Software to Tame the Internet

I’ve noticed a couple of intriguing software tools for clipping items from the internet or other sources and then annotating and compiling the information to send to someone or store for the future. So far I count at least three products in this group: NetSnippets, ClipManager, and Insight’s NetKnowledge Tools.

Groups for Innovation

Peter Lindberg links to a very interesting piece on the power of groups to promote creativity and innovation. Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, in a review of books about comedy, Saturday Night Live and the Sociology of Philosophy makes the following point: One of the peculiar features of group dynamics is that clusters of people will come to decisions that are far more extreme than any individual member would have come to on his own.

Beyond Selfishness

Via McGee’s Musings who got it from OL Daily comes this interesting paper “Beyond Selfishness” in contemporary culture. The authors Henry Mintzberg, Robert Simmons, and Kunal Basu are business professors from McGill, Harvard, and Templeton College, respectively. The essay describes and responds to some of the common beliefs adopted and promoted over the past decade. A tight little model - we call it a syndrome of selfishness - has taken hold of our corporations and our societies, as well as our minds.

Recent Gleanings

Here are some recent finds:

Reading Across the Spectrum

In my continuing effort to read across the spectrum of politics I’d like to commend two pieces and the routes I found to them. The first comes from Erin O’Connor, the author of Critical Mass, a weblog I should probably read more often. If there is a political tendency to the posts it is more conservative than liberal. Recently she pointed out a piece by Eric Raymond about a contemporary ‘Treson of the Intellectuals’.

Criticizing Religion from the Left

OpenDemocracy carries an intriguing essay about the different ways the left press treats fundamentalism in Christianity and Islam. After 9-11 the press has gone out of its way to present a positive portrait of Islam. In the past they’ve been less kind to moralistic Christians. Multiculturalism is good but can go too far. It mustn’t be allowed to trump universal human rights. All cultures are not as good as each other: some are racist, some preach death to homosexuals or Jews, some believe the weak should go to the wall, or all non-Christians to hell.

Metaphors for Business

Doc Searles has a short and pithy interview at Creative Commons. In it he reiterates a theme from The Cluetrain Manifesto.

Well, as we pointed out in Cluetrain, business is thick with the language of shipping. We have something we call “content” that we “load” into a “channel” and “address” for “delivery” to a “consumer” or an “end user.” Even a category as human-oriented as customer support talks about “delivering” services…

That said, the businesses that are most afflicted with pipe-mindedness are the ones that are quickest to call everything “content.” It’s amazing to me that I used to be a writer, and now I’m a “content provider.” Entertainment and publishing are the biggest offenders here, at least in the sense that they see the Net entirely as a plumbing system. The whole notion of a “commons” is anathema to the plumbing construct.

This was the problem with all these dot-com acronyms with a 2 in the middle – B2B, B2C and so on. “To” was the wrong preposition. As Christine Boehlke put it to me once, the correct middle letter should have been W, because in a real marketplace we do business with people not to them. Does anybody ever shake hands and say “Nice doing business to you!”? Because the Net is more fundamentally a place than a pipe, we do business with each other there, not just to each other. Critical difference.

All of this is so true. I know I’ve had plenty of conversations about the delivery of service, and relatively few about the collaboration end of services.

In regards to creativity - the recent obsession of my blog - I know already that metaphors are crucially important.

Grammars of Nihilism

George Steiner is one of those cultural critics I have heard more about than actually read. This recent profile cum interview in the Globe and Mail reminds me to investigate his work in more depth. Mostly he criticizes the decline of contemporary culture and the rejection of history, To wit, millions can read computer manuals, but very, very few people today have either the wish or the will to read The Iliad.

The Professional-Amateur Axis in Art and Creativity

Another issue I’m always intrigued by within creativity is the dialogue/dichotomy/opposition, call it what you will, between the professional and the amateur, sometimes rephrased as the center versus the periphery. According to an article in The Globe and Mail the art world is currently going through a fad for ‘outsider’ art. “The poor, alienated, ignorant and mentally marginal are the new “ethnics”; their otherness as remote and alluring to privileged art buyers as any African mask.

Postmodern Bilge

“The essays that the graduating BAs would submit with their applications were often brilliant. After five or six years of PhD work, the same people would write incomprehensible crap. Where did they learn it? They learned it from us” So begins Frederick Crews in an interview about his book, Postmodern Pooh, a satire of the poor academic standards prevalent in contemporary literary criticism. The quote hits close to home since I’m working on writing my own graduate school essay right now.