Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Made to Stick by Nicholas Carr **

Carr has written about technology, and namely trends that impact the industry. Previously it was that IT doesn't matter, and now it is how what's left of IT won't matter further since everything will become a utility available online. This trend will, if proven true, slowly upset the current vendors who sell equipment and software, and replace them with utilities over the internet. Very similar to a trend that happened 100 years ago regarding electrification. The world is looking good for the likes of Google, Salesforce, and Amazon given his predictions, and looking very bad for Dell, Microsoft, IBM, and the likes. 

Deja vu all over again

Once it becomes possible to provide a technology centrally, large scale utility suppliers arise to displace the private providers. It may take decades for companies to abandon their proprietary supply operations and all the investments they represent. But in the end the savings offered by utilities become too compelling to resist, even for the largest enterprises. The grid always wins. P16 [How electricity became a utility. The same is happening now for computing power.]


How to build a Googleplex 

Each Google datacenter contains one or more clusters of custom built servers. The servers are little more than homemade PCs contructed of cheap commodity microprocessors and hard drives purchased in bulk directly from manufacturers. Rather than being wired together inside boxes, the computers are attached to tall metal racks with Velcro, making it easy to swap them out should they fail [and reducing the cooling the required by leaving the components open to the air]. Each computer receives power through a power supply invented and engineered by Google to minimize energy consumption… The company even owns much of the optical fiber cabling that links its datacenters together… Google maintains a copy of virtually the entire internet, gathered continually by spidering the contents of the billions of pages it discovers link by link on the web. P66


Companies like Google and Yahoo will likely be eager to supply us with all purpose utility services, possibly including thin client devices, for free – in return for the privilege of showing us ads. We may find in 20 or so years that the personal computer has become a museum piece, a reminder of a curious time when all of us were forced to be amateur computer technicians. P81


The good news: Don't worry about IT jobs being outsourced anymore

The bad news:  The jobs are simply being destroyed

In the long run, the IT dept is unlikely to survive, at least not in its familiar form. It will have little to do once the bulk of business computing shifts out of private data centers and into the cloud. Business units and even individuals will be able to control the processing of information directly w/o the need for legions of technical specialists. P118


When everyone is an expert, then no one is

As user generated content continues to be commercialized, it seems likely that largest threat posed by social production won’t be to big corps but to individual professionals – to journalists, editors, photographers, researchers, librarians, etc. who can all be replaced by people not on the payroll… Why pay a pro to do something that an amateur is happy to do for free. P142


Hey, do I look like Sisyphus? 

It seems increasingly clear that computerization has played a central role in the shift [of wealth to the smallest and richest segment of society], particularly in holding down the incomes of the bulk of Americans… Unlike earlier technologies that caused discrete changes such as the steam engine, the ongoing advances in technology offer the workers no respite. The displacement is now continuous. The pressure on wages is relentless. P145

 Banner Headline in 2012: Craigslist killed the NY Times

When bundled into a print edition, hard journalism can add considerably to overall value of a newspaper… Online however most hard journalism becomes difficult to justify economically… In general articles on serious and complex subjects from politics to wars to international affairs fail to generate attractive click through ad revenues. Compare that to soft articles on HDTV or buying a new car or retirement ideas… As soon as the newspaper is unbundled an intricate and until now largely invisible system of subsidization quickly unravels. Classified ads can no longer help to underwrite the salaries of investigative journalists and overseas correspondents. Each article and piece of content has to complete separately for ad revenue in isolation. P156


The Times of London has begun training its reporters to craft their stories in ways that lead to higher placements in search engine results. P156


The unbundling of content is not unique to newspapers, it is a common feature of most online media. iTunes unbundled music, making it easy to buy just 1 song instead of a bundled album. TiVo and ondemand cable are unbundling TV, separating programs from networks and schedules. YouTube goes even further and separates brief clips from the show itself. P157


As every piece of content is left to fend for itself, society may end up sacrificing quality. We may find a culture of abundance being produced by many amateurs is really a culture of mediocrity – many miles wide but only an inch deep. 157


Is Google what Orwell had in mind all along? 

Google has developed audio fingerprinting that uses the mic on your PC to monitor the ambient audio in your room [listen to you!]. If you have your TV on, a sample of the audio signal can ID the program you’re watching by comparing it to an audio database. The company can then feed you stories or ads keyed to your favorite shows. P161


As the tools and algorithms become more sophisticated and our online profiles more refined, the internet will increasingly act as an incredibly sensitive feedback loop constantly playing back to us, in amplified form, our existing preferences. P162


You are who you facebook with it seems

A study revealed that the more people converse and share info with others who hold similar views, the more extreme their views become… When like minded people cluster, the often aggravate their biases, spreading falsehoods, and they end up in more extreme positions than they started with… This phenomenon has been documented in 100s of studies in over a dozen countries. P165


Given how easy it is to find like minded people and sympathetic ideas on the internet, and given our innate tendency to form homogeneous groups, we can see that ideological amplification is likely to be pervasive online… In a further twist the very abundance of info available on the web may serve not to temper extremism but to amplify it further. P166


A botnet virus can scour a PC’s hard drive and monitor its users keystrokes, gathering sensitive personal info and sending it back over the internet to its master… Over 250,000 PCs are infected daily with botnet viruses. P175


France’s defense ministry banned the use of blackberry like devices by top govt officials since msgs are commonly routed through servers in the US and Britain. P181


There's no such thing as anonymous, suckers

AOL made available the anonymous search data for its subscribers recently. 3 NY Times journalists used the data for one subscriber. The terms were a mismash, ranging from “swing sets” to “single dances in Atlanta” to “dog who urinates on everything” to “school supplies for Iraq children”. They formed what the reporters called a catalog of intentions, curiosity, anxieties, and questions”. But there were enough clues in that catalog for the reporters to track down the name, address, and phone number of the so called anonymous searcher. She turned out to be a 62 yr old widow living in an Atlanta suburb. One morning she work to find her name and picture on the Times front page… Like a famous New Yorker cartoon which bore the caption “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”. In reality not only is it known that you’re a dog, but it’s probably known what breed you are, your age, where you live, and what kind of dogfood you prefer.  P186


In a country like China, anyone who assumes that he can act anonymously on the Web opens himself to dangers far beyond embarrassment…As phone calls and other conversations are digitized and routed over the internet, and as GPS chips proliferate, the ability of gov’ts of all stripes to monitor their citizens words and movements will only increase. P201


Google asked its employees to fill out an extensive online survey about themselves, answering some 300 questions on everything from programming languages they know to the magazines they read to the pets the keep. In 2007, Google began using the algorithms derived from these data to evaluate all job applicants, who are now required to fill out a long questionnaire. P203


Advertising and promotions have always been frustratingly imprecise. As the dept store magnate John Wanamaker famously said more than 100 years ago “1/2 the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which ½.”… The Economist compared traditional advertising to dropping bombs on cities – a company can’t be sure who it hits and who it misses. But with internet ads, companies can make lots of spearheads and then get people to impale themselves. P206


Big Brother wants to think for himself too now

Larry Page, founder of Google, spoke in 2002 at Stanford “The ulimate search engine is something as smart as people – or smarter… In 2003, he went into more detail suggesting that wireless brain  appliances might be used to automate the delivery of information… In 2007 he stated “we are really trying to build an AI and to do it on a large scale. The fulfillment of this goal is not as far off as people think. P212


The more we teach this future megacomputer the more it will assume responsibility for our knowing. It will become our memory. Then it will become our identity. In 2015 many people when divorced from the machine, won’t feel like themselves – as if they’ve had a lobotomy. P226


Maybe the Mad Hatter wasn't so mad after all?

Ted Kacynski aka Unabomber had this to say on the same subject “As machines become more and more intelligent people will let machines make more of their decisions for them, simply because machine made decisions will bring better results than man made ones. Eventually a stage may be reached at which decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently. At that stage the machines will be in effective control. People won’t be able to just turn them off, because they will be so dependent on them that turning them off will amount to suicide. P226

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