Memory and intelligence

I have always ‘struggled’ with memory.  I would like to think I would pass myself off as reasonably intelligent – but would never score highly on any ‘test of memory’.  Examples – I remember very little poetry or Shakespeare from school, I remember very few telephone numbers, I struggle with birthdays and anniversaries.  When reading a book I enjoy the book – but will have limited recollection of the detail of the book.

Naturally, given importance of remembering some things, I used some aids.  For instance all the birthdays/ anniversaries are included in my online diary, appointments are noted in the diary, phone numbers available to me on my phone and I tend to create mind maps when reading business related books.

I do not think this memory issue (if it is an issue)  is recent.  Seem to remember(!) struggling with dates in history back in Fr. Lynch’s history classes in Belvedere in the mid 70s.  Later on there was never a happier student for the Chartered Accountancy Final exams when they switched to an ‘open book’ exam.  Always seemed to me to make sense that you should be able to tackle a question, using your skills, but cross reference/ check to the detailed backup materials – which is how many of us work.

Interested to read today’s piece in the Sunday Times by Hiram Morgan (‘The rise of the internet is rotting our brains’).  Of course the headline is designed to catch attention (given the location next to ‘Scarlett Johansson – The sexpot superhero’s great power is her brain’, Dr Morgan needed a strong headline).

The question for me is whether I can use this technology (internet, limitless amounts of data) to empower/ enhance my intelligence?  And I think the jury is out.  I would not be qualified to comment on his assertion that ‘as little as five days of internet surfing , with this erratic pattern of short attention spans and switching from link to link, has been shown to alter the neural pathways in the brain.  The result of this damage to short-term memory is that we do not properly build up long memory.  This prevents the brain from forming “schema”, without which the data we constantly consume is irrelevant.‘ But it would seem plausible to me.

Over the last few years I have become much more interested in history (One fellow 52 year old suggested history seems to be an obsession of 50 year old males) and as a result have read a great deal more about 20th Century US history and 18, 19 and 20th Century Irish history.  As a management consultant I also read widely in areas of business interest.  I am interested to see how much of this stuff I actually remember.

What has struck me recently is that History makes more sense (and I remember more of it) when I have some ‘intelligent’ dialogue with other interested people.  This did not take place in school for me – as I took not interest in the subject and limited my enthusiasm to maths, science and the classics.  I suppose also I now have some hunger to learn and to understand – and therefore the mind seems somewhat more active/ open/ stimulated.  In the case of consulting related reading I often have the opportunity to try out the ideas – and this seems to increase memory retention greatly.

A few years ago I attended some exam preparation seminars with one of my kids – and a great deal of the session was geared towards maximising ‘memorisation’ for exam purposes.  Again I am not qualified to comment – but I suspect, given the commercial success of the outfit, many of the students must be benefiting in terms of exam performance.  I would, however, have some doubts about ‘long term’ memory referenced by Dr. Morgan.  I also suspect they are very much geared at preparing students for exams which now lend themselves to students providing the exact piece of information answering a specific question for a specific number of marks in the paper (more specific than 35 years ago).

Returning to Dr Morgan’s assertion – for me the issue is that learning still takes effort.  That it how it has always been and how it should continue to be.  Something on the internet may catch my attention, something in the newspaper may catch my attention.  But understanding the issue, contextualising it, forming my own view – all of this requires effort – more reading, perhaps internet research, dialogue with experts.  What I fear is that many people are now struggling to give themselves the time to do this – in most cases they need to get offline, read, reflect, analyse, converse.  And perhaps, at some stage, bring it back online.

 

 

 

 

 

Impact of YouTube – is it only beginning?

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Read a great piece reviewing history and recent developments in YouTube: Streaming Dreams.

We are all very familiar with YouTube – home video, music videos, links published in emails and on Facebook pages.  However John Seabrook paints a picture of the ambition of Google for YouTube – in competing with mainstream television for your time and the dollars of the advertisers.

Will be very interesting to watch the development of commercially produced content (lots of channels referenced in the article) including programmes developed specifically for distribution via YouTube.

We’ve seen the developments which have led to so many people struggling to read books, watch longer movies and television documentaries.  YouTube in many ways has been part of this – watch three minutes not 60 minutes.  However now we seem to be witnessing YouTube partly trying to morph to the longer format.  Three minutes is a good format for getting you to watch when you’re not supposed to be watching e.g. in work; but to sell lots of advertising (in the current environment) want you to stay for more than three minutes.

I just wonder of YouTube is missing a trick.  I think the big challenge for all of us is getting quality from all the distractions.  Yes – distract me, challenge me, stimulate me.  But I only have so many waking hours in the day.  I need environments such as YouTube to satisfy me – have I really been satisfied having spent x minutes in this environment?  If I have then surely I will look to spend more time there.

 

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Online shopping – some still don’t smell the coffee

Depressing piece about ‘BestBuy‘ on Forbes online.

Some years ago did some work looking at a bookshop and the unfolding challenge from Amazon.  The book shop has since folded.

This Christmas received a voucher for Amazon at a Kris Kindle party one week before Christmas.  From my smartphone entered the voucher against my account, ordered the books from my Wish List, showed this to the person giving me the voucher, received the books three days later.

Larry Downes gets it right in his piece about Bestbuy.  The consumer just takes these new technologies/ solutions/ buying experiences on board.  The retailer who fails to move with the times just folds.

 

 

2011 reflections on IT

Another year has whizzed bye.  Maybe it’s something to do with running your own consulting business, having a very active family and having a curious mind.

So what sticks in my mind in terms of technology – looking back on 2011?

What have I really liked?

I have been very happy with my Android phone – Samsung II.  Great phone, easy to use, great camera, easy integration with lots of social networks etc.  Would be lost without a smartphone.

Have found myself leaning much more towards Twitter than Facebook.  Have really found Twitter useful in terms of work related research, staying in contact with other professionals, developing my own profile.  Notwithstanding this Facebook is a daily platform for me – and has lured me into chess.com.  Typically have one or two chess games on the go (48 hours to move).

I have stuck with FourSquare.  Most of my acquaintances run a mile from FourSquare – why would you want to share your location?  I think this type of location based software has a long way to run.

Have enjoyed listening in to TWIT.TV (Leo Laporte’s This Week in Technology).  I tend to download the podcast and listen to it on one of my walks.  He has had some great guests during the year and some great debates – even last week with regard to restrictions on software copying.

Leo Laporte has got me to sign up to tow of his sponsors: www.Audible.Co.UK and Carbonite.  Audible I sue to download books which I listen to when walking, taking public transport, even at home rather than reading the physical book (nice break for the eyes).  I am using Carbonite to back up my data.

I have implemented encryption using TrueCrypt – seems to work very well.  And seems to be gaining in popularity wherever I go.

And EverNote – what a great application.  Increasingly I find myself using Evernote to capture meeting notes.  And it’s available on my Android phone when I need to access a note.

Finally – Google+.  I definitely like it.  And it looks like it has traction.  But then Google has some influence!  And I should say I have had a great year with Google Apps – has not let me down.  The world needs Google and Microsoft competing – at least you can now shop and compare between the two cloud offerings.

What have been my other observations?

Lots of disillusioned IT teams in corporate world.  Lots of them working with reduced budgets, smaller teams but many of the same challenges.  Many of their users have lots more technology available to them at home or on their phones – real challenges in providing stimulating corporate IT environments to end users.

Understanding the economics of the cloud is challenging.  If I have 100 Offce/ Exchange users does it make sense to sign up to Office 365 (or Google Apps)? Do the price points make sense?  Green field site v. established business.  Many people unconvinced about the economics.  Many people committed to cloud approach.  Debate is vigorous.

Regardless, operating from Ireland, with its current economic challenges, web based technologies are being embraced and lots of entrepreneurs emerging with ideas which exploit these technologies.

 

 

 

 

What’s happening with google+?

I tried out Google plus at launch time (more accurately when I got an account).  However I have continued to treat is as an experiment pending proper integration with google apps.  Where is that?

Google owns most recent results make for impressive reading.  But what of google+?  Seems to me that Facebook has been doing a good job of making their platform more useful – in terms of using it to communicate with different groups/lists of users.

This report suggests that google plus may be struggling to maintain initial momentum.  Obviously there have been some unfortunate PR incidents  – suggesting that not all senior Google execs are equally committed.

It;s a difficult space – when you want to break into a market dominated by Facebook.  For now I think Google plus has sharpened up people at Facebook.  But that cannot be the end game for Google.

Interconnected becomes hyperconnected

Excellent piece in today’s New York Times from Thomas Friedman (previous reference).  Greatly enjoyed his previous book ‘The world is flat‘.

Friedman touches on a three ideas:

  • Advances in technology (since The World is Flat in 2004) e.g. twitter, facebook, freelancer.com are threatening white collar rather than blue collar jobs
  • Stop talking about outsourcing – really just a question of sourcing
  • There is now only good, better and best – and our schools need to catch up

Friedman has it right.  Social networking, mobile technology, free videoconferencing, tools to support collaboration, sites to rate resources – it’s all making for a world where you can assemble the best resources you require to do any task.  Increasingly there will be less room for inferior service.

Why will facebook not just leave us alone?

I am a regular and active facebook participant.  I enjoy the platform and some of the interaction afforded me.  But I am becoming weary.  I am beginning to think that I need an independent advisor to monitor changes implemented by Facebook and determine how I should adapt to each new change.

The news appearing over the last few days suggesting that after you log off from facebook they continue to monitor your actvities is disturbing.  Hard to believe that any company would believe that people would want this to happen.

Not surprising to read of pending actions.

Also think the partnership with music companies whereby your friends on facebook would know what you are listening to (by default) is a little creepy.  Facebook seem to claim that since we all like things social this is the way we want to go.  I don’t think so.

Will be interesting to see whether the Irish Data Protection Commissioner reaches any interesting conclusions.

Is it time for more of us to abandon Facebook?

Friends or not?

Jay Baer just beat me to it.  In his case this article seems to have been inspired by the tragedy of a suicide of an online friend.

I’ve blogged on this topic before – the misuse of the word ‘friend’ by social networks such as facebook.

Friendship takes time and lots more.  They develop out of all sorts of situations but they take time.  The trust in a friendship is not built online.  It requires real socialisation – being with people in different situations.  Some friendships last through rows, disappointments, whatever; other friendships dissolve.  And then retrospectively we questions whether it was in fact a friendship.

Baer touches on another interesting point – the self censorship that we exercise in online communities – because the ‘friends’ are not all friends.  And a downside of this is that the communication does not server to promote/ reinforce friendships as a result.

Initially many of used Facebook got friends and blogging, LinkedIn and even twitter for business.  That has since changed radically – a network of 700m+ people (Facebook) is too big to be ignored for potential business advantage.

Baer says that he is going to make a real effort – even at the cost of less online contributions.  I think he is right.

 

 

 

Using location based services – have I missed the point?

I have been making some use of foursquare for a number of months.  Previously also tried the google latitude solution. Not convinced that either has been of any real benefit to me.

Examples of my use of foursquare: checking in when attending a football match, a concert, a restaurant, a conference.  Apart from telling people that I am there what has been the benefit.  And has that in itself been a personal positive or personal negative?

Google Latitude I tried with a small number of colleages for a period of time.  However we generally found it intrusive and impacted far too negatively on our privacy – such as it is.

There was talk about using location based services to target me with offers in my location e.g. you are now in Dublin 4 and here is a coffee shop offering a free scone with every cup of coffee.  The value proposition is not standing up – am wasting too much time checking in, sharing too much information about my whereabouts – all for no real value.

According to the survey just released by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project:

28% of American adults use mobile and social locationbased services

This survey includes using solutions to get directions within ‘location based’.  I certainly make good use of ‘Navigation’ on my Android phone when trying to find various sportsgrounds all over the city for the first time at the weekend as we act as chauffeurs to various football and hurling teams.  And this is a location base service – in the sense that it is aware of where I am when I am trying to find a route to somewhere else.

So, overall, am disappointed with the benefits to date of location based services (other than navigation type services).  Perhaps it is also a generational thing e.g. perhaps other age-groups are using these services as an integral pert of their social lives.