Interesting elsewhere – 19 January 2010

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

Lost technologies « Janet’s Jottings

We are a very careless species, losing skills and knowledge constantly. We forget our past, or it is obliterated through natural disaster or human conflict. We have no or little idea of the technology of a few thousand years ago, and still less of our ancestors’ cultures. We really should not be so surprised, however, that humans in the past demonstrated great skill, ingenuity and the ability to think scientifically.

Memex 1.1 » Blog Archive » The Death of the News Package

In the 1930s Ronald Coase showed that an important determinant of how companies developed was the transaction cost of doing things that were essential to supporting their core businesses. If the transaction costs were low, then companies outsourced the activity. If they were high, then they took it in house — and grew vertically, as it were.

The arrival of the Net radically altered that calculation. In many cases B2B transactions costs reduced, because they could be conducted online — and in many cases automated by software. As a result, vertical integration no longer looked so smart — and outsourcing became much easier to do. Thus was born what Manuel Castells calls the ‘networked enterprise’. The rest is recent history.

Intranet 2.0 in 10 Not-So-Easy Steps – Intranet Blog – ThoughtFarmer

Step 1: Blow up the old intranet.

Why? It’s irrelevant to employees’ day-to-day job. The cumbersome updating process alienates people. It’s out of date, and usage is dismal.

How? Find the intranet server, get to a command prompt, and type >rm –rf *. (That’s a server admin joke.) Alternatively, unplug it. Seriously, it’s not worth trying to fix; you’ve got to start over.

Memex 1.1 » Blog Archive » The banal network

When restaurant chains like this take it for granted that many of their (mainly working-class) clientele have a Facebook account, then you know that something’s happened.

I’m reminded of an observation that Andy Grove, then the CEO of Intel, made in 1999. “In five years’ time”, he said, “companies that aren’t Internet companies won’t be companies at all”. He was widely ridiculed for this prediction…

As it happens, he was a bit optimistic about the time it would take. But this Toby Carvery ad shows how perceptive he was.

Cluetrain Manifesto 10th Anniversary Edition: Still the end of business as usual? Boing Boing

The original, core material stands up remarkably well. Depressingly, the best-weathered stuff is that which describes all the ways that big companies get the net wrong. They’re still making the same mistakes. Some of the more optimistic material dated a little faster. There’s a lesson in there: it’s easier to predict stupidity than cleverness.

Will the citizen model lose out to super-commissioning? The Guardian

Are we going to be consumers of “gifted” public services, designed and provided by other people, elsewhere, or are we citizens who not only shape our own public services but also contribute to the services of family, friends and neighbours?

Welcome to 2010 – But not the future?

In the last 5 years councils have spent large sums on centralising customer contact. This has partly been for “efficiency” and partly to offer a consistent and uniform customer face. Social media threatens to tear that apart. Customers are going to demand fast, 24/7 access to the people delivering their services, without a slick and regimented call centre in the way.

Legal and PR are going to hate it. Many council workers will fear it. Some will adopt it strongly and get into difficulties for saying too much, too soon or in the wrong way. It’s only a matter of time before a stressed-out council worker tells someone to “p**s off” via Twitter. The organisation needs to prepare itself for those things and recognise that social media is a culture, not a technology.
[extract from comment by Tim Hobbs]

Public services – the stakes are high | Matthew Taylor’s blog

Taken overall, these trends see the core role of the state move from service provider to decision maker and strategic enabler. It will not be a smooth process of change ; there will be many pitfalls and dilemmas on the way. A key factor will be the degree of decentralisation. If local leaders are able to experiment then the welfare system as a whole can learn fast about what works (and what doesn’t).

If we get this right we will see wave upon wave of public sector innovation resulting in a smaller but more effective and strategic state alongside a deeper public commitment to collective decision making and social responsibility. If we get it wrong – if, for example, budget reductions are too extreme and too indiscriminate or if Whitehall reacts to tough choices and public concern by centralising control – then we are in for a decade of retrenchment, resentment and a hollowing out of the public sphere.