Tungle – the Scheduling Lifesaver

Image by [ r ? c e y t ? y ] {I br?ke for bokeh} via Flickr If you’d seen my desk lately, you’d understand how I feel about organization – I need it, but it doesn’t come easy. I’ve written previously about Xobni, another Outlook addin that helps sift through email madness, now […]

Meetings

Image by tiarescott via Flickr THE meeting spills over into its second hour. We are discussing an employee productivity initiative. At the moment, our most talkative committee member is describing a similar effort at another company. Her descriptions are peppered with self-consciously clever turns of phrase and images. Another participant chimes in with the idea […]

Twitter for Engineers

I love technology and social media. Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr etc all hold a great appeal to me as they add contextural content to the web in a social setting. However, many people see these social media opportunities as an extra-curicular activity, one that should occur outisde of the workplace. I’ve seen it work both ways.This […]

Telecommuting Away Gas Prices

472753942_e3a23ea925_m Could you do your job from home?

And by 2015, according to demographer Wendell Cox, there will be more people in the country working electronically from home full time than are taking public transit.

Suburbia’s not dead yet – Los Angeles Times

Telecommuting makes sense for many industries, even in some cases those that have been traditionally face to face service based. Businesses that are required to account for carbon emissions may have to take it to this level for offsets. If employees are not driving, could a business count that as an offset?

A bonus question: Would your boss be up for it?

Community Decision-Making and Independence

I’m intrigued by the ability of crowds to make good decisions. Elections are a perfect example of a diverse enough crowd making a better decision (more often than not) than an individual alone. It would be ideal to harness this decision-making power for more general decisions than we typically do. Need to decide which of two or three options would be the best way to proceed… don’t just ask the experts, a better decision can be made by a diverse and independent "crowd".

What’s stopping us from doing it, (except the fear that a worse decision will be made)? For me, it is the fact that it is nearly impossible to get a sample of participants that are truly independent in their decision making thoughts and processes.

Surowiecki in "The Wisdom of Crowds" states…

The more influence a group’s members exert on each other, and the more personal contact they  have with each other, the less likely the group’s decisions will be wise ones.
The more influence we exert on each other, the more likely it is that we believe the same things and make the same mistakes. That means that it’s possible that we could become individually smarter, but collectively dumber….

Can people make collectively  intelligent decisions even when they are in constant, even erratic contact with each other?

The theory can be extended to the application in small communities, (and I’ve been guilty of this as well!).

It actually may hinder decision making on the whole, when people, usually with good intentions, put forward their biased views in newspaper articles or on blog posts. As the crowd becomes more homogenous, one would think that the decision making would improve, but by removing the diversity of opinion, the effect may be that the community "becomes individually smarter, but collectively dumber".

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If you actually care about the opinion of the common citizen, (and getting the best outcome), when it’s time to make a decision, maybe it’s best to hold back on sharing your opinion.

Here is a summary (thanks Wikipedia) of the way to harness the power of crowds in decision making…

The Wisdom of Crowds – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Diversity of opinion Each person should have private information even if it’s just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts.
Independence People’s opinions aren’t determined by the opinions of those around them.
Decentralization People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.
Aggregation Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.

If a crowd’s opinion is already jaded by a vocal minority, the opportunity to practice the power of citizenry participation has been lost. That’s good to remember next time you feel like you need to lead the sheep away from the edge of a precipice.

Decision-making is tough at the best of times, but when it comes time to determine whether community consultation is an option remember the four states above that need top be present for a good decision to be made. The theories presented in this book are pretty compelling, and the author is careful to state the research that supports when and how crowd wisdom can occur.

How have you experienced crowd wisdom or ignorance in your world?

Project Management and the Blackberry

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I’ve avoided the “crackberry” wave. I love my Palm T3, wish it were online, but understand that if it were, the stack of emails that I like to process in a lump would likely trickle in all day.

Perhaps all of that is about to change. From a recent press release.

New software for the RIM BlackBerry provides a mobile interface for personal task and collaborative project management. Users can remotely add tasks via keyboard or voice call, and can browse and update tasks in personal or group projects. The software provides a pervasive experience: task data and projects can be accessed via the BlackBerry, the Mentat web interface, or Mentat-enabled 3rd party applications.

Overqualified Foreign Professionals

I’m a foreign professional in Canada. I had no problem getting job offers, the universities I studied at are accredited by Canadian professional societies, I communicate effectively and efficiently, and well to put it bluntly, culturally, I can fit in. 

An Indian-born scientist denied a job because he was overqualified is hoping a court decision to revisit his case will make it easier for other highly qualified immigrants to land suitable jobs in Canada.

On Wednesday, Federal Court Justice Yves de Montigny ordered the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to reconsider compensation awarded to Gian Singh Sangha, 57.

Overqualified immigrant scientist wins court battle