keskiviikko 31. maaliskuuta 2010

Modern knowledge creation

The picture within this document is my understanding of how we perceive, study,
document, create, and nourish information. We use our perception through tools,
such as microscopes, direct observation, or other means. Then the raw information
forms thoughts and hypotheses, which are tested against using laboratory

simulations, statistics, or logical deduction. We talk about the phenomena using
common symbology (a language), and fine-tune the thoughts around the perception.

Many thousands of scientists around the world can contribute to a common cause
throughout decades. The Internet has enabled us to network in means that were
unheard of a couple of decades ago. The only backside to the evolution of
a networked world seems to be that scientific journals and articles have
somewhat been locked up in www-sites that require payment and registration.
In an era of unlimited possibilities for information sharing, there are
clusters of information hoarders that keep some of the most valuable
assets in their hands.

Publications share the knowledge in a form that is accessible to general public, often through
the eyes of a journalist specialized in a certain field. It's all through the chain that we
have to be careful though not to merge commericla interests and the objective truth.

The world around us has become more enmeshed with the idea that anything can and should
be a product. Products are meant to maximize profit and thus sell well. They rival
against each other. Product advertising does not, even though strictly speaking
should, bring out the objective picture of all the attributes related to
a product. Every advertiser is a little bit dishonest, and we know that.

To separate in a sensible way the basic research, from products, from pseudoscience
will be one of our most significant challenges in the coming decades.
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sunnuntai 28. maaliskuuta 2010

Browser extensions for Chrome, I like this stuff

It seems that Google's new Chrome browser is getting awashed with extensions,
though they are of good quality. At least the ones I have tried are excellent. I really enjoy Chromey Calculator, Wave notifier, Chromed Bird,
Lastpass, Google Share button, Google Tasks, Gmail notifier and a Feedly
RSS feeder.

Some of those are pretty self-evident. But let's review; the Chromey does a calculator's
job, so it replaces the need for Windows' desktop calculator. It can fetch data like currency
exchange rates fresh from the Internet.

Wave is a notifier for the Google Wave system. Chromed Bird is a Twitter notifier tool. Lastpass is one of the most powerful, saving you the hassle of keeping a list of passwords - just know that the master password is very precious. Lose it not, lest feel the peril though will.
Google share lets you expose what you see, very neat. Google tasks is there to alleviate or burn your overworked brain. Gmail notifier does what it promises. And Feedly stuffs you with inspiration.

These are making my day a lot more efficient what comes to
information processing. I read a lot. I mean a lot. I am discovering news
about IT, neuroscience, medical field, chemistry, maths, literature, and
so on. So it takes a good 3-5 hours daily to keep up. By using the extensions
it's much more easier.

maanantai 22. maaliskuuta 2010

Accelerators - for more usability

Accelerators, and more tolerant user interface sweet-spots are the thing you want to look for.
The previous are a group of technologies that do thing for you, speedier. They
are not about particularly the CPU revving up; or more memory. Accelerators
simple are aliases, keyboard shortcuts, and anything regarding customization
that works for YOU!

I often consider myself as the prototypical neural rat in a test bench.
Even though very well-versed in computers and their use, I am often in a bit hurry,
busy-head all the time, and hate repetition. So I'm your average nervous user, who
just wants to get things done. You see, the problem with computers is that
some geeks are ultra persistent. They think that sentences could be written so
that for each letter, you'd have to remember a 12-letter password. Some people just
are that way. They have the time and superb persistence to go after things.

Well, most don't have.

The sweet-spots are user interface areas that react to a point-and-click
event, like that produced with a mouse. Clicking on a sweet-spot runs a program,
launches an action, or does something similar. As people age and their
neuromuscular accuracy degrades, mouse use becomes more anxiety-provoking.
Have you ever tried to use computers when you're drunk, or feeling cold? It's
irritating to miss the elements all the time.

keskiviikko 17. maaliskuuta 2010

Semi-Digital Finnish bureaucracy

Ten years ago I had been dreaming of a paperless office for couple of years already.

Today once again I was inspired by the fact that the current state of affairs
is making me postpone things.

Recently, I talked to a young EU specialist
who had been making a stint of 5 years in Belgium. We had really interesting
discussions about the quality of digital processes and what it means to go
to a bureau both in Belgium and in Finland. She said Finland is definitely
much more efficient in these matters; which came as quite a surprise to me
- I have held the opinion for years that we have one of the most inefficient
ways of arranging bureaucratic processes.

What essentially bothers Finnish processes, is the fact that there's
no central governance of the public sector information technology. At least
what comes to the very architectural choices and the fact that a clear
silo mentality exists in the services - ie. there's hardly any transactions
between the approximately 200 or so different bureaus.

In fact, it is not just the paperless office that I dream, but the paperless
society and further on especially the paperless personal experience (PPE).
The latest is the ability to experience virtual world all the time - essentially
carrying a mobile integrated device in your body, which would feed data
to your sensory organs. This kind of device is in the development; one of
the most advanced forms that I have observed in the net is the Eyetap
personal imaging laboratory.

The office is of course probably the first priority target, because it manifests
the productivity of the whole nation. We do work at the office, with others.
Every one of us has the personal way of doing cognitive work. Some people like
to have an ultra tidy desktop, with as little stimuli as possible. Others
want to spread around, have a lot of things on the table, including coffee mugs,
etc. So this varies according to the individual.

The amount of paper in a process is approximately linearly ralated to the ineffectiveness
of the processes taking place at the office. To put it in another way:
The more paper, the more cumbersome, slow, and possibly bottleneck-forming the
process is. So paper not only slows down an individual process, but it may
be forming bottlenecks that slow down other parts or other processes.

Inefficiency: the sin of paper

Paper is kind a familiar, but highly inefficient way to carry information. It's
not the cellulose based fibers that we are interested in! It's the information
on those fibers that makes a difference, thus the bits in digital parlance.
A group of 8 bits makes a byte; and by combining those bytes in a serial
fashion, you get to form documents, pictures, etc. Everything can be represented
in bytes; at least everything of that which paper is capable of representing.

But the main differences between paper and bits is this:
- bits can be easily copied at huge speeds; up to around 50-100 volumes of Bible per second
- bits can be searched, transported, secured, erased, and so on - at lightning speed
This means that instead of using cellular power (the muscle), or fuels to carry the paper,
electronic signals can carry information around half the world in less than 1/10th of a second
- bits do not become wet, even though a digital device can be hurt by water
- binary information stays as sharp as ever, for the shelf lifetime of the information
(means that it does not get dull, intangible like prints, ink, and other forms
of paper output; but binary data needs to be refreshed and rewritten occasionally)

Bottom line: we could still improve processes

Just a hunch: we could be able to make our work, leisure activities, and so on in much
more efficient and most important, stress-free way. In Belgium, my friend said, you
get a freeday from work just for the sake of going to a bureau, because they know that
it is a slowly painful activity. It doesn't seem such a bad idea here either, but my
mind is set to battle against this kind of surrender mentality. We can't make extra
free days just because we haven't yet tried the ultimate digital solutions.

I'll be writing more on this subject in this blog. Digitalization and the optimization
of realworld processes is one of my favorites.

You can follow me on twitter: jukkapaulin