August 04, 2004

Line Of The Day

Overheard today at a San Diego Starbucks:

That guy went to a bachelor party with a bunch of rowdy guys … and his sister was the stripper. And she actually “works” with another girl.

At least she knows how to work in teams.

Posted by Avocare at 12:40 PM | TrackBack

August 03, 2004

The Terror Web

I hopped over to Hugh Hewitt's site today to see what was new, and found this post about the recent Lawrence Wright New Yorker article, The Terror Web. Hugh had read it on the plane recently, as had I … this past Sunday in fact.

I was so struck by the piece that I tried to post it here last night, but it was not yet online. It is now (hat trip to Hugh for finding it), and it's required reading. I could cite many, many passages here, but this one gives you the flavor:

The day of the [Madrid] bombings, analysts at the Forsvarets Forskningsinstitutt, a Norwegian think tank near Oslo, retrieved a document that they had noticed on an Islamist Web site the previous December. At the time, the document had not made a big impression, but now, in light of the events in Madrid, it read like a terrorist road map. Titled “Jihadi Iraq: Hopes and Dangers,” it had been prepared by a previously unknown entity called the Media Committee for the Victory of the Iraqi People (Mujahideen Services Center).

The document, which is forty-two pages long and appears to be the work of several anonymous authors, begins with the proposition that although Coalition forces in Iraq, led by America, could not be defeated by a guerrilla insurgency, individual partners of the Coalition could be persuaded to depart, leaving America more vulnerable and discouraged as casualties increased and the expenses became insupportable. Three countries—Britain, Spain, and Poland—formed the European backbone of the Coalition. Poland appeared to be the most resolute, because the populace largely agreed with the government's decision to enter Iraq. In Britain, the war was generally deplored. “Before the war, in February, about a million people went out on a huge march filling the streets of London,” the document notes. “This was the biggest march of political protest in the history of Britain.” But the authors suggest that the British would not withdraw unless the casualty count sharply increased.

Spain, however, presented a striking opportunity. The war was almost universally unpopular. Aznar had plunged his country into Iraq without seeking a consensus, unlike other Coalition leaders. “If the disparity between the government and the people were at the same percentage rate in Britain, then the Blair government would fall,” the author of this section observes. The reason Aznar had not yet been ousted, the author claims, was that Spain is an immature democracy and does not have a firm tradition of holding its rulers accountable. Right-wing Spanish voters also tended to be more loyal and organized than their leftist counterparts. Moreover, the number of Spanish casualties in Iraq was less than a dozen. “In order to force the Spanish government to withdraw from Iraq, the resistance should deal painful blows to its forces,” the writer proposes. “It is necessary to make utmost use of the upcoming general election in Spain in March next year. We think that the Spanish government could not tolerate more than two, maximum three blows, after which it will have to withdraw as a result of popular pressure. If its troops still remain in Iraq after these blows, the victory of the Socialist Party is almost secured, and the withdrawal of the Spanish forces will be on its electoral program.” Once Spain pulled out of Iraq, the author theorizes, the pressure on Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, to do the same might be unbearable—”and hence the domino tiles would fall quickly.”

The prospect of an al Qaeda with political, and not simply social, objectives … that's something to keep you up at night.

There's also this:

Four days later, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, a group claiming affiliation with Al Qaeda, sent a bombastic message to the London newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi, avowing responsibility for the train bombings. “Whose turn will it be next?” the authors taunt. “Is it Japan, America, Italy, Britain, Saudi Arabia, or Australia?” The message also addressed the speculation that the terrorists would try to replicate their political success in Spain by disrupting the November U.S. elections. “We are very keen that Bush does not lose the upcoming elections,” the authors write. Bush’s “idiocy and religious fanaticism” are useful, the authors contend, for they stir the Islamic world to action.

Read it all.

(Cross posted here)

Posted by Avocare at 10:51 PM | TrackBack

June 18, 2004

This Site Will Blow Your Mind

Really. Go see the JPL Solar System Simulator, and prepare for Time Suck 2004. Oh … and bring your kids.

Posted by Avocare at 11:01 PM | TrackBack

Shackle The New Media

Traveling as I do, I live in a connected world: email and cell, primarily. We all do. But when do we say, “enough?”

Just five years ago, you could actually conduct communication network research … find out who talks to whom, and with what frequency, so you could identify the connectors and opinion leaders in an organization. Not anymore … between email, instant messaging, cell phones, blogs, and all the other communication channels at our disposal, asking people keep logs of their communication (which are central to the research methodology) is now simply too difficult.

But the demise of organization-wide network analysis isn't the only consequence of channel proliferation … another, more important consequence is the rise of what we call audience inattention: the challenge of getting a recipient to attend to a message given the vast increase in the volume of communication in which most people now engage. But it's not just about awareness … making the message stand out … it's about retention … having an audience attend to a message well enough that they process its meaning.

The problem is described by Linda Stone, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Corporate and Industry Initiatives and founder of Microsoft Research's Virtual Worlds Group as “Continuous Partial Attention.” Regarding CPA, noted:

[It's] just the way it is nowadays, said Microsoft's Linda Stone, vice-president of corporate and industry initiatives. Despite her bureaucratic title, Stone is a creative thinker who has coined the term continuous partial attention to describe the way we cope with the barrage of communication coming at us. It's not the same as multitasking, Stone says; that's about trying to accomplish several things at once. With continuous partial attention, we're scanning incoming alerts for the one best thing to seize upon: “How can I tune in in a way that helps me sync up with the most interesting, or important, opportunity?”

On the sender side, CPA is a significant problem. The only practical advice: keep messages concise, keep them consistent over time, and commit to communicating a few key messages with extraordinary depth, rather than communicating many things only marginally well.

On the receiver side, you need to create space in your day and your work to process information. You need to “shackle” the new media: to know when to turn off the cell phone, close Outlook or Notes, and process what you have. Stone notes this as well:

She says: “It's crucial for CEOs to be intentional about breaking free from continuous partial attention in order to get their bearings. Some of today's business books suggest that speed is the answer to today's business challenges. Pausing to reflect, focus, think a problem through; and then taking steady steps forward in an intentional direction is really the key.”

Bottom line: If you're attending to everything at once, you're attending to nothing. Disconnect and process … the world will adapt around you.

(And that's what I'm doing with increasing frequency: disconnecting. So if a few days go by without a post, please understand: Avocare, too, must be put in shackles from time to time. And while we're at it … when's the last time you went outside for some sunshine?)

Posted by Avocare at 09:32 AM | TrackBack