life in general

Jonathan Zittrain holds the Chair in Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University and is a principal of the Oxford Internet Institute. He is also the Jack N. and Lillian R. Berkman Visiting Professor for Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, where he co-founded Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society in 1996. With students, he began Chilling Effects, a web site that tracks and archives legal threats made to Internet content producers….

I’ve read many of his academic papers, and I’ve ordered his new book,  the Future of the Internet and how to stop it. People will be reading him 200 years hence. His paper on the Generative Internet  should be compulsory reading for anyone studying the internet or working in technology industry.

Jonathan, please tell me you are using the word applicancization for a bet.



It is a word only in the sense that this is a wheel. (thanks Bepster)

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(photo from the cc flickrstream of diongillard. thanks)

If I was to live in America, I would become a baseball fan. I grew up with cricket, so despite my current German domicile,  I’m a cricket fan.  In many ways the games are different, but both games are bound by the common thread of bat and ball.  Also, both games rely on extensive use of numbers and stats to provide both real time and historical data.

If one mentioned that England were 34/5 , it would enable me ( or any cricket fan)  to make a precise judgement about the state of the game.  Several hours of play summarised with 2 numbers.  From this one can make some deductions about the wicket, the bowling and the brittle state of the English batting line up.

It is this clever use of numbers to create an immediate summary of the game that makes it easy to follow a cricket game while getting on with the rest of your day.  2 seconds on cricinfo brings me up to speed.  A test match can last 5 days,  but cricket, allows and encourages one to get on with other things while at the same time feeling part of the action.  Cricket is the master of continuous partial attention, long before the phrase was invented.

As junior schoolboys someone would sneak a radio into class hide it in his desk, and then pass around a scrap of paper with the score on when anything happened.  I think the teacher knew what was going on, but as long as play was relatively slow, he didn’t seem to mind.

I suppose the modern equivalent of that is the cricinfo applet running on my toolbar, and DRM permitting, the tones of Aggersm Boycott and Blofeld on TMS.

I really enjoyed reading Andrew McAfee’s post on baseball statistics and IT competitiveness. Even if you aren’t a baseball fan read it.

Full House is a true geek’s book. It combines paleontology, evolution, and baseball statistics to advance an elegant argument: that we humans have a counterproductive tendency to focus on averages and trends over time, rather than on variation around the average. For Gould, variation is where the action is.

Image a world where HR people were able to derive as much value and pleasure out  of  analytics as cricket and baseball fans do.  At the moment most HR  departments can’t even really  keep score. 

I’m on the train to Paris at the moment, trundling along  at  320 km/h in a magical chunk of German-French engineering, the ICE. I’m connected to the web via bluetooth to my Nokia N95, luckily there is also a power socket in the train. I’m doing a mix of work and vaguely work related feed browsing, well more browsing than working…

Why would anyone want to fly to Paris and deal with airport security theatre?  Anyway, enough about rail travel.

Via the prodigious feedtorrent that is Steve Rubel, I came across this very clever presentation from Sacha Chua, who now works at IBM.

This made my morning.

I’m doing some work about the impact of web 2.0, Generation Y etc on recruiting processes and practice, so next time some one asks me about generation Y and the workplace, I think I’ll just point them to the Sacha here. Read her post on onboarding, for instance.

For those of you interested how she’s made the slides…

Thanks Sacha, subscribed.

While flying back from South Africa the other day (more on my SA trip another day), I got to sit next to a professional DJ.  My knowledge of house and trance music would fill the back of a postage stamp in a big font, but we had an interesting chat about Emerson Lake and Palmer,


as well as Yello, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk and role of computers in modern music.  Marc plays in some of the world’s top clubs, such as 1015  (on Folsom)  the Redwood room in San Francisco, and Tresor in Berlin    I was expecting him to have lots of specialized equipment and software, but his set up is remarkably simple and cheap.

2 x macbook pros.

i-pod for planning sets.

pioneer HDJ headphones.


Apparently the really cool bit on these headphones is the swivel bit.

Total Control mixer, cost less than 600 dollars.



Beatport is an excellent source of trance and other electronic music.

On the software side, he uses traktor. more details here. and

It was fascinating to talk about how the music business works with someone making a good living out of it. We talked about copyright, sampling, remixing, how you read the crowd, the importance of preparation, and life as a DJ after 15 years…

And then over on the BBC website this morning I read about the Ferranti Mark 1 computer and the birth of computer music.


A scratchy recording of Baa Baa Black Sheep and a truncated version of In the Mood are thought to be the oldest known recordings of computer generated music.

The songs were captured by the BBC in the Autumn of 1951 during a visit to the University of Manchester.

The recording has been unveiled as part of the 60th Anniversary of “Baby”, the forerunner of all modern computers.

The tunes were played on a Ferranti Mark 1 computer, a commercial version of the Baby Machine.

You can listen to the recording here.

Things have come a long way since then.


Oliver provides a funny and sometimes biting look at the software industry.  If you work or lurk in software, you really ought to read him.  Herewith some examples.

On cloud computing.


On SOA consulting


On enterprise 2.0


On twitter



Oliver, keep them coming please.

Over on HR Marketer,  Heath has a good go at the problem of bad business writing.

But I have suffered in silence long enough over poorly worded business communications. Action must be taken.

I’m with you.  Make the stuff simple.

That said, although I hate badly written, jargon-ridden sentences,  I’m a sucker for a big word.

Next time I get sent that sort of press release I’ll be tempted to reply, this is a bit sesquipedalian for my liking.

We owe this word to the Roman writer Horace, who wrote in his Ars Poetica (The Art of Poetry): “Proicit ampullas et sesquipedalia verba” (“He throws aside his paint pots and his words that are a foot and a half long”). It comes from Latin sesqui–, one and a half, plus ped, a foot. It was borrowed into English in the seventeenth century and has become a favourite of those writers who like self-referential terms, or are addicted to polysyllabic humour.

It appears, somewhat disguised, in The History of Mr Polly by H G Wells: “Words attracted [Mr Polly] curiously, words rich in suggestion, and he loved a novel and striking phrase. His school training had given him little or no mastery of the mysterious pronunciation of English, and no confidence in himself… He avoided every recognized phrase in the language, and mispronounced everything in order that he shouldn’t be suspected of ignorance but whim. ‘Sesquippledan,’ he would say. ‘Sesquippledan verboojuice.’ ”

Somebody who uses long words is a sesquipedalianist, and this style of writing is sesquipedalianism. The noun sesquipedality means “lengthiness”. If such words are not enough, there’s always hyperpolysyllabicsesquipedalianist for someone who enjoys using really long words.

Thanks to the worldwide words 

The English language is  rich and deep.  It is a pity that so much business and journalist writing is so dismally bad.

Via Vinnie’s post on Michael Arrington I came across this piece in the L A times.

The TechCrunch poll reflected the youthanized nature of Silicon Valley: .

The word youthanized scares the hell out of me, it isn’t even that long, but is sure is ugly.  What happened to youthful? Or even just plain young?  Andrew Keen couldn’t even blame an amateur  blogger for this, it was written by a proper journalist.

As a final note: A fine use of the word sesquipedalian can be found here.

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I’m quite fond of piano music, both classical and jazz.  At the end of tough day,  a touch of Debussy or perhaps Vaughn William’s Lark Ascending takes the edge off things. It still amazes me that a hammer hitting a string can generate so much beauty and peace.

In my new job, I have become a regular user of the conference call.

I have come to hate the tinkle tinkle piano music that plays while you wait for folks to join the call.  You all know the tune.  I like tinkle tinkle piano music, but just not the same 10 seconds of  light jazz,  looping endlessly.

My request,

Dear Conference Call company

Please make a partnership with When I dial in from my normal phone, please pick up my music preferences via my phone  number, and  play me something that I might actually like from my profile.  I might even press *5 to buy the single!

Kind regards,

Your regular user



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My readers will know I have an abiding interest in Design Thinking, and how it can and must be applied to improve software.  I’m convinced that Design will become a critical skillset, not just for the creative types, but throughout the business.

I’m planning to do some more research on this, so if you know of innovative uses of design thinking,  especially if applied to HR type processes, then drop me a note.

If you are graduating from  University, and wondering what to do next,  I’d suggest you head over to Potsdam and spend a year learning about Design.


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I’ve blogged a few times about education and innovation in Africa before, but I figured it would be worthwhile mentioning the AIMs School  just outside Cape Town.

From the website.

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is an educational centre in Cape Town, South Africa. The goals of AIMS are:

  • To promote mathematics and science in Africa.
  • To recruit and train talented students and teachers.
  • To build capacity for African initiatives in education, research, and technology.

The Institute is focussed around a nine-month, postgraduate course covering many of the most exciting areas of modern science, taught by outstanding African and international lecturers. The course develops strong mathematical and computing problem-solving skills and leads to a postgraduate diploma in the Mathematical Sciences, formally accredited by the three partner South African Universities and taught in association with the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, the Division of Physical Sciences at the University of Oxford, and the University of Paris-Sud 11. Students with good mathematics, science or engineering degrees are invited to apply and will be supported on bursaries where needed.

There are some videos and details over on the TED blog.   Well done Barclays for the 20 scholarships. This all grows out of 2008 TED Prize winner Neil Turok’s wish — that the TED community will help him to educate the next Einstein in Africa.  Spend some time looking at Neil Turok’s talks. Humbling stuff.

Building a grasp and love of mathematics in what will thousands of Africans is a brilliant way to invest in the long term success of the continent. 

BTW.  They are looking for post docs and researchers .

Government spending has all sorts of unintended consequences, some good, some not so good.  Without DARPA we would probably not have an Internet, and the Valley south of San Francisco would still be famous for oranges.

I was in Dubai last week. That too, is an example of Government intervention. It is a spectacular if sometimes gaudy example of the state and capitalism working together. I’m guessing Keynes and Hicks would have been impressed.  It reminded me of Vegas, but much more imposing.

And speaking of Las Vegas,  some very clever fellows at Lew design and build the carbon composite bits of the some rather mean looking aircraft. 

“Welded Wing was designed to deliver STUAVs deep into denied territories. The full Welded Wing configuration will allow a total mission range of over 1,100nm and provide up to five separate missions at time of separation. The S-Class (Mothership) will provide GIG/SATCOM relay and a non-GPS reliant communications network will control the UAVs. Onboard mission computers and real time C2 will allow mission parameters to be changed in theatre.”

More acronyms and euphemisms  than an enterprise software brochure. 

But these same fellows turned their attention to the bicycle wheel and came up with this wheel. Swords and plowshares 2.0.


They can  cost  up to 15,000 US dollars for a custom wheelset. But they weigh just over 700 grammes for the pair.  Gosh. 

It is a sad reflection on our global  society that these are a byproduct of unmanned weapon delivery.

Instead of ogling insanely expensive carbon wheels I should really get on my bike and ride up a hill or two.

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