Blog maps II

Man, this blogmap thing is getting lots of air play. I'm still trying to come up with a use for it and I've bitched on both Scoble's and Chando's blogs about how it seems of little value, but still feel strangely drawn to be on the map. So I'll stay there for the moment - still feeling unimpressed and slightly voyeuristic looking at the location of all these other people - until someone can give me a good reason to keep it, or I get sick of staring at it on my homepage.


Blog maps

Just found Chandu Thota's blogmap toy. It's an interesting use of technology. Unfortunately because NZ isn't on the map yet, I've lied and told it I still live in England ;-) No one I recognise around that neighbourhood though - yet.

To be honest, although I've added this to my blog for the moment, it seems a bit cutesy and I'm struggling to come up with a real use for it. It's sort of like a teleblog (or is that blogphone) book so if everyone was on it, it might be quite good.

Idea: Maybe a mindmap type view would be cool showing linked blogs that someone is interested in rather than just those that are located nearby. i.e. Nearness is either by commonality of blog (determined automagically by some yet to be determined method) or by hard links. Then rather than overlaying blogs on a terrain map, we overlay on a logical map by topic/subject/or anything other type of criteria. That could be very cool.


Brain drain

I'm thinking about something new today, a little more close to home, but an interesting topic none the same. This is just a starter post.

A recent article in the NZ Herald, points out that 24.2% of New Zealanders with tertiary qualifications are resident overseas. That's the highest in the OECD and compares with only 2% of Australians. A ot of people are worried about this - calling it the "Brain Drain". The theory being that all the smart people are leaving so there must be something wrong. Especially as NZ has some of the best places to live in the world.

This is interesting to me for a couple of reasons:
1. I'm passionate about my country and want to see it succeed on the world stage; and
2. I lived overseas (on and off) for around 7 years and came back.

We Kiwis are a proud nation - mainly because we're small and generally punch above our weight in many areas (mainly sport). There's always been a real "gumption, guts and go" type attitude around here.

There's long been a great tradition here of young people heading off on the big "OE" - the Overseas Experience where you disappear for a few months or years and see some of the world.

Part of this is because we're 8 hours flying time from the nearest non-English speaking country (unless you count Australia ;-) So if you're going that far, you may as well make the most of it. It also means that long haul is no real drama for us - as most places are long haul from here. It's also a money thing. While I was living in the UK, I was still saving the same percentage of my salary, but that equated to 3 times what I would have saved in NZ. So I did well out of it financially.

Is it a problem?
Bruce Simpson of the $5,000 cruise missle fame seems to think so. Bruce uses it as a chance to bash the government again (who have dealt him some fairly hefty blows over the years) even if it is with his devil's advocate hat on. I don't think it's that bad. So long as we get a cycle of people coming back. Those figures aren't stated (if there are any).

If it is, what do we do?
We want them back I take it??? Of course we do. Being a small place, there's limited scope for doing most of the normal big things here - running huge companies, etc. All the big stuff is the cool stuff, which is necessarily a niche market (http://www.kongisking.net, http://www.supercarsnz.com) So we have to come up with other ways in enticing people back. The lifestyle is just one way. The one area I do agree with Bruce on is that the infrastructure for entrepreneurship is difficult. We have high interest rates, high corporate tax rates and the govt doesn't really invest in new firms. Therefore companies started here will always look at headquartering themselves overseas at some stage, if only for the tax breaks.

That said, New Zealand does have some things going for it. It is a great test market because you can roll something out country-wide very easily. It's got a geographically diverse environment that the scientists love because there's so much variety within a confined space. It's great for the larger worldwide telcos to use as a testbed. Vodafone do that. Alcatel are trialling their outsourced services model here too. We're one of 25 EDS-accredited Best Shore locations around the world too -so they hire here not fire. The list goes on. I'm sure I can dream up a few more.

Next post
The next post in this series will cover some of the initiatives around that could directly or indirectly help bring people back or provide great opportunities right here. I also want to think about immigration - another hot topic. Hmm, this could take a while.


A blunt knife is useless and so is Greg, therefore Greg is a blunt knife

As my statistics professor used to say:
There's lies, damned lies and statistics.

No idea if this was his own invention or not. Probably not.

Anyway, Bruce Schneier's found another pearl. Apparently, you can't get a high security clearance in the Israeli army if you're into D&D. Sigh. I think everyone will agree that this is a bit stupid. I'm sure my statistics professor could drum a statistically significant correlation to this in a few seconds.

The problem is that the number of reasons that this is wrong is as long as my arm, but anyone with half a brain could come up with counter arguments too. I thought the Israelis were pretty smart - and maybe they are.

However, although there may be no direct correlation between these two things, maybe it's as good a measure as you need. And that's a little scary.

PS. Greg is a guy I went to school with years ago who one day got compared to a blunt knife. And the rest is history.

Quality vs. quantity

This could almost have been one of those stupid "here I am again" posts that you catch on some aggregators like weblogs.asp.net. Seems like every man and his dog wants to let you know that they are still alive. Hardly a day goes by where I don't see a couple of them.

That got me thinking - with all this blogging going on (wonder what percentage of internet traffic is blog reading vs. spam these days?) what's the best way to reduce the noise?

Many ways to skin a cat
RSS aggregators like that one, or Scoble's link blog are a great way of trawling a lot of content for the needle in the haystack. I can clear 200-300 posts in about 20 minutes and only end up reading a handful. I do find it much easier following the aggregators of the aggregators like Bruce Schneier for security stuff. He seems to pick up the gems for me :-)

Then there's podcasting, which is OKif you have the bandwidth. I know it's coming - slower in my part of the world than others, but I'll also really only want the good stuff if I go audio. It won't be possible to scan hundreds of podcasts, so the aggregated form it still required, unless we can come up with a cunning plan to get the "news headlines" in audio form.

Reducing the noise
As always, the quality of some blogging is not so high. A lot of it is also irrelevant to my interests, particularly on aggregated feeds like Slashdot or Boing Boing.

Further, so many blogs are about the same thing, with hundreds of people linking to the same site. Although this is a great way of establishing interest and give Google some good feedbakc for their PageRank engine, what I think would be cool is a way to get this sort of page rank shown along side a link. It could work in (at least) two ways:
  1. Use hyperlinks that display the Google PageRank alongside the link;
  2. Create a way of aggregating many other feeds/blogentries/links and automagically merge the common elements (i.e. the 50 entries that link to the new trailer for the Hitchhickers Guide to the Galaxy) all become a single entry with some sort of counter beside it (ala PageRank again);


Remote home surveillance

Here's another one for the "how useful is it really?" department.

Telstra in Australia are working on a new product called Business Secure. It allows you to monitor your home or business remotely via the internet or your mobile. More fodder for the paranoia, I say.

I don't see this as a useful surveilance tool. I suspect anyone able to afford it and set up to use it (i.e. with security staff) will already have dedicated resources and cameras in place. SMEs will probably only use it reactively.

That said, if my wife wants to ask me if she should where the blue or the red dress, I can at least give her a slightly more informed opinion ;-) Although I dare say she'd eventually object to the cameras! Maybe my bosses could set one up outside the stationery cupboard?


More on airport security - it's not the actions, it's the responses.

Bruce Schneier has turned up the 1,349,822nd example of poor airport security. I've already commented on his blog about this. Here's what I said...

Yet more examples of ignoring Gibson's First and Third Laws.
I long for the days when I used to be able to wander onto a plane with my Swiss
army knife in the pocket.
We can bleat on about how bad it all is, but what can we _do_ about it??? How do we lower entire nation's paranoia levels? What is a reasonable compromise so that people feel safe but uninhibited?
Is there an 80/20 rule we can apply?
So many questions, but so few answers. Sigh.

OK. Maybe I'm getting to be a bit of a blowhard about my "laws", but the general idea is still true.

For the sake of the argument, I think it's safe to assume that there are lots of examples of OTT security in airports.

The crux of the matter
The major problems here are cultural not regulatory. Although events such as 9/11 and the war on terrorism have led to the current security infrastructure, the problem in this case is not those actions it's the responses to them. i.e.
  • Because of the American psyche, based around their history and the way they perceive the world, they have reacted in a certain way to these events.
  • Because of the British/French/Australian/New Zealand/Beninian/Iraqi/Afgani/... psyches, based around their history and the way they perceive the world, they have reacted in a certain way to these events
  • Because of America's standing in the world, other parts of the world have reacted a similar or completely different ways
Another example of this is perhaps the whole firearms debate that Michael Moore put up. Question: Why do so many American's die in gun-related crimes compared to say Canada, which has the same regulatory framework? Answer: It's a cultural thing.

So often major events are catalysts for change. Something major happens and people revert to type and react accordingly. Welcome to life. This is not stuff that can change over night if at all. It's taken years to get to our current states of mind. I don't see it changing easily.

What do we do about it?
Taking a deep breath and thinking rationally will help. People like Bruce, experts in their fields can help with this. Then we need to get to a collective understanding. Oh dear, here comes Gibson's 4th law (90% of people are stupid). In this case, the interpretation is that 90% of people will do whatever someone tells them to, because it's easier not to think.

Buggered if I know what do to about that.

You found me!


Someone found my blog and it feels gooooood. This internet thing could really take off you know ;-)