Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Being a Facebook User is Starting to Get Spooky

Being a Facebook user these days is starting to get spooky as vendors start to implement Beacon, one of Facebook's new advertising vehicles. Charlene Li of Forrester just posted a blog entry on a "close encounter" she had...

Earlier this week, I bought a coffee table on When I next logged into Facebook and saw this at the top of my newsfeed:


I was pretty surprised to see this, because I received no notification while I was on that they had the Facebook Beacon installed on the site. If they had, I would have turned it off.

I had my own personal experience with Beacon this past weekend. After I purchased some tickets on Fandango, I was asked if I would like this transaction sent to my Facebook profile. I was pretty spooked when I saw this but fortunately, unlike Charlene's experience, I had the opportunity to say "no".

Needless to say, users and privacy advocates, including, are not happy about Beacon.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Don't Let Your Kids Stay Up Late

I didn't realize Po Bronson has turned into such a parenting guru (see previous post) but in the October 7 issue of New York Magazine, he wrote another interesting article about the effects lack of sleep can have in children.
Dr. Avi Sadeh of Tel Aviv University is one of the authorities in the field. A couple of years ago, Sadeh sent 77 fourth-graders and sixth-graders home with randomly drawn instructions to either go to bed earlier or stay up later for three nights. Each child was given an actigraph (a wristwatchlike device that’s equivalent to a seismograph for sleep activity), which enabled Sadeh’s team to learn that the first group managed to get 30 minutes more sleep per night. The latter got 31 minutes less sleep.

After the third night’s sleep, a researcher went to the school in the morning to test the children’s neurobiological functioning. The test they used is highly predictive of both achievement-test scores and how teachers will rate a child’s ability to maintain attention in class.

Sadeh knew that his experiment was a big risk. “The last situation I wanted to be in was reporting to my grantors, ‘Well, I deprived the subjects of only an hour, and there was no measurable effect at all, sorry—but can I have some more money for my other experiments?’” he says.

Sadeh needn’t have worried. The effect was indeed measurable—and sizable. The performance gap caused by an hour’s difference in sleep was bigger than the normal gap between a fourth-grader and a sixth-grader. Which is another way of saying that a slightly sleepy sixth-grader will perform in class like a mere fourth-grader. “A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development,” Sadeh explains.

Unlike the last parenting post where I confessed that I am guilty for telling my kids how smart they are, I (and my wife) are less guilty on this one. Okay, I feel a little bit better that I am not screwing up our kids THAT much.

Don't Tell Your Kids They Are Smart

A friend of mine (thanks, Chris) just sent me a link to a very interesting article by Po Bronson on parenting that was in the February 11 issue of New York Magazine.
For a few decades, it’s been noted that a large percentage of all gifted students (those who score in the top 10 percent on aptitude tests) severely underestimate their own abilities. Those afflicted with this lack of perceived competence adopt lower standards for success and expect less of themselves. They underrate the importance of effort, and they overrate how much help they need from a parent.

When parents praise their children’s intelligence, they believe they are providing the solution to this problem. According to a survey conducted by Columbia University, 85 percent of American parents think it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart. In and around the New York area, according to my own (admittedly nonscientific) poll, the number is more like 100 percent. Everyone does it, habitually. The constant praise is meant to be an angel on the shoulder, ensuring that children do not sell their talents short.

But a growing body of research—and a new study from the trenches of the New York public-school system—strongly suggests it might be the other way around. Giving kids the label of “smart” does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.

Alright, I'm guilty (as if my kids needed another thing to blame me for when they go to therapy years from now!).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A "Social" Network at Oracle

As a result of all of the press being generated at Oracle Open World this week, I just came across an August blog entry about a social network being developed within Oracle for its employees. In my posts on "knowledge networking", I have been saying that businesses don't need social networks a la Facebook; they need something different that allows employees to leverage knowledge among each other. Tim Dexter, an Oracle employee, concurs in a post he wrote about the social network at Oracle...
Paul was commenting on how the Facebooks and mySpaces of this world have no real relevance when we come to work, he hit the nail on the head for me saying' ,'behind the firewall however, photos and music don’t go very far' - yep, its interesting to see a colleague's new baby photo but beyond that the share photos, music and 'about' pages do not help you to get your work done, after all thats why we are here.

To be more productive at work I need fast access to files - help, designs, how to's, code 'cook books'. OK, maybe a little too geeky on the latter but most importantly, in my mind, I need access to people.

Knowing who people are and what they do is the toughest thing in Oracle, with circa 60,000 folks with their heads down all beavering away - who is the person that knows ADI inside out, who might be able to point me in the right direction for an Oracle Forms problem. Sure, mailing lists are a help but people are swamped with mail - they may not like to be contacted by a relative stranger but I for one would rather spend 2 minutes on the phone talking to someone rather than exchanging umpteen emails until we had finally worked out what the question really was about and given an answer.

I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

CEO 3.0

Today's NY Times has an interesting article on the evolution of what it takes to be a successful CEO...
The first iteration made its mark in the 1990s, as chief executives like Sanford I. Weill, Gerald M. Levin, John F. Welch Jr. and Michael Eisner built empires, not to mention their profiles, at the companies they ran: Citigroup, Time Warner, GE and Disney.

When the shares deflated earlier this decade after the burst of the tech bubble and various corporate scandals, a new cadre moved in: the Fix-it Men. They were lower-key leaders like Charles O. Prince III of Citigroup and Richard D. Parsons of Time Warner, whose job it was to repair the excesses and mistakes of their predecessors.

Now, management experts and longtime watchers of corporate America say the current environment demands, and is attracting, yet another kind of chief executive: the team builder.
This theme is very consistent with one raised by Carly Fiorina in a speech I saw last month. It's also interesting to note how often the points she made in her speech are being reiterated by others. Here's another example. While at HP, maybe she knew she what she was talking about after all.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

The video below was just brought to my attention. It is a talk given by Sir Ken Robinson at TED 2006. As described on the TED website...
Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining (and profoundly moving) case for creating an education system that nurtures creativity, rather than undermining it. With ample anecdotes and witty asides, Robinson points out the many ways our schools fail to recognize -- much less cultivate -- the talents of many brilliant people. "We are educating people out of their creativity," Robinson says. The universality of his message is evidenced by its rampant popularity online. A typical review: "If you have not yet seen Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk, please stop whatever you're doing and watch it now."
It is 19 minutes and 29 seconds well spent.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Enterprise 2.0 Bullseye

I've been at Defrag in Denver for the last couple days. Lots of good presentations and conversations but the highlight for me was Andrew McAfee's presentation this morning. In his presentation, he provided a great framework, for both vendors and organizations, that links the various Web 2.0 tools (wikis, social networks, blogs, prediction markets) with the types of relationships knowledge workers have with each other. You can read a synopsis of the presentation at McAfee's blog. If you are interested in "Web 2.0 for business", I think this is a "must read".

UPDATE: Here is Dan Farber's post on McAfee's presentation.

The Social Enterprise

Alex Iskold just posted another insightful article. This one's on The Social Enterprise. Similar to what Carly Fiorina said in a recent speech, Alex says that organizations need to be agile in order to succeed...
Lately however, with the increasing speed at which our society operates, we are seeing that companies have had to become more agile in order to compete. The old hierarchical structures are unable to process information quickly enough to make day-to-day business decisions.
I generally agree with much of what Alex says in his post. There is one area where I have a slight disagreement...
Regardless of whether it is a technical or business team, knowledge acquisition and sharing is a challenge. Often, employees within the same team and even more often across teams, rediscover the same information. What better way is there to share the valuable information found on the web than a social bookmarking system?
I agree that knowledge acquisition and sharing is a challenge. Where I disagree is that it can be solved with a social bookmarking system. I think much of a person's knowledge is locked up in emails and in documents, and I think there needs to be a solution that solves this problem in a broader manner.