Second Life - Second Look

James has just given me a brief tour of Second Life. Once again I had problems - cracking graphics and a crashing client - but I was a bit more impressed than last time - having a guide to show me the good stuff and get the hang of the controls helped. I also met one or two of the other IBMers using Second Life. It’s clear that there’s still a lot more to explore. I’ve decided that I should attend one of the virtual IBM events - this seems to be one of the best uses of Second Life I’ve heard of so far.

My Architect

Perhaps it’s because I rent DVDs online, but I often seem to watch films with similar themes close together in time (Christiane F and Trainspotting, for example). I’ve just watched My Architect for the second time; and spent the entire film realising that it’s everything Tarnation could have been. Nathaniel Kahn goes looking for the spirit of his architect father, Louis Kahn, by travelling the world and finding the buildings (and people) that he touched. This film has real poignancy and warmth. Louis was a quality-over-quantity artist, and it’s apparent in all the architecture here, beautifully photographed.

There’s little crying but still the full gamut of emotion - one can tell Nathaniel really wants to understand the father he barely knew. The film is as much about the relationship between people (Louis Kahn had children by three women) as it is about architecture, but it’s a masterful experience, well documented and with a well-chosen score. A quality documentary, and well worthy of its Oscar nomination.

Flaky Trackback / Pingbacks on Wordpress 2.0.x

It seems that pingbacks and trackbacks (which are pingbacks’ more awkward, older cousin) are a bit flaky on Wordpress 2.0.x (for more information on how both are supposed to work, see this excellent tutorial). I’ve long suspected that’s the case, because blog entries I’ve linked to haven’t had pingbacks appear, and it seems I’m not the only one with such problems. However, I’ve tested pingbacks with this blog in both directions against TestTrack, which enables you to test ping- and trackbacks, and it does seem to work. TestTrack is running an 2.1 alpha level of Wordpress, so let’s hope that sorts out the bugs when it arrives.

Speakers from a Van

When I was at Imperial not so many years ago, there was a story in Felix, the college newspaper, about local ruffians selling knocked-off speakers from the backs of white vans in the South Ken area. At the time, students were advised not to approach them and to inform the police. I thought not much more of it, apart from it being a slightly bizarre way of fencing.

However, I recently read a story in Seth Godin’s book, All Marketers are Liars, which cast a new light on this. Apparently, something similar was happening in 80s Harvard: entrepreneurs would buy last year’s model of speaker (hence cheaply) and sell them to local students from the back of a van. Because the students assumed they were stolen, they could rationalise why they were cheap. The entrepreneurs made a tidy profit.

Is there something more to the Imperial story? Did the folks at Felix skimp on their research?

Corporate Identity, Alignment, and Blogging

I find it entertaining when people state ‘Walmart wants…’, ‘Ford thinks…’, or ‘BT needs…’. It’s quite painfully obvious that corporations don’t have feelings or thoughts. What is true is that people within them do. I’ve thought for some time that one of greatest contributors to a corporation’s success is when the thoughts of its people are aligned. Unaligned thoughts are unlikely to be useful. Aligned thoughts can happen by accident (less likely) or because of good quality leadership (more likely), but in either case it’s important to recognise that they are still individual thoughts.

One of the reasons I like working for IBM is that it’s happy to allow me and my IBM colleagues to blog externally. Of course there are guidelines - obviously I can’t give away confidential information. It’s still a brave act for a company like IBM, however, and many others of equivalent size are rightly nervous about allowing the same - what happens if the PR and marketing folks lose control over companies’ images? This may or may not be a good thing, depending on your opinion of PR and marketing as disciplines, but it’s clear that there’s a risk of exposing non-alignment - people have different opinions, after all, right? Sure, yes, there’s that risk. However, although I hope our customers can see that IBMers are working together to produce good quality products and services for them, at least we have the reassurance that we’re being judged on our merits.

I’d encourage any other IBMers who aren’t already doing so to blog externally. You can find more information internally in the usual place (how’s that for keeping a secret, huh?).

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