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Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Levittown in the 21st century

Levittown, New York (and the other Levittowns) have entered into history as the pioneers of suburbia – specifically, the construction of large tracts of identical homes with a numbing sameness.

However, as time passes, the numbing sameness changes. Individual homeowners make changes to their homes, resulting in the emergence of diversity.

This 2009 post in Regulus Star Notes cites a 2007 New York Times article. The New York Times claims that of all of the original Levittown homes, only one – a home at 2 Flax Lane – remains unchanged from its original look. The other homes have second floors and extensive changes in trim.

And even if the homes themselves remained unchanged, all the trees have grown.

The 2009 blog post author records a visit to 2 Flax Lane:

Gary took this picture of the house at 2 Flax Lane earlier today. He was on Long Island visiting his dad, sister, and step mom for the Thanksgiving holiday.

In the intervening two years, the house is still unchanged — except the storm door seems to have vanished. Those little bushes having grown a inch, or else they are trimmed regularly.

Compare this house to 1 Flax Lane, right across the street. It was originally built in 1948, but present listings indicate that the house has 6 bedrooms and 2 full baths.

I have no idea whether there have been subsequent modifications to the home – Google Maps doesn’t appear to show any – but it’s interesting to note that one of the most distinctive-looking American communities from 60 years ago now no longer has its famous look.

How links die – remember WorkFast.tv?

On Thursday, Robert Scoble linked to a Rob La Gesse link to a Forbes story about La Gesse and Scoble.

The story was written by Shel Israel.

Needless to say, Israel was ethically obligated to include some disclosures in his story.

I’ve collaborated with Scoble on three projects: We co-authored Naked Conversations, a hardcover book on business blogging: The Conversational Corporation, a DowJones ebook and Workfast a FastCompany video program.

If you go to the disclosure page, you’ll see that Israel links to all three projects.

Sort of.

If you follow the link that Israel provides for Workfast, you’ll end up at http://www.stevebendt.com/?p=22. No, this is not a FastCompany web page, but it is a page that includes a copy of a WorkFast interview.

Those who have read me for a while may recall one of my more popular posts (as measured in terms of comments received), a July 15, 2008 post entitled On Loren Feldman’s statement about Shel Israel and FastCompany. The post concerned the news (confirmed by Robert Scoble in a comment) that Israel had left FastCompany.TV “due to community feedback.”

But that was not the end of the story. Scoble continued at FastCompany.TV, but as Israel notes in his Forbes story:

When Fast Company TV soon started disassembling, La Gesse went into action.

Barbanica was laid off first. “I spent a little while spreading the word that I was looking for work, then my wife and I hopped on a plane to Hawaii. I was laying on the beach chilling, when Rob called. He wanted to know if I was still available. Available? You bet!”

Rocky joined on and his first priority was helping La Gesse recruit Scoble. That turned out to be easy and fast. FastCompany released Scoble from his contract and he immediately joined Rackspace.

And you may not remember this – I didn’t – but I wrote about that, also. And no, I never heard from Robert Safian. But my question has been answered, in a sense. While the fastcompany.tv domain is registered through the end of this year, attempts to go to fastcompany.tv result in a “could not connect” error.

You can still find FastCompany’s collection of WorkFast videos, but oddly enough some of them now have March 2010 publication dates.

And a few years from now, even those videos may disappear. At least with a book there’s a chance of an old book gathering dust in a collection somewhere. With streaming content, there’s less of a chance that the information would be retained.

Which means that future generations may not be able to see Robert Scoble dance.

Outsourced news 2.0 – when Indian journalists are too danged expensive, turn to Narrative Science

Back in February 2009, I wrote two posts about southern California’s Pasadena Now, a news outlet that used reporters from India to cover events in Pasadena, California. I don’t know if they’re still doing this, but this article about the upcoming Doo Dah Parade is credited to “Staff Reports.” And frankly, this article could have been written in Bangalore just as easily as it could have been written in Pasadena.

James Macpherson’s goal is to efficiently provide the news to people in Pasadena, and if he can efficiently do that by using people from India, good for him.

But for some companies, use of people from India is too expensive. Chris Kim A shared an account of an alternative method:

Now a new technology is sure to strike fear into the heart of any journalist, reporter or blogger. Software is being developed that can use raw data—such as Twitter feeds, company earnings reports and baseball box scores—to automatically produce news articles that seem as though they were written by a real live human. For better or worse, welcome to the brave new world of computerized journalism.

The most prominent example is a startup called Narrative Science, which has made waves (and raised $6 million in capital) by pioneering computer software that analyzes these sorts of datasets and writes everything from stock advice to sports analysis.

Yeah, but can Narrative Science really write something? Check out this article from Forbes:

Forbes Earnings Preview: Red Hat
By Narrative Science

Shares of Red Hat (RHT) have climbed 23.8% over the last three months to close at $51.54 on March 22, 2012. The company is looking to keep that trend going when it releases its fourth quarter results on Wednesday, March 28, 2012.

What to Expect:

The consensus estimate is 20 cents per share, up 5.3% from a year ago when Red Hat reported earnings of 19 cents per share.

For the fiscal year, analysts are expecting earnings of 81 cents per share.

Revenue is projected to be $291.2 million for the quarter, 19% above the year-earlier total of $244.8 million. For the year, revenue is projected to roll in at $1.13 billion.

Read the rest of the article here. And let me know what you think of the author.

Boy bands again and again and again and again

During the Backstreet Boys et al boy band craze, Jack in the Box came up with a parody boy band called the Meaty Cheesy Boys. Recently I noticed that the Meaty Cheesy Boys website had, after many years, finally been retired.

well @JackBox finally took down the meaty cheesy boys website, despite the emergence of justin bieber. and tim tebow.

Then I read a Los Angeles Times article that indicated that Jack may have acted a little prematurely.

In what seems to be as predictably cyclical as the stock market, bubble gum bands are back and trying to fill a void left by the maturation of Justin Bieber and other precursors. And as always, they’re working extra hard in competing with one another to stand out.

The article discusses bands such as One Direction, Mindless Behavior, Wanted, and Big Time Rush. Unbeknownst to me, the latter band is a 21st century version of the Monkees; Big Time Rush has had a hit show on Nickelodeon since 2009 and has also starred in a TV movie. (And no, I don’t think Jack Nicholson was involved in THIS movie.)

While many see the re-emergence of boy bands, Carson Daly is skeptical.

He said American listeners had matured past the syrupy sweet pop and toward more genre-blending sounds. “We moved further away from the produced pop bands. The Spice Girls, ‘NSyncs and Backstreet Boys — that was an era that I think is over.”

“How many pop groups are you hearing on the radio?” asked Daly, who hosts”The Voice”and co-anchors a morning radio show on KAMP-FM (97.1). “I play Top 40 every day. You just don’t see these young boy bands or girl groups. It’s not the thing that’s working right now.”

However, there is no one market. Maybe Carson Daly isn’t playing these bands every day on his radio show, and maybe this middle-aged guy has never heard of them, but they have inspired their own fans – or fanaticism.

I know I should be staring at Kendall Schmidt‘s shirtless brother, Kevin, but I can’t take my eyes off Yuma, the little micro pig on a leash. The Brothers Schmidt were out for a stroll in their Los Angeles neighborhood yesterday (March 21st).

For the record (heh), it’s Kendall that’s the boy band star (he’s in Big Time Rush), but the Schmidt family, like other families before it (think the Spears family) apparently has multiple talented dreamboats within it.

Now I wouldn’t be able to tell Kendall from Kevin Schmidt if they were walking down the street, but there are millions of people who can. And before you pooh-pooh this segment of the population as infantile, what did YOU do when Marky Mark or David Cassidy posed topless back when YOU were younger?

The time shift within tymshft

When I initially coined the phrase “tymshft” several years ago, I intended to discuss how things change – or, more often, do not change – over time.

But there’s a more basic meaning to the phrase – the actual shifting of time, such as that which occurs when Daylight Saving Time begins and ends.

Or that which occurs when two people observe a parade from two different vantage points.

Or when I write blog posts.

You probably haven’t noticed this, but the majority of posts in the tymshft blog appear on weekdays at 7:00 am Pacific time. In a similar manner, the majority of posts in my Empoprise-BI business blog appear on weekdays at 5:00 am Pacific time. And when I write in my Inland Empire, music, or NTN Buzztime blogs, those posts generally appear at certain times of the day also.

Let me provide you with a tip – I’m usually not awake at 4:59 am, putting the final touches on business blog posts. (Although one person thought I was.) And normally at 7:00 am when posts appear in this blog, I’m nowhere near a working computer (if I’m on time, I’m usually on the freeway). Both WordPress (the blog engine for tymshft) and Blogger (the blog engine for the other blogs) offer the ability to schedule posts, which allows me to have posts appear at these preferred times.

Because the web is literally world-wide, the timing of posts has no universal effect. Perhaps my business blog posts appear before the financial markets open on the U.S. east coast, but in Europe the business day is nearing its end. Even the timing of the posts on the NTN Buzztime blog (a blog which is only currently relevant in the United States and Canada) doesn’t make a large amount of difference – while the posts occur at lunchtime on the West Coast, they appear in the middle of the afternoon on the East Coast – a time when many people probably aren’t thinking of gaming.

Last week I finally got around to establishing a Seesmic account (yeah, I know it’s late – I am not trendy). This allows me to schedule tweets, posts in my personal Facebook wall, and posts on my Facebook pages (but sadly, not on my Google+ stream or pages). At this point I don’t know how much I’ll use its scheduling features, but at least they’re there.

Which raises a final question – why do tymshft posts appear at 7:00 am Pacific? Well, there’s a highly scientific reason – because I’m not publishing anything else at that hour.

So now you know about the time shift behind tymshft – and I am free to enjoy the rest of my Saturday morning. Happy Wednesday.

The Cobol Crunch

Because most people are consumer-focused, we are naturally oriented to hearing about consumer products. And even those of us who examine enterprise products tend to gravitate toward the shiny new toys.

I think of myself as someone who doesn’t gravitate toward the shiny new toys. But even in my case, discussion of shiny old toys is limited to discussions of Internet Explorer version 6, or perhaps AOL.

That is just part of the story.

How many of us pay attention to the Cobol programming language? Those of us who have heard of Cobol think of it as a dim memory from the Kennedy/Johnson years.

ComputerWorld notes that Cobol is actively being used by many organizations today. In a survey of 131 IT professionals, 53% said that their organizations were developing new applications using Cobol.

But there’s a looming problem:

In a recent Computerworld survey of 357 IT professionals, 46% of the respondents said they are already noticing a Cobol programmer shortage, while 50% said the average age of their Cobol staff is 45 or older and 22% said the average is 55 or older.

But it’s more than a skills issue. ComputerWorld quoted one manager from the Bank of New York Mellon who worries about the loss of business knowledge that will occur when these people retire.

If this were a consumer world rather than an enterprise world, I suspect that Cobol users would receive warning messages similar to those that Internet Explorer 6 users received. For Cobol users, the message would look something like this:

We have detected that you are using a Cobol application. Cobol is as old as your grandfather. Get with the times!

However, it’s easier for an enterprise to change a web browser than it is to change a programming language. (And because of all of the legacy applications that need to be tested and tweaked, it’s not easy for an enterprise to change a web browser.)

Term limits are not newfangled

I hate term limits. To my mind, term limits are an attempt to thwart the will of the people, since I hold to the (possibly utopian) belief that the electorate is smart enough to choose its own leaders.

In modern times, term limits first cropped up after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, when the Republicans sponsored a Constitutional Amendment that limited a President to two terms. Since that time, term limits have been popping up all over the place.

But term limits are not a newfangled 20th century invention. You can find evidence of term limits thousands of years ago, in the original Athenian democracy.

The Boule was a Council of 500 comprised of fifty men from each of the ten tribes and they were the ones who decided on what the assembly would discuss. The members of the council were chosen by their demes (municipalities) and after serving were not permitted to serve again for ten years….

The chief magistrate of the city was called the Archon eponymous or ruler. (The word anarchy means without an archon.) His responsibilities included conducting investigations of legal cases, in particular those that involved the state. He was responsible for protecting the orphans and heiresses with no family and to appoint the choregos who was in charge of organizing the relgious festivals. The office of Archon eponymous was held for only a single year, and that year was named after him.

Athenians implemented term limits for the same reason that we implement term limits today – to keep power from concentrating in the hands of a few. And if this was a danger in Athens (which, unlike most governments of today, was a true democracy rather than a republic), then term limit proponents can argue that it is a danger today.

Lutheran address numbers

Sometimes something significant can stare you right in the face, and you don’t realize it.

Consider this:

St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran School is at 1530 S. Main Street, Lake Mills, Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel is at 1530 Main Street, La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Concordia University Irvine is at 1530 Concordia West, Irvine, California.

Why do all of these places have a street address of 1530?

This should give you a hint: St. Peter’s Lutheran Church is at 1530 Augsburg Drive, Hilltown, Pennsylvania.

Australia and Japan do not have different road rules

Three student tourists from Japan recently took a trip to Australia. Because it’s the 21st century, they used a global positioning system (GPS) navigation system to get around. If they had arrived in Australia 30 years ago, perhaps they would have used a map.

Which navigation device is more authoritative – a GPS device, or a map?

While one can claim that a map can easily become outdated, a GPS device can become outdated also.

Yet even the most up-to-date map or GPS device cannot serve as a replacement for common sense. As ABC (the American ABC) News reports:

The three…set out to drive to North Stradbroke Island on the Australian coast Thursday morning, and mapped out their path on their GPS system.

The road looked clear, at low tide — but the map forgot to show the 9 miles of water and mud between the island and the mainland.

As the three drove their rented Hyundai Getz into Moreton Bay, they found the GPS device guiding them from a gravel road into thick mud….

Noda and her friends made it about 50 yards offshore before they realized they were stranded….

Read the rest here. (Apparently people in Australia are very nice; the students want to return.)

When Alister Macintyre shared this story on Google+, he made the following comment:

Some people have a belief in technology which goes into a fantasy world.

They are living in a science fiction world where technology is vastly superior to the real world.

However, I don’t know if it’s a belief in technology. I think it’s a belief in authority. I suspect that if those three students had used a map, they would have gotten into the same predicament.

tymshft talks about (fraudulent) time shifts


One evening, CBS aired an episode of MASH entitled Death Takes a Holiday. The premise of the story was that Hawkeye, BJ, and Margaret do not want a fatally wounded soldier to die on Christmas Day, and are feverishly working to keep him alive through the day.

As I recall the episode, the patient DOES die near the end of the day – until Hawkeye goes to the clock on the wall and moves the clock hands so that the time is after midnight. This elicits a comment from by-the-book Margaret Houlihan that she had never falsified a U.S. Army document before.

Presumably the U.S. Army of the 1950s did not have DigiStamp.

Simply put, you need proof of what you’ve done and when you did it. Our service provides strong evidence for both.

In fact, we provide uniquely strong evidence.

No one can use our service to produce a false time stamp. Even we can’t produce false time stamps. If someone offered us a million dollars, we still couldn’t produce a false timestamp.

Why not? A DigiStamp timestamp offers you three layers of security:

An audit trail from two independent authorities proving that our equipment does exactly what we say it does.

State-of-the-art software that meets the highest established standards.

Uniquely customized hardware that cannot be tampered with.

Now because of my industry background, I have a tough time with 100.0000000% claims. Ask Brandon Mayfield about 100% accuracy. Any “perfect” system can be compromised in some way, given enough time and money. And DigiStamp addresses the thoughts of people like me.

Of course, an overly optimistic attorney might claim that you paid us to install a corrupt 4758 to start with. But that claim would fail.

I don’t know. Has DigiStamp seen any recent jury decisions?

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