I’ve been reading


This week I had a short stay in hospital for a minor operation and have been resting up to make sure that I don’t pop any stitches. For a couple of days I was popping pain relief which had as much influence on my head as my body, then I decided I wanted clarity back and started reading.

I mean really reading. I finished a book I had started weeks ago and started another straight away. I really enjoyed myself. I also got into reading some more articles and read a quote by Nicholas Carr, from an article in The Atlantic, which really resonated with me, entitled Is Google Making Us Stupid?

The core of the article is that we have access to so many snippets of information and the ability to easily research any topic, that we don’t have to do any serious reading any more. In fact most of us don’t bother any more. I have been an avid reader most of my life, but these days I spend more and more time on the computer.

My business and personal life involves amongst other activities, reading, responding to and writing emails and spending a lot of time communicating via Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, plus many sites such as MySpace and Music Forte, where I hope an A&R person or singer will pick up some of my songs. It seems to be a race from one micro-communication and application to the next.

In his article, Carr wrote: “My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.” That sounded so much like what I do, what I revelled in.

But here’s the thing for me. I have read thousands of books over the years, from literature to politics, science, philosophy and psychology and much more. I have enjoyed the American and English classics, with some Kafka and Solzhenitsyn, lots of Science Fiction, and many university texts. They have given me a background from which to interpret all the bytes of information I now sample, to understand them and make sense of them.

Because you can think faster than you read, I was able to analyse, interpret question and process everything I set my eyes on, storing it for future reference. But here’s the thing, many people today are not building those backgrounds of data and knowledge.

Many teenagers don’t read books any more. Many tell me they can count the total number of books they have read in their lives, on the fingers of one hand. When they communicate, they abbreviate words to send text messages on their mobiles or send emails. Spelling has become poor and many people who have come to me looking for jobs, could not write a quality CV to introduce themselves. When I complained about my children’s spelling in their school assignments, teachers told me that it was concept and intent that mattered, not delivery. I’m going on a tangent, but things are changing and they may not be for the better.

When it comes to news, only a couple of people in my office read a newspaper, although most of them are graduates. If we didn’t have one in the office, most people would know nothing more than what they see on the TV news, when they bother to watch it.

I’ve counted myself lucky that I live in New Zealand where people have had a DIY attitude, based around the history of being a young country where people had to solve their own problems and find ways of doing things despite many obstacles, including being about as far away from the rest of the world as you can get.

Kiwis have been known as inventors and problem solvers and have been well accepted in business all over the world, where specialisation is becoming more common. Even here though, talent shortages are becoming obvious, especially as people find they can earn more overseas. Another reason imho, is that without an intellectual background, and moving away from the land and domestic skills that come with necessity, we are losing those skills.

Companies who made their older staff redundant and replaced them with young managers are finding that they may be lacking in maturity that comes from experience and learning intellectually, not just info bytes. This is costing them dearly. In many cases older workers are going back into the workforce for economic reasons and companies are reaping the benefit of their experience, but this comes hard as younger people often think they know everything and don’t need ‘wise counsel’.

The world economy may help us, bringing people home from their extended overseas experiences, looking for a better place to raise their kids and our isolation could be a good thing.

Specialisation is going nuts. A story in The Futurist earlier this year by Bruce Tow and David Gilliam gave an example of a surgeon who was only qualifed to repair knees injured during the playing of football. There is a new specialisation now starting to becom sought after, which is that of a ‘connector’. A connector is someone who can understand enough about a lot of disciplines and can act as an intermediary to help solve problems outside of the specialist spheres.

Without realising it, I have become one of those. Many people come to me for advice in how to solve business problems. They have people within their organisations with amazing specialist skills, but without  the ability to harness these people to and networks to get results. Often it seems really simple to me, with my background and of course an objectivity that comes from not being involved in the path that got them to their current position.

So I’ve been reading and I guess I’ve been waffling, but I’m allowed because this is my blog. Many people think that Twitter and all the other networking sites are a waste of time. For many people they are, because they don’t have the skills to access the wisdom and knowledge behind many of the shared messages. The people who really maximise the wealth of information on the net are those who have read and absorbed knowledge first. The ones who rise up as genuine consultants share real knowledge. They don’t need to fill their micro bytes with quotes and links from someone else, they can think for themselves, because they did their apprecticeships, they learned intellectually and by doing, failing and doing again.

Maybe it was just the painkillers and reading this will be a waste of time. But then I don’t think reading is ever a waste of time.

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Legacy Locker passes all your web accounts on to your beneficiary


I read a story in this morning’s NZ Herald which doesn’t appear to be available online. It was about a new web site which people can use to pass on all their passwords and account details for everything they do on the web from your online banking to all your web sites, social networking pages etc.

This was something I hadn’t considered before from my own perspective, or from those I leave behind. There are of course practical issues, such as having access to my online banking accounts but also my blogs, the sites where I post my music, such as MySpace and Music Forte, and my social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

The practical things are important because I would want to ensure that my beneficiaries have access to all my assets, but there are also the emotional considerations. Unless someone does something about it, my blogs and my social networking pages will remain forever. Personally I think it would be nice to leave a digital footprint behind, especially for my music, but also where people can remember me, almost like a legacy, where my own perspectives can be seen, rather than other people’s interpretations of them.

The NZ Herald story, which came from Telegraph Group Ltd, (which I also couldn’t find online) raised issues of the pain that it might cause to people left behind, when their loved ones pass away, seeing all their posts, photos and other net based activities, like footprints in the sand that people can see in time to come. It could be very painful.

On the other hand, I would love to be able to access information left by my forefathers. I have travel diaries from my grandparents and a small number of photos, but mostly their information is lost forever, or scattered, not shared, amongst my many cousins, uncles and aunts.

So the Legacy Locker service allows you to ensure that people left behind have access to all your accounts and can follow through on your wishes after you pass on. I don’t know how they find out that you have died, their must be a mechanism for that, but you have the ability to write an email that will be delivered to your beneficiaries after your death, so that they have access to all the information you want them to find.

It looks like they have all the systems you need including bank level security, to ensure that your data is safe. Check them out here.

They make a good point on their site that online assets have value. There may be areas of financial value, but there is also the intrinsic value of having access to photos that you may not have ever printed, music, diaries / blogs and traces of all your relationships, business, family and friends.

The pricing is also very reasonable, $30 a year, a flat fee of $300 and you can also have a free trial. I’m not so sure about the free trial other than being able to evaluate how it all works, but it is something I would probably do if I was going to sign up. Will I sign up, not at the moment, but maybe some time in the future, who knows?

Observations on Web 2.0 and hive culture


I was sitting in my daughter’s unit and reading the prelaunch draft of Gordon Dryden and Jeanette Vos book which is about to launch, called Unlimited.

I wanted to take some notes, but I couldn’t find a single pen in the house. There was a wireless keyboard and mouse and the PC was connected to their TV, but no pen.

In the Preface to the book they wrote about how interactive the web now is. with “mass innovation, mass participation, mass co-creativity, mass personalisation.” I think the key word is ‘mass’. Most of the things we do today have been possible for a number of years, but there were only a small number of people doing it. I don’t think we were even called geeks yet.

Now with applications such as FaceBook, MySpace, Bebo and others, a huge percentage of people around the world are sharing information, ideas and their personal space on the web.

Having an encyclopedia on the internet was a logical extension of Encarta which was wonderful for the multimedia and interactivity, but who ever thought there would be something like Wikipedia where everyone has the ability to have input as well as the ability to edit or add to what other people create.

It seems to me that we are evolving into a sort of community consciousness, like a hive, where we all interact with each other becoming part of an interactive organism. For now it is a semi-optional environment where we can choose to participate and the degree of participation from tangential to immersive. I say semi because even if we don’t interact directly, what we say and do often is still recorded in quotes and other forms of data such as photos and video.

Neural interfaces, such as haptic is not the norm yet, but having already celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the mouse, connections between the brain and nervous system and other devices whether physical or optical are realistic. Car manufacturers like BMW are monitoring eye movement and many people with amputated limbs or other disabilities are now able to manipulate devices without physically doing so by direct motor control.

Police and military have for some years been working with communication systems incorporating helmets with monocular displays and voice activated communications. Conventional communications adopted as normal by the masses include text messaging, where it is not unusual for Generation Y’s to conduct multiple concurrent conversations.

The same concept applies in social networking on applications such as Facebook. The networks are also now being merged and instead of having separate networks, it is now quite normal to have family, friends and work colleagues, associates and clients all in the same network with  in many cases access to the same information.

The Ubermens concept is reemerging, mentally anyway, but we also have a collaborative effect which has little to do with IQ or EQ and makes us more powerful and at the same time more transparent. People who are open, honest and happy to share are in a way evolving because honesty becomes a biproduct of the intercommunication.

As I get older and am more open to viewing and understanding the world, nature and nurture, the more I see the amazing symbiosis between all things, living and inanimate. The only thing that really stood apart were human beings who have tried to transform the natural order of things to create a new reality that suits our higher needs as described by Maslow in his hierarchy of needs.

As a hypothesis for consideration, could it be that we have a growing segment of humanity  becoming more connected and in doing so taking more responsibility for each other and our environment. Could this be a factor in how a black president was recently elected in the US? Could this have to do with why more and more people are starting to consider sustainability in their lives and taking responsibility not only for themselves and their community.

Is Truemanity an advanced outshoot of this concept?

Will this continue to evolve as more and more people have access to the same forms of communication, where state censorship is circumvented and a ‘for the hive’ mentality overides the individuals who feel they are more equal than others?

How will it evolve. Will groups of people continue on this path becoming more cohesive and if not with parapsychology but through technology become more intimately connected?

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Using CAPTCHA to digitse old books


This morning in the shower I was listening to Digital Planet, one of my favourite podcasts from the BBC. No I’m not sad, I just like to maximise my time:)

They interviewed Luis von Ahn about how Carnegie Mellon University is are using CAPTCHA technology to help digitse very old books that are in the public domain.

What is CAPTCHA? It is an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers & Humans Apart” You will have found that many times when you register to use an application on the web, or perhaps when you want to invite someone to be your ‘friend’ on MySpace or leave a message, you will see a small clump of letters and you have to enter what you see into a text box.

The reason for this is because spammers and hackers create bots, that allow them to access information and pretend that they are real people. For example there are people running businesses where they can guarantee you lots of ‘friends’ on MySpace for a fee. Personally I am against this and ultimately it is a waste of time, because just being able to say that you have thousands of friends, doesn’t actually help you in any way.

Just to sidetrack for a moment. I have lots of ‘friends’ on my MySpace page, 3967 at last count. They are people who have requested my ‘friendship’ or vice versa and because of that personal relationship, wherever possible, I have a fan base that I can use when I have a concert or gig that I am performing. I can use this to make contact with them, even by geography, but that is really a topic for my About Songwriting blog.

Anyway, many organisations are trying to digitise as many books as possible to allow them to be read as eBooks. The best known of these is Project Gutenburg, which has already digitsed more than 25,000 books.

The problem with older books, especially those prior to 1900 is that the pages are fading and the fonts are harder to read by OCR (Optical Character Recognition) tools, which themselves are still not 100% reliable. On a tangent, I hate reading books that are not perfect. My eBook Unleashing the Road Warrior was edited 12 times to get it as good as possible and I was dissapointed to find an error on page 309 of Stephen King’s latest book, Dumas Key, but that’s another story:)

So what the Carnegie Mellon people have done is to scan the pages and have created a tool which grabs 2 at a time and feeds them into the CAPTCHA environment. So now when you complete a CAPTCHA that has 2 words instead of random letters, what you are actually doing is not only autheticating that you are indeed a human, you are also helping transcribe these old books and ensuring their texts are protected for future generations to enjoy, is that cool or what?

Personally I find CAPTCHAS a pain in the proverbial, but having learned this, I am feeling a lot better about them.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)