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Thursday, June 22, 2006

This is what the global village really looks like.

 If all the Earth's population was shrunk into a village of just 100 people - with all the human ratios existing in the world still remaining - what would this tiny, diverse village look like? That's exactly what Phillip M. Harter, a medical doctor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, attempted to figure out. This is what he found...
Think of it this way. If you live in a good home, have plenty to eat and can read, you are a member of a very select group. And if you have a good house, food, can read and have a computer, you are among the very elite.
If you woke up this morning with more health than illness... you are more fortunate than the million who will not survive this week. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation... you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.
If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death...you are fortunate, more than three billion people in the world can't.
If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep...you are richer than 75% of this world.
If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace ...you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.
If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read at all.

I found the above information here and quoted most of the salient points for its full impact.
It made me think anyway...

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Crowdsourcing is the new Outsourcing.

There's been an interesting aggregation of articles on crowdsourcing I have been reading over last few weeks.  
There is no doubt that the term "crowdsourcing" resonates with a lot of people. From gestation to 500,000 google hits in 2+ weeks is a pretty good birth rate for a new term.  But it is a viable economic model; not a web 2.0 dot com without revenue.

In terms of the uptake of this as a viable business model; there are a number of commercial sites (some cited in Wired's original article - authored by Jeff Howe) already listed on Jeff's website at www.crowdsourcing.com.  These include many established sites, such as: Innocentive for pharma industry, NineSigma for scientists and technicians, RentaCoder for programmers, YourEncore for retirees, iStockphoto for photographs, Mechanical Turk and many others.

The *upside* of crowdsourcing is the ability of big corporates to drive down the internal business costs of R&D.   More beneficially, it offers a model for small businesses (SME's) to replicate the size and scale of a big company's R&D Dept.

The *downside* of crowdsourcing is the ability of big corporates to harness the global reach of the internet to recruit the masses who are willing to perform "task slices" or even complete project solutions for miniscule reward. This is more an ethical issue for those likely to mis-use this potential to create an army of data miners digging the dirt to mine nuggets of valuable data at peanut rates.

Amazon's Mechanical Turk is a good (bad?) example of the potential for, in effect, auctioning off people's honest labour (labor) for exploitative low rates of pay.

Who knows where it will all end.  There is the positive and creative side where an army of retirees, scientists, technicians, artists and amateur boffins are paid to provide innovative solutions for problems that big companies cannot solve from within their own work-force resources.  This is a valid commercial process where the price of hire and reward is determined by the value of a solution to the "problem owner".

But the term " backroom sweatshops " takes on a new meaning as crowdsourcing also defines a cheap remote labour pool for people with time on their hands to offer time-slices for hire across the internet.  Such tasks include, mining computer data lists, make telephone calls to extract company contact details, review restaurant services, proof-reading input/output data entries, etc.  Any repetitive data screening process that a software robot or computer program cannot solve or infer the correct answer is potentially a project for crowdsourcing.  And there's the rub, some sites are offering such iterative tasks to remote workers for as little as a few cents to $1.10 per hour for their completion.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Friendly Bank plc are very helpful to "phishers of men" (clue - it's a biblical pun)

So, I've been busy.......

Meanwhile, I get an email from my Friendly Bank plc about their internet banking security protection for ME.
They send me an official Friendly Bank plc email (unencrypted, naturally) telling me to be careful about giving away my account details to any Tom, Dick or Harry Phisher, who might ask me for my account details.

For my added security(gulp!!!), Friendly Bank plc, informs me that all official emails (unencrypted, naturally) from them will always include my Title and Full Name, PLUS the last 4 digits of my account number.  Sweet!

Do they not know:
 - How many email internet gateways each email passes through to reach their end user ?
- That  each host system keeps a copy of all transmitted emails on their systems for xxx time?
- That determined hackers can easily intercept email files and read the plain text contents?

How hard can it be for a simple loop algorithm to test for two unknown digits from an account number that always starts with 00 - and ends in 4 disclosed digits!!!!!

Now I know, this of itself does not gain access to my account, BUT, it sure makes life easy for hackers -when they have a list of Full Names plus email address, plus significant digits of the matching bank account number.   Peachy Sweet!

I am contemplating how to inform Friendly Bank plc of my appreciation for their tight security systems.

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