Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Good Tech Habits to Maintain

Spring cleaning is an annual ritual in the US. It means staking stock of junk in your house and tossing it out, and cleaning and organizing the rest of your stuff. Until the following year, that is, when this, too, becomes junk. Psychologically or spiritually, it means looking over your relationships, career or business, and other commitments, values and endeavors, and letting go of whatever you ought to let go and otherwise keeping what you want or need.

In essence, then, spring cleaning is an opportunity for a holistic, dialectic tune-up, not just a segmented, particular effort. You clean up your house, you feel more apt to deal with a sticky friendship. You clarify and resolve a career problem, you are ready to get rid of longstanding clutter on your desk.

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So that preamble aside, let’s jump into useful spring-cleaning advice on technology habits, from Mashable - 10 Bad Tech Habits and How to Break Them.  I reframe these habits positively, and grade myself on how well I keep them: 
  1. Keeping proper condition and posture (B). My chair at home is comfortable and supports my back well, and my desk is positioned so the monitor is angled properly and the keyboard keeps my forearms relaxed and parallel to the floor. With my mobile devices, not so good, as I’m often hunched over. 
  2. Cleaning up my devices (B). iPhone, good. Tab, fine. But laptop, oh, man, it could use a good water-blasting. One key has totally fallen off, and the stenciling on many of the keys have rubbed off from excessive use. 
  3. Keeping off the smart phone (B+). I’ve had a few friends who were blatantly and repetitively rude about answering calls and sending text messages, while in a meeting with me and-or others. Needless to say, they are no longer friends. Me, I get absorbed in it once in a while, but I’m good about putting it aside for meetings and meals.
  4. Backing up data (A). I’ve lost data before, but thankfully nothing bad or extensive. Still, in my business endeavors, content is my competitive advantage, so every few days I back up my precious files onto a 500-GB external drive. 
  5. Taking regular breaks (B-). I don’t do online or video games, but I do get absorbed with my work for hours at a time. There are a few times when I skip past lunch or dismiss the need to use the washroom.
  6. Maintaining proper shutdown (A). All good here. I shutdown my laptop and Tab, when I’ll be away for a couple of hours or going to sleep for the night. I have recently begun to put my laptop to sleep and turned off the (external) monitor, if I expect to be back in few minutes. I am also good at unplugging my devices from their power or charger. 
  7. Keeping my devices off the bed (A). In Dubai, I periodically slept with my BlackBerry, that is, within easy reach on the bed, usually just to check my US sports scores in the morning when I woke up. Mostly, though, it was on the nightstand. Regardless, it rarely disturbed my sleep, and on the whole the bed is rarely a place where I work my devices. 
  8. Updating systems regularly (A). No problem here. I have a small backup laptop, which I don’t really use. But periodically I switch it on, so that Windows and programs can update themselves. 
  9. Having strong passwords (A). No problem here, either. They’re alphanumeric, and I change them periodically. 
  10. Optimizing my device batteries (C). I know I need to do this, but I have rarely done so. 
One more thing, not having to do with devices per se:
  • Keeping social sites free of clutter (A). I delete favorites, groups and pages, contact details, trash and spam on a regular basis. Whether it’s on YouTube, Gmail, Skype or iPhone, the content on my devices is clean and orderly. Spring cleaning, in this vein, is pretty much a regular habit. 
Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Monday, October 28, 2013

The High Technology of Batman

Unlike Superman, Spiderman or the Hulk, Batman doesn't have super powers.  To fulfill his crime-fighting purpose, then, he has to rely on high technology gear, materials and vehicles.  Of course he has considerable wealth, with which to acquire and develop his Bat arsenal.  Most of which are already available.

Night vision googles
Spy hand camera
Heat ray technology
Kevlar material, by DuPont
Ceramic body armor, by Ceradyne
Magnetorheological fluid, used in "memory cloth"
Fiber optics scope
Throwing star
Atlas Power Ascender
High Speed Amphibians, by Lockheed Martin and Gibbs Technologies
Icare motorcycle
Let the billions come, and I'm ready to be the Cape Crusader of Chicago!

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Solving Numerical Technology Problems

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I found this posted on the Funny Technology community on Google+.  Apartment buildings often have such a number keyboard, and you have to enter a code in order to, well, enter.

So it's easy enough to see which digits the code probably comprises of, and assuming that each digit is used once, we can readily calculate the number of possible codes:  4! (i.e., 4 factorial) = 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 24.  Then we enter each possible combination of these four digits, systematically, until the entrance door unlocks.  

Common sense, plus a little mathematics, and you can enter the building without difficulty.  Of course this keyboard poses a security risk, so it should have been replaced long before the four digits were rubbed off.  It should have been replaced with a more modern coding system, as this one is old technology.  In any case, how much common sense and numbers knowledge any visitor may have is a question mark.  

Let's take this a little further, shall we.  It's possible the code is more than four digits, so at least one digit is used more than once.  For example, it could a five-digit code with `0 used twice.  It could also be a six-digit code, with `0 and `7 used twice.  It's certainly possible that the code is eight digits long.  Of course we may not know ahead of time how many digits the code comprises.  Suffice it to say, If none of the 24 codes works, then it's a more complicated, but still quite manageable, situation to figure out.  

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I have a padlock like this, and I lost the combination.  I was using it frequently on one stretch, then I didn't need it for a long time.  In this case, there is also a foolproof heuristic, or what I call an algorithm, for figuring out the combination:
  1. Discern what solution parameters are.  Standard locks like this in the US have three-number combinations.  Note it's three numbers, not digits.  Each number ranges from `0 to `39 (i.e., 40 numbers).  
  2. Determine how the situation works.  For these locks, you turn the knob at least two full rotations clockwise, then stop at the first number.  From there, turn it counterclockwise fully, that is, past that first number, then stop at the second number.  Finally, turn it clockwise again straight to the third number (no full rotation).
  3. Calculate the universe of solutions.  Because numbers can be repeated among the three of them, the number of possible combinations = 40³ = 64,000.
  4. Implement each possible solution systematically.  It'll obviously be a much bigger table than the entry code problem above.      
Unless your lock has non-standard parameters and operations, this algorithm solves your problem perfectly.  It will probably take a long time to figure it out, but you're guaranteed to do so.

At the end of the day, this little padlock affords you greater security or protection than the entry plate, by virtue of its more complicated algorithm.  But let's get real:  If you're intent on entering an apartment building even without the code, you can jimmy the lock directly or simply break down the door.  Similarly, bolt cutters undo padlocks in a couple of seconds.

A year or two ago, someone posted a curious image: $1 million was stacked neatly inside a transparent casing.  The challenge was, If you can access the money, you can have the money.  The casing was made of high-tempered plastic or glass, so if you struck it repeatedly or even shot at it, it simply wouldn't break.  Quite a few people suggested aggressive solutions like these.  In fact there was a video or GIF of someone hammering at it and kicking it, to no apparent avail.

I suggested something different, a seemingly simpler algorithm:  Figure out how the money was placed inside, to begin with, and reverse that process.  There may be panels that came together, and where such panels are closed may be a chink in the armor.  There may be hidden bolts or screws holding something together, which can be undone.

My point is that the same basic algorithm for the padlock can be applied:  Conceptualize the solution vis-a-vis the problem, making sure you understand what you're dealing with.  Then, once you've arrived at the right working solution, implement it systematically.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"I Forgot my Phone" and Charlene deGuzman

This is so hilarious for what is undoubtedly the case for many people.  It is also sobering to have it mirrored back to us, that for the connection and engagement and blah blah blah of social media, and convenience and coolness of devices, it all somehow figures into an unmistakable isolation.    

The lady is Charlene deGuzman. So now I'm curious about who she is and what else she has on her channel:
Born and raised in San Jose, California. At age six, she begged her parents for dance lessons after seeing Rudy Huxtable tap dance on The Cosby Show. They happily obliged, and she spent her childhood as a competitive dancer, until she fell in love with acting. She studied theatre at Arizona State University, then moved to New York City to perform Off-Broadway. She eventually went on tour and spent two years performing in theatres all over the country. Charlene settled down in Los Angeles in 2008.
Reference: Charlene deGuzman.

Alrighty, I like deGuzman's wry humor.  These short takes are sweet and funny.  

But this drum-off between two lovers is awesomely brilliant and ROFL-funny!

Thank you for reading and watching, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Monday, October 21, 2013

Moral Dilemma of Inequality and Poverty

Last year I wrote an article that, as with some high tech innovation, both intriguing and disturbing.  It was about a charity organization and its use of facial recognition.  Here is an edited version of my article.

February 22nd 2012

As students of social studies in the US, we were introduced to, and thought-provoked on, moral dilemma.

Here’s an example. 

You’re on a speeding train, and the brakes fail completely. In the distance, you see a cluster of people on the tracks. The runaway train will undoubtedly kill them in a horrific crash, well before it can slow down to a halt. However, you quickly see an alternative track, onto which you can steer the train, thus avoiding these tragic deaths. But there is a person working on that other track.

What do you do? 

Switch tracks, kill one, and save more? Stay on course, kill some, but save one?

Plan UK
Today I learned about a charity called Plan UK, and its website speaks to the following mission:
We work with children in the world’s poorest countries to help them build a better future. A future you would want for all children, your family and friends. 
For over 75 years we’ve been taking action and standing up for every child’s right to fulfil their potential by: 
  • giving children a healthy start in life, including access to safe drinking water
  • securing the education of girls and boys
  • working with communities to prepare for and survive disasters
  • inspiring children to take a lead in decisions that affect their lives
  • enabling families to earn a living and plan for their children’s future 
We do what’s needed, where it’s needed most. We do what you would do.
Noble, for sure.

How did I find out about Plan UK? 

Plan UK street advertisment
A new kind of outdoor advertisement is being tested on Oxford Street in London’s West End. The interactive advertisement uses a high-definition camera to scan pedestrians and identify their gender before showing a specific ad. The built-in system has a 90% accuracy rate in analyzing a person’s facial features and determining if they're male or female. 
The £30,000 display is set up by Plan UK, a not-for-profit organization that helps children in third-world countries. Female passersby will be shown the full 40-second video of its ‘Because I’m a Girl’ campaign that promotes sponsoring a girl to receive proper education in a developing country. Males won’t be able to see the full ad and will be directed to Plan UK’s website instead. The purpose of this was to show men “a glimpse of what it’s like to have basic choices taken away.”
Now, for the moral dilemma. 

I heard about facial recognition and target ads from the film Minority Report. Tom Cruise, as John Anderton, walks through a shopping mall and office building, and in his futuristic world sensors identify him and target videos ads for him specifically. It’s no science fiction, mind you. PittPatt is a firm that has developed technology to recognize faces for images and videos - Google Acquires Facial Recognition Software Company PittPatt.  I don’t know if it’s PittPatt, but Plan UK has apparently set up such technology.
It’s one thing to be the subject of security for a modern day, high tech facility that we enter, but is it right for just any of us, walking on the street or waiting for the bus, to have our faces recognized like this? 

In many societies and cultures, women are, sadly, diminished, abused, or altogether dismissed. But doesn’t the notion of showing men what it’s like to have their basic choices taken sound positively vengeful? Might the gender targeting of this ad campaign, intended for a noble cause, be seen as reverse discrimination? 

Finally, why is it that many children, as the very lifeblood and continuity of a society, be subjected themselves to extreme poverty and its concomitant ills? Why does Plan UK have to be so needed, in a world that, despite the devastating economic downturn, possesses an unimaginable wealth in the hands of a relatively miniscule minority?

This is no hypothetical, runaway train scenario. Obviously.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, October 18, 2013

Business and Boffo of Google

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Google is tinkering with the ever-delicate balance between selling advertisements and creeping its users out. On Friday the company said it would begin including recommendations that Google+ users make in advertisements. The new policy kicks in on Nov. 11. 
Here’s how it works: You use Google+ to rate some product or service. It turns out the company behind that product wants to advertise on Google. When the company purchases an ad, your friends will see a version that includes your photo along with what you said about the product.
Reference: Google is Going to Include your Face in its New Ads.

Hey, friends, from now on, be sure you're smiling in photos you upload. You want to look happy and friendly, when you see yourself in Google ads.

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Brazil is investigating Google Inc for anticompetitive practices alleged by Microsoft Corp and Brazilian rivals, adding to government pressure in one of Google's fastest-growing major  markets. 
Brazilian antitrust watchdog Cade said on Friday it is looking into accusations that Google has unfairly used rivals' content, discouraged their advertisers and favored its own product listings in search results.
Reference: Brazil Investigates Google over Antitrust Charges.

Brazil must be a major market for Google, so settling these charges is crucial for the internet giant.  In social numbers and savvy, Brazil is second only to the US in the Americas region.

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Google is saying adios to the Google TV brand, but manufacturers will still be able to use the Android operating system within their smart television sets. 
Three years after launching Google TV, the service is going to be quietly phased out, according to GigaOm. Now that most smart television sets already have many of the services and features offered by Google TV -- which failed to excite the average consumer -- it makes sense that Google's technology will still be used in TV sets, but rebranded as "Android TV."
Reference: Google Plans to Phase out Google TV Brand: report.

Consumers didn't quite take up Google TV. So Google will quietly shift it over to Android TV.  The OS is probably what manufacturers, and perhaps consumers as well, care about.

Check my email, got an invite
To a website I don't know
Looked like googlebuzz at first sight,
But my friend said that's a no.
Why did we need, another social network?
Doesn't Facebook work alright?
A new thing for me to learn
This could take all night, Look out!
What is this google +
I don't Need google +
There's another +1 and another +1
What is this google +
Hey, Why's this red thing here?
Go away google + 
You want me to put my friends in circles
But circles are for squares
Everday's like Sophie's choice
Trying to choose which friend goes where
But No Parents, or Ex-boyfriends...
Can get in without invites
And when I drunkenly post that he's cute
I can edit it later that night - whoa 
I kinda like google +
Can't believe I'm on google +
Oh another hangout, and another hang out
I dig my google +
Hey, old high school friend
You can't join my google + 
Friends add me, without me adding them
That feature's really nice
my pot dealer
and all these friend's I've never liked
No one knows, my circle names,
So even good friend's get handpicked
Do you make it into my main feed
or do I add you to my circle of pricks 
I'm in love with google plus
I'm judgemental on goggle +
and Another douchebag and another loser
You didn't make my google plus
Hey, Now I'm a facist pig
Thank you google plus!
The rocking strains of Another One Bites the Dust.  Two years old now, and it's still hilarious.

Shopping online is meant to be easy. Find out where your customers are "checking out" with Google Analytics.
If you're trying to buy something off a website, and it functions like this annoying clerk, walk.ah.way.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pinterested in What Women Pin

The build out of my business projects was evolving very nicely, I thought, so 14 months after being Not Pinterested, I look a first step inside the pin board: +Chicago.

Last year I came up with a video project, specifically interviewing Chicagoans, including visitors, and asking them what they liked about the big city: from culture and cuisine, to sports and museums, whatever.  Circumstances made such a project very difficult, so I shelved it.

But in July, I thought I could post photos I had taken while up-and-about in downtown Chicago, and a blurb about them.  It was a simple way to have fun with what I had and to explore how Pinterest actually worked.  In effect, Pinterest in my first step toward a build out of my +Chicago project.

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Ashley Faulkes asks Is Pinterest just for Chicks?  Its members are still predominantly women, since I first caught wind of this growing social media. 

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Faulkes encourages men to join Pinterest, and suggests topics that this 20% of members might enjoy: from food and gadgets, to humor and travel.  I don't think these topics necessarily make Pinterest a big draw, since Google+ and Facebook already have plenty on such.  

I shared Faulkes' article, and posted this on Google+:

Women are an e-commerce force, so for business people, at least, it makes sense to know, and get a good "feel" for, what they're interested in. That's one reason I'm on Pinterest. 

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On Google+ I added:

87% of users on Pinterest are women, and users spend a whopping 89 minutes on average.

I have since launched my second Pinterest profile, this one as an integral part of my T'ai Chi Empower project.  

T'ai Chi Empower
As I conceived T'ai Chi Empower, I already had women as a primary audience, though not exclusive one in the least, so Pinterest was very much on my radar in the build out.  +Chicago gave me a better feel for the site and pins of interest to women.  I decided to frame my boards more openly around empowerment, instead of strictly T'ai Chi, having to do with physical, psychological and spiritual aspects.  

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Rebekah Radice offers a good rundown of the fundamentals - 8 Pinterest Tips and Tricks: A Cheat Sheet for Newbies.  The key thing is her first: Learn the language.  Because it's free and easy, you can open a profile and explore the site firsthand.  Read about it, research it, as I did with Pinterest over months.  But you learn best by simply getting into it.  

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Monday, October 14, 2013

Not Pinterested

Early last year I wrote four articles on Pinterest, because I had heard that women in particular gravitated to it and I was curious about what they liked about it. I liked its pinboard concept, and wanted to get a grip on it, too. This is the fourth.

March 14th 2012

Dr. Ron Art is one of four conglomerates I’m creating, and it houses specifically the following sections:
  1. Poetry in Multimedia
  2. Shakespeare Talks!
  3. Dramatis Personae
  4. Art Intersections 
  5. T'ai Chi Empower
To start with, I launched a page on Facebook a few months ago, and it may very well evoke a wide range of reactions, from excitement and inspiration (I hope) to confusion and dismissal (I hope not).

I believe very strongly that art is more than just paintings or sculptures and that, instead, it encompasses any and all creative human endeavors, including those of the visual, musical, dance, dramatic, literary, even martial arts genres. More importantly, I believe in the power of art to affect our lives in very real, very positive ways.

To this end, I thought about opening a profile on Pinterest, as its pin board concept is more aligned with how I want to present Dr. Ron Art. That is, I’d like all sections visible on its home page, specifically recent and highlighted posts to each section, all there in a vibrant collage of the arts. This kind of collage is the essence of Dr. Ron Art, as it aspires to bring different artists together in an exploration and synergy of their respective arts, as they choose. While the new Facebook Timeline is better, as far as this goes, I’m still not happy with it.

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But alas I’ve decided not to open a profile on Pinterest at all. 

Here’s the latest from Econsultancy on the copyright concerns that I’ve been blogging about - Is Pinterest a copyright time bomb?  There is something fundamentally wrong with encouraging something, for example, posting freely from the internet to Pinterest, which makes members 100% liable to a lawsuit. 

Instead, I will have my own website created, which accommodates how I want to present Dr. Ron Art.

So besides my decision, I just don’t see how Pinterest can go on without drastic corrections to its Terms of Service. Yes, as Econsultancy points out, the majority of its members probably have not read, and will not read, these legalities. But at some point they will know. That’s how social media works. Communication can spread like brush fire.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, October 11, 2013

Pinteresting Dilemma

Early last year I wrote four articles on Pinterest, because I had heard that women in particular gravitated to it and I was curious about what they liked about it.  I liked its pinboard concept, and wanted to get a grip on it, too.  This is the third.

March 3rd 2012

Anthony Wing Kosner recently wrote a very informative, thoughtful article on the copyright issues surrounding Pinterest - From the iPad3 to the Unpinning of Pinterest to the Son of SOPA, Without Delay.  The rumored higher-resolution iPad3 could either turbo-charge Pinterest’s pinboard concept or simply add fuel to a fire that could rage on that pinboard.

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Let me see if I’ve understood this correctly:
  • When you upload an image from the internet, Pinterest cuts it off from its web source. 
  • Most images we find on the internet are low quality, and US law allows for their “fair use.” 
  • However, Pinterest finds a bigger, higher resolution version of that image, and makes it available for quick, easy viewing, once you click on the thumbnail of that image you uploaded. 
  • Moreover, Pinterest can do this without permission from the copyright holder of that image to begin with. 
  • Apparently this is legal, under current US legislation. 
Here’s the iPad3 side:
  • The advent of iPad3 may renew demand for professional photographers, who presumably have greater skill at shooting, and greater incentive to upload, higher quality images. 
  • Apparently there is a line on the quality barometer, where “fair use” no longer applies. 
  • People want to consume content differently, perhaps attested to by the great success of Pinterest (so far). 
  • Presumably, too, people want higher quality content, and this apparently is where iPad3 will come into play. 
If my points above are correct, then I ask:
  • How can the things that Pinterest is doing be legal? 
  • If this is indeed so, will it be legal for long, given the controversy-laden climate on privacy? 
  • I saw a bit of this on Google+, but how much and in what ways will copyright holders and content owners respond? 
I was close to jumping on the Pinterest bandwagon last week. But in recent days, I’ve changed from a little hesitant to more hesitant.

You see, the tagline ‘Content is my competitive advantage’ runs across many of my entrepreneurial concepts, plans, and projects. So, while I love Pinterest’s pinboard format, I will not allow it to separate me from any original content I might upload!

It doesn’t mean I will avoid Pinterest. Rather, it means I will take a wait-and-see approach.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

That's Pinsanity!

Early last year I wrote four articles on Pinterest, because I had heard that women in particular gravitated to it and I was curious about what they liked about it.  I liked its pinboard concept, and wanted to get a grip on it, too.  This is the second.

February 26th 2012

I just commented this on Google+

On the copyright issue, another Google+ friend quickly referred to an article from Tech&Trend - Pinterest Copyright, TOS: To Agree or Not To Agree:
One of the first criticisms came from the Boston Business Journal, which temporarily used Pinterest to pin renderings of startup workplaces created by architects. 
Galen Moore, Web editor at BBJ, decided to pull its pin boards down because Pinterest’s terms of service gives it the right to sell any image that a user uploads; In other words, by uploading a photo, a Pinterest user is assumed to waive full copyright ownership of that material.
I read what Tech&Trend posted from Pinterest’s Terms of Service, and while it’s convoluted legalese, my understanding of this language was consistent with Galen Moore's.

Obviously, a major concern for copyright owners.

I had heard, too, that Pinterest allows any site to prevent its original content from being ‘pinned.’  How cumbersome is that!

Anyway, I was about to request an invitation to Pinterest, and set up a profile. After a week or so, with having my interest piqued, I was close to doing this. But now, to be honest, I am hesitant. I will hold off for the time being, and see how these issues play out.

To be sure, I am not willing surrender copyright to my Intellectual Property.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Monday, October 7, 2013

Very Pinteresting

Early last year I wrote four articles on Pinterest, because I had heard that women in particular gravitated to it and I was curious about what they liked about it.  I liked its pinboard concept, and wanted to get a grip on it, too.  This is the first.

February 22nd 2012

What’s so interesting about Pinterest? I asked that question on Google+, when I posted this What’s Trending video.

The techie sanctum and the mainstream are clearly taking notice now of what has been a two-year sleeper. Once again, because of the great take up, as announced by ‘quant’ firms, a lot of people are gaga over it. I’d say success is assured for Pinterest, as Pete Cashmore enthused in Why Pinterest is 2012's hottest website.

My take on this great take up?

First, women.

No, not in the way that perhaps most men may think.  Rather, it’s about the veritable force women exert online, for social and commercial purpose. And not just online, but in organizations as leaders and in the economy as a whole, too. I’ve seen more and more converging evidence to this effect. So wherever women go, many of us ought to follow. Clearly many of us do.

Hear Rory Cellan-Jones muse Pinterest - hot new network or another Quora?
So will the same thing happen to Pinterest, with a blaze of excitement followed by a return to obscurity? Perhaps not. What is different about this network is that the early adopters appear to have been women with mainstream interests – design, fashion, travel – rather than the geeky guys who peopled Quora, and may have proved intimidating to later arrivals.
Second, portraits.

What I’ve come to gradually dislike is the ticker-tape phenomenon of the likes, of course, of Twitter. It’s a fast moving, unwaveringly linear trajectory of a mashup of things. Now that’s fine, and clearly millions of people love Twitter for this very phenomenon. They jump therefore on a train that runs on perfectly straight tracks.

To me, Facebook runs more or less on the same linearity. Interestingly, though, I think its new Timeline is an effort to capture the more organic and holistic way we experience life. That is, non-linear, in my parlance. So Timeline is a better portrait of us, as the Mark Zuckerberg has aimed to make it.

However, Pinterest is ahead of Facebook in this key respect. Have a look at this screen shot from its home page:

You see, in American mainstream culture, a lot of traditional things easily come to mind:  Collage. Scrapbook. Keepsake. Mementos. A lot of people love these. The founders call it pinboard, which is more of a non-evocative, techie term.

Our lives are circuitous and recursive. We don’t always do things chronologically, or even logically for that matter. We collect, we loop back, we vault ahead. As if the present, past and future were indeed at our disposal. All at once!

Pinterest isn’t there yet, as far as capturing this wholly is concerned. But arguably it may be one of the best at it that we have. Women know it.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, October 4, 2013

Challenges and Conversations ahead of Twitter IPO

Twitter Inc. on Thursday revealed plans to raise up to $1 billion in a public offering, looking to cash in on a messaging service that has transformed public conversation but is still losing money and facing challenges attracting new users and advertisers.
Reference:  Twitter Reveals $1 Billion IPO Plan.

After the Facebook IPO fiasco last year, I imagine Twitter has tapped lessons learned and prepared carefully for its IPO.

Reference:  Twitter Reveals Long-Awaited IPO Plans With 215 Million Users
As reporter Tomio Geron noted, investors will probably skate past the figures in red, largely based on the figures in green.  They want to see growth, and they want to be confident that Twitter will keep growing.  But really these figures should make them think twice, before deciding to invest:  Twitter apparently had to spend much more in 2013, to drive a bigger topline.  Specifically, just as its revenues increased 60%, its net loss increased even more 75%, from 2012.

Besides performance matters, there is also social and cultural issues:
"They certainly have a lot of work ahead of them to get mainstream America to understand" how Twitter works, said Brian Solis, an analyst at the Altimeter Group.
For the longest time, I saw Twitter as an oddity:  I didn't quite know how to best use it, because it was unlike other social media.  I didn't like the 140-character limit, and described it as a digital ticker-tape of news, updates and comments.  Mainly a one-way forum, that is, instead of anything close to a two-way conversation.

Over the past year, however, I've discovered avenues of conversations which I've enjoyed and which have prompted me to be more active on the site:
  • I hashtag (#) Blackhawks or Bears in the search bar, at game time, and I'm in that conversation.  The golden rule is, If I want others to respond to me, I must respond to them.  So while tweet stuff, most of what I do is retweet (RT) and-or respond.  So live sports events get a nod from me.  
  • I attended a technology conference last year, and the Chair gave us the hashtag for tweeting real-time comments, queries and conversation.  It was actually quite fun to interact with people who I knew were in the audience, but could not place them anywhere.
  • The Lead With Giants community has a weekly chat, and anyone can join with the proper hashtag, respond to the questions, and interact with each other.  It took me two chats to get into the rhythm of it.  But they prompt us to think quickly and write succinctly, which are actually good skills for leaders to have.  It's quite a spirited conversation, to be sure.
I've learned good ways to work with 140 characters.  I decide what topic to share - for example, a Forbes interview with a CEO - then plan a set of posts across social media.  I can write relatively long comments on Google+, LinkedIn and EFactor, but Twitter and XING have notable limits.  Still, I keep things at reasonable length.  Some posts are Twitter-size to begin with, so I simply copy-and-paste those comments.  When I do write lengthier comments, I can single out that key sentence or phrase I can tweet.   

Twitter is definitely a phenomenon, and management and staff will be on the spot to sustain topline, while carving out a bottomline, following the IPO.  Let's see how everything goes.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Thursday, October 3, 2013

High Stakes Benefits and Risks of Nanotechnology

This is just a 4-minute video from Entrepreneur, but it points to a vista of breath-taking possibilities for nanotechnology. Our world is (physical) matter, and if nanotechnology can work at the molecular level, then arguably it can work at anything around us and make everything better.

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Alain Kaloyeros says nanotechnology is the "ultimate know-how" (hmm). It can make products lighter, more durable, cheaper, more energy-efficient, diversified, and more functional.

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The video above is breath-taking and inspiring.  But it should make us pause, reflect, and think things through very hard.  Why?

Albert Einstein's famous equation E = mc² tells us even very small matter (m) can produce phenomenal energy, because it's multiplied by an enormous constant:  The speed of light (c) is approximately 186,282.4 miles a second (671 million miles an hour), then square this already big figure (c²)!  

But, you see, matter doesn't just produce this degree of energy, unless you do something to it. What do you do?  You can smash particles together via fusion, that is, colliding them at high-high speeds; or you can break them apart via fission. The amount of energy produced from these processes is calculated by E = mc².

You may know, then, that in WWII the US built the atomic bomb, based on Einstein's theory and equation, and dropped a human tragedy of an extraordinary order on Japan.

In the summer of 1939 Albert Einstein was on holiday in a small resort town on the tip of Long Island. His peaceful summer, however, was about to be shattered by a visit from an old friend and colleague from his years in Berlin. The visitor was the physicist Leo Szilard. He had come to tell Einstein that he feared the Nazis could soon be in possession of a terrible new weapon and that something had to be done.
Szilard believed that recent scientific breakthroughs meant it was now possible to convert mass into energy. And that this could be used to make a bomb. If this were to happen, it would be a terrible realisation of the law of nature Einstein had discovered some 34 years earlier.
September 1905 was Einstein's 'miracle year'. While working as a patents clerk in the Swiss capital Berne Einstein submitted a three-page supplement to his special theory of relativity, published earlier that year. In those pages he derived the most famous equation of all time; E = mc², energy is equal to mass multiplied by the speed of light squared.
The equation showed that mass and energy were related and that one could, in theory, be transformed into the other. But because the speed of light squared is such a huge number, it meant that even a small amount of mass could potentially be converted into a huge amount of energy. Ever since the discovery of radioactivity in the late 19th century, scientists had realised that the atomic nucleus could contain a large amount of energy. Einstein's revolutionary equation showed them, for the first time, just how much there was.
However, at the time Einstein doubted whether that energy could ever be released. By 1935 he was convinced it would never be practical. At the Winter Session of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Pittsburgh, he is quoted as telling journalists: "The likelihood of transforming matter into energy is something akin to shooting birds in the dark in a country where there are only a few birds."
The way I look at it: Nanotechnology may be a more advanced science than Einstein imagined, but it's based on the work that he and fellow physicists did at the molecular level (rf. quantum mechanics).

So I'm inspired by "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." I just hope that, with nanotechnology or other advancements, we don't end up destroying the future in an effort to invent it.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD