Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Why This Internet Thing Is Never Gonna Last

It was first published in Newsweek via BoingBoing in 1995, but it’s all over the interweb today: “The Internet? Bah!” — author Clifford Stoll’s funny, grumpy essay on “this most trendy and oversold community.”

Here are some excerpts:

• “We're told that multimedia will make schoolwork easy and fun. … Bah. These expensive toys are difficult to use in classrooms and require extensive teacher training.”

• “How about electronic publishing? … Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet. Uh, sure.”

• “Then there's cyberbusiness. We're promised instant catalog shopping — just point and click for great deals. … Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet — which there isn't — the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.”

• “What's missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact. Discount the fawning techno-burble about virtual communities. Computers and networks isolate us from one another.”

Social media are all about forging connections. In fact, for many of us, it’s human contact that keeps drawing us back to the internet today. Yet back in 1995, few of us recognized the potential of social media and social networking.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Productivity Linked to WILB

Technology has blessed us with many benefits. It has made a world of information available to us, enhanced collaboration, made research easier and replaced voicemail with the infinitely less odious email. In fact, I like my high-tech distractions so much, that I’ve started to feel a bit guilty. Should I be “wasting” this much time idly tooling around the internet?

Good news. According to a recent University of Melbourne study, individuals who WILB — in other words, people who surf the Internet for fun at work — are about 9% more productive than those who don’t. It appears that taking short breaks in your routine, including a quick bit of WILB, enables the mind to rest itself, restoring your ability to concentrate.

It’s important that no more than 20% of the workday be spent in WILB, says Dr. Brent Coker of the University of Melbourne’s Department of Management and Marketing, because internet addiction can have the reverse effect, causing workers who are online to become irritable if they are interrupted.

So, WILB — in moderation — it’s good for you and your business.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Multiplying the Power of Pharma Research

There’s been an interesting new development in the space where pharmaceutical research and technology intersect. It’s called Sage, and it’s designed to “revolutionize how researchers approach the complexity of human biological information and the treatment of disease” by giving them access to a rich research database and the high-tech tools to collaborate on “evolving, integrated networks of biological data.”

John Wilbanks, a founding director of Sage, writes in his Common Knowledge blog that Merck, the global research-driven pharmaceutical company, has pledge to donate a vast amount of data about the biology of disease to the nonprofit.

Wilbanks writes, “Sage means that we are now on the path to a world in which scientists working on HIV in Brazilian non-profit research institutes (like my mother-in-law) will be able to use the same powerful computational disease biology tools as those inside Merck. I'm very much looking forward to living in that world,” he adds.

So am I. While it will take an estimated three to five years to see the first fruits of this project, it’s exciting to think of the intellectual power that will unleashed by using technology to tap the great global brain.

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