Links for the Week – September 16, 2006

tanja askani
Photo by the extraordinary German nature photographer Tanja Askani.


Inc. Doesn’t Get the Wisdom of Crowds: Three readers pointed me to an article in Inc. magazine that claims “collaboration doesn’t work” and decries “the idiocy of crowds”. My guess is that the writer is just being provocative, but if not he’s playing into the hands of overpaid execs and consultants (the main readers of the magazine?) by inappropriately apologizing for their inadequacies. There are some things (as Surowiecki explains) that crowds do very well, and other things that they’re usually incompetent at. But the things crowds do best are precisely the things that arrogant executives think they do better. The things crowds do badly are best done by small, experienced, skilled groups of innovative thinkers, rather than senior managers far-removed from the intelligence of the front-line, or parachuted-in consultants and gurus with academic, boiler-plate ‘solutions’.

Beyond Viral Marketing: “Venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson doesn’t see any reason for startups to budget funds for marketing anymore.” Alice LaPlante in Information Week explains how viral marketing can be taken to the next level by understanding and nurturing “contagious behaviour”. Thanks to Innovation Weekly for the link.

Breaking Free From Professional Services Co-Dependency: From InfoWorld, an amusing but chillingly accurate portrayal of corporate addiction to big consulting and other ‘professional services’ outsourcing firms, and a surprisingly useful ’12-step’ program to break free. I especially like Step No. 3: Donít let money already spent spook you, Step No. 7: Be prepared to buy your way out, and Step No. 8: Hire knowledge you need. Thanks to my KM colleague Greg Turko for the link.

verna allee pharmco value net

How Big Pharma Sees the Patient’s Role in Health Care: My KM colleague Verna Allee has an interesting chart (reproduced above) depicting how Big Pharma sees the ‘value networks’ in US health care. Notice that the patient’s role is minor and passive. In an article later this week I’ll contrast this with how an increasing number of patients (no, customers) see these ‘value networks’ — hint: on my chart Big Pharma hardly appears at all.

Andrew Leonard Prescribes How to Save Ford: “Tax the rich. Fix the unemployment insurance system, beef up wage insurance, and pay for healthcare. Maybe then we can successfully avert our eyes from the sorry spectacle of Ford begging its entire workforce to quit.”


The NYT Doesn’t Get the Disconnect Between Civil Freedoms and Capitalism: “[New oppressive Chinese censorship rules] appear, at a minimum, to violate [China’s] W.T.O. pledges to liberalize access to financial information. Trade officials and foreign business leaders need to remind Beijingís leaders of those promises. And they need to warn them that a country that keeps a stranglehold on information is not a great place to invest.” Sorry, guys, actually a place where the people are kept ignorant, timid, and obedient is a great place for corporatists to invest. That’s why the US corpocracy, which is pretty good at keeping its own citizens off-balance, fearful and ignorant, has such a cozy co-dependent relationship with China’s.

Can the Blogosphere Provide Needed Oversight of Government Pork?: Richard Wolf at USA Today would have us believe so. I’m not so sure — elected officials have developed pretty devious means to keep back-room deals with lobbyists secret, and to bury their sell-outs and paybacks in anonymous ‘omnibus’ bills and off-the-books regulations. The blogosphere has neither the access to information nor the resources to open that up very much. In fact, when I saw the headline of this article (“Blogosphere spurs government oversight”) I mistakenly thought it was about another attempt by the corporatists to spy on, interfere with and shut down the blogosphere before it can threaten its information hegemony.

Olbermann’s On a Roll: Keith Olbermann continues with his brilliant and scathing editorials eviscerating the incompetence, carelessness and heartlessness of the Bush Administration, this time with his thoughts on the anniversary of 9/11. Wonder how long before the right wingers at MSNBC get him silenced?

ExxonMobil Gets Homeland Security to Arrest Greg Palast: It seems the barbed-wire ‘camp’ for 73,000 homeless semi-incarcerated New Orleans refugees sits right beside one of ExxonMobil’s most toxic sites, and it came into viewing range while Palast was filming the camp. Apparently DHS doesn’t want Osama learning anything about “critical infrastructure” that could be subject to future attacks or other terrorist operations. No, not the camp, silly, the refinery. Thanks to Dale Asberry for the link, and the one that follows.

Air Force Chief Wants to Test New Weapons on Domestic Demonstrators: From CNN: “Nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before being used on the battlefield, the Air Force secretary said Tuesday. The object is basically public relations. Domestic use would make it easier to avoid questions from others about possible safety considerations, said Secretary Michael Wynne. ‘If we’re not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation,’ said Wynne.” Hmm, I wonder who appointed this guy. Must have been a compassionate conservative.

Project Censored Top 25 Censored Stories of the Year: What’s surprising about this list is how few of the stories are surprises to those of us who have found other ways to get our news than the MSM. Justifiably #1 is How Internet Freedom Got the Federal Ax, and Why Corporate News Censored the Story. Thanks to David Parkinson for the link, and the one that follows.

Energy and Environment:

Getting Communities Ready for the End of Oil: “The time has come to move beyond energy alternatives to creating alternative lifestyles and communities…Through drastic reductions in resource consumption, dramatic conservation and curtailment of energy use, coupled with an increase in local community living we can survive Peak Oil and create a sustainable world.” There are a surprising number of new sites and conferences that appreciate that the only way to live in a post-cheap-oil world is by building self-sustainable local communities, independent of the grid, using renewable energy sources owned by the community itself.

Solar Wireless Lets Struggling Nations Leapfrog Ahead in Education: Solar-powered wireless routers promise to help children and adults in struggling nations access Web-based knowledge to educate themselves, at their own pace, even in areas with no electricity. Thanks to Innovation Weekly for the link.

Invention of Civilization a Desperate Adaptation: A new report for the British Association for the Advancement of Science agrees with a growing consensus of anthropologists that agriculture, settlement and the other trappings of civilization were a desperate adaptation to shortage of resources and adverse climate change, “built on fear, not the need to socialize“. More support for the Story of B. Thanks to Dale Asberry for the link.

Just for Fun:

Some Hilarious Advice for the Young: Fifty-something WaPo columnist Gene Weingarten brilliantly satirizes advice columns by telling his young readers what he wishes he knew when he was in his twenties. (Apologies — I can’t recall who sent this link to me).

Thought for the Week: From Kevin Beavers, a Buddhist story about relieving internal conflict:

There once was a young monk who went to his teacher in tears. He blurted out that he was having a terrible experience with his meditation practice. Every time he settled down, took a deep breath, and closed his eyes, all he could see were two dragons fighting each other. One dragon was a deep blue and it was filled with anger and greed and lust. Even its fire was terrifying. It was ferocious, this dragon. The other dragon was just as ferocious. Only the other dragon, pale white, was filled with love, wisdom, and compassion. Its fire was a deep, deep yellow. The young man was terrified of what would happen. Which dragon would win? He couldn’t tell and was afraid to watch them fight, which made him afraid to sit. Could the teacher please give him some advice?

The teacher smiled. He looked at his student, his eyes filled with compassion. ‘Do you want to know which dragon will win?’ The young monk nodded. ‘Why the one filled with love and compassion and wisdom, of course.’ But how did he know asked the young monk. ‘Because that’s the one you’ll feed’.

Update: Andrew Campbell tells me this story circulated in many different versions after 9/11. He prefers the following version, as do I:

A Cherokee elder sitting with his grandchildren told them, “In every life and heart there is a terrible fight between two wolves. One is full of fear and anger, envy, greed arrogance, self-pity, resentment and deceit. The other is full of joy and serenity, humility, confidence, generosity, truth, gentleness and compassion.”
A grandchild asked, “Which wolf will win?”
The elder looked him in the eye.
“The one you feed.”

And here as a bonus is a story from Chris Corrigan, also from late 2001:

My daughter Aine and I were walking in the woods today playing a game. She was pretending that there were monsters in the forest and that they were coming to eat us. We had to be vigilant. We had to defend ourselves. I asked her “What is the plan? What are we going to do if we see one of the monsters?”

She replied,”Feed them.” “Feed them?” I said.”Yes,” she said. “If we feed them they won’t want to eat us.”

I think she has the answer there. Imagine if George Bush took that $40 billion that Congress gave him and used it to feed people. Heck, take $20 billion to fix up US security and clean up New York and use the other half to feed people. And not just feed them with food.

What if we decided that people’s spirits needing feeding too? What if we chose to take $1 billion and build the biggest, most beautiful mosque in the world, right in the heart of Kabul. And what if we gave it as a gift, no quid pro quo, as a place for people to feed their spirits? What would the reaction be? What do we want the reaction to be?

We have choices. Seems we could bomb innocent people to death and celebrate, mirroring the images of September 11, and thereby satisfy our thirst for vengeance. But what would that get us? A world that so admired the West that it wanted to emulate it in every way and celebrates its way of life? Or would a large part of the 5 billion people that don’t live in the west see things differently? Would more people feel as if vengeance was the only possible response, and figure out more simple and effective ways to terrorize? We can have that kind of world if we choose it.

Or we can take Aine’s advice and feed people. And what would that get us? There is no better way to rob the world of it’s anger and bitterness, jealousy and hate, than to feed people unconditionally …feed their bodies, minds and spirits. Build places of learning, places of spirit, places for healing and nourishment, places of community. Take that $40 billion and spend it in every neighborhood in the world. Put the world to work growing food, healing people, restoring land and water, building communities, creating the thin fibres of connection between peoples, families, communities, cities, nations….”If we feed them they won’t want to eat us.” Can you think of a better form of security?

Grouse Watch: Our friendly neighbourhood grouse invited herself inside the backyard dining tent as I was writing this, and perched beside me on my standing-height desk while I composed this article. She was unimpressed by the toys I brought her (a ball with a rattle, and a shoelace) and by the handful of sunflower seeds I offered (she ate the nearby dandelion leaves instead). When she got tired of watching me type (and briefly trying out the keyboard herself) she jumped down and waited patiently for me to unzip the tent door. I’ve decided to ‘name’ her for the sound she makes when ‘speaking’ to me (a cross between clucking, cooing and purring) but I can’t figure out how to represent it phonetically.

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2 Responses to Links for the Week – September 16, 2006

  1. Martin-Eric says:

    On keeping the government in line via blogs and less-lethal weapons: the very reason why Internet is continuously being more regulated is precisely because it’s a good way to share information that make the truth transpire and the government doesn’t want that any more than their megacorporate friends. Then, they silence public discontent offline too by openly discussing the use of weapons that make people blind, deaf or suffocate into an allergic reaction. So, first they corporatize the media to control the truth, then find out about an alternate media, the Internet, that allows free-flowing diffusion of information and try to co-opt and regulate that one too. Meanwhile, they are giving the police military equipment to silence angry crowds. Nevermind Internet censorship (which is only a consequence of the failure of checks and balances in democracies), the question is: what can the populace do against governments armed with weapons that can maim or kill a whole protest march at the push of a button?

  2. Funny to see that again, Dave. The whole story of that short piece is captured and archived at where you can read many of the reactions to that bit that I received in the weeks and months following its dissemination.

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