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Insight, analysis and stuff for managers

WORDSMITHS
"Podcast" beat out "lifehack," "reggaeton" and other newly minted words in the annual quest for editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary to choose the Word of the Year. The editors will add podcast, defined as "a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player," to the next online update of the dictionary, due in early 2006. Other runners-up for top word include "rootkit," "sudoku" and "IED" (improvised explosive device).

 

MICROSOFT WATCH
There's one thing you can be sure of when you get back into the office right after a vacation or lengthy business trip: Your email inbox will be maxed out. Microsoft Research has developed a program that promises to shelter Outlook users from an email tsunami-and it's free. It's the Social Network and Relationship Finder, better known as SNARF. The Outlook add-on filters and prioritizes email based on the type of message and the user's history with their correspondents. Emails from regular correspondentsyour boss, for example, rise to the top of the stack. Emails from people you've never heard of fall to the bottom.

"SNARF grew out of an exploration of how people triage their email and whether social information would help," says A.J. Brush, a researcher within Microsoft Research's Community Technologies Group who, along with then-intern Carman Neustaedter, devised the project in the summer of 2004. "Just by using email, we build up a huge amount of implicit information about whom our friends and colleagues are-who I send email to and receive email from-and SNARF can take advantage of this."

 

10 YEARS AGO
The January 1996 issue of Application Development Trends took on a new look for the new year. After consulting with focus groups, and under the guidance of leading publication designer Ron Campisi, the third generation of Application Development Trends debuted, featuring "increased readability and expanded content...designed to make your jobs easier and your careers more successful."

While delivering the keynote address at the DB/Expo in New York, Andrew "Flip" Filipowski, CEO of Platnium Technology, asserted that Internet security threats are greatly exaggerated. "Who gives a [expletive] if they see your credit card number on the Internet?" he asked. Flip proved the point by reading his American Express card number and expiration date to the audience. He believed banks fearful of losing business to the Internet were preying on the public's fears.

Kevin McGilloway, CIO for Lehman Brothers, expressed dismay over the "mercenary mentality" in the I/S field. "The covenant between company and employee has been broken. People are now saying, 'I'm a Sybase person, or an Oracle person, or a Microsoft person.' And they are moving from job to job." In the same interview, MicGilloway predicted the outsourcing of 15 percent of his staff within 3 to 4 years. He claimed that a "Cobol programmer without any specialized skills will see his job go to a programmer in Guatemala who's making $1 a day."

WEB WATCH
In a column published in Newsweek, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google and Hal Varian, a Berkeley professor and Google consultant, enumerated 10 principles the company relies on to make its knowledge workers most effective. What follows is a condensed version of that column:

Hire by committee. Virtually every person who interviews at Google talks to at least half-a-dozen interviewers, drawn from both management and potential colleagues. Everyone's opinion counts.

Cater to their every need. We provide a standard package of fringe benefits, but on top of that are firstclass dining facilities, gyms, laundry rooms, massage rooms, haircuts, carwashes, dry cleaning, commuting buses—just about anything a hardworking engineer might want.

Pack them in. Almost every project at Google is a team project, and teams have to communicate.

Make coordination easy. Because all members of a team are within a few feet of one another, it is relatively easy to coordinate projects.

Eat your own dog food. Google workers use the company's tools intensively. The most obvious tool is the Web, with an internal Web page for virtually every project and every task.

Encourage creativity. Google engineers can spend up to 20 percent of their time on a project of their choice.

Strive to reach consensus. We adhere to the view that the "many are smarter than the few," and solicit a broad base of views before reaching any decision.

Don't be evil. We foster to create an atmosphere of tolerance and respect, not a company full of yes men.

Data drive decisions. At Google, almost every decision is based on quantitative analysis.

Communicate effectively. Every Friday we have an all-hands assembly with announcements, introductions, and questions and answers.

 

HOT TALK
Data integration's role in enterprise information management is drawing crowds. The early-morning session on the convergence of data integration and app integration for rollouts, such as SOA, generated a sizable audience at Gartner's December conference on Application Integration and Web Services, reports research VP Ted Friedman on the event blog.

Distinct sets of technologies, data integration and app integration are beginning to "collide," a trend evidenced by enterprise strategies and vendors' product portfolios, he observes. The large audience peppered session-leader Friedman with lots of questions about SOAs, master data management and the connection between data integration tools, app integration middleware and BPM, he reports. The takeaway from the session according to Friedman:

"Understand that data integration is a critical component of an overall EIM strategy.

Recognize that the manner in which data integration is implemented, and the intersection between data integration and SOA, will be evolving rapidly.

Focus on effective management of metadata and data quality to minimize integration risk and increase effectiveness.

Design and manage all styles of integration, including data integration, through an ICC to drive consistency and productivity."

 

NEW TECH
Plastic Logic, a developer of plastic electronics, says it has developed the world's largest flexible active matrix display. The display consists of a flexible, high-resolution, printed active-matrix backplane driving an electronic paper frontplane from U.S.-based E Ink. The displays are 10" diagonal SVGA (600 X 800) with 100ppi resolution and 4 levels of grayscale. The thickness of the display when laminated with E Ink Imaging Film is less than 0.4mm.

 

COOL STUFF
The Walletex USB Flash drive is approximately the same size as a credit card (it's a bit thicker) and comes in capacities ranging from 128MB to 2GB. The 128MB version is the only one shipping, and it is priced at $29.

 

FAR OUT
If you think you play a mean air guitar, now you can take your act live. Researchers at the Telecommunications Software and Multimedia Laboratory and the Acoustics Laboratory of the Helsinki University of Technology have developed the Virtual Air Guitar. Don a pair of orange gloves, strike a pose and rock on. A willingness to look like a fool probably helps too. "Strum" the air with your right hand, choke the "guitar's" neck with the left, and you'll be playing "Smoke on the Water" in no time.

The Virtual Air Guitar uses several pieces of software. Your actions are read by an input device, such as a Webcam, and analyzed by a gesture recognition app. A musical intelligence app interprets these gestures and sends commands to the sound model, which produces the final sound.

 

BUZZWORD
Spear phishing: Sending fraudulent email message or fake Web sites to a targeted individual or small group, such as a company, in an effort to steal sensitive information.

 

BETA WATCH
Need to find an expert on the Web but don't know where to start? Among the Web 2.0 SEO contenders is Squidoo.com-the brainchild of Web head Seth Godin-now in public beta. Business guru and author Godin, whose branding involves partial shots of his bald head, is the founder of early online permissions marketing venture Yoyodyne, which was acquired by Yahoo.

The idea behind Squidoo.com is to create a co-op of experts online. The experts, aka lensmasters, share their knowledge by creating a "lens," or view into the topics they are passionate about-and of course, you, me and your colleague who loves the Yankees are each an expert at something. That's the idea. Lenses in the top 100 on the beta site cover topics as diverse as Suduko and Introduction to Information Architecture.

A single Web page built in minutes using a standardized layout and user interface, the lens points searchers to information on the Web via links, abstracts, lists, RSS feeds, tags and other relevant lenses. An important distinction, writes Godin in his Squidoo.com ebook, is, unlike a blog, which holds content, a lens is designed to point to content that can help searchers make sense of a topic. To help searchers find the best, most highly trafficked lenses, Squidoo.com uses a ranking system, dubbed "LensRank," determined by a proprietary algorithm that measures traffic.

What's in it for you? Another resource for information leads, but also money, according to Squidoo.com, if you create a lens that's popular. To start, you claim a domain name, build the lens for free, then link it to relevant content, which could include your own blogs, Web sites and corp affiliations. The co-op aspect of Squidoo.com, not enabled in the beta version, will eventually allow lensmasters to profit from their lense—every Web page features Google AdSense ads—via royalties based on keyword clicks, referral fees and other affiliated income. Down the road, lensmasters may be able to convert royalties into frequent-flyer miles or points toward hotel stays.

Squidoo.com, really a corp, despite the co-op moniker, will attempt to make money through the Google ads, "in partnership" with lensmasters, who will qualify for a pro-rated share if their page is highly trafficked. According to Squidoo.com, 5 percent of post-expense revenue will go to charity, 50 percent to lensmasters and the rest to investors and employees.

In mid-December, the Squidoo.com beta site tracked 6,679 lenses and counting. So what are you an expert in?

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