Tipping Point theory unbalances, falls off pedestal

A fascinating article in Fast Company magazine about the research being done by Duncan Watts to empirically test the famous tipping point theory of Malcolm Gladwell.

In essence, Watts sets up simulated worlds with strict constraints. Some are controlled through AI agents, while others rely on real-world input from thousands of human volunteers. The results are, to my mind, pretty compelling:

Watts wanted to find out whether the success of a hot trend was reproducible. For example, we know that Madonna became a breakout star in 1983. But if you rewound the world back to 1982, would Madonna break out again? To find out, Watts built ... an online music-downloading service ... filled it with 48 songs by new, unknown, and unsigned bands [then] recruited roughly 14,000 people to log in. Some were asked to rank the songs based on their own personal preference, without regard to what other people thought. They were picking songs purely on each song's merit. But the other participants were put into eight groups that had "social influence": Each could see how other members of the group were ranking the songs.

Writing Strategic Initiatives

Update: I'm now the Director and Principal Consultant at knowquestion, a specialist consulting firm in Information and Knowledge Management.

If you like what you read here today, please feel free to contact our firm to find out more about what we can do for you.

Okay, so you've written your strategy document and got it all signed off by management. Now the hard work begins.

Stop the Magic

... This is, of course, all bullshit.

Confused? Read Joe Gregorio's The Free Market Fairy - an essential rant on what the free market is, and is not, good for.

Oh, and while you're over there, if you haven't read I, Pencil, read that too.

More on VBScript and SharePoint SOAP

In response to a question from a reader, Tim, this is a follow-up from an earlier article on SharePoint, SOAP and VBScript. This time, we'll look at how to do more complex calls to SharePoint web services in VBScript

Some web services in SharePoint require passing XML as parameters. Unfortunately, you can't pass an XML document, it has to be an XML node element, and this takes a bit of effort to construct in VBScript.

The example we'll use is making a call to GetListItems, which returns all items in a SharePoint library, optionally matching a query formatted using a special XML syntax.

Shoes

I love the Internet.

Where else can you jump from a site written by the inventor of XML to a monumentally huge 5000 word rant on why Ruby on Rails sucks (and a glimpse of a whole world of geekery out there which I will never be part of) to a nifty new Ruby framework for writing light cross-platform apps, Shoes.

Yes, I know that sounds super geeky. But it's this happy accident of stumbling across something new and exciting which I love. Millions of times a day, people learn something new from someone they will never meet, who probably won't even know they visited their now-public journal.

TARDIS

In the days past when I worked for the IT support section of DSTO, this mystical program called "TARDIS" popped up from time to time.

They didn't tend to talk to the IT department (or at least not the part that I worked for), so it was always a bit amorphous and no-one seemed to know what it actually did.

Well, Graham Durant-Law has a number of informative PowerPoint presentations (particularly this one) and it explains the process in more detail.

Knowledge Workers vs Non Knowledge Workers

I have a lot of respect for the work that Anecdote does, but I'm going to have to come down entirely on Dave Snowden's side on the ongoing debate between him and Shawn.

I was pleased to see that Dave picked up on my comment about McDonald's employees not being knowledge workers. I think the attitude of management towards McDonald's staff is a clear example of why preserving the notion of a knowledge worker is still important.

For those insisting on a definition of "knowledge worker", mine is quite simple: it's being employed for the knowledge you bring rather than the knowledge you will be taught.

Yes, it's a simplification and ignores a lot of edge cases, but it captures an important large chunk of the difference.

Biculturalism

My previous post took on a life of its own, which was originally intended to highlight a Joel on Software article on Biculturalism from 2003:

... So you get these religious arguments. Unix is better because you can debug into libraries. Windows is better because Aunt Marge gets some confirmation that her email was actually sent. Actually, one is not better than another, they simply have different values: in Unix making things better for other programmers is a core value and in Windows making things better for Aunt Marge is a core value.

The maturing of Information Technology

One of the signs of a maturing discipline is that change gets slower. I'm think that IT is reaching that point.

I mean, what can you do today with IT that you couldn't do three years ago? In December 2004, you were operating Windows XP, Firefox 1.0 and Office 2003.

Despite the release of successors to all of these software packages, the features available are still pretty much the same. Really, we've just seen new coats of paint and a few usability improvements. The Internet's still the Internet; word processing is still WYSIWYG; and operating systems are still pretty reliable.

Chronologically, I'd mark these as the major "tipping points" of IT in the last 25 years. These aren't necessarily the first time the concepts were invented, but they were the point at which they crossed into mainstream acceptance:

OS X Leopard wireless fix

Hmm. I actually thought I'd written this up a few weeks ago after fixing my annoying Leopard wireless issues. But perhaps not!

Anyhoo, here's how I solved my wireless connectivity problems on a MacBook Pro running Leopard:

(1) Make sure you have all the Mac updates (including the Login & Keychain update).

(2) Open your keychain and remove all entries relating to your wireless key setup.

(3) Start up in Safe Mode by holding the Shift key during startup.

(4) Once the computer has started in Safe Mode, simply restart again (without holding any keys).

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