Blogging Discipline

Anil Dash writes about how it is getting harder for him to blog (the lengthier posts). “I suppose some of it has to do with wanting to leave the day job behind when it comes time to writing for my site, but mostly it’s a change in attitude about what I’m doing and how it relates to my audience.”

Well, Anil has been writing for much longer than I have been, so I don’t know how I will feel a couple years down the line about blogging. But for me, blogging has opened up a new world – of people and ideas. It is a non-linear way to increase both. Blogging also requires a discipline – now, for me, it has become part of a day’s activities. I hope I can continue to do this.

Tomorrow’s Jobs

Barron’s suggests that “Despite the rise of offshore labor, Americans will have plenty of work:”

Over the next 10 to 20 years, in fact, skilled jobs will be on the rise as never before. They will proliferate in nursing, computer science, entertainment, financial services and entire fields that may now be just a gleam in the eyes of the innovative. The upshot: Today’s toddlers and teens will be handed enormous opportunities for challenging and creative careers. There should be plenty of work for older folks, too.

At least five broad trends promise to transform the jobs market. Start with three that are nearly certain to occur between now and 2025. The baby boomers will become senior citizens. The labor force will grow at a much slower rate than before. The Medicare system will be hit by a financial crisis of major proportions.

Two others are worth betting on. The IT Revolution, Part 2, is about to begin, with new kinds of information technology developed to serve the needs of the increasingly prevalent “knowledge workplace” — fields in which brain power, rather than machinery or processes, drive production.

This second revolution will be powerfully reinforced by our fifth and final trend: Spending on intangible capital, or IC — assets like patents, copyrights, brand names, trademarks and trade secrets — will continue to grow faster than outlays on tangibles like structures and equipment. That’s because of both a boom in products developed by science and a proliferation of niches in the global marketplace.

How will these trends influence the kind of work we do? The major effect will be to boost the share of the labor force with “knowledge worker” in their job description. The growth and development of both IT and IC should bring millions of new recruits to the knowledge workplace.

For example, the number of computer programmers, systems analysts and scientists almost doubled from 1992 through 2002, to 2.4 million. No surprise if another doubling occurs in the decade to come.

But greater investment in intangible capital also requires a diverse range of knowledge workers, including biologists, physicists, nehru-scientists, advertising writers, Web designers and high-end salespeople.

Knowledge workers will also find huge opportunities in serving the aging baby boomers, mainly in health care but also in financial services, particularly since older investors often demand personalized attention. Smart, personable bankers and brokers will be in greater demand than ever before.

All the more reason for the US to invest in education, which it doesn’t seem to be doing. I was talking to a friend from California recently – vacation period in one of the state universities was extended by two weeks because of financial cutbacks. This seems completely the wrong the wrong thing to do.

FriendRank

Jeremy Zawodny has an interesting idea for Friendster and the world of social networking sites:

Like Google’s similarly named dead technology, PageRank, think of FriendRank as a way of providing a measure of influence among “friend nodes” in a social network. Imagine, for example, that Howard Dean wants to convince me to vote for him. He can either advertise in the hopes of reaching me, or he can be a savvy Internet sorta guy and try to use my social network (thru the Internet, of course) to do the job.

At first you might think okay, that’s easy. You just need to find the shortest path thru the network from Howard Dean to me. Then you’d figure out who along the way he needs to contact to try to get to me. Well, maybe. Social networks aren’t that simple. They don’t always use the shortest path–at least not in the “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” sense. Often times they use the most well lubricated path. Or the path that may result in reaching the greatest number of people who are “close” to me. Or those that have more influence with me in matters of politics, as opposed to something complete unrelated like cat grooming.

You get the idea. Like PageRank, it’s a multi-dimensional measure that could prove to be quite powerful if applied properly. It’s like a routing problem with different dimensions involved.

FriendRank would quantify that stuff. It’s the algorithm used to find paths of social influence in various contexts, for various purposes, and in varying networks. Or maybe it’s the value that algorithm produces for a given set of inputs.

OPML for Info Sharing

Philip Miseldine writes on how OPML can help in “providing the glue between our categorising, relational minds:”

OPML lets me produce a list of feeds I regularly read. OPML also lets you produce a list of feeds you regularly read. Now, imagine a few thousand people, all with published OPML formatted feed lists. Within that, there is likely to be some overlap…someone else could be subscribed to a great deal of feeds I’m subscribed to. More importantly, they are subscribed to a few I’ve never heard of. Its reasonable to assume that these new sources of information will interest me. I add them to my OPML list, and someone else now recognises me as a friend (that is, I share their taste) and they glean some new feeds off me. And so the cycle of discovery continues, all using the natural intelligence of those who participate to make the relations.

It would be very feasible to build such a system, a system which could suggest new feeds to me based on my current subscriptions. Dave Winer is currently polling for OPML feeds, which could be used to build a such a system.

Customers and Software Vendors

WSJ writes about how the power in software has now shifted to the buyers:

After a long slump in corporate technology spending, software buyers have more power than ever before — and they’re using it to force software makers to change the way they do business. Some customers are refusing to upgrade and are demanding their suppliers continue to support old software. Others are dumping their suppliers and shopping for more-accommodating vendors. Still others are training their own employees to handle tech support.

The widespread retreat signals that software companies may no longer be able to count on boosting the revenue streams that helped them through the technology downturn. With markets saturated, software companies have tried to dig deeper into the wallets of existing customers, using a variation on the “planned obsolescence” U.S. car makers invented in Detroit’s tail-fin era. Car makers designed vehicles that wore out quickly, to ensure replacement purchases.

Since software doesn’t wear out, software makers set timetables for phasing out programs. Just when big clients work out the kinks in complex software systems, the software companies tell them they need to install new versions. This gives software companies a chance to impose fresh licensing fees and a big chance to sell existing customers on new features, usually unavailable for older versions.

Sometimes software companies provide upgrades free, generating additional revenue by selling users on new add-ons or increasing maintenance fees.

When times were good and technology was advancing rapidly, customers accepted the forced upgrades as a fact of corporate life. Now customers aren’t swallowing it.

Some companies are shifting to Linux and other open-source software, in which bug fixes and upgrades can be downloaded free…Other customers try supporting the software on their own.

Some software companies are responding to the revolt by trying to make their applications faster and cheaper. Siebel has launched an “on demand” service, similar to Salesforce.com’s, in which customers tap into applications run by Siebel at centralized data centers and pay a monthly fee for just the software they use, rather than spend millions of dollars on risky installations.

Cringely’s 2004 Predictions

Among the predictions made by Robert Cringely, whose historical success rate is 70%:

– Microsoft will make a bold run for video game leadership..In the long run, though, Microsoft won’t succeed in taking the gaming lead.
– Despite new anti-spam laws, we’ll still be plagued with unsolicited commercial messages.
– Linux has to grow or die, and the direction it takes will be determined in 2004.
– In the U.S., 2004 will see the start of the very digital convergence.
– WiFi will be bigger than ever, of course, but progress and service will both be spotty.
– IT outsourcing will become a political issue in the 2004 U.S. Presidential campaign.

TECH TALK: Good Books: Why I Read

For me, books are temples for the mind. The relaxation, the clear thinking, a glimpse of the road ahead these are a few things that temples and books do for me. A good book encourages solitude as one joins the author in a journey into a world apart. For me, books have been the doors that have opened up new ideas and insights. As the years have passed, I have found my reading increasing, with a diversity that I wish I had encouraged when I was younger. This column shares some of the books that I am reading and have read recently.

I read because there is so much to learn from other peoples experiences. My reading is not as much for time-pass as it is for learning. I choose my books like we should chose friends carefully. A good book, like a good friend, can leave a lasting impression. It can shape thinking and beliefs the way few people can. When we are listening to others (even family members or friends), we can always interrupt them to get across our point of view. With a book, we can do no such thing we let the author weave us into a trance, slowly, inexorably. Our inattention is undivided and in solitude. We cannot argue, we can only imagine. We cannot fight, we can only contemplate.

There is something magical about a book, which can never be replicated by any of the other media be it magazines, the Web or television. A book does not let us do multi-tasking. It demands undivided attention there are no micro-moments. A book consumes our most precious resource time. When we read a book, we are committing a significant chunk of mental time and attention that is the hardest to find in todays multiplexed lives.

I read because a book challenges my thinking. It gives me perspectives that I otherwise might not have seen. A book also simplifies the complexities that we see around us. A book inspires in a way only great leaders can (and there are fewer of those around). A book transports us to different worlds that we each create in our own minds eye. It expands horizons like a good teacher. It creates memories for life.

In the past 18 months, I find myself reading a lot more, and books other than the management and technology variety. For this, I have to thank our monthly Book Club meetings, where four of us with different backgrounds meet to share what we have read. What started as a one-off meeting nearly two years ago has grown into something which has given a new purpose for my reading. Bloggers have also made a mark on my reading. Recommendations from my favourite writers have gone a long way in influencing the books I read. I hope I can do the same for you.

Tomorrow: Mountains Beyond Mountains

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