Friday, August 19, 2011

O_o Google and Motorola

The big tech news Monday was, of course, the Google offer to purchase Motorola. Instantly, speculation as to the motivation being simply patent acquisition started up. That may be, Leo Laporte et al. were discussing what's included in the purchase during This Week in Tech and it seems Motorola has some key patents for innovation going forward. Hand set manufactures issued statements that were eerily similar fueling speculation that they are not happy. Welcome to the world of business communication.

I work for a publicly held multi-national that regularly takes over other companies. The new units are absorbed into existing units and either bolster existing manufacturing or ease the company costs as it transitions into new areas. Most likely it's similar in the tech industry. Regardless of the "don't be evil" mantra, Google is a publicly traded company and their shareholders are not going be on board with over paying to buy out a less profitable product.

So, if the purchase goes through what happens to our variety of slab faced devices with ever growing screen space?

IMHO as long as the o/s is provided at no charge and updated in a timely manner, I see no reason for Samsung, HTC etc. to bail on Android even if Google retains the Moto hardware division. All hardware manufacturers provide different user experiences. Geeks may prefer the vanilla version of android but it's been missing a lot of pieces. Samsung did the last Nexus iteration and still took a long time to get the GB update to their Galaxy S line. But much of the features integrated in 2.3 (pano photos, front camera support) was already cooked in to the Samsung user experience regardless of whether they used the TouchWiz launcher. 2.3 made my device run smoother but didn't add any overt features.

What would Google do with the hardware division aside from provide competition for the Nexus phone? Drive handset innovation by trying different types of batteries (solar?), memory, rugged configurations for isolated areas replacing the aging Symbian system devices. Research more uses for android (home robotics, more responsive smart home controls?). Licensing those uses to the other manufacturers. That's what the company I work for appears to do. They have a main product but research different uses for that product to expand their sales of core products.

Regardless of what happens, it will be an exciting time for consumers as handsets become our communication connection and personal computer.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Oh the Humanity

The humanities have always been a tough sell. I grew up in the '70s and even then the idea was that if you got a degree in the arts (English, philosophy, art, music) you were prepared for any job as you were thought how to think and had a record for completing things. I think that last part had something to do with sticking it out through uni. It is no surprise that liberal arts degrees are in less demand than ever. Seems that all education, from trades to graduate degree is directed at mostly getting a job. Interest groups are the ones focusing on humanities; animal rights, anti vaccination and environmental activists are a style of bioethics, sceptics work the critical thinking arena, philosophy is more directed by feminists and atheists. And all of it is put out on blogs.

Why would this be a bad thing? After all, the humanities have been taken out of the Ivory Tower to the People. This can only be a good thing as it encompasses more people. Am I right?

People are very good at being critical but not as good as provide broad range solutions. Interest groups don't have the power to enforce long term change. Case in point - abortion. Vocal anti-abortion groups are not satisfied with being able to choose not to have an abortion so they attempt to bomb clinics, kill doctors. Mandatory reversible birth control of both sexes where one applies for a reproductive license would be an equally extreme solution. A long term solution would be factual sex education (frequently repeated in the hopes it would stick), accessible birth control and fertilized ova transplant services.

We are also very poor at empathy leading to being good at being manipulated. Studies have shown that anecdotes are effective because the larger the group we consider, the less emotional impact  they have on us. Like it or not, we are part of a global community. How does what we do in one place impact the lives of others? It would be a good thing if somewhere along the education line people were giving critical thinking tools, and these tools are the humanities.

When I was in school we had language arts. Although I did well in it, I can only appreciate the tools we were being given in retrospect. While parents were bemoaning the loss of grammar from the curriculum, we were learning how to use our imagination through short story and poetry composition; effective communication, critical thinking and philosophy through essay analysis. These tools complement the ones I learned in science labs. After deciding what questions to ask I could actually find some answers through experimentation. Using scientific criteria I could determine how consistently the results answered the questions. Ideally this would lead to new questions based on the answers.

Like the Sciences, the Humanities have been "jobified". English has become Communications. Philosophy has become Human Resources. Both are not valued in general because they are not rote series actions and frequently non-intuitive. They are open to structured criticism by peers and not easy because of specialized language so they are difficult to teach well. Most importantly people don't feel the being imaginative and exploratory is integral to daily living. I can't imagine this is much different than any other time.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tone trolling or politeness?

One thing that really struck me reading about Elevator-gate is how people insisted they had the "right" to speak to someone regardless of the circumstance. Points were given for not going to the next level of interaction which would have been physically insisting the person being spoken to went along with  the speaker. Questions were asked about rules for initiating conversation. All through it I thought, how hard is it to check the other person's response and grind your desire to interact to a halt rather than inflict yourself on someone?

I may have to re-evaluate. I was reading an article in the National Post (sorry no link) that was headlined something to the effect of work places getting ruder. Being a article, the comments were full of how other people were rude. For some it was the chatterer who kept talking while the other person itched to get on with their day. For some it was the coworker that didn't engage in conversation. Another mention goes to those wearing earphones to isolate themselves from the world. It was also brought up that it's up to the bosses to set the tone.

Part of the problem is what people consider rude. My M-I-L told us the story of a 3 generational family out for supper in a restaurant. Adults were talking, kids were playing on their handheld gaming unit. Her point was that it was rude for the children to be playing rather than interacting with the adults. We felt the parents were really considerate of other diners by ensuring the kids were entertained while confined in a public space. Keep the forced interaction to more private (or lonely) locations, like home. Wil Wheaton related a story of a family in an airport and felt as my M-I-L did. Sad that everyone in a family was doing solo things rather than interacting as a family. I empathize with the the family since when I travel it's long distances with changes. Stress of finding luggage, gates etc makes me relish the down time when I can just sit and do my own thing (this is why I prefer to travel alone).

I interact a lot of places in RL and on the internet. At work, I try to be aware of when I'm babbling and when others are trying to get tasks done. Most co-workers do the same or I excuse myself. It's not that hard. On line, I tend to hang out where people try to be agreeable or at least don't attack others for comments. An easy example was on Eileen Riviera's thread about the HTC Bliss. Another G+ er and I were talking about how products marketed for girls/women are not just pink but have inferior specs to items targeted to men. Some guy had to defend everyone's choice to be spoken down to. On some some boards that would be a signal for the mansplainer epitaph but for this forum, it was just ignored our of politeness. That's situational awareness that some people (not on the autistic spectrum) are struggling with.

Perhaps Stef McGraw was correct. All the preliminary chat about saying Watson saying she didn't want to be approached isn't necessarily a indication of sexism, it could just be rudeness. I did ask my SO though and he felt the guy was being sexist by my SO is quite polite as well. He was in a no loose situation. If she said yes, he'd know he's changed her mind about what she was intending to do; if she said no, he would have invaded her space. Not being self centered is hard I guess.