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February 23, 2006

Changing Management Processes in Organizations - a Lesson from Public Health

A recent article in the Scientist:
The Scientist : Battling Bad Behavior outlines some of the obstacles to behavioral change - primarily related to public health, and lists a number of the ways to encourage adoption. Looking at the positive side here are the techniques presented for removing the obstacles:

  • Make It Easy
  • Don't Underestimate Peer Pressure
  • Provide Immediate Feedback
  • Be Understood
  • Confront Misinformation
  • Link to Existing Beliefs
  • Effective Presentation

Much of the above might seem obvious, but if you are trying to make changes or implement something new it would be worthwhile to look at how well you are doing all of the above.

Where are you sitting today?

Mondrian added a little color to his studio to break things up a bit. In light of this recent research by Elizabeth Gould summarized by Kathy Sierra here:

Creating Passionate Users: Brain death by dull cubicle

it looks like a good idea. It also make me wonder what size a computer screen needs to be before it is considered "the environment". For years I've been thinking that a "desktop" should be about the size of a desktop. And then the question is whether a flat screen can ever replace the variety and challenge that a real three dimensional environment presents to the eye, mind and the body?

I suppose the lesson for us all is to change things around when things start getting stale. Or better yet, take a break from your enviroment once in a while by taking a walk.

All your page are belong to us

Google is now hosting free webpages - well, they have provided some and are now oversubscribed, but if you want to see what it look likes here is an example from the ever enthusiastic Josh Bancroft:

jabancroft - Josh Bancroft's Google Page

I'm not sure why Josh claims it is cool, new and fancy or web 2.0, but I suppose it would be boring if it wasn't all of those things even if it really doesn't seem to be any of them to me.

 It looks like a good way to get kids on the web though. Free is always a good strategy for getting people to try something new.

February 22, 2006

Google and the Law and ... um ...privacy

I see that Google has posted their official response to the request for a "million URL's" by the department of Justice. You can read it here. They argue three main points, that the data as requested is useless, that it may expose google trade secrets and that it would be too much work for Google to supply a million "random" URL's. Privacy concerns and "chilling effect" are thrown in for good measure, but it appears to me that these are more in support of Google's business model which is based on the perception of user privacy. While I remain unconvinced that there is not some bit of evil lurking in the heart of Google, this is generally a good thing.

I'm most interested in writing about it from an analytical point of view. It is nice to see a case where "data" is held out as NOT being the answer to a question. This is not to say that data is useless - no one would argue that, but it is a clear statement that a particular set of data may not be suited to a particular purpose. In this case, crafting a law based on search results just seems to be a bad idea. Here is what they say about it:

"First, the Government's presentation falls woefully short of demonstrating that the requested information will lead to admissible evidence. This burden is unquestionably the Government's. Rather than meet it, the Government concedes that Google's search queries and URLs are not evidence to be used at trial at all. Instead, the Government says, the data will be "useful" to its purported expert in developing some theory to support the Government's notion that a law banning materials that are harmful to minors on the Internet will be more effective than a technology filter in eliminating it.
Google is, of course, concerned about the availability of materials harmful to minors on the Internet, but that shared concern does not render the Government's request acceptable or relevant. In truth, the data demanded tells the Government absolutely nothing about either filters or the effectiveness of laws. Nor will the data tell the Government whether a given search would return any particular URL. Nor will the URL returned, by its name alone, tell the Government whether that URL was a site that contained material harmful to minors."

Earlier you may have caught that I feel the privacy thing is gratuitous and perhaps a bit ingenuous and to see why I believe this, here is a sample entry from my logs today: - - [22/Feb/2006:10:25:50 -0500] "GET /blog/archives/pmi-and-pmp/pmp-exam-cheats.html HTTP/1.1" 200 13096 "" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; {0EF9B069-A48C-18A5-1EEF-88AC09646F5E}; .NET CLR 1.0.3705; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)"

I x'ed out the IP address, but this is typical of what shows up in my logs when someone arrives here from a Google search. The first part is the IP address, then date, the page they are directed to here, some data about http response and size, and then the search itself. This is followed by browser identification. A simple lookup of the IP address shows that it comes from inside one of the big computer manufacturing companies. The fact that google passes along the search terms when it refers a user to my site is great for me. I use it to understand what people are looking for when they arrive here and occasionally write things which respond to those sorts of requests, but since the IP address of the user is passed along too, it is not particularly private.

Most people ending up here are looking for things they don't need to keep to themselves, but if my content were a bit more shady I can imagine that I'd be getting a lot of information from google about the dark side - information that includes where that person is on the internet. This sort of information is not what the government should be using to fish for new ways to make laws, but it is hardly the hallmark of privacy protection.

February 21, 2006

Seth suffering from short attention span

Seth Godin seems to be forgetting the past. He claims that dissatisfaction  is  "a trend that is accelerating through every market and community on Earth." in his recent post:

Seth's Blog: The culture of dissatisfaction

Sorry Seth, I'm not believing that the good old days were any better than now in this regard. The culture for as long as I've been alive (and apparently even before then) has been dissatisfied. How about some signposts you ask?

  • "I can't get no..." - The Rolling Stones
  • "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take anymore" - Network
  • "Who's afraid of Virginia Wolfe" - Edward Albee
  • Little things like tearing down the Berlin Wall, throwing tea in miscellaneous harbors and the effective use of the guittotine in the French Revolution.

Given this sort of precedence and innumerable 1950's/1960's marketing critiques in vintage Mad Magazine I find it hard to believe that dissatisfaction is an "accelerating" trend. Or that Las Vegas is the most visible sign of it. Further, I'm not so certain that "marketing" is powerful enough to create such a culture. Certainly it can contribute, but dissatisfaction is not something you can create with billboards. And finally, Seth, if it is truly a "fact that we're unhappy all the time", take a break and take a few deep breaths. You have a lot to be thankful for.

Free PMBOK Download - oops

I was wrong. Apparently there ARE still copies out there on the web for download. For example, here are a number of results which suggest that the 1996 and 2000 versions are still out there on many unsecure sites.

I suppose this should not be a surprise. But users should not be reduced to copyright violation or pirating just to hear what PMI clearly believes are the "right" project management methods. If PMI's PMBOK is the project management "bible", then where is their Gideon? Come on PMI, set the PMBOK free.

February 17, 2006

Not Project 12, Not Project 2006, Announcing Microsoft Office Project 2007

Looks like the newest versions are coming late enough in 2006 that it made sense to name them after next year.
Also the version names seem to be growing every year, first they added Project Standard and Project Professional, now they are Microsoft Office Project Standard 2007 and Microsoft Office Project Professional 2007 along with Microsoft Office Project Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Project Portfolio Server 2007. Quite a mouthful.

Pricing data is here and you can sign up to be notified of the latest news and beta2 releases here

Despite the long names it is good to see that Project is becoming more widely considered part of the office family.

February 15, 2006

Search Result of the Day

My referrer log shows how people find this site. A large number are through searches. Some are unpublishable and others are just odd. This one showed up and is so easy to answer that I decided to answer it twice - with conflicting answers:

does buying more lottery tickets increase your chance of winning? - Yahoo! Search Results

The simple answer is yes. If they sell as many tickets as there are buyers then with each ticket you buy you increase your chance and decrease the other person's chance. If there are two buyers and you each buy one ticket you have a 50% chance of winning. If you then buy one more, you have a 66% chance of winning. The equation behind this holds for any positive number.

But the complex answer is that in a lottery money is siphoned off to pay for the companies which think up, advertise and run the lotteries, not to mention the states taking a portion for schools so statistically a lottery is a losing bet. In the big picture buying more tickets merely means you lose more.

February 14, 2006

Digital imaging and the end of megapixels

An interesting article from Nikon about how digital imaging has evolved and where it is heading.

Nikon Imaging | Behind the scene : Nikon Digital Image Processing Technologies and the D200

Besides the fact that it appears that the trend will not be to more megapixels, but rather in improving image quality, I was interested to see that color rendition is something which is both culture and location specific.

February 13, 2006

How to build your own motorcycle?

I get quite a few people coming here as a result of searching for the phrase "build your own motorcycle". I think this is because of my posts on the ugliest motorcycle (also on Ratbikes here). So I decided to take a look at what comes up in a search and found that most of the sites have nothing to do with actually building motorcycles. One was a site which showed a computer built in the shape of a motorcycle. Others described options available for custom cycles (in my opinion choosing wheels and colors from a catalog is hardly building your own motorcycle) and nothing really covered the design of the motorcycle, but at least this page from Miller Welding covers the welding techniques used to put together the frame.

If you always wanted to know the practical difference between GMAW and GTAW that site is the place for you.

February 10, 2006

Alcatraz - D block

D Block was the maximum security wing at Alcatraz. This is were prisoners were sent to isolate them from the rest of the prison. Here is how it looks these days:


The green doors at the end of the ground floor are the isolation cells which are sound and light insulated and have a cold steel floor for the prisoners to sleep on.

In this photo though, with the warm Western light streaming in, D block seemed to be one of the more pleasant areas of the prison, especially on the upper levels with a view of the Golden Gate. I suppose the question is whether the view would sustain you or merely taunt you about what you are missing.

Accoona or the lifespan of a robot

I've written before about the incredulous claims made by the Accoona search engine and the past day or so they showed up in my logs. Looks like they are near death:

Accoona failure

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to see that sloppy (I hesitate to say deliberately misleading) analysis ended up in such an unfortunate trajectory, but it is a nice little lesson. One should be more responsible to one's workers.

February 9, 2006

News from the Microsoft Project 12 team

DieterZ is moving on to a new position and is leaving the communication about the next version of Project and Project Server to Lidiane Souza. You can find her here:

The only issue is that her latest post which states "Hopefully we’ll be able to build a good community on this blog.. Sadly, comments are not allowed and there is no email address for her... Hopefully she will get this straightened out.

Tools are not the answer

As much as I decry the tendency for people to latch onto tools as solutions to their problems, I still can't draw myself completely away from them.

They are clearly a part of the solution, and they are frequently interesting in their own right. My new and sparsely populated "Stuff" blog covers things which are interesting in the way they work / or don't work.

Suggestions for reviews are always welcome.

Pop on over and take a look!

February 8, 2006

For the birds

Alcatraz's current population is dominated by seagulls like this:


Walking around the island in the early morning is almost like being in Hitchcock's "The Birds" with birds sitting on rubble and railings and rooftops quietly staring at whatever passes by.

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