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Reimagining Work: Collaborative Authorship, Coordination, and Version Control

New Tool Paradoxes

One of the paradoxes of technological change is that as new tools are introduced, people often remain tethered to their existing tools and practices. It's a paradox because new technologies can be significantly beneficial, yet we are loath to incorporate them into our daily routines. As people, we don't tolerate losses too well. If we lose a technology we've come to rely on, even to replace it with a better version, that can feel like a big source of pain. 


In Defense of Generalists

The last decade has been witness to the rise of the geeks. What began as a glorification of tech entrepreneurs making it big from the rise of the IT industry, has now permeated every aspect of society. Single-minded obsession with obscure endeavors, hyper-specialization, and technical nerdery of all sorts are glorified across the board. But is such geekery really a good way to foster talent? The most pressing problems in science and technology, and more broadly in business and the economy, don't lend themselves readily to specialists' solutions.

Don't outsource, relocate

A wrinkle in the outsourcing trend: give laid-off workers the chance to relocate to new jobs in foreign countries, at local wages. From Information Week:

The climate is warm, there's no shortage of exotic food, and the cost of living is rock bottom. That's IBM (NYSE: IBM)'s pitch to the laid-off American workers it's offering to place in India. The catch: Wages in the country are pennies-on-the-dollar compared to U.S. salaries.

Social philanthropy or feel-good outsourcing?

The New York Times has a piece on Serebra Connect, a freelance computer work marketplace with a social philanthropy twist:

A year of television = 2000 Wikipedias

My colleague Jason Tester pointed out (ultimately via Boing Boing) a post by Clay Shirky that helps answer a question that often comes up about collaborative media. As Jason put it, "Often when I give talks illustrated with examples like Wikipedia, delicious, Flickr, etc, to largely non-tech audiences (HR for example) someone will ask 'Where do people find the time?' or the less thoughtful 'Is this just about nerds in basements?'"

Clay points out two things. First, that a lot of time that goes into writing blogs, adding content to wikis, mashing things up on Google Earth, etc., is taken from other activities like television-watching. He notes that Americans watch something like 200 billion hours of television a year.

That's an amazing amount of time, and when you can take little bits of your time and spend them on projects that other people can also spend little bits of time on, it adds up pretty quickly.

The coming debate about brain enhancement

The New York Times recently had a pretty decent article about debates over brain enhancement in academia:

an era of doping may be looming in academia, and it has ignited a debate about policy and ethics that in some ways echoes the national controversy over performance enhancement accusations against elite athletes like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

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