics to present new ways of finding and combining the real knowledge in your organisation.

k-collector uses the idea of a cloud, where topics can be defined by users of the servers and shared among each other. The server collects posts from the same cloud together and organises them using the associated topics to create a powerful interface.

Its an interesting idea, worth looking at further. A bit like our Memex…

OhMyNews Redefines Journalism

Dan Gillmor writes on the South Korean website and newspaper that has citizens as its reporters:

OhmyNews is transforming the 20th century’s journalism-as-lecture model, where organizations tell the audience what the news is and the audience either buys it or doesn’t, into something vastly more bottom-up, interactive and democratic.

The site posts about 70 percent of the roughly 200 items submitted each day, after staff editors look at the stories. Postings work on a hierarchy corresponding to their place on the page; the lower the headline appears, the less important or interesting the editors consider it. The higher and more newsworthy the story, the more the freelance contributor gets paid.

The idea isn’t entirely new. News organizations have long used stringers, who contribute freelance articles.

What’s so different here is that anyone can sign up, and it’s not difficult to get published. The Web means space for news is essentially unlimited, and OhmyNews welcomes contributions from just about anyone.

The real-people nature of the contributors lends further appeal to the site. The citizen-reporters do cover politics, economy, culture, arts and science — the usual subjects you’ll find in newspapers — but they tend to focus more on personally oriented issues like education, job conditions and the environment.

The easy coexistence of the amateurs and professionals will, soon enough, seem natural. Publications like OhmyNews will pop up everywhere, because they make sense, combining the best of old and new journalistic forms.

Wired News has more:

in South Korea, the publishing instinct is directed toward a big, collaborative online newspaper that has emerged as one of the country’s most influential media outlets.

OhmyNews is a unique experiment in “citizen journalism”: Anyone who registers with the site can become a paid reporter.

“With OhmyNews, we wanted to say goodbye to 20th-century journalism where people only saw things through the eyes of the mainstream, conservative media,” said editor and founder, Oh Yeon-ho. “Our main concept is every citizen can be a reporter. We put everything out there and people judge the truth for themselves.”

Launched three years ago, OhmyNews has grown from a staff of four to more than 40 editors and reporters who publish about 200 stories a day. The vast majority of the news, however, is written by more than 26,000 registered citizen journalists, who come from all walks of life, from chambermaids to professional writers.

The site attracts an estimated 2 million daily readers, and has been widely credited with helping to elect South Korea’s new progressive president, Roh Moo-hyun. The Guardian newspaper called OhmyNews “arguably the world’s most domestically powerful news site.”

This should be something that may be worth trying out in India.

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IBM’s DB2 Information Integrator

WSJ writes:

IBM said it expects to unveil this week a new form of database software that can integrate free-form information such as e-mails with traditional structured database information. The product, DB2 Information Integrator, is designed to make it easy to get various types of information without doing separate searches of many different computer systems. For example, IBM said, a corporate salesperson who gets a call from a customer could just type in the customer name and quickly see invoice and payment records, the text of contracts and recent e-mails from the customer. Nelson Mattos, director of IBM’s information integration, said this is the third generation of a project started in 1995. The first products made it possible to get information from various companies’ databases and look at it together; the second generation created a way to deal with unstructured text.

I like the phrase “Information Integrator”.

TECH TALK: Constructing the Memex: Building Blocks: RSS (Part 2)

One additional utility will bridge the world of RSS and blogs. What is needed is the creation of a special folder in the RSS IMAP mail account let us call it blog. Any mail moved into this should get posted on to the users blog. What this does is to make the act of posting to a blog as easy as drag-and-drop. This simple enhancement is an important one because it bridges two worlds the world of blogs and RSS, and the world of emails. A user can also now post personal emails to the blog in the same way. By doing so, an email gets a permalink which can be used for cross-referencing at a later stage.

One issue to be tackled is that of availability of RSS feeds. Many sites still do not have RSS feeds in fact, some of the news sites do not even have permalinks to refer to stories. This needs to be addressed. While there are sites like NewsIsFree and Sydic8 which offer RSS feeds for some of the news sites, one needs to go further. There should be a nano-blog for each of the popular news sites. This blog should list out the stories, giving each story a permalink, and then generating an RSS feed for others to subscribe.

What this nano-blog does is also address another drawback: it is difficult in most news sites to see stories chronologically or by issue. So, while a current issue or days newspaper may have its Table of Contents (ToC), it is difficult to get to the ToC for an older issue. Thus, creating a blog-like format for a news site can help in navigating the archives as well as provide permalinks for linking to the stories.

As we shall see soon, these individual actions taken across tens of thousands (or even millions) of individuals can help in ferreting out useful content based on what we and our friends are reading.

Once the RSS Ecosystem is in place from subscription to a feed, to receiving it in ones mail client, to being able to post an item to a blog, which can in turn generate an RSS feed for redistribution there is no limitation on what type of feeds can be handled. The calendar we use as part of our desktop could put out an RSS feed. So could various enterprise programs. Search engines could offer their results as RSS feeds. Because RSS is a standard and it is fairly easy to create, content publishers and enterprise software programs could use it to distribute news, information and events. Interested users can subscribe to these feeds and have the updates pushed to them on the desktop (or for that matter, to an IM client or a cellphone or PDA).

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