Takin’ Care of Business

Why Psychology And Philosophy Are Vital To IT

{From 2004}

Just reading a recent issue of Infoworld, an article by Jon Udell caught my attention with a tagline of something like “If Google Ran Your Desktop”.

I tend to find articles all the time in IT periodicals that scream out “someone is using more than common sense here”, showing insight into real life problems. Not programming or engineering problems, mind you, but problems realted to the way humans actually need and use computers.

This particular topic was more concerned about the rational implementation of a dynamic taxonomy to describable data and the social implications both from and onto actions within a networked system.

In other words, how a large number of people categorize things (such as letters, photos, programs, whatever) is both determinable by group dynamics and determines the efficiency of the organizational system. The fact that this is all about using computer networks is almost incidental.

In fact, information technology is nothing more than a useless toy without people who understand psychology enough to make it work for a human being, sociology to make it work for large numbers of human beings, and philosophy to be able to consolidate all of these issues in a way that is both technically possible AND desirable. And if it isn’t possible, it is THIS and not the technology itself that will drive the necessary innovation.

So, YES, I AM using my Philosophy degree in what I do for a living.


WiFi and Wireless Networks Simplified

{Origianlly published in the Western New York Paralegal Association newsletter, 2007-08}

All techno-jargon aside, we all know that computers, phones, printers, and other devices communicate without wires all the time in today’s offices and cities. The two main ways are Bluetooth and WiFi. They use different signals and patterns of data, just like television and radio are on different wavelength bands and read by different machines.

Bluetooth is most common for individual devices to “talk” to each other, such as a cell phone and a wireless headset, or a palm pilot and a computer, synchronizing data such as a schedule calendar or address book. It’s also used as a substitute for infrared connections, such has printers and keyboards, but does not require direct line of sight (like a TV remote). It is considered idea for simple devices sharing small amounts of information.

Most networks, however, use WiFi (associated with some “802.11” standard, the number you will see on many device boxes when you buy them). It can have a range currently of up to about 300 feet. That means two important things. First, you can network a bunch of computers together with a WiFi wireless router. Secondly, people with a laptop can go into such a zone — a “WiFi hot spot” — and access the network, which also can mean Internet access if the network is set up to share a connection to the Internet.

The good news is that being able to connect to a WiFi network is easy. All you have to do is have a computer with a wireless (WiFi) card and physically be in the hotspot (range of the signal).

There are hotspots cropping up all over the world, in cities and towns, hotel lobbies and food courts. Some are advertised more than others, and there are many web sites that list and map out publicly available hotspots. Just be aware that most places provide the connection for free, but not all. For example, access at Panera Breads currently is free, while Starbucks charges a fee (call ahead for rates). However, if the Starbucks is across the street from a hotel lobby, you may be in range and use theirs.

Some municipalities are even working toward universal connectivity by turning a downtown area, village, or even a whole county into a “hotspot” with coverage throughout. This will be much easier with new technology being developed as we speak to increase range and set up infrastructure.

But for businesses and individuals with their own wireless network, the bad news is the same as the good news — being able to connect to a WiFi network is TOO easy. If you have a network that is not secure, anyone within the router’s reception area can access any shared files, printers, or Internet connections on the network. It could mean people in the next office over — or even someone parked on the street nearby — could potentially access your network. It may or may not matter if your neighbors “borrow” your Internet connection, but any shared files, depending on the setup of the network, could potentially be copies (stolen), deleted, or changed.

To secure a network does not mean having a “firewall” to prevent attacks from the outside world, which used to mean just your Internet connection. It means giving out rights to some machines and not others, just as in a wired network. This is ordinarily done by installing an encrypted “key” — a long series of numbers and letters — on computers that are supposed to have access. A company’s technical support people should be able to handle this, or you can read the instructions that come with the purchase of a wireless card. The key is generated by the computer that controls the router, the instructions for which come with that device when you buy it. That way, when someone using a wireless-capable laptop strolls by the office or home where there is a network, it will still show up as available to access, but not be able to do so — unless they have the key.

Lastly, be aware that if you have files on your laptop that are “shared” (in a networked folder, common for personal computers since Windows XP) may be accessible to other people on a network, even a public one.

As a businessperson or professional, the important thing is that it is your responsibility to protect your data, which often includes clients’ data. Medical, legal, and financial professions in particular may be required to protect such information and may be held liable if it is stolen when it could have been protected by simple networking security. There are actually people hunting for it, scouring office buildings and neighborhoods for an unsecured network with sellable information.

The bottom line is that the world we live in is going wireless in leaps and bounds. Apart from the risks of not knowing the basics of how it works, understanding WiFi and wireless networks is a blessing too great to pass up. Soon — very soon — you will be able to access anything, at any time, from anywhere, and wireless is the way it will be done.

Been in a coma for 15 years?

That’s what it is like if you haven’t mastered using email in your business yet.  The good news is other ways of doing things are just here, and you have another chance to get it right. Brought to you by www.Socialnomics.Com

Text excerpts:

  • By 2010 “Generation Y” will outnumber baby boomers.
  • 96% of them have joined a social network.
  • Social media has overtaken porn as the number one activity on the web.
  • One out of eight couples married in the US last year, met via social media.
  • It took 38 years for radio to reach 50 million users; 13 years for TV; for the Internet, four years. Facebook added 100 million users in less than nine months.
  • If Facebook were country, it would be the world’s fourth-largest.
  • 2009, US Department of Education study revealed that on average, online students outperformed those receiving face-to-face instruction. One in six higher education students are enrolled in online curriculum.
  • 80% of companies are using LinkedIn as their primary tool to find employees.
  • The fastest-growing segment on Facebook is 55 to 65-year-old females.
  • Ashton Kutcher and Ellen DeGeneres has more twitter followers than the entire population of Ireland, Norway and Panama.
  • 80% of twitter usage is on mobile devices people update anywhere, anytime — amazing what that means for bad customer experiences.
  • Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passé — in 2009, Boston College stopped distributing e-mail messages to incoming freshmen.
  • YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, with 100 million videos.
  • Shown in studies to be more accurate than Encyclopedia Britannica, Wikipedia has over 13 million articles, 78% of which are non-English. If you were paid one dollar for every time an article was posted on Wikipedia. You would earn $156.23 — per hour.
  • There are over 200 million blogs with over half the bloggers posting content or tweeting daily.
  • 25% of search results for the world’s top 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content. A third of bloggers post opinions about products and brands.
  • 78% of consumers trust your recommendations; only 14% trust advertisements.
  • Only 18% of traditional TV campaigns generate a positive ROI. Hulu [Television show archive] has grown from 63 million total streams in April 2008 to 373 million in April 2009. 70% of 18 to 34-year-olds have watched TV on the web. Only 33% have ever viewed a show on DVR/TiVo. 25% of Americans in the past month said they watched of short video — on their phone.
  • 24 of the 25 largest newspapers are experiencing record declines in circulation.
  • More than 1.5 million pieces of content (Web links, new stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) are shared on Facebook — daily.

Successful companies in social media act more like party planners, aggregators, and content providers than traditional advertisers.

Kinda changes things for nearly every business, doesn’t it?