Changing Collaboration Tools

[via Ed Brill] Network World writes:

Ozzie says a changing world of online communication and collaboration, fueled by real-time tools such as instant messaging and wikis, could drive the evolution of online collaboration in any number of directions and users will have to consider if collaboration is best controlled by those at the edge of the network as opposed to centralized IT.

Ozzie said that for his kids, e-mail is dead. They use IM. It is their e-mail. They only get e-mail from people they dont want to talk to.

He says the kids actions show that users will assemble tools in terms of what works for them and what does not. When [my kids] want to talk long distance they download Skype (a VoIP client). They experiment with blogs and wikis.

The point, he said, is that online collaboration happens at the edge of the network and not within centralized IT.

Web Technologies – like Biomimetism

Diego Duval writes:

Many people have been talking for a while about the need for software to become more biomimetic, at least in the sense that systems in biology appear to deal fairly well with unpredictability, failure, and interaction without strong interdependencies.

Look at DHTML, XML, and web technologies in general: from the start, they can run in vastly different environments. If we look again at the app as depending on and adding to the ecology of its runtime environment (instead of viewing it as a static element that just sits on it), web technologies are fairly flexible creatures: they can survive on many types of environments, both server and client. Sure, they break easily, but they can be fixed almost as easily, and, more importantly, they evolve quickly, mutating, sometimes unnoticed (Google doesn’t have versions, that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t evolved).

So a lot of web tech is so “flimsy” (at least when looking at it through the lens of static/strict checking). But I think that’s it precisely why it works. And why, where things like applets (and, yes, ActiveX controls) failed, DHTML, JavaScript, XML, and simple REST interfaces are succeeding in creating a rich ecosystem of apps that build on each other.

A Proposal to End Poverty

Suhit Anantula points to an NYTimes editorial:

There is certainly much to debate about the details of Mr. Sachss report, which calls for rich countries like the United States to drastically increase foreign aid to poor countries in an effort to halve poverty in its many forms – hunger, illiteracy, disease – by 2015. But this is not a time for armchair quarterbacking. The United Nations report is a bold initiative that refuses to accept hunger as the inevitable fate of so many Africans, Latin Americans and Asians. There will be and should be a debate about it as world leaders prepare to meet in September on the antipoverty goals, but it is vital that it not turn into another excuse for inaction.Mr. Sachss report lays out, in real terms, the myriad ways to help poor people.

The beauty of his ideas is in their simplicity: Provide mosquito nets for children who live in malaria-infested regions. Eliminate school and uniform fees to ensure that poor children dont stay home because they cant afford to go to school. Provide farmers in sub-Saharan Africa with soil nutrients to ensure healthier crops. Reform and enforce legislation guaranteeing women and girls property and inheritance rights.

Symbiotic Computer

U-blog writes about ” how to leverage the Power of the Internet with the UBIQUITY feeling of Mobile Phone” in a series [1 2]:

After Mainframe, Mini-Computer, PC (and notebook) time has gone to reload this path to create a new concept : the Symbiotic Computer (SC)

1) The SC will be A TECHNOLOGICAL DIRECT child of PC in the way of promoting personal autonomy and creativity to foster the decentralised model of P2P Internet

2) The SC will be A PUBLIC REPRESENTATION COUSIN of Mobile Phone whom it will foster the UBIQUITOUS AND PERSONAL-ASPECT sides

3) The SC will BREAK THE DISPLAY FUNCTION FROM the “Computing parts” (Store, compute and communicate) to accelerate the miniaturization of the CoreUnit.

4) The SC will be the Universal Interface with the informational semantic world that live on the web

5) The SC will live autonomously in symbiose with its user, performing tasks for the users BUT also acquire new data and actions by its own.

6) The SC will augment the Reality of our perceveible world AND NOT RECREATE an virtual and artificial universe

Wireless Data Services

Sunil Goyal is writing a series on wireless data services:

One of the biggest strengths of SMS is, its simple and intutive from a 10 year old to a 50 year old person. You just type and its done. SMS started as a personal medium of communication but now has been leveraged for providing any kind of content.

The second strength that I find in the SMS medium is its “strong contact” with both the online and the offline world. One can find keywords for downloading ringtones in newspapers, magazine, sending comments to news channels, participating in TV shows – all just via keying in a short message to a specific number displayed there and then.

This is the power which mobility gives which I think WAP or XHTML haven’t been able to leverage.

The SMS medium has clearly shown that given a simple and effective medium despite its disadvantages (typing in keys), can still have a powerful impact. People want to participate and by providing services from PC via internet to directly on their mobile phones can have a significant impact.

TECH TALK: Multi-Model Minds: Correcting Education

While each of us can alter and build our own multiple models, it is an uphill struggle once we are past the initial years in educational institutions. We stand at the crossroads in India. We have the advantage of demographics on our side. We need to address the twin challenges of educating Indias youth and doing it right. Education done right can be Indias biggest change agent. Conversely, putting people with limited and incomplete mental models in decision-making positions can worsen the situation dramatically.

So, what does it take for us to fix the problem at the source? Atanu Dey wrote about how to re-invent the education system recently on his blog:

I think that at a minimum, an educational system must teach people how to think. How to fast and how to wait would be good but perhaps it is too much to ask for right now. Does such a system exist anywhere in the world? I don’t know for sure but I doubt it very sincerely. I realize of course that there are people who have gone through the current educational systems and they are also able to think. But I would be wary of ascribing that result to the present setup. It is more likely that despite the present system, those people have learnt how to think.

I believe that learning how to think may be something alike to learning a language. It appears that we have a language learning sub-system in our brains which shuts down sometime around age 12 or so. Before reaching that age, you can very easily learn languages; after that, learning languages is extremely hard. So also, I believe that if you catch a kid early enough, you can teach him or her to think. It is as if the brain circuits are just a lot of firmware in early childhood and then as one grows up, the firmware hardens and become hardware that cannot be re-programmed.

Here is my prescription for a good education. Focus primarily on teaching how to think and on teaching people how to learn. Teaching how to think is like giving kids a very high powered CPU. Teaching them how to learn gives them control of a very broadband channel through which they can have access to content that the CPU can process. Alternative analogy: good thinking skills is like have a good operating system. And good learning skills is like having a great set of applications.

A multi-model mind can be our greatest asset as we seek to build both our careers and the new India around us. But for that to happen, we will have to shed some of the baggage from the past and that is not going to be easy. We need to make a start with the world inside us, and then the outside. We have the benefit of technological revolutions that are happening around us giving us the ability to compress time — we dont have a generation to effect this change.

Recommended Reading:

  • My earlier Tech Talk series: My Mental Model
  • Atanu Deys Blog
  • Robert Hagstrom, Investing: The Last Liberal Art

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