Power Laws

John Hagel writes: “Gaussian distributions tend to prevail when events are completely independent of each other. As soon as you introduce the assumption of interdependence across events, Paretian distributions tend to surface because positive feedback loops tend to amplify small initial events. For example, the fact that a website has a lot of links increases the likelihood that others will also link to this website…In a world of power law or Pareto distributions, extreme events become much more prominent. ”

Bangalore and Silicon Valley

Sramana Mitra has a post by Savita Kini:

Most of the work done today in [Banaglore’s] offshore offices, as well as the IT service companies is still the kind or cost reduction work that cannot happen in silicon valley. While definitely there has been some improvement in the kind of work that is happening here, its not comparable to the kind of cutting edge research and innovation that happens in Silicon Valley. The new startups are also mostly taking the beaten path as far as technology is concerned. Adding to the already skewed environment, the VCs have been flocking to the city hoping to capture the best deals. To manage their own risk, they continue to invest in late stage deals or in the services model. Some of the deals which happened in the last 1 year have majority been in the dot.com internet companies which my new friend Sramana Mitra calls Concept Arbitrage. I am not passing any judgment here. In a way its good because at least the entrepreneurial culture will get reinforced and more risk takers will emerge.

However, to be really compared to Silicon Valley, we need something much broader than the current mixture of IT services & products model.

Next Green Revolution

The New York Times has an article by Tom Friedman: “The good news is that after traveling around America this past year, looking at how we use energy and the emerging alternatives, I can report that green really has gone Main Street thanks to the perfect storm created by 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the Internet revolution. The first flattened the twin towers, the second flattened New Orleans and the third flattened the global economic playing field. The convergence of all three has turned many of our previous assumptions about green upside down in a very short period of time, making it much more compelling to many more Americans.”

Two Kinds of Judgement

Paul Graham writes:

The first type of judgement, the type where judging you is the end goal, include court cases, grades in classes, and most competitions. Such judgements can of course be mistaken, but because the goal is to judge you correctly, there’s usually some kind of appeals process. If you feel you’ve been misjudged, you can protest that you’ve been treated unfairly.

Nearly all the judgements made on children are of this type, so we get into the habit early in life of thinking that all judgements are.

But in fact there is a second much larger class of judgements where judging you is only a means to something else. These include college admissions, hiring and investment decisions, and of course the judgements made in dating. This kind of judgement is not really about you.

The Black Swan

Andrew Gelman reviews the new book by Nassim Taleb. “The book is about unexpected events (“black swans”) and the problems with statistical models such as the normal distribution that don’t allow for these rarities. From a statistical point of view, let me say that multilevel models (often built from Gaussian components) can model various black swan behavior. In particular, self-similar models can be constructed by combining scaled pieces (such as wavelets or image components) and then assigning a probability distribution over the scalings, sort of like what is done in classical spectrum analysis of 1/f noise in time series.”

Happier in 60 Minutes

The Happiness Project offers seven suggestions. Among them: “Rid yourself of a nagging task: answer a difficult email, purchase something you need, or call to make that dentists appointment. Crossing an irksome chore off your to-do list will give you a big rush of energy and cheer, and youll be surprised that you procrastinated for so long.”

Internet as Way of Life for Youth

Dina Mehta writes:

For my generation, the internet has been life-changing. We know what we missed when we didnt have it. We are completely smitten by new avenues to communicate and collaborate in new ways today. We get excited about YouTube and Flickr and Twitter and rush to try them out. We are buoyant and optimistic about the immense possibilities they bring us. We are so grateful that we can now communicate across geographies and time and are a mere fraction of a megabyte away from anywhere else in the world. For many of us, it’s still a tool that’s shown us a different way of life. Assimilating this medium into our lives has given us new options.

For youngsters today, especially teenagers, it isn’t an option really – it is their way of life. I keep looking for aha moments from them during my research studies and I dont seem to hear them. They don’t take it as seriously as we do. They are not as grateful to it as we are. They do not talk about how cool YouTube is – they just use the services to check out the latest Gwen Stefani video – the video is their point of conversation rather than how cool the service is. When I ask them to imagine life without them, they simply cannot – they know nothing less. They’re not delighted by ‘free’ as we are – growing up with this medium has made them expect it. There are few divisions between the techno haves and have-nots among them, as in our case.

Education Done Right

Atanu Dey writes: “Education is all about loading the bootstrap program in the brain of a child. And after you have done that, the child himself is capable of loading the other bits of software required to do everything else, or what we call learning. The important point is that the bootstrap program has to be loaded first and it has to be very small and very efficient. I think that there is sufficient evidence around that the bootstrap program is very small. One only needs to know how to read and write (at least in one language), do a bit of arithmetic, and understand a bit of rudimentary logic. That is all that is needed as part of the bootstrap program. The rest does not have to be taught. The rest has to be learnt. To learn a subject is then just a matter of time and effort on the part of the student, given that relevant subject material is accessible.”


The New York Times has an article by Alina Tugend:

In our busy, busy world, however, I sometimes feel as if I am the odd one out. Although those who are overworked and overwhelmed complain ceaselessly, it is often with an undertone of boastfulness; the hidden message is that Im so busy because Im so important.

Now I realize that busyness is not an absolute: everyone has a different threshold. I have one friend for whom more than one social engagement a weekend is just too much; others love to party, party, party. And most people would trade in bored and stagnant for a little stress if they were engaged in doing something they loved.

Advertising Future

Bob Garfield writes:

We are not witnessing the beginning of the end of old media. We are witnessing the middle of the end of old media. Both print and broadcast — burdened with unwieldy, archaic and crushingly expensive means of distribution — are experiencing the disintegration of the audience critical mass they require to operate profitably. Moreover, they are losing that audience to the infinitely fragmented digital media, which have near-zero distribution costs and are overwhelmingly free to the user.

Free is a tough price to compete with. As documented by Woodward and Bernstein, Deep Throat’s advice to unraveling Watergate was to “Follow the money.” In imagining Chaos 2.0, you must follow the no-money. And when you do, you’ll have taken the Chaos Scenario one step further: to a digital landscape in which marketing achieves hitherto unimaginable effectiveness, but in which display advertising’s main role will be to quickly, straightforwardly, informatively draw you into a broader brand experience.

Multitasking Not Good

The New York Times writes:

Several research reports, both recently published and not yet published, provide evidence of the limits of multitasking. The findings, according to neuroscientists, psychologists and management professors, suggest that many people would be wise to curb their multitasking behavior when working in an office, studying or driving a car.

These experts have some basic advice. Check e-mail messages once an hour, at most. Listening to soothing background music while studying may improve concentration. But other distractions most songs with lyrics, instant messaging, television shows hamper performance. Driving while talking on a cellphone, even with a hands-free headset, is a bad idea.

In short, the answer appears to lie in managing the technology, instead of merely yielding to its incessant tug.

Japanese Puzzles

The New York Times has a story on how the likes of Sudoko are created:

Few Americans had ever thought of Japan as a source for puzzles until a little more than two years ago, when sudoku suddenly took the nation by storm, flooding airport gift shops, and even rivaling crosswords in popularity. Now Nikoli, which publishes puzzle magazines and books, is widely regarded as the worlds most prolific wellspring of logic games and brainteasers.

Mr. Kaji and the company have had a hand in creating and promoting most of the half dozen or so number puzzles that have taken off after sudoku. But Mr. Kaji says that Nikoli has at least 250 more puzzles like sudoku, the vast majority of them unknown outside Japan.

Urban Infrastructure

strategy+business writes: “The worlds urban infrastructure needs a $40 trillion makeover. Heres how to reinvigorate our electricity, water, and transportation systems by integrating finance, governance, technology, and design.”

Cairo, Los Angeles, Beijing, Paris, Moscow, Mumbai, Tokyo, Washington, Sao Paulo: Each major city has its own story of electricity, transportation, or water systems in crisis. Although the circumstances vary from one urban area to the next, they all have one thing in common: The critical infrastructure that is taken for granted by both their citizens and their government leaders is technologically outdated, woefully inadequate, increasingly fragile, or all of the above. In some cities, the quality of water, power, and transportation infrastructure is noticeably declining. In others, it was never very good to begin with. And few cities have enough of it to meet future needs.

An estimate developed by Booz Allen Hamilton suggests the magnitude of the problem. Over the next 25 years, modernizing and expanding the water, electricity, and transportation systems of the cities of the world will require approximately $40 trillion a figure roughly equivalent to the 2006 market capitalization of all shares held in all stock markets in the world.

Convergence Not Happening

Michael Mace writes:

The problem with convergence is that when you look closely, it’s not happening.

Markets aren’t converging, they’re diverging. The web deconstructs mass markets, by making it economically attractive for a company to address narrower market segments. Online marketing can be targeted at much more specific demographic groups than mass media could reach, and online communities help companies to talk directly with their most important customers. I’ve already written about this happening in mobile devices, but if you want another example, look at television: the mass markets are slipping away from the big networks, eaten by a gazillion cable channels. Or look at newspapers, chewed down by a blizzard of websites.

“Convergence” is definitely not the right word for what’s happening to markets.


[via Atanu] Julie Mogenstern gives some tips:

Shorten your workday. If 10 hours isnt enough, try nine-and-a-half. Losing 30 minutes of work time each day makes you organize your time better. No longer will you tolerate interruptions… make personal phone calls from the office… or chat around the water cooler. Your pace will pick up, your focus will sharpen, and youll soon find that youre getting more done despite the shorter workday.

Dont look at E-mail first thing. Instead, use the morning to focus on your most important tasks. Most peoples minds are sharpest in the morning, and completing important responsibilities before lunch creates a sense of relief and accomplishment that can carry you through the afternoon.

Snack Culture

Wired writes:

Music, television, games, movies, fashion: We now devour our pop culture the same way we enjoy candy and chips – in conveniently packaged bite-size nuggets made to be munched easily with increased frequency and maximum speed. This is snack culture – and boy, is it tasty (not to mention addictive).

Today, media snacking is a way of life. In the morning, we check news and tap out emails on our laptops. At work, we graze all day on videos and blogs. Back home, the giant HDTV is for 10-course feasting – say, an entire season of 24. In between are the morsels that fill those whenever minutes, as your mobile phone carrier calls them: a 30-second game on your Nintendo DS, a 60-second webisode on your cell, a three-minute podcast on your MP3 player.


India Knowledge@Wharton writes:

It sounds like something from a futuristic TV thriller: American spies thwarting the next 9/11-style terrorist plot through a shared online community modeled after Wikipedia, the free and highly popular user-created, web-based encyclopedia.

But Anthony D. Williams, co-author of the new book, Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, recently told a Wharton audience that this online community of spies already exists, and is on the case.

Williams noted that the rise of Wikipedia, Linux — and other user-generated platforms from online marketplace eBay to MIT’s increasingly popular online curriculum — is no accident, but part of what he calls a “perfect storm” in the growth of the Internet.

The key ingredients in that storm, he said, are the technological advances — often referred to as “Web 2.0” — that make online collaboration and communication easier to transact, as well as the arrival of a generation of Internet users that has been born since 1980 and that insists on taking a more active role in creating or editing the online content that it uses.