Incestuous Feeds

8 years ago(!) – referring to Feedster aggregating RSS feeds which may themselves include their own feeds, I was already referring to a previous reference, presumably from pre-blogging days with cross-posting between email bulletin boards – I suggested the web could spiral into being clogged up with subscriptions that automated my feed from you, if your subscriptions included an automated feed from me. Follow-me, Follow-you, Like-me, Like-yours, +1-mine, +1-yours,  …

Would ISP’s detect and intercept the circularity or would the world’s web resources simply be consumed to a standstill ? And at what speed could it happen, where would instability lie ?

I was reminded of this by a series of older posts dribbling through from a fellow blogger into my Facebook profile today – we both use various WordPress to Twitter to Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn to to Google+ to … you name it, and clearly several of mine refer to several of his. Don’t panic, but ….

Mediated Tweeting

I have an agenda that says free social communication isn’t all good, in fact it can be positively counter-productive. Quality communications, leading to quality learning, decisions and actions, benefit from editorial control and goal-directed mediation. Google doesn’t make teachers redundant.

Interesting today to see TechCrunch extolling Twitter coming of age – as a vehicle for communicating links between other channels it’s great, no argument, BUT.

They mention but don’t highlight in this story that the actual communications to the human involved (the US President in this case) was via expert human mediation, filtering and editing. Couldn’t work any other way, until AI comes to stand for Actual Intelligence, which it will, one day.

The medium is the message, but it’s a different message.

Google+ buzz = new Wave ?

I’m liking the buzz around Google+, and from seeing only the free “tour” (no working account yet), I like the fact it’s the relationship and not the person that is the focus, as was the case with Wave. Groups (circles, hangouts, huddles, etc.) arise from the nature of the relationships, not limited to the crass friending and following paradigms – which maybe made sense in the original university / college campus environment, or early-learning steps in social media, but are just too – well – crass for the real world.

Wave had it right because the “Waves” were emergent from the communication activity, not defined by groups of (yeuch!) friends. The only thing wrong with Wave was how to present the enormous power in a sufficiently usable UI – perhaps the social paradigm for the Google+ UI will work. Hopeful. (Sadly, TechCrunch appears to have a politically motivated agenda against it succeeding.)

Project Management Memetics

Leon sent me a link to this paper a couple of years ago, to which I responded “interesting” – he knows I’m interested in memes. I didn’t actually read beyond the title until today.

The essence of memes is that there is something “self-serving” about patterns of information (*1) which is independent of any rationally intended human purposes in using them. The same is as true of (say) project management procedures and practices as it is of any rational processing of information – my agenda is that this is a problematic feature of management and governance in the most general sense, not just businesses and projects, any decision-making-to-act process, knowledge-management practices, even the rational domain par-excellence science itself. So I have no doubt about the problems of failing to see the memetic aspect of project management activities – it’s is of course where my concerns began in Oil & Gas industry and Information Management projects, 15 or 20 years ago – the reason I’ve been blogging since blogging was invented …. but this is not about me.

In fact none of this is new in management circles, just the new(ish) memetic language, and part of the problem now is that memetics itself is contentious to some people (*1). But even without memetics, the idea that decision-rationality = action-irrationality has been part of action-science management theories (eg Argyris / Brunsson et al) and probably longer before that with (say) Parker-Follett – guru to the gurus in management.

In any “professional” management situation it is difficult (anathema) to suggest that doing a rational thing is the irrational (wrong) thing to do. You’re mad, surely. “Before we make this decision to act, we should study and agree upon this issue – right ?” Wrong. Act and experience the outcomes (with “care”, in the knowledge of the issue). It’s been called analysis-paralysis for years, but it’s not just “analysis”, it’s following any rational, objective process that delays action, because it is the action that provides experience. Experience is worth more than theory, in practice.

Performing rational (project) management analyses, modelling and management decision-making processes tends to lead to more (project) management activities – ie self-serving – rather than achieving the value-adding goals of the enterprise or project. (IT / IM projects, particularly new, integrated business and/or government (civil or defense) systems, are often legendary in terms of project failure, however they are actually post-rationalized. Not surprisingly there are newer “agile” IT project management processes that force the action and feedback cycle milestones.)

(*1) Patterns of information, known as memes because they are copied (not the other way around), come in many levels; patterns (upon patterns) upon patterns of information (statically defined) and patterns (upon patterns) of their (dynamic) relations, procedures, patterns of use, communication and processing. Because genes – the biological analogue of memes – are based on 4-bases (*2) and n-chromosomes in any given species (*3), there is a popular misconception that genetic copying in biological reproduction is well defined in terms of atomically discrete “digital” genes, whereas memes are somehow more woolly – anything from a single word representing an identifiable concept to the whole idea of ideas, concepts, interpretations, representations even internet crazes, fashions, cultural patterns (even whole religions and cultures) etc. Many people baulk at the idea that “cultural units” (memes) can be considered as discretely as “biological units” genes. Now, reducing things to discrete objects (genes or memes, or anything else) is part of a wider issue, but genes and memes, their own definitions and the processes and patterns involving their transmission and reproduction are equally complex and ultimately flaky – just equally useful in describing the processes involved – information processing processes both (*4). The analogy is in fact a very good one. It’s about what IS copied and communicated, not prescriptive about what they should be, or how they might be represented when communicated and processed. Naturally, simpler patterns of information (memes or genes) – patterns of information which are simpler to represent – are communicated, processed (and replicated) more easily, so unsurprisingly discrete objects are much more “popular” than complex patterns of information – another self-serving aspect. Simple ideas rule, but often simple may be dumb.

(*2) Even the 4 DNA / RNA bases are not in any sense absolute. They just happen to be the basis of the most prevalent and most studied organic biological forms. Other biochemical possibilities exist. And of course even in R/DNA based life, there are many other non-R/DNA cell structures involved in the processes too. Doesn’t change the essential pragmatic truth of genetic reproduction.

(*3) And even the definition of a discrete species is highly context dependent and controversial when it comes down to it. Different definitions are accepted for different practical purposes.

(*4) Objective reductionism is full of contentious topics when it comes to more subjective things like free-will and consciousness, but this is true even at the most fundamental levels of physics too. Arguments in these topics need to be conducted extremely carefully – avoiding “misplaced-objectivity” and “greedy reductionism” – more self-serving memes.

[Need to come back and link to the implied sources throughout.]

[Post Note : Existentialism and Evolutionary Psychology – Heidegger, Foucault, Dennett and many more in Jon Whitty’s project management presentations. A man after my own.]

Nuclear Sense of Perspective

Nuclear Power radiation risks are largely in the mind.

[Post notes thanks to Facebook activity.

From Smiffy

From Smiffy and XKCD

From every man and his dog, George Monbiot is a convert

Anyone who was already pro nuclear power, and has had their beliefs reinforced by Fukushima, probably already recognizes the real risks … not the radiation, but the radioactive materials entering the body – giving you a long ongoing personal dose – from escaping materials – airborne / waterborne from a loss of containment … including long term processing and storage of fuel and spent fuel.]

Information on Trust

Trust and information go hand in hand. There is no information without trust. Limited data maybe, information of real value; no.

Interesting to read this piece on Three Mile Island in the light of the current Japanese problems:

“The understated equivocations of their spokesmen – and their genuine uncertainty about the situation – engendered mistrust, particularly among those in the vicinity. Media coverage citing concerned nuclear experts served to heighten fears.

Soon, misinformation about a hydrogen bubble, which had formed in the containment vessel after zirconium fuel rods were exposed, turned into full-blown and mostly unfounded anxiety about an atomic explosion.”

Mostly Unfounded, yet, despite a massive (but contained) meltdown seen with hindsight only, a monumental event historically, created by Media Coverage.

Perversely and counter-intuitively yet again, less is more – less communication is better – yes, free communication makes things worse. Is that a political statement ? If I were a conservative-techno-phobe that would not be an interesting statement, but I’m a web-savvy-liberal. Must I post the W3C Fig 7 picture again for the techies ? Trust at the top – clearly trust and information feed off each other, but it’s the trust that’s paramount.

Working thesis: Current information value depends on a current stock of trust, current trust depends on previous experience (of information, and action, and … ) not on current information. No amount of “data communication” now, can fix a pre-existing lack of trust. Something like that 🙂

Macondo “Permitorium”

Listening to a presentation from the International Association of Drilling Contractors on the Macondo fall-out.

Demands for containment resources x00% x max spill potential available on site or within x hours are being used to reject permits to deep water drill since the moratorium ended in October. A little bit “no spill ever again” level of safety demand before permits will be granted. At least a year of deepwater drilling industry shutdown in the US gulf, which is a major regional industrial depression well beyond the O&G companies.

(Incidentally – innovative capping containments also being developed internationally. Ixtoc 1979 was bigger and flowed for a whole year. See previous Macondo threads and comment threads.)

Great Wall Drilling / Hashwe(?) / Repsol / Saipem / Gazprom / Statoil / Pertamina / ONGC / PetroVietnam / Petrobras and other partners, drilling in deep water (1 mile deep) in loop current between Cuba and Florida, with flows at 14 knots towards Florida and Carolina Atlantic coasts, and/or Cuban coast, not of course regulated by US permitting. Worse still …

People have already been prosecuted heavily for US content of technology (see partners) delivered indirectly to Cuban drilling industry. US (politically) cannot provide BOP or containment technology for a drilling operation that threatens the US coastline. People are trying to “do the right thing” without getting fired for legal infringements, amongst the political regulation. Interesting angle.