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?).

Char

Char Tea ShopFor those who live in or visit the area, you might be interested in a funky little tea shop that’s just opened in Winchester called Char. I was introduced to this tea shop by plv, who’s also written about it. The shop is run by a very nice gentleman who seems to know far more about tea than is good for one person. The prices aren’t cheap (let’s be blunt, they are expensive), but you could spend all day smelling the samples and deciding. I can recommend the Jasmine White Needle.

It’s at 156 High Street.

Pulp Fiction

What to say about Pulp Fiction that hasn’t been said before? Here’s what it gets right:

  • Non-chronological editing: Blocks of story slapped together to make sense rather than mark time. A novel-ish concept when it first was released, and still fairly novel today.

  • A perfect name: It really is pulp fiction: lurid and action-packed. The burger Jules eats at one point is pure Americana. The comically poor rear projection used as Butch is escaping in the taxi is another joke about the cheap nature of the story.

  • Dense dialogue: Yes, it’s cool. Yes, there are some stick-in-your-head quotes. But what’s really cool is that this is dialogue you might engage in: the kind of conversation you can see yourself having with your friends: intellectual yet dumb, chatty yet snappy, argumentative yet fun.

Here’s what it gets wrong:

  • Ignorant characters: Portraying otherwise moderately intelligent gangsters as ignorant Yankees (in the British sense) does them no favours. Please, Tarantino, give them some more worldly-wise dialogue than drivelling on about burgers in Paris next time. The rest of the film doesn’t show them this way.

  • Music: Yes, the music is cool. No, it doesn’t need to play that big a part in the film; the visuals can stand on their own merits. In most of the key scenes, the music is too loud and overbearing. I know it’s important to the character of this film, but it doesn’t need to be shoved down our throats.

Second Life - First Look

I’ve finally given in and taken my first tentative steps into Second Life (it’s legit once it has an Economist article; or something…). My first impressions are so-so; it’s obvious that there’s a lot to explore and do that I’ve only just scratched the surface of (see Andy Piper’s blog for a lot more posts on Second Life; including how IBM are getting involved). But the system obviously needs some work - the client crashed twice within the space of two hours, once bringing down Windows. The movement is pretty jerky, despite turning the detail down to minimum, and the graphics flickery, almost unusably so. I’ve already been forced to upgrade the client once (~25MB download). It’s possible my T43 just isn’t up to the job (dodgy graphics drivers?), but I don’t have anything more powerful or different to try it on.

What I’m more interested in, though, is what’s available in this virtual world and how easy it is for me to create and trade. The Economist article above touches on some of the theoretical economic differences between Second Life and ‘First Life’, but it’s obviously going to have to grow a lot bigger before the implications become obvious. I’m still doubtful, particularly given the technical problems I’ve seen above, that this particular technology can cross the chasm, but it would become an interesting lab if I were proved wrong. I suspect there’s a future for something like Second Life, even if Second Life itself is not it.

I shall continue to explore.

Update 2006-10-15: Link to Andy’s blog fixed.

Feedreader

I’d been struggling for a while to find a decent RSS reader for Windows. However, I’ve now been using Feedreader for a few weeks, and am very happy with it. It fully supports nested folders/categories, which is nigh-on essential if you’re regularly monitoring as many feeds as I am (>100). You can effectively aggregate several feeds together by viewing them at the folder level. Feeds can be viewed using the text contained within the feed itself, or you can easily open the original blog entry inline. The OPML import/export support seems robust, and fully supports the nested folders. Feedreader will also discover feeds in a relatively intelligent way if you feed it a blog URL, as well as supporting searching across all cached blog entries.

All in all, pretty impressive.

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