Secrets of Greatness

[via Sadagopan] Fortune has a story by Geoffrey Colvin: “Research now shows that the lack of natural talent is irrelevant to great success. The secret? Painful and demanding practice and hard work.”

Scientific experts are producing remarkably consistent findings across a wide array of fields. Understand that talent doesn’t mean intelligence, motivation or personality traits. It’s an innate ability to do some specific activity especially well. British-based researchers Michael J. Howe, Jane W. Davidson and John A. Sluboda conclude in an extensive study, “The evidence we have surveyed … does not support the [notion that] excelling is a consequence of possessing innate gifts.”

To see how the researchers could reach such a conclusion, consider the problem they were trying to solve. In virtually every field of endeavor, most people learn quickly at first, then more slowly and then stop developing completely. Yet a few do improve for years and even decades, and go on to greatness.

Proximity Marketing

Rudy de Waele writes:

Up to now, most people in the industry used the bluetooth marketing term to name advertising and marketing campaigns made using Bluetooth on mobile phones. Before entering the real ubiquitous marketing era, I think the time is right to start using proximity marketing to define the new era were entering to start using more then just bluetooth for mobile marketing campaigns.

Wi-Fi, RFID, Ultra-Wideband (UWB), and Near Field Communication (NFC) will soon be used to send multimedia content to your mobile phone, together with other ubiquitous devices, supposing you want it of course. As of now, the mobile phone is the best positioned device for mobile marketing campaigns for its multifunctional use and its market penetration.

Video Conferencing

Om Malik writes that it is hot again:

Microsoft, last week let us know about their new video conferencing system called RoundTable that is likely to debut in mid-2007. The $3000-a-pop RoundTable is a tabletop device, not much bigger than a traditional speakerphone at the base. Of course, the timing of Microsoft outreach program timed perfectly with Cisco Systems announcement about a new video conferencing system called Telepresence1. The HD-based system costs a whopping $79,000 and competes with similar devices from the likes of Hewlett Packard (Halo) and Polycom.

Video conferencing has been long time coming, and has been marred by poor quality, and complexity. Proprietary nature of the video conferencing systems did not help either. But broadband removed the network bottleneck, and open standards, and communication protocols are making it easier for video conferencing to work in an optimal fashion.

The Economy of Abundance

VentureBlog (David Hornik) writes:

Continuing in his role as shirpa of the new economy, Chris has moved on from the Long Tail to a related but distinct idea that he is calling the Economy of Abundance. In a talk he just gave at the PopTech conference (a fantastic event in the unbelievably beautiful but remote town of Camden Maine), Chris described this new economy. The basic idea is that incredible advances in technology have driven the cost of things like transistors, storage, bandwidth, to zero. And when the elements that make up a business are sufficiently abundant as to approach free, companies appropriately should view their businesses differently than when resources were scarce (the Economy of Scarcity). They should use those resources with abandon, without concern for waste. That is the overriding attitude of the Economy of Abundance — don’t do one thing, do it all; don’t sell one piece of content, sell it all; don’t store one piece of data, store it all. The Economy of Abundance is about doing everything and throwing away the stuff that doesn’t work. In the Economy of Abundance you can have it all.

Ethics of Web 2.0

Lawrence Lessig writes:

Theres an important distinction developing among user generated content sites the distinction between sites that permit true sharing and those that permit only what Ill call fake sharing.

A true sharing site doesnt try to exercise ultimate control over the content it serves. It permits, in other words, content to move as users choose.

A fake sharing site, by contrast, gives you tools to make seem as if theres sharing, but in fact, all the tools drive traffic and control back to a single site.

In this sense, YouTube is a fake sharing site, while Flickr, (parts of) Google,, Revver and EyeSpot are true sharing sites.

Also read Tim O’Reilly and Nicholas Carr.

TECH TALK: Good Books: No Two Alike (Part 2)

Judith Rich Harris has an engaging writing style and covers a wide range of research in her book. There are a number of references to her earlier book, The Nurture Assumption.

The Economist wrote about Harris first book in a 1998 review: Parents, she argues, have no important long-term effects on the development of the personality of their children. Far more important are their playground friends and neighbourhood companions. Ms Harris takes to bits the assumption which has dominated developmental psychology for almost half a century. Freud was wrong; Philip Larkin was wrong. It is not your mum and dad who fuck you up, but the other kids on the block and those fellow brats in the classroomMum and dad surely cannot be ditched completely. Young adults may, as Ms Harris argues, be keen to appear like their contemporaries. But even in those early years, parents have the power to open doors: they may initially choose the peers with whom their young associate, and pick that influential neighbourhood. Moreover, most people suspect that they come to resemble their parents more in middle age, and that peoples child-rearing habits may be formed partly by what their parents did. So the balance of influences is probably complicated, as most parents already suspected without being able to demonstrate it scientifically. Even if it turns out that the genes they pass on and the friends their children play with matter as much as affection, discipline and good example, parents are not completely off the hook.

William Saletan reviewed No Two Alike for The New York Times reviewed this March:

The mystery is why people even identical twins who grow up in the same home with the same genes end up with different personalities. The detective is Harris herself, a crotchety amateur, housebound because of an illness, who takes on the academic establishment armed only with a sharp mind and an Internet connection. Harris the author scrupulously follows clues; Harris the protagonist drives the story forward through force of character, arriving at a theory of personality that could be said to describe herself.

Your socialization system figures out how to conform to your group. Your relationship system figures out how to get along with each person. Your status system figures out how to compete. It monitors people’s reactions, gathering information about how smart, pretty, weak or talented they think you are. It looks for virtues, activities and occupations at which you’re most likely to best your peers. It notices tiny differences between the way people regard you and the way they regard others in your peer group, or even your twin. By choosing pursuits based on these differences, it magnifies them. It drives you to be different.

This is the paradox behind the book’s subtitle. Human nature causes human individuality; the mental systems that we share are also the ones that distinguish us. But if these three systems are, as Harris concludes, the “perpetrators” of individuality as we know it, the mystery of how we got here gives way to the mystery of where we’re going. The perpetrators remain at large. The evolutionary forces that gave us distinctive personalities don’t end here. Human nature isn’t finished with human individuality, or with itself.

No Two Alike is a fascinating book because it is a story about us and the people around us. Harris wonderful story-telling brings alive what could otherwise have been a dull and dreary scientific paper.

Tomorrow: The War of the World