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The internet is too big
"Scale produces a vicious cycle wherein size facilitates both the problems and the "solutions."

Similarly, Twitter's userbase of hundreds of millions is what allows for the targeted, radically asymmetrical nature of harassment, where one user can be barraged by thousands of replies. The very interconnection that enables the best of the internet also helps foster its worst.

What are we to do if we want to reclaim the best of the internet while combatting its worst? While the tech giants have work to do, it seems that one way to think about this is to distinguish between the usefulness of infrastructure at scale versus the usefulness of certain networks. On one hand, it's beneficial for everyone to be potentially connected by a neutral set of wires and hardware. On the other hand, enormous, multi-billion user networks like Facebook aren't the only way we can connect.

Now that the internet is normal and accessible for billions, perhaps we need to think about the tech giants as necessary evils that kickstarted the early internet but have outlived their usefulness. In their place, imagine a set of standards — say, a calendar that anyone can access and that is interoperable with others' but doesn't require you to be on Facebook. It's an ideal of digital technology that rests on the concept that the internet is a way of connecting people but companies shouldn't entirely own the networks on which we connect.

Earlier this year, writer Max Read suggested that the best of the internet was now to be found in the group text chat. He argued that they feel so intimate and because their dynamic "occurs at human scale, with distinct reactions from a handful of friends … rather than at the alien scale of behemoth platforms." It's about finding the best of the internet without the worst — connection enabled by how large and ubiquitous the internet is, but without the internet's scale infecting how we use it on a daily basis.

It's not clear how such a change would come about. The tech giants not only wield enormous political and economic power, they have also deeply and perhaps even irrevocably integrated themselves into our lives. But as ideals go, a return to a smaller internet is one worth fighting for."
scale  navneetalang  2019  internet  web  socialmedia  facebook  twitter  youtube  interoperability  chat  maxread  size  networks  networkeffect  calendars  communication  dicsovery  intimacy  groupchat  messaging  email  online  timcarmody  robinsloan  nostalgia  humanscale  humanism  humanity 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
Opinion | Be Afraid of Economic ‘Bigness.’ Be Very Afraid. - The New York Times
"There are many differences between the situation in 1930s and our predicament today. But given what we know, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that we are conducting a dangerous economic and political experiment: We have chosen to weaken the laws — the antitrust laws — that are meant to resist the concentration of economic power in the United States and around the world.

From a political perspective, we have recklessly chosen to tolerate global monopolies and oligopolies in finance, media, airlines, telecommunications and elsewhere, to say nothing of the growing size and power of the major technology platforms. In doing so, we have cast aside the safeguards that were supposed to protect democracy against a dangerous marriage of private and public power.

Unfortunately, there are abundant signs that we are suffering the consequences, both in the United States and elsewhere. There is a reason that extremist, populist leaders like Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Xi Jinping of China and Viktor Orban of Hungary have taken center stage, all following some version of the same script. And here in the United States, we have witnessed the anger borne of ordinary citizens who have lost almost any influence over economic policy — and by extension, their lives. The middle class has no political influence over their stagnant wages, tax policy, the price of essential goods or health care. This powerlessness is brewing a powerful feeling of outrage."



"In recent years, we have allowed unhealthy consolidations of hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry; accepted an extraordinarily concentrated banking industry, despite its repeated misfeasance; failed to prevent firms like Facebook from buying up their most effective competitors; allowed AT&T to reconsolidate after a well-deserved breakup in the 1980s; and the list goes on. Over the last two decades, more than 75 percent of United States industries have experienced an increase in concentration, while United States public markets have lost almost 50 percent of their publicly traded firms.

There is a direct link between concentration and the distortion of democratic process. As any undergraduate political science major could tell you, the more concentrated an industry — the fewer members it has — the easier it is to cooperate to achieve its political goals. A group like the middle class is hopelessly disorganized and has limited influence in Congress. But concentrated industries, like the pharmaceutical industry, find it easy to organize to take from the public for their own benefit. Consider the law preventing Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices: That particular lobbying project cost the industry more than $100 million — but it returns some $15 billion a year in higher payments for its products.

We need to figure out how the classic antidote to bigness — the antitrust and other antimonopoly laws — might be recovered and updated to address the specific challenges of our time. For a start, Congress should pass a new Anti-Merger Act reasserting that it meant what it said in 1950, and create new levels of scrutiny for mega-mergers like the proposed union of T-Mobile and Sprint.

But we also need judges who better understand the political as well as economic goals of antitrust. We need prosecutors willing to bring big cases with the courage of trustbusters like Theodore Roosevelt, who brought to heel the empires of J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller, and with the economic sophistication of the men and women who challenged AT&T and Microsoft in the 1980s and 1990s. Europe needs to do its part as well, blocking more mergers, especially those like Bayer’s recent acquisition of Monsanto that threaten to put entire global industries in just a few hands.

The United States seems to constantly forget its own traditions, to forget what this country at its best stands for. We forget that America pioneered a kind of law — antitrust — that in the words of Roosevelt would “teach the masters of the biggest corporations in the land that they were not, and would not be permitted to regard themselves as, above the law.” We have forgotten that antitrust law had more than an economic goal, that it was meant fundamentally as a kind of constitutional safeguard, a check against the political dangers of unaccountable private power.

As the lawyer and consumer advocate Robert Pitofsky warned in 1979, we must not forget the economic origins of totalitarianism, that “massively concentrated economic power, or state intervention induced by that level of concentration, is incompatible with liberal, constitutional democracy.”"
timwu  economics  monopolies  history  bigness  scale  size  2018  telecommunications  healthcare  medicine  governance  democracy  fascism  government  influence  power  bigpharma  law  legal  robertpitofsky  consolidation  mergers  lobbying  middleclass  class  inequality 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Opinion | Wrap Your Mind Around a Whale - The New York Times
"The facts of a blue whale seem improbable; it is hard to wrap your mind around an animal with jaws the height of a football goal post. Those jaws are not just the ocean’s utmost bones (to borrow from Melville) but the utmost bones in the history of life on Earth.

And yet these superlative whales haven’t been huge that long. In fact, they emerged just about 4.5 million years ago, coinciding almost perfectly with the human era.

We are living right now in the age of giants. Blue whales, fin whales, right whales and bowhead whales are the largest animals, by weight, ever to have evolved. How did this happen? And what does this tell us about how evolution works?

Fossils show that the earliest whales were more obviously mammalian — they had four legs, a nose, maybe even fur. They had bladelike teeth and lived in habitats that ranged from woodlands with streams to river deltas, occasionally feeding in the brackish waters of shallow equatorial coasts. And they were the size of a large dog."
whales  nature  multispecies  history  naturalhistory  evolution  scale  size  oceans  mammals  via:lukeneff  foreden 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Social media moderators should look to the oldest digital communities for tips about caring — Quartz
"Back when women only made up a tenth of the online population, Echo’s user base was 40% female. On its website, a banner read: “Echo has the highest population of women in cyberspace. And none of them will give you the time of day.” Stacy made Echo membership free for women for an entire year. She created private spaces on Echo where women could talk amongst themselves and report instances of harassment. She spoke to women’s groups about the internet, and she taught Unix courses out of her apartment so that a lack of technical knowledge would not limit new users to the experience of computer-mediated communication.

In short, Stacy achieved near gender parity on an almost entirely male-dominated internet because she cared enough to make it so.

For many in tech, caring means caring about: investing, without immediate promise of remuneration, in the pursuit of building something “insanely great,” as Steve Jobs once said. It means risking stability and sanity in order to change the world.

But what Stacy’s legacy represents is caring of another sort: not only caring about but caring for. It is this second type of caring that has been lost in our age of big social.

Moderators are a key part of this relationship. Stacy was a founder-moderator: a combination of tech support and sheriff who thought deeply about decisions affecting the lives of her users. She baked these values into the community: Every conversation on Echo was moderated by both a male and a female “host,” who were users who, in exchange for waived subscription fees, set the tone of discussion and watched for abuse.

In The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier, an early book about online community, Howard Rheingold documents such hosts all over the early internet, from a French BBS whose paid “animateurs” were culled from its most active users to the hosts on Echo’s West Coast counterpart, The WELL. “Hosts are the people,” he wrote, who “welcome newcomers, introduce people to one another, clean up after the guests, provoke discussion, and break up fights if necessary.” Like any party host, it was their own home they safeguarded.

Today the role of moderators has changed. Rather than deputized members of our own community, they are a precarious workforce on the front lines of digital trauma. The raw feed of flagged Facebook content is unimaginable to the average user: a parade of violence, pornography, and hate speech. According to a recent Bloomberg article, YouTube moderators are encouraged to work only a few hours at a time, and have access to on-call psychiatry. Contract workers in India and the Philippines work far removed from the content they moderate, struggling to apply global guidelines to a multiplicity of cultural contexts.

No matter where you’re located, it’s not easy to be a moderator. The details of such practices are “routinely hidden from public view, siloed within companies and treated as trade secrets,” as Catherine Buni and Soraya Chemaly note in a 2016 study of moderation for The Verge. They’re one of Silicon Valley’s many hidden workforces: Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter thrive on the invisibility of such labor, which makes users feel safe enough to continue engaging—and sharing personal data—with the platform. To sell happy places online, we are outsourcing the unhappiness to other people.

How did we stop caring about the communities we created? This is partially a question of scale. With mass adoption comes the mass visibility of brutality, and the offshore workers and low-wage contract laborers who moderate the major social media platforms cycle out quickly, traumatized by visions of beheadings and sexual violence. But it’s also a design choice, engineered to make us care about social platforms by concealing from us those who care after them. Put simply, we have fractured care.

The major platforms’ solution to the problem of scale has been to employ contract workers to enforce moderation guidelines. But what if we took the opposite approach and treated scale itself as the issue? This raises new questions: What is the largest number of people a platform can adequately care for? Can that number really be in the billions? What is the ideal size for a community?

Perhaps big social was never the right outcome for this wild experiment we call the internet. Perhaps we’d be happier with constellations of smaller, regional, and interest-specific communities; communities whose stakeholders are the users themselves, and whose moderators and decision-makers aren’t rendered opaque through distance and centralized authority. Perhaps social life doesn’t scale. Perhaps the future looks very much like the past. More like Echo.

Instead of expanding forever outward, we could instead empower groups of people with the tools to build their own communities. We have a long history of regional Community Networks and FreeNets to learn from. A generation of young programmers and designers are already proposing alternatives to the most baked-in protocols and conventions of the web: the Beaker Browser, a model for a new decentralized, peer-to-peer web, built on a protocol called Dat, or the zero-noise, all-signal community of Are.na, a collaborative social platform for thinkers and creatives. Failing those, a home-brew world of BBS—Echo included—exists still, for those ready to brave millennial-proof windows of pure text.

* * *

There is nothing inevitable about the future of social media—or, indeed, the web itself. Like any human project, it’s only the culmination of choices, some made decades ago. The internet was built as a resource-sharing network for computer scientists; the web, as a way for nuclear physicists to compare notes. That either have evolved beyond these applications is entirely due to the creative adaptations of users. Being entrenched in the medium, they have always had a knack for developing social commons out of even the most opaque screen-based places.

The utopian idealism of the first generation online influenced a popular conception of the internet as a community technology. Our beleaguered social media platforms have grafted themselves onto this assumption, blinding us to their true natures: They are consumption engines, hybridizing community and commerce by selling communities to advertisers (and aspiring political regimes).

It would serve us to consider alternatives to such a limited vision of community life online. For original tech pioneers such as Stacy, success was never about a successful exit, but rather the sustained, long-term guardianship of a community of users. Now more than ever, they should be regarded as the greatest resource in the world."
communication  culture  bbs  2018  claireevans  gender  internet  online  web  history  moderation  care  caring  scale  scalability  small  slow  size  siliconvalley  socialmedia  community  communities  technology  groupsize  advertising  are.na 
june 2018 by robertogreco
A manifesto for museums | Blog—Jarrett Fuller
"I’m about halfway through an internship at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City and find myself thinking a lot about the role of museums, their futures, and the economics of art institutions. Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel Prize-winning Turkish author and founder of the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul, gave the keynote address at the International Council of Museums this year where he outlined his manifesto of sorts on how museums should function.

The entire thing is worth a read, but I was especially interested in his thoughts on scale:
It is imperative that museums become smaller, more orientated towards the individual and more economical. This is the only way that they can ever tell stories on a human scale. The great museums invite us to forget our humanity and to accept the state and its human masses. This is why there are millions, outside the West, who are frightened by museums. This is why museums are associated with governments.

I’m reminded of David Joselit’s essay In Praise of Small (here’s a PDF of the essay [http://commonpracticeny.org/assets/CPNY_NearContact_2016.pdf ]) that also argues for and encourages small organizations and institutions, subverting the common phrase, that bigger is better:
Here then are the offcial assumptions with regard to the question of scale and the public good: BIG (capitalization of finance or audience) = PUBLIC. SMALL (capitalization of finance or audience) = ELITIST. But in fact this equation inverts the actual situation. It is the “public” (too big to fail) that disproportionately benefits elites, whereas it is the “elitist” (too small to survive) that serves communities in ways that other, larger organizations cannot. Might this ideological inversion be just as insidious and frightening as it sounds? Is it possible that artists in New York City are not only supposed to decorate the salons of hedge fund managers—and thus be implicated in financial elitism—while also taking the rap for intellectual elitism through their lively participation in specialized art discourse?

The term critique is tossed around as though it were a grenade with its needle pulled. But where does “critique” inhere? In my view, it is generally ineffectual in individual works of art, whose transgression can be easily neutralized in the halls of BIG. No, our political challenge is to maintain alternate forms of public space for exhibition and debate. To do so, we must exit the ethos of “Too big to fail.”

I’ve been thinking about Joselit’s essay a lot, recently rereading it as part of the Triple Canopy Publication Intensive I took part in earlier this summer. While I learned a lot during my two weeks at Triple Canopy, one thing I keep coming back to is are the benifits of staying small. Of how when an institution grows and gains power and size, there are all sorts of political, economic, and public considerations than must be accounted for. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that—I’m seeing the Whitney navigate that each day with a stunning grace—but like Joselit proposes, bigger isn’t always better, and at each scale there are a new set of tradeoffs."
museums  small  jarrettfuller  2016  orhanpamuk  organizations  institutions  sfsh  publicspace  davidjoselit  elitism  triplecanopy  scale  scalability  power  size  whitneymuseum  nyc  manifestos  huamn  humans  toobigtofail 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Super Opinionated Power Club 16 -- Live from Open Source Bridge
"Staff at corporations cede their individual autonomy and humanity while working and replace it with becoming a single transmitter in the consciousness of the corporation itself -- my contact could never make a decision, he could only take information and relay it inward. I have been a part of a couple of fairly large group neural networks (corporations) at this point, and seen how a pod grows wary at making decisions beyond an unspoken threshold, even if a few people in that particular group are pushing for something. The Company’s Best Interests hang over everything, even if it’s something that clearly harms everyone in the room (eg: corporate women’s groups who find themselves arguing against the company disclosing employee diversity statistics).

Corporations are not people but they are beings of a kind that use people as a distributed computing network. Each person is a point on the network, capable of very limited autonomous decision-making, with greater processing and decision-making power available deeper in the network with larger groups of people assembled. So, businesses as AI, ho-hum, this isn’t new.

I think and feel that there’s a number for any industry, and once you’re there, that’s it, that’s as many people as your company can have while the people in it are able to stay people while staying employees. I won’t pretend I know what it is for manufacturing, or really anything outside of the software sector, because I haven’t worked outside of corporate IT and computer software development. But once you get to the point where everybody at the company doesn’t know what everyone else at the company is doing...so, like, eight people, at least for me, I have to ask why you need to be bigger. Are you trying to defend yourself and save lives? Did you get called upon by your community to solve a Great Problem of Our Time? Or are you just helping an immortal citizen get a little richer and a little more famous?"

[via/see also: http://feeltrain.com/blog/hello-feel-train/ ]
courtneystanton  groupsize  2015  scale  humanism  growth  corporations  corporatism  size  small 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Feel Train
[http://feeltrain.com/blog/hello-feel-train/

"I am incredibly proud to announce that Courtney Stanton and I are starting a creative technology cooperative called Feel Train. We build tech that creates dynamic and nuanced interactions between humans and computers. We eschew meme generation and instead confront people with their own humanity by putting them face to face with the inhuman. And as of today we're available for hire.

So. We're a creative technology cooperative. I'll talk more about "creative technology" in a future essay, but right now I want to dive into the "cooperative" part. Feel Train is a worker-owned, cooperatively managed company.

A hard limit on scale
I've spent about a decade as a working professional. I've been at at half a dozen companies of various sizes, ranging from a three-person bootstrapped business to a multinational technology company with 5000 employees. I've been lucky: every company I've worked for has been a pretty good place to work overall.

I've experienced a bunch of different workplace cultures and organizational structures but I've never felt comfortable with any of them, which is why we're doing something a little bit different with this new business.

There are plenty of models out there for technical cooperatives, and we wanted to make sure we picked the right one for Feel Train. (For 101-level information on how a tech co-op might work, the Tech Co-op Network hosts an excellent free guide full of case studies.)

One thing that Courtney and I knew from the start in our very bones: Feel Train will never consist of more than 8 people.

This is a hard cap on the number of employees. With this limit in place, we no longer have to pick solutions that scale, because we literally cannot scale. We could have a different benefits or vacation package for every worker. That would be a logistical nightmare at most companies, but we'll never have to keep track of more than 8 packages.

Emotionally speaking, this does wonders for me. I've had plenty of entrepreneur friends over the years. Sometimes I would hear them swear up and down, "I love our company at this size. We're going to grow slowly and carefully." Then (ideally) success hits and it becomes very difficult to say no to the prospect of doing more, and doing so by growing faster than they'd ever planned.

All of a sudden, the company is bigger than they ever told themselves it would be. The work isn't fun like it used to be.

I'm not a better person than my friends. If (ideally) Feel Train is successful, then I know I would say yes to growing it beyond our intentions. With this limit in place, I'll never have to tempt myself.

Worker ownership
I believe that labor is the source of value, which means that in order to run a just company, ownership must belong to the workers and solely to the workers. The question becomes: who owns how much?

In production-based industries (factories, agriculture, etc) there are cooperative models where it's a simple matter of converting hourly labor to percent ownership. If Ayesha clocks twice as many hours as Bert, then Ayesha owns twice as much of the company as Bert.

But measuring labor is tricky in a creative industry. Why it's so tricky is a huge topic outside the scope of this article, but Courtney and I have given this a lot of thought and the best answer we have is: don't measure labor. No time tracking.

This means that, when it comes to ownership, we simply give it away. Ownership means equal say in every strategic decision the company makes: one worker, one vote. This solution absolutely does not scale. I couldn't imagine direct democracy working smoothly in an organization of even 20 people let alone 100 or 1,000. But it'll work for 8 people.

This also means that investment does not translate to ownership. Courtney and I are investing a pretty big chunk of our savings to get Feel Train started, but this doesn't give us any special rights. The next person to join Feel Train, whoever that is, will own one third of the company. My share of the company will dilute from one half to one third, as will Courtney's. Fortunately, we don't have to worry about too much dilution. I can guarantee you that if you join Feel Train you will never own less than one eighth of the company as long as you work here.

This is all just the beginning...
It's a good feeling to help start a company I can feel proud of deep, deep down in my Marxist bones. And these two core principles of worker ownership and non-scalability are just the foundation. Courtney has a ton of thoughts on the management of creative workers, and she'll talk about those in the future. If you're eager to hear more about all this, sign up for our monthly mailing list!"]

[See also: https://tinyletter.com/superopinionated/letters/super-opinionated-power-club-16-live-from-open-source-bridge ]
courtneystanton  dariuskazemi  bots  labor  technology  coding  feeltrain  humanism  cooperatives  groupsize  ownership  marxism  production  directdemocracy  organizations  growth  size  employment  lcproject  openstudioproject  scale  scalability  tcsnmy8  tcsnmy  small  slow  sfsh 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Scaling laws and the speed of animals
"A recent paper found that the time it takes for an animal to move the length of its own body is largely independent of mass. This appears to hold from tiny bacteria on up to whales -- that's more than 20 orders of magnitude of mass. The paper's argument as to why this happens relies on scaling laws. Alex Klotz explains.
A well-known example is the Square-Cube Law, dating back to Galileo and described quite well in the Haldane essay, On Being the Right Size. The Square-Cube Law essentially states that if something, be it a chair or a person or whatever, were made twice as tall, twice as wide, and twice as deep, its volume and mass would increase by a factor of eight, but its ability to support that mass, its cross sectional area, would only increase by a factor of four. This means as things get bigger, their own weight becomes more significant compared to their strength (ants can carry 50 times their own weight, squirrels can run up trees, and humans can do pullups).

Another example is terminal velocity: the drag force depends on the cross-sectional area, which (assuming a spherical cow) goes as the square of radius (or the two-thirds power of mass), while the weight depends on the volume, proportional to the cube of radius or the first power of mass. As Haldane graphically puts it

"You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mine shaft; and, on arriving at the bottom, it gets a slight shock and walks away, provided that the ground is fairly soft. A rat is killed, a man is broken, a horse splashes."

Scaling laws also come into play in determining the limits of the size of animals: The Biology of B-Movie Monsters.
When the Incredible Shrinking Man stops shrinking, he is about an inch tall, down by a factor of about 70 in linear dimensions. Thus, the surface area of his body, through which he loses heat, has decreased by a factor of 70 x 70 or about 5,000 times, but the mass of his body, which generates the heat, has decreased by 70 x 70 x 70 or 350,000 times. He's clearly going to have a hard time maintaining his body temperature (even though his clothes are now conveniently shrinking with him) unless his metabolic rate increases drastically.

Luckily, his lung area has only decreased by 5,000-fold, so he can get the relatively larger supply of oxygen he needs, but he's going to have to supply his body with much more fuel; like a shrew, he'll probably have to eat his own weight daily just to stay alive. He'll also have to give up sleeping and eat 24 hours a day or risk starving before he wakes up in the morning (unless he can learn the trick used by hummingbirds of lowering their body temperatures while they sleep)."
scale  nature  scaling  velocity  speed  animals  2015  size  science 
october 2015 by robertogreco
How Big is the Solar System?
"This is a classic exercise for visualizing just how BIG our Solar System really is. Both the relative size and spacing of the planets are demonstrated in this outdoor exercise, using a mere peppercorn to represent the size of the Earth. Guy Ottewell has kindly given permission for this electronic presentation of The Thousand-Yard Model; his exercise is presented in its original form, indexed with a few anchors to help you find you way around the large file. We also include a catalog describing several Ottewell publications. Image of the planets courtesy of NASA."
via:timmaly  scale  space  outerspace  solarsystem  science  nasa  size 
july 2015 by robertogreco
The American Scholar: Joyas Volardores - Brian Doyle
"Consider the hummingbird for a long moment. A hummingbird’s heart beats ten times a second. A hummingbird’s heart is the size of a pencil eraser. A hummingbird’s heart is a lot of the hummingbird. Joyas volardores, flying jewels, the first white explorers in the Americas called them, and the white men had never seen such creatures, for hummingbirds came into the world only in the Americas, nowhere else in the universe, more than three hundred species of them whirring and zooming and nectaring in hummer time zones nine times removed from ours, their hearts hammering faster than we could clearly hear if we pressed our elephantine ears to their infinitesimal chests.

Each one visits a thousand flowers a day. They can dive at sixty miles an hour. They can fly backwards. They can fly more than five hundred miles without pausing to rest. But when they rest they come close to death: on frigid nights, or when they are starving, they retreat into torpor, their metabolic rate slowing to a fifteenth of their normal sleep rate, their hearts sludging nearly to a halt, barely beating, and if they are not soon warmed, if they do not soon find that which is sweet, their hearts grow cold, and they cease to be. Consider for a moment those hummingbirds who did not open their eyes again today, this very day, in the Americas: bearded helmet-crests and booted racket-tails, violet-tailed sylphs and violet-capped woodnymphs, crimson topazes and purple-crowned fairies, red-tailed comets and amethyst woodstars, rainbow-bearded thornbills and glittering-bellied emeralds, velvet-purple coronets and golden-bellied star-frontlets, fiery-tailed awlbills and Andean hillstars, spatuletails and pufflegs, each the most amazing thing you have never seen, each thunderous wild heart the size of an infant’s fingernail, each mad heart silent, a brilliant music stilled.

Hummingbirds, like all flying birds but more so, have incredible enormous immense ferocious metabolisms. To drive those metabolisms they have race-car hearts that eat oxygen at an eye-popping rate. Their hearts are built of thinner, leaner fibers than ours. Their arteries are stiffer and more taut. They have more mitochondria in their heart muscles—anything to gulp more oxygen. Their hearts are stripped to the skin for the war against gravity and inertia, the mad search for food, the insane idea of flight. The price of their ambition is a life closer to death; they suffer more heart attacks and aneurysms and ruptures than any other living creature. It’s expensive to fly. You burn out. You fry the machine. You melt the engine. Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old.

The biggest heart in the world is inside the blue whale. It weighs more than seven tons. It’s as big as a room. It is a room, with four chambers. A child could walk around it, head high, bending only to step through the valves. The valves are as big as the swinging doors in a saloon. This house of a heart drives a creature a hundred feet long. When this creature is born it is twenty feet long and weighs four tons. It is waaaaay bigger than your car. It drinks a hundred gallons of milk from its mama every day and gains two hundred pounds a day, and when it is seven or eight years old it endures an unimaginable puberty and then it essentially disappears from human ken, for next to nothing is known of the the mating habits, travel patterns, diet, social life, language, social structure, diseases, spirituality, wars, stories, despairs and arts of the blue whale. There are perhaps ten thousand blue whales in the world, living in every ocean on earth, and of the largest animal who ever lived we know nearly nothing. But we know this: the animals with the largest hearts in the world generally travel in pairs, and their penetrating moaning cries, their piercing yearning tongue, can be heard underwater for miles and miles.

Mammals and birds have hearts with four chambers. Reptiles and turtles have hearts with three chambers. Fish have hearts with two chambers. Insects and mollusks have hearts with one chamber. Worms have hearts with one chamber, although they may have as many as eleven single-chambered hearts. Unicellular bacteria have no hearts at all; but even they have fluid eternally in motion, washing from one side of the cell to the other, swirling and whirling. No living being is without interior liquid motion. We all churn inside.

So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment. We are utterly open with no one in the end—not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words I have something to tell you, a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in the thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children."
2012  briandoyle  via:jenlowe  animals  nature  birds  hummingbirds  numbers  time  repetition  metabolism  biology  hearts  whales  bluewhales  mammals  anatomy  lifetimes  scale  size  life  speed  velocity 
january 2015 by robertogreco
It’s a Man’s Phone — Technology and Society — Medium
"My female hands meant I couldn’t use my Google Nexus to document tear gas misuse"



"Since officials often claimed that tear gas was used only on vandals and violent protesters, I wanted to document these particularly egregious circumstances. Almost by reflex, I pulled out my phone, a Google Nexus 4, which I had been using on this trip as my main device, sometimes under quite challenging circumstances.

And as my lungs, eyes and nose burned with the pain of the lachrymatory agent released from multiple capsules that had fallen around me, I started cursing.

I cursed the gendered nature of tech design that has written out women from the group of legitimate users of phones as portable devices to be used on-the-go.

I cursed that what was taken for granted by the male designers and male users of modern phones was simply not available to me.

I cursed that I could not effectively document how large numbers of ordinary people had come to visit a park were being massively tear-gassed because I simply could not take a one-handed picture.

I especially cursed that I could not lift the camera above my head, hold it steadily *and* take a picture—something I had seen countless men with larger hands do all the time.

I’m 5 foot 2 inches on a good day and my hands are simply not big enough for effective one-handed use of the kind of phones that I want to use for my work.

Increasingly, on the latest versions of the kinds of phones I want to use, I cannot type one-handed. I cannot take a picture one-handed. I can barely scroll one-handed—not very well, though. I can’t unlock my phone one-handed. I can’t even turn on my phone one-handed as my fingers cannot securely wrap around the phone while I push a button with a finger.

I used to be able to do all that on smart phones just a generation ago. Unfortunately, I can’t just use an inferior, older and smaller phone as I do need all the capabilities of the best phones—except their screen size. What I simply do not need or want is that teeny, tiny bit more of screen landscape that comes, for me, the total expense of usability. Yet, I’m increasingly deprived of the choice.

Not upgrading to new phones is not an answer either. I’m not just after the latest phone for the sake of having the latest phone. However, older phones get sluggish over time as requirements for software upgrades overwhelm their capacity. As phones age, their battery life gets shorter and shorter. In the field, battery life is very important. Soon, certain apps start not working unless I upgrade my operating system to the latest version which will crash my older phone.

As a woman, I’ve slowly been written out of the phone world and the phone market. That extra “.2" inches of screen size on each upgrade simply means that I can no longer do what I enviously observe men do every day: Check messages one-handed while carrying groceries or a bag; type a quick note while on a moving bus or a train where I have to hold on not to fall.

I must put down everything in my hands and use my phone with both hands for everything.

There is no rule that says the screen size must get bigger with each upgrade in memory or capabilities, and yet it does. For most men, it’s just one small, added benefit. For many women, though it’s a reminder that the tech industry doesn’t always remember or count your existence.

Just so we are clear: I don’t want a pink phone, I don’t want “women’s applications” and I don’t want ruffles or hello kitty on my phone.

I merely want a design that acknowledges that women exist, and women often have smaller hands than men.

Tech designer men, especially tall or average-sized men: Imagine a world in which all keyboards were designed for hands like mine—and you had to type all day for work. Or, imagine a world in which you sat in economy class airline seats all day, every day to work. That’s what it feels like to live in a world designed for someone else. (Although airlines do this for profit, the effect is the same: I have little to complain about economy seats because they fit me even though they are painful and torturous for many people).

The scene in Gezi that day was one of chaos and crowds, as people tried to move away from the gas that had enveloped us. Some were buckled on the floor, vomiting in pain. The evening crowd had swelled the numbers in the park, and with one hand, I clutched the bag I was carrying with my research materials as I stood in the undulating crowd, and with the other, I tried in vain to hold the phone steadily and tap on the camera button.

It was futile.

I gave up and put my phone back in the bag.

Online sources suggest that the average adult man’s hand is about 2 cm larger than a woman’s—three quarters of an inch. That is not a small difference for using a hand-held device.

The effect will become more pronounced as the next three billion people come online using their phones. People in the developing world are, on average, much shorter and have smaller hands. When I traveled to the Mayan highlands in the Guatemala-Mexico border as part of my interest in the Zapatista movement and I was practically a towering giant.

Google now has announced the next generation, Nexus 5. With trepidation, I immediately looked at the size: Yep, slightly bigger.

I’m just going to hold on to my already slightly too-big Nexus 4 as long as I can, and hope that a manufacturer out there starts designing good smartphones for people other than average sized men in rich countries. (Free #PROTIP to manufacturers who care about their bottom line: women usually make their own purchasing decisions, and we are a huge market).

Google Nexus was otherwise a great phone for me. I travel a lot for my research and my work so I need an unlocked phone that I can use in multiple countries. I wanted a phone without the “crapware” that comes with buying from intermediaries. I’m a junior academic—and I simply can’t spend my time rooting my phones and then manually updating and configuring everything all the time.

All practical “solutions” out there involve that I pay a penalty for not having a man’s hands.

This is why diversity in technology is not just about optics, feel-good or window dressing. Diversity in experience, diversity in body size, diversity in ability among people who make decisions in tech design influence basic questions of equity and accessibility of products and platforms that are increasingly essential parts of our personal, social and political lives. (Also, hint, Google Nexus 5 designers, just in case these things were too hard for you guys to look up: my middle finger is 2.6 inches.)"

[See also: http://kottke.org/13/09/computers-are-for-people
http://kottke.org/09/10/one-handed-computing-with-the-iphone ]
technology  bodies  accessibility  via:ablerism  nexus4  nexus5  mobilephones  size  height  gender  hands  google  2013  body 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Social Software Sundays #2 – The Evaporative Cooling Effect « Bumblebee Labs Blog
"The people who most want to meet people are the people who the least number of people want to meet. The people who are the most desperate to date are those who the least number of people want to date. The people who are the most eager to talk are the ones who the least number of people are interested in hearing. It is the ignorance of this fundamental principle that I see at the heart of so many failed social software designs. This is what I call the Evaporative Cooling problem and one I believe must absolutely be tackled head on by the designers of any communal gathering product unless they want to see their product descend into a squalid lump of mediocrity.

The Evaporative Cooling Effect is a term I learned from an excellent essay by Eliezer Yudowsky that describes a particular phenomena of group dynamics. It occurs when the most high value contributors to a community realize that the community is no longer serving their needs any more and so therefore, leave. When that happens, it drops the general quality of the community down such that the next most high value contributors now find the community underwhelming. Each layer of disappearances slowly reduces the average quality of the group until such a point that you reach the people who are so unskilled-and-unaware of it that they’re unable to tell that they’re part of a mediocre group.

Evaporative Cooling is a dynamic that can apply to both real world and online communities but the affordances of the Internet make it particularly susceptible to Evaporative Cooling. By looking at real world social structures, we can get some clues as to both what causes Evaporative Cooling and what are effective ways of preventing it."
community  design  networking  psychology  social  socialnetworks  socialnetworking  via:sha  eliezeryudowsky  communities  scale  size  2010 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Twitter / kissane: Funny how our busted weird ...
"Funny how our busted weird messy unwieldy code constructions resemble…every other human endeavor over a certain (tiny) size."
2014  erinkissane  scale  scaling  small  size  slow  messiness  systemsthinking  systems  humans 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Studio-X NYC: An Unsolicited charter for the Very Large Organization
"A guest post by Javier Arbona, written to accompany the opening of Very Large Organizations, an exhibition by Jordan Geiger, at Studio-X NYC.
Outside of the purity of cultural scripts that we might regard to be politically authentic are rapidly mutating political scripts that may be the most immediate tools in the world’s urgent situations, despite their lack of national pedigree and reference to political theology. These are the dirty tools and techniques of an extrastatecraft that might be tilted toward many different political aims. (Keller Easterling)


1. Very Large Organization (VLO). The name itself, coined by Jordan Geiger, conjures an imagery of bubbles, air, foam, and inflatables filled with helium. The VLOs hover above us, They are atmospheric; orbital, even. Make no mistake about it, they need solid ground and touchdown points. They require earth-based networks of human communications, both digital and not. They must have a calculable, perpetual motion in order to ensure economic growth.

2. The bizarre, hidden architecture of the VLO is a mash-up of legal rights, aerial spaces, entrepots, and credit ratings. Under the burnished surface of its sheathing lies a fierce competition for finance, favor, advantage, and immediacy.



"11. Geographical imaginaries of the VLO can run the risk of mirroring the pastoralism of an idealized digital nomad. Therefore, a question on architecture’s role: how to challenge dominant imaginations that skirt democracy, or raise the difficult questions of collective rights, benefits, and opposition? Where do these citizenship rights become spatial, or put differently, in which spaces are rights ensured?"



18. It remains an imperative to take on much more, beyond the scope of this charter of the VLO: energy, scale, finance, secrecy, privatization, cronyism, governance, infrastructure, monuments, and so on. What are emergent notions of publicness, or lack thereof? Who’s left with the bill for that which is “too large to fail,” yet often does? The role of architecture is, in one sense, to inquire into the material dimensions of these questions. Architects can expand our notions, imaginations, and representations of the presence of the VLO in everyday life, multiplying possibilities for appropriation. But that can’t be all. The VLO scrambles social expectations of home, travel, privacy, work, and health. The most important act begins with drawing the first line."
javierarbona  organizations  power  politics  vlo  size  economics  control  manipulation  law  legal  darkmatter  capitalism  growth  architecture 
october 2013 by robertogreco
One Tiny College's Lessons for Higher Education - College, Reinvented - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"[T]he College of the Atlantic—330 students and 43 faculty members ensconced on Maine's remote Mount Desert Island—has resisted growth, seeing smallness as key to providing an unusual education that cuts across disciplines, rejects academic conventions, and takes a highly personalized approach to teaching and learning.

"What I learned is how to do more with less, and as someone who is now an entrepreneur, I find that extremely valuable," Mr. Motzkin says. "It's about really being able to adapt and change and apply knowledge. In the future, that's going to be critically important."

The emphasis on smallness runs counter to the national frenzy for reinvention in higher education, which seems fixated on going online and scaling up in an effort to mass-produce knowledge (or at least degrees). Offbeat and experimental colleges like COA—think of Bennington, Goddard, Hampshire, or Unity—are often overlooked and fragile. But they bring new perspectives and techniques to higher education, in part because they are small and nimble.

These colleges provide "a kind of biodiversity in the whole system of higher education," says L. Jackson Newell, an emeritus professor of educational leadership and policy at the University of Utah and a former president of Deep Springs College, a tiny work college in California. "Keeping these institutions alive and healthy is a way of keeping the ideas behind these institutions alive, which I would say is critically important for the health of higher education as a whole.""



"Certain ideas were baked into the College of the Atlantic at its founding, 43 years ago, and they seem to have found a currency in the discussion today over what to do about higher education. Critics talk about academics in silos, toiling on obscure research. At COA, there are no departments, and with only one degree—human ecology—students and faculty members form a culture that encourages teaching, interdisciplinarity, and pursuing one's intellectual interests."
collegeoftheatlantic  small  slow  education  unschooling  deschooling  progressive  progressiveeducation  size  fragility  hampshirecollege  goddardcollege  benningtoncollege  untycollege  maine  darroncollins  huamnecology  interdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  incubators  capitalism  industry  sustainability  exploration  learning  barharbor  edkaelber  franconiacollege  blackmountaincollege  antiochcollege  tedsizer  renédubos  elizabethrussell  mollyanderson  wofgangserbser  germany  2012  bmc 
may 2013 by robertogreco
The challenge of developing a capability | rc3.org
"Often it’s the case that the larger (or older) an organization is, the tougher it is to add a capability in the first place. It’s harder to teach 100 developers to use Test Driven Development and rely on continuous integration rather than traditional QA testing than it is to teach 5. It’s also harder for larger, older, or more conservative organizations to rely on a new capability that has been developed. It often happens that organizations put a lot of work into developing a new capability but they never really get comfortable enough to let it replace an old one.

If nothing else, when you’re discussing projects, it’s worthwhile to ask yourself whether the project leverages an existing capability or requires developing a new one, and planning accordingly. If a new capability is required, both the effort and the risk of failure rise significantly. I’d be willing to bet that Chinese aircraft carrier is never put into active deployment."
aircraftcarriers  china  risk  learning  capabilities  scale  size  organizations  change  via:migurski 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Free Cinema - Wikipedia
"Free Cinema was a documentary film movement that emerged in England in the mid-1950s. The term referred to an absence of propagandised intent or deliberate box office appeal. Co-founded by Lindsay Anderson, though he later disdained the 'movement' tag, with Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson and Lorenza Mazzetti…

The manifesto was drawn up by Lindsay Anderson and Lorenza Mazzetti at a Charing Cross cafe called The Soup Kitchen, where Mazzetti worked. It reads:

These films were not made together; nor with the idea of showing them together. But when they came together, we felt they had an attitude in common. Implicit in this attitude is a belief in freedom, in the importance of people and the significance of the everyday.

As filmmakers we believe that
      No film can be too personal.
      The image speaks. Sound amplifies and comments.
      Size is irrelevant. Perfection is not an aim.
      An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude."
tonyrichardson  karelreisz  directcinema  cinémavérité  jeanvigo  free  1959  1956  1950s  manifestos  manifesto  glvo  srg  edg  filmmaking  film  style  attitude  perfection  sound  small  size  freedom  everyday  freecinema  documentaries  documentary  thesoupkitchen  lindsayanderson  lorenzamazetti  wabi-sabi 
september 2012 by robertogreco
The Curse of Bigness | Christopher Ketcham | Orion Magazine
"Small groups of people prove to be more cohesive, effective, creative in getting things done. In the 1970s, the English management expert and business scholar Charles Handy put the ideal group size in work environments at “between five and seven” for “best participation, for highest all-round involvement.” Alexander Paul Hare, author of the classic Creativity in Small Groups, showed that groups sized between four and seven were most successful at problem solving, largely because small groups, as Hare observed, are more democratic: egalitarian, mutualist, co-operative, inclusive. Hundreds of studies in factories and workplaces confirm that workers divided into small groups enjoy lower absenteeism, less sickness, higher productivity, greater social interaction, higher morale—most likely because the conditions allow them to engage what is best in being human, to share the meaning and fruits of their labor…"
gandhi  buddhisteconomics  buddhism  energy  efschumacher  competition  paulgoodman  alienation  charlesperrow  representativedemocracy  profits  goldmansachs  standardoil  gm  innovation  committees  efficiency  standardization  corporatocracy  corporatism  economics  louisbrandeis  gigantism  growth  decentralization  human  humans  community  communities  biology  nature  size  2010  christopherketcham  toobigtosucceed  toobigtofail  power  howwework  howwelearn  hierarchy  groupdynamics  inclusiveness  inclusion  cooperation  egalitarian  egalitarianism  democratic  collaboration  management  alexanderpaulhare  tcsnmy8  tcsnmy  morale  productivity  neuroscience  social  scale  bigness  creativity  charleshandy  openstudioproject  lcproject  groupsize  cv  small  inclusivity  inlcusivity 
august 2012 by robertogreco
122 Minutes With Jamie Dimon
“There are huge benefits to size,” he says instead, a distinct air of tired-of-this-shit creeping into his voice. “We bank Caterpillar in like 40 countries. We can do a $20 billion bridge loan overnight for a company that’s about to do a major acquisition. Size lets us build a $500 million data center that speeds up transactions and invest billions of dollars in products like ATMs and apps that allow your iPhone to deposit checks. We move $2 trillion a day, and you can see it by account, by company. These aren’t, like, little things. And they accrue to the customer. That’s what capitalism is.”

He takes a breath. “The whole world has become crazy. Businesses get attacked every time they do something.” [...]

“Everyone is afraid of retaliation and retribution. We recently had an event with a hundred small bankers here, and 85 percent of them said they can’t challenge the regulation because of the potential retribution. That’s a terrible thing. Okay? This is not the Soviet Union. This is the United States of America. That’s what I remember. Guess what,” he says, almost shouting now. “It’s a free. Fucking. Country.”
capitalism  finance  culture  personality  bankfailure  interview  banks  banking  scale  size  fragility  via:Taryn  jamiedimon  jpmorganchase 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Amazon Kindle: A Highlight and Note from Howards End
"It is the vice of a vulgar mind to be thrilled by bigness, to think that a thousand square miles are a thousand times more wonderful than one square mile, and that a million square miles are almost the same as heaven. That is not imagination. No, it kills it. When their poets over here try to celebrate bigness they are dead at once, and naturally."
via:robinsonmeyer  influence  local  size  howardsend  scale  slow  big  small  emforster 
may 2012 by robertogreco
What's the right size? The quantum mechanics of growth...
"It's worth charting both profit per employee and owner satisfaction against the number of people in the organization. Perhaps getting a little bigger isn't what you want, and it might not even be possible." Having considered growing my business and deciding against it (at least for now) this is interesting reading. I certainly believe growth happens in leaps and can't always be organic."
growth  business  via:kaeru  size  small  scale 
may 2012 by robertogreco
This economic collapse is a 'crisis of bigness' | Paul Kingsnorth | Comment is free | The Guardian
"Kohr's claim was that society's problems were not caused by particular forms of social or economic organisation, but by their size. Socialism, anarchism, capitalism, democracy, monarchy – all could work well on what he called "the human scale": a scale at which people could play a part in the systems that governed their lives. But once scaled up to the level of modern states, all systems became oppressors. Changing the system, or the ideology that it claimed inspiration from, would not prevent that oppression – as any number of revolutions have shown – because "the problem is not the thing that is big, but bigness itself"."
economics  scale  2011  paulkingsnorth  leopoldkohr  size  collapse  capitalism  human  humanscale  slow  growth  society  power  greed  small 
september 2011 by robertogreco
Cities - Radiolab
"In this hour of Radiolab, we take to the street to ask what makes cities tick.

There's no scientific metric for measuring a city's personality. But step out on the sidewalk, and you can see and feel it. Two physicists explain one tidy mathematical formula that they believe holds the key to what drives a city. Yet math can't explain most of the human-scale details that make urban life unique. So we head out in search of what the numbers miss, and meet a reluctant city dweller, a man who's walked 700 feet below Manhattan, and a once-thriving community that's slipping away."
cities  radiolab  2010  math  physics  nyc  collapse  urban  urbanism  jonahlehrer  size  footfall  comparison  statistics  data  measurement  tolisten 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Complexity and the fall of Rome
"fall of Rome happened because "usual method of dealing w/ social problems by increasing complexity of society [became] too costly or beyond ability of society". Basically when Rome stopped expanding its territory, fallback was relying solely on agriculture, a relatively low-margin affair.

"no longer would conquest be a significant source of revenue for the empire, for cost of further expansion yielded no benefits greater than incurred costs. Conjointly, garrisoning its extensive border w/ professional army was becoming more burdensome, & more & more Rome came to rely on mercenary troops from Iberia & Germania.

The result of these factors meant Roman Empire began to experience severe fiscal problems as it tried to maintain level of social complexity that was beyond marginal yields of agricultural surplus & had been dependent upon continuous territorial expansion & conquest."

Hopefully I don't have to draw you a picture of how this relates to large bureaucratic companies."
complexity  economics  rome  books  business  bureaucracy  simplicity  growth  history  ancientrome  innovation  size  scale  kottke 
october 2010 by robertogreco
John Sculley On Steve Jobs, The Full Interview Transcript | Cult of Mac
"He felt that the computer was going to change the world & it it was going to become what he called “the bicycle for the mind.” It would enable individuals to have this incredible capability that they never dreamed of before…

What makes Steve’s methodology different from everyone else’s is that he always believed the most important decisions you make are not the things you do – but the things that you decide not to do. He’s a minimalist.…

Normally you will only see a handful of software engineers who are building an operating system. People think that it must be hundreds and hundreds working on an operating system. It really isn't. It's really just a small team of people. Think of it like the atelier of an artist…

[Japanese standards are just different than ours. If you look at Apple and the attention to detail. The “open me first,” the way the box is designed, the fold lines, the quality of paper, the printing — Apple just goes to extraordinary lengths."
apple  business  stevejobs  mac  design  interview  size  groupsize  teams  managment  focus  minimalism  johnsculley  organizations  tcsnmy  computers  efficiency  via:kottke  japan  muji  experience  packaging  management  administration  lcproject 
october 2010 by robertogreco
Could an Obama Dollar Bill Help Rebrand the U.S.? | Co.Design
"Dowling Duncan wants to put Obama on it now. In blue.

The Obama bill anchors their sweeping concept for redesigning U.S. banknotes, which also includes plastering a tepee on the five, the Bill of Rights on the 10, & FDR on the 100 -- each in its own technicolor hue. The impetus: The greenback has an image problem. It has come to represent everything that’s wrong with the American economy, & worse, w/ its cartoonish graphics & vaguely sinister styling, it actually looks the part…scheme, though purely hypothetical is about imbuing U.S. currency w/ sunny new meaning. Their bills are designed to be educational, intuitive & make America feel like it sucks a little bit less.

Part of their idea is just making U.S. banknotes easier to handle…each bill has its own color for simple identification…also come in different lengths so when you stack your bills, you can instantly eyeball how much you’ve got. Varying size is especially useful to help blind people distinguish btwn notes."
art  currency  design  money  us  usability  layout  size  image  classideas 
august 2010 by robertogreco
Peak MHz - Orange Cone
"This chart demonstrates that we hit the era of what I'm calling Peak MHz in about 2004. That's the point when processor speed effectively peaked as chip manufacturers began competing along other dimensions. Those other dimensions--energy efficiency, size and cost--are driving ubiquitous computing, as their chips become more efficient, smaller and cheaper, thus making them increasingly easier to include into everyday objects.<br />
For those who grew up during the 1990-2004 era, this can be quite confusing, since CPU speed was how the value of computing devices was commonly measured. Now that is shifting to how that power is applied. In other words, it's gone from being a discussion of raw power, to how that power is applied (for a similar phenomenon, see the superbike top speed competition among motorcycle manufacturers, which ended with the 2000 Suzuki Hayabusa agreement)."
processingspeed  systems  power  ubicomp  2010  mikekuniavsky  energy  efficiency  cost  size  computing 
august 2010 by robertogreco
Edward Hall: The perfect group size = 8-12 - Signal vs. Noise (by 37signals)
"Fortunately, something is known both empirically and scientifically about the influence exerted by size on groups and the effect of size on how the groups perform. Research with business groups, athletic teams, and even armies around the world has revealed there is an ideal size for a working group. This ideal size is between eight and twelve individuals. This is natural, because man evolved as a primate while living in small groups…Eight to 12 persons can know each other well enough to maximize their talents. In groups beyond this size, the possible combinations of communication between individuals get too complex to handle; people are lumped into categories and begin the process of ceasing to exist as individuals. Tasks than can’t be handled by a group of eight to 12 are probably too complex and should be broken down further. Participation and commitment fall off in larger groups — mobility suffers; leadership doesn’t develop naturally but is manipulative and political."
37signals  business  collaboration  productivity  psychology  groups  size  groupsize  tcsnmy  edwardhall  management  process  small  scale  humanscale  lcproject 
june 2010 by robertogreco
Business & Economics Articles | Urbanist's Economic Prescription Might Make Good Medicine Today | Miller-McCune Online Magazine
"engine of economic life is "import-replacement."...making products you have been buying..."transactions of decline" — trade encouraged to prop up the economy. An example...entrenched military production. This appears productive, but it sucks the oxygen out of the economy. Innovation & entrepreneurship (import-replacing processes) slow down, there's less inter-city trade to spark new products & ideas...economy loses complexity & the ability to adapt. Entire regions become dependent on military spending; they need a war for growth to occur....derivatives market...same...as all the entrepreneurial energy goes into transactions themselves rather than productivity...Jacobs was an advocate of decentralization; her belief that economies function on a regional, as opposed to national, level has helped spur recent interest in launching local currencies...larger & more complex institution or economy, less accurate feedback it provides. & accurate feedback is crucial for system to self-correct."
janejacobs  economics  adaptability  import-replacement  local  cities  business  urban  community  bailout  2009  feedback  small  size 
october 2009 by robertogreco
David Byrne’s Perfect City - WSJ.com
"There’s an old joke that you know you're in heaven if the cooks are Italian and the engineering is German. If it's the other way around you're in hell. In an attempt to conjure up a perfect city, I imagine a place that is a mash-up of the best qualities of a host of cities. The permutations are endless. Maybe I'd take the nightlife of New York in a setting like Sydney's with bars like those in Barcelona and cuisine from Singapore served in outdoor restaurants like those in Mexico City. Or I could layer the sense of humor in Spain over the civic accommodation and elegance of Kyoto. Of course, it's not really possible to cherry pick like this—mainly because a city's qualities cannot thrive out of context. A place's cuisine and architecture and language are all somehow interwoven. But one can dream."

[via: http://www.nearfuturelaboratory.com/2009/09/12/david-byrne-urbanism/ ]
davidbyrne  bikes  biking  books  urbanism  planning  urbanplanning  urban  cities  design  janejacobs  failure  creation  energy  glvo  size  density  chaos  danger  serendipity  security  attitude  scale  human  parking  boulevards  mixed-use  publicspace  architecture  culture  sociology  travel 
september 2009 by robertogreco
The Generation M Manifesto - Umair Haque - HarvardBusiness.org - ""Dear Old People Who Run the World, My generation would like to break up with you."
"Everyday, I see a widening gap in how you & we understand the world & what we want from it. I think we have irreconcilable differences...We want small, responsive, micro-scale commerce...authentic, deep democracy — everywhere...We want to slow down — so we can become better...You wanted to biggie size life...We want to humanize life...We want a society built on authentic community...We want to be great at doing stuff that matters. You sacrificed the meaningful for the material: you sold out the very things that made us great for trivial gewgaws, trinkets, and gadgets. We're not for sale: we're learning to once again do what is meaningful...Here's what it looks like to me: every generation has a challenge...ours: to foot the bill for yesterday's profligacy & to create...an authentically, sustainably shared prosperity...Generation M is more about what you do & who you are than when you were born. So the question is this: do you still belong to the 20th century - or the 21st?"
generationm  genm  umairhaque  sustainability  democracy  change  progress  society  culture  future  politics  economics  business  manifesto  entrepreneurship  socialentrepreneurship  small  slow  youth  trends  generations  community  communities  tcsnmy  crisis  scale  size  consumerism  materialism  disparity  transparency  alternative  gdp  gamechanging  manifestos 
july 2009 by robertogreco
Snarkmarket: Free Book Idea: Too Big to Succeed [see also: http://www.kottke.org/09/07/no-more-edge-cases]
"In industry after industry, I think we’ve got an opportunity to shift our policies towards supporting nimble, durable markets that mimic real networks: diverse collections of nodes with a few particularly well-connected hubs. Let’s look at a few examples: The news industry ... The medical industry ... The food industry ... The movie industry ...Etc."
economics  business  food  medicine  scale  film  news  media  oligopolies  toobigtofail  toobigtosucceed  ideas  snarkmarket  markets  crisis  failure  success  competition  size 
july 2009 by robertogreco
BBC NEWS | Magazine | Size matters - smaller is better: Want to go large on housing, schools, prisons, hospitals or simply pricetags? Bad idea - keeping a lid on size is the way to go, says Katharine Whitehorn.
"they told Belisarius that an army of 100,000 troops was mustering against him, he calmly said: "Very few generals can manage an army of 100,000." And when they said: "It's now 150,000", he'd say: "Even fewer generals can manage an army of 150,000." Exactly...The question of size is not just about organisational efficiency. It also affects what motivates people to do what they do...I've heard it said that 11 is the maximum useful unit, for example, for those asked to do anything really dangerous and difficult. The same number for frontline soldiers and people 100 feet down a mine. A man will put himself at serious risk to save one of his mates, but not for the 29th miner down the line. ""No matter how many communes anybody invents, the family always creeps back," said anthropologist Margaret Mead. Communes aren't in fashion right now, it's conglomerates and global empires. But in the end we can all relate only to a certain number of people; a unity more or less like a family."
size  numbers  community  family  connectivity  complexity  groups  organizations  tcsnmy  leadership  margaretmead  society  management  administration  coordination  military  business  control  brain  history  families  creditcrunch  2009  corporations  growth  architecture  advice  via:preoccupations 
march 2009 by robertogreco
travelling slowly: Lost Memories
"These are some of the things my son liked playing with when he had just learned to walk and was starting to explore his world. Apparently memories from this age are not easily accessible in later life, because there were no words with which to label and store them. These pictures are an attempt to glimpse the world from the perspective of a very small person."
chidren  perspective  parenting  photography  memory  play  size  scale 
november 2008 by robertogreco
Leaving Google: From Big to Small
"The one thing I began to miss at Google as it grows was the ability to be a generalist within the company. In a startup, it is easy and encouraged for folks to wear multiple hats."
google  innovation  startups  generalists  size  work  careers  organizations  business  management  simplicity  small 
may 2008 by robertogreco
How Big is the Library of Babel?
"Though it is obvious that the Library of Babel must be vast, I did not appreciate just how vast it is until reading Daniel Dennett's discussion of it in Darwin's Dangerous Idea. "
borges  literature  books  math  scale  universe  size  thelibraryofbabel 
october 2007 by robertogreco
Artichoke: "Forget the damned motor car and build the cities for lovers and friends"
"we adopt terms like “learning community” and “home group”...[but] the environments we provide, and the institutional hierarchies we create, fail to meet the most basic expectations of what is necessary for either community or home."
slowlearning  slow  education  learning  space  architecture  schools  schooldesign  lcproject  future  size  cities  design  artichokeblog  pamhook 
june 2007 by robertogreco
sizeasy - your size comparison website
"Do you have trouble visualizing product sizes when shopping online? If so, try this easy comparison tool"
visualization  shopping  simulations  shapes  size  tools  online 
september 2006 by robertogreco

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