Category: General (page 1 of 3)

"To be in process of change is not an evil, any more than to be the product of change is a good."

(Marcus Aurelius)
"To go wrong in one's own way is better than to go right in someone else's."

(Fyodor Dostoevsky)

Blockchain bullshit

I’m sure blockchain technologies are going to revolutionise some sectors. But it’s not a consumer-facing solution; its applications are mainly back-office.

Of courses a lot of the hype around blockchain came through the link between it and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

There’s a very real problem here, though. People with decision-making power read predictions by consultants and marketers. Then, without understanding what the tech really is or does, ensure it’s a requirement in rendering processes. This means that vendors either have to start offering that tech, or lie about the fact that they are able to do so.

We documented 43 blockchain use-cases through internet searches, most of which were described with glowing claims like “operational costs… reduced up to 90%,” or with the assurance of “accurate and secure data capture and storage.” We found a proliferation of press releases, white papers, and persuasively written articles. However, we found no documentation or evidence of the results blockchain was purported to have achieved in these claims. We also did not find lessons learned or practical insights, as are available for other technologies in development.

We fared no better when we reached out directly to several blockchain firms, via email, phone, and in person. Not one was willing to share data on program results, MERL processes, or adaptive management for potential scale-up. Despite all the hype about how blockchain will bring unheralded transparency to processes and operations in low-trust environments, the industry is itself opaque. From this, we determined the lack of evidence supporting value claims of blockchain in the international development space is a critical gap for potential adopters.

There’s a simple lesson here: if you don’t understand something, don’t say it’s going to change the world.

Source: MERL Tech (via The Register)

See you in 2019!

Thought Shrapnel will be back next year. Until then, unless you’re a supporter, that’s it for 2018.

Thanks for reading, and have a good break.

Small talk and sociability

I admit it, I’m not amazing at what’s often referred to as ‘small talk’. I’m getting better, though, perhaps because I currently live in a row of terraced houses containing people of all ages. Small snippets of conversation about the weather, general health, and relatives are the lubricant of social situations.

The Finns, however, forgo such small talk. It’s not in their culture.

Finnish people often forgo the conversational niceties that are hard-baked into other cultures, and typically don’t see the need to meet foreign colleagues, tourists and friends in the middle.

[…]

“It’s not about the structure or features of the language, but rather the ways in which people use the language to do things,” she explained via email. “For instance, the ‘how are you?’ question that is most often placed in the very beginning of an encounter. In English-speaking countries, it is mostly used just as a greeting and no serious answer is expected to it. On the contrary, the Finnish counterpart (Mitä kuuluu?) can expect a ‘real’ answer after it: quite often the person responding to the question starts to tell how his or her life really is at the moment, what’s new, how they have been doing.”

This article explores whether the Finns need to adapt to the rest of the world, or vice-versa. Interesting stuff!

Source: BBC Travel

Issue [#319]: Operation Twilight

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"To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation."

(Chinese Proverb)

Experimenting with turning on comments for a week

Hello Thought Shrapnel readers! Some of you have asked over the last few months why the ability to comment on posts is switched off here.

Well, that’s mainly because I noticed a general downwards trend in the quality of online comments. For example, people would share their opinions on my blog posts without reading more than the title, or just link to their own stuff. And then there’s the perennial problem of spam.

This week I’m going to run an experiment and leave comments open. Everything I post from today to the end of the week you’ll be able to comment on directly.

I like the approach that Dan Meyer takes on his blog with adding ‘featured comments’ to his posts after the fact. I may try that.

Let’s see how it goes…


Image by clement127 used under a Creative Commons license

“Life is mostly froth and bubble, Two things stand like stone. Kindness in another's trouble, Courage in your own.”

Adam Lindsay Gordon

What do happy teenagers do?

This chart, via Psychology Today, is pretty unequivocal. It shows the activities correlated with happiness (green) and unhappiness (red) in American teenagers:

I discussed this with our eleven year-old son, who pretty much just nodded his head. I’m not sure he knew what to say, given that most of the things he enjoys doing in his free time are red on that chart!

Take a look at the bottom of the chart: Listening to music shows the strongest correlation with unhappiness. That may seem strange at first, but consider how most teens listen to music these days: On their phones, with earbuds firmly in place. Although listening to music is not screen time per se, it is a phone activity for the vast majority of teens. Teens who spend hours listening to music are often shutting out the world, effectively isolating themselves in a cocoon of sound.

This stuff isn’t rocket science, I guess:

There’s another way to look at this chart – with the exception of sleep, activities that usually involve being with other people are the most strongly correlated with happiness, and those that involve being alone are the most strongly correlated with unhappiness. That might be why listening to music, which most teens do alone, is linked to unhappiness, while going to music concerts, which is done with other people, is linked to happiness. It’s not the music that’s linked to unhappiness; it’s the way it’s enjoyed. There are a few gray areas here. Talking on a cell phone and using video chat are linked to less happiness – perhaps because talking on the phone, although social connection, is not as satisfying as actually being with others, or because they are a phone activities even though they are not, strictly speaking, screen time. Working, usually done with others, is a wash, perhaps because most of the jobs teens have are not particularly fulfilling.

I might pin this up in the house somewhere for future reference…

Source: Psychology Today