Monday, February 28, 2005

The Florida backlash

If this piece is any indication, a backlash against Richard Florida's Rise of the Creative Class is in full swing. While there are many legitimate criticisms of the book, this piece misses the mark, and comes off as petty and self-serving.

From my perspective, the biggest problem with RCC is that it is WAAAYYYYY too long. He could have easily made all of his points in one-third of the pages he uses. What he says, however, is typically right. It's hard to argue with the data he's assembled.

So let's move on to Karrie Jacobs' complaints:
  • She's incredulous that "a third of Americans are earning a living at self-expression" and tries immediately to tie it to yuppie consumerism: "Or is it just that 30 percent of us own iPods or prefer Chipotle burritos to McDonald's burgers?"
  • She mocks Florida's definition of creative professions. The super-creative core "already represents a very generous definition of creativity." She then relies on a tired creative accounting joke to dismiss the broader definition of the creative class.
Let's look at this "very generous definition" more closely. It contains "computers and math, architecture and engineering, the social sciences, education, arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media." How is this generous? If you are going to be successful in any of those fields, you have to be creative. Sure, we've all had crappy and unimaginative teachers, but we've read crappy and unimaginative authors too. What's the difference?

Then Jacobs, quoting her friend John Thackara, blames the sameness of design on Florida:
We had a series of tortured conversations about how design is being deployed in increasingly predictable ways. Eventually Thackara got around to pinning the problem on Florida. "It's all kind of tied up to the notion of a creative class," he remarked. "For good or ill, design sits bang in the middle of that category. It's quite remarkable how many city planners and developers I've met over the last couple of years who walk around either carrying or quoting this book as if it were a bible of how to make their city hip and modern and successful."
Sheesh. Just because you have a creative job doesn't mean that you are actually any good at it. If it weren't for Florida, they'd be mimicking each other doing something worse. Florida specifically says that there is no magic prescription. You have to figure out what your area's strengths are and how to leverage them. Most absurd is the compaint about design being in the creative class. Wow.

The concept of knowledge workers not being creative is completely bogus. What's really misleading, though, is what Jacobs leaves out. Florida discusses hair stylists at length, particularly in comparison to machinists. Clearly, stylists are creative class members in Florida's definition, but I don't know anyone who associates stylist and yuppie.

A fascinating article on Google

I think this article shows Eric Schmidt in an undeservedly unflattering light. I'd say his Wisdom of Crowds view of management is a lot more enlightened than that of the autocratic despot CEO. It's a great article otherwise.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The blogging value proposition

I spent a good part of last week at a technology fair, talking to employees from various business units about collaborative technology. This was the second time I've done one of these when blogging was one of the technologies for me to show, and I think I finally got my spiel whittled down to something short and effective:

Blogging is a very simple way to add information to a website. Writing a blog post is as simple as writing an email. It's so simple because you don't have to worry about how your post gets added to your site. You write a post once and it gets published in four places: the top of the main index page, an individual post page for linking, a monthly archive, and the feed.

The feed is what is truly magical, because feed reader software checks the feed to see if anything is new, and lets you know if there is. In one spot, you can find out if there is anything new on dozens of sites that interest you. You can easily add or delete sites at any time. You are completely in control.

External blogs are great ways to engage experts from outside the company in whatever your particular area of interest is. If there are over 600 knitting blogs, there's bound to be something on your topic. If by some chance there isn't, if you start your own, it's likely to draw an audience from the latent demand.

Internally, blogs can serve an additional purpose: that of a natural knowledge repository. Most KM projects fail because they require additional work for employees and are typically instituted too late when employees are likely to be developing "short-timers" disease. By simply tweaking work habits (write a blog post instead of send an email), you can capture the context of decisions instead of only the end result without placing an additional burden on employees.

Hopefully, this will be of use to you. Suggestions for improvement are welcome.

Lessig talks at my alma mater

Yes, Larry, Memphis is cool. And so is Rhodes, with its wonderful gothic architecture.

In another Memphis note, I saw the North Mississippi Allstars at an in-store performance at The Laser's Edge yesterday afternoon. These guys are really, really good.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Fire, Walk With Me

Bizarro reference, I know, but the browser wars are becoming Twin Peakish, are they not? Low brow, but entertainment, in its way.

To my thinking, perhaps the worst vulnerability associated with FF is that all the 'sploit names begin with "fire." Most alarmist ...

Anyway, here's the latest. It's not good, but the hour is still young.

" Let me staand next to your fi-yaa!"

Monday, February 21, 2005


There's no experience in corporate life quite like sitting through mind-numbing misuse of PowerPoint. Throw up a page full of bullets, talk through those bullets -- or worse, reading them verbatim, and then repeating the process.

Now there's a study that we shows what we all have experienced. Cliff Atkinson sums it up:
Adding text to a screen in a multimedia presentation that is identical to the narration harms the ability of the audience to understand the information. Removing the text increases retention, or the ability to remember the information, by 28%. Even more significantly, removing the text increases transfer, or the ability to apply the information, by 79%.

Sylvie Noël is surprised by the result, since she thought that getting the same information from multiple media increased retention. My thought is that it bores the audience so much that they end up paying less attention to either channel. At least that's how it works for me.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Queries, blogs, and books

Jon Udell has posted a fascinating example using his XPath query service: a view of his feeds "organized by bloggers who most frequently cite books on" which is made all the more fascinating by the fact that CollabuTech shows up in the query results. I found myself wondering what book Guy had linked to, as I hadn't recently talked about a book. I clicked on the link Jon published, and saw my link to Dixie Chicken from one of my XM posts. So Jon's query pulls up music too, and not just books.

This query takes the "what are the people I read reading (or listening to)" nature of blogs to the next level by filtering for a certain type of link. I don't know whether Jon is looking to expand his reading list or just proving a point, but this is certainly an excellent way to find interesting stuff to read.

Guy and I attempt to do this through a book club we have at work. We've always shared book recommendations with each other, and it seemed natural to open the circle to whichever of our coworkers might be interested.

In the course of the club's first six months, we've found that we have much better success with targeted, personal invitations than we do with official announcements, even those with executive impramatur. Official announcements can get lost in the clutter of email, but a face-to-face chat or a phone call to someone who seems likely to interested in books and new ideas based on what we already know about that person is much more effective.

This approach is roughly analogous to Jon's query. They are simply to different means of leveraging a social network to find and discuss reading material.

So what are we reading? We've read the following:

The Innovator’s Dilemma
by Clayton Christiansen

The Rise of the Creative Class
by Richard Florida

The Social Life of Information
by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid

The Wisdom of Crowds
by James Surowiecki

And we are currently reading Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution by Howard Rheingold.

I'll have to save reviews for another post.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A 21st century butler

Adina Levin has come up with a much better way to say what I've said about differentiated availability:
...the automated equivalent of an 18th/19th century butler, who mediated social interaction for the wealthy at a time when the intrusive, in-person visit was a primary method for making social contact.

The butler has broad and nuanced knowledged of the circumstances in which the Lady is to be acknowledged to be IN.

Exactly. I've used a secretary analogy before in conversations, but for some reason never blogged it. I like the butler example better, though, because it feels more all encompassing.

Radio your way

Today on the way to work I heard one of my favorite songs, Dixie Chicken by Little Feat. I liked it so much that I told my radio to notify me whenever it is on any channel, and then I hit rewind to listen to it again.

Did I mention that I love my XM radio?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Making it up as I go along

Jack points to this definition of a knowledge worker:
A knowledge worker is someone that makes it up as they go along.

Absolutely. I remember feeling completely busted when my college roomie shared a tidbit from dinner with his uncle, my economics professor. According to Jeff, his uncle said that he could tell when grading my exam that I didn't really know the answers, but instead was reasoning them out along the way. Ouch!

Now that my technique is identified as knowledge work, I can hold my head high.

AskJeeves buys Bloglines

Bloglines says Jeeves will leave them alone. I certainly hope so. Don't screw up my favorite tool, Jeeves.

the dealership

Here's an amusing editorial I just saw. Seems Yager's message is about more than simply the dark art of cachet creation. There's also some very heavy semiotics referenced by this tale.

Man has become the object of science only since automobiles have become harder to sell than to manufacture.

That Eric owns a G5 and I have 3 various iPods( as yet, unarrayed), is significant of I dunno what ...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Folksonomy meme

There is a ton of discussion around folksonomy happening in the blogosphere. I don't have time to join in right now, but I will when I do. In the meantime, two good starting places to get a flavor of the discussion are Many2Many and the folksonomy tag.