Monday, January 29, 2007

Trying to sell an eagle

I tried it once upon a time, Not as easy as it sounds...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Stress in the workplace leads to penisectemy

This was in the classy free "metro" paper recently

Doctors' unions in Romania have criticised a decision to make a surgeon pay
£100,000 in damages after he lost his temper and hacked off a patient's penis
during surgery. Surgeon Naum Ciomu, who had been suffering from stress at
the time, had been operating on patient Nelu Radonescu, 36, to correct a
testicular malformation when he suddenly lost his temper. Grabbing a scalpel, he sliced off the penis in front of shocked nursing staff, and then placed it on the operating table where he chopped it into small pieces before storming out of the operating theatre at Bucharest hospital.

MacBook: A thing of beauty is a joy forever. . .

Mac book a thing of beauty is a joy forever.
What do you think is the difference between the two above laptops?
Well, I own one of them whereas I would like to own the other. The above machine is a thing of beauty, which according to the poet John Keats is seemingly going to be a joy forever
Late the other night I sat in my room and gazed in deep concentration at my laptop, it suddenly occurred to me that this hunk of plastic and silicon looked really quite terrible and the software I was running on it was very average and didn’t REALLY seem to be made for use at all. And my brain started asking questions, , why do people let themselves get tricked into thinking that product design of this level is acceptable, and why do people not question the software that they use.
The “Dell latitude” endorsed by ucd looks really quite bad, to be truly honest the machine belongs back about 7 yrs ago as does the entire dell range. I think one of the reasons I was very disappointed with my purchase was that it was UCD that effectively sold me and my colleagues down the river. We were advised in 1st year that these were the “recommended products” so the whole year placed their orders for the model, due to their compu-ignorance and trust in the college, and I think we got jipped.
So why are people willing to accept this mediocrity? Well one could guess the reason is price (a dell laptop starts at circa €500 whereas an apple will start at nearly double that, but for a long term purchase can €1.36 a day (over a year)(€1.37 in a leap year) convince you to buy a product that you don’t really like? I would hope not. I think that in the future people will become less technophobic and adopt a more thorough approach to choosing a computer as opposed to the
"oh dell they are cheap and on the tv, they must be good approach."
My next laptop that I purchase will almost definitely be an Apple, their attention to detail, slick design and general vibe that they consider usability to matter makes me think that as we become less ignorant of windows/dell alternatives, companies like apple, who care about how their products work and are enjoyed will ultimately be the winners

Friday, January 26, 2007


I worked in a supermarket, and we, like many other supermarkets, sell food stuffs. Nothing suspect there right? Well, it is the material that these products come in, is where the fascination lies for me. I was breaking down boxes the other day in the store room and putting it into the compactor as usual, and it occurred to me, I have no idea where this stuff goes. I break it, compact it, bind it into a box, I come back the next week and wolla, its, its, well, it’s gone! And there is such diversity in the world of cardboard, I mean u probably think there is only one type of cardboard, but you my friend, are wrong. There is the nice shiny stuff u might find on a display box of ‘vienesse family selection 450g’, and then there is the more sturdy boxes that hold the mangos in, and then..... Well I cud go on.So I decided that I could go on no longer in this packaging induced darkness about this matter. So, it was on that day I went to consult the stock room technician about where these innocent boxes were going, and who was taking them and more importantly WHY?.After a brief yet informative discussion, I extracted the information that I needed. It seems, you see, that a van comes and collects them off us to be recycled. The only catch is, if one wants to dispose of your cardboard cuboids you have to pay THEM, and then they go recycle it and sell it back to YOU. This to me seems like a stupid idea; however I commend the genius who came up with a way of making money both ways on the peddling of thin slices of tree flesh.
It is a fellow by the name of Smurfit who is responsible for this business idea. He is one of the richest men in the country currently, and is someone who commands great respect, not only did he make millions on cardboard boxes, but he had the name SMURFit to contend with his whole life, poor guy, if only poppa could see him now, his face would turn an even bluer blue of joy.
Another money making scheme that relied on the properties of cardboard was POGS, do you remember them, well I do, and it is my humble belief that the person who invented pogs should be declared a national hero of what ever country he/she/it came from. Well actually let me correct my self, pogs as we no them were not 'invented' by anyone. The game of pogs originates from Hawaii where people used to use the caps off the fruit juice of 'passion fruit, Orange and guava' a popular beverage at the time. The game was merely repopularised in the mid 1990s, but this time the game demanded a certain level of affluence to be played, unless u were flamboyant enough with your cash to spend 1 pound on six, yes six, pieces of cardboard then u weren’t allowed to play.I however, being of considerable wealth was able to afford many dozens of cardboard circles, and had all of series 1,2, and world series, but I digress.
With all this new cardboardy info under my belt it occurred to me, hey why should i care about cardboard, its never been nice to me once, not once. Did u ever get a paper cut? I did and I cried heavily, then I got a plastic cut, off sheet plastic holding 150g strawberry yoghurts, on the fuppin thumb, in the CRACK! I cried and sobbed.THEN while unpacking ‘deliciously nutty crunch’ cereal boxes, I got a cardboard cut, this was a cut above the rest, it was on the tip of my thumb, and all the stupid little recycled, reconstituted fibery bits went into the cut too. Come to think of it, the fact the cardboard is as shoddy as it is, is the fault of a certain SMURF, well I’m warning u now Mr. Smurfit, if u send your fibery minions after me again, it will be you who pays the price, not the customer. . . twice.

Dilbert mission statement generator

If you are ever in need of a mission statement and in a hurry, you should check out the Dilbert mission statement generator here, I feel that this will save my ass when I'm older.
I got the gem:

We have committed to completely coordinate high-payoff intellectual capital
while continuing to synergistically foster economically sound technology to stay
competitive in tomorrow's world

Life at the Googleplex

Browsing through the pages of Fortune online magazine, I see that google has been awarded the best place to work in the US, it is general consensus that Google are pioneers in re-engineering the work environment taking the maxim "happy workers are hard workers" to the extreme.

The head offices in America are in California in a place called the "googleplex" and boast a host of features to keep those engineers happy and creative, a few of my personal favorites are...

  1. Everyone without exception gets a valet car service when they arrive at work, pretty nifty huh?

  2. Once you get out of your car, and watch it driven away you then enter the building under heated tents, wouldn't want to catch a chill.

  3. For your lunch, free lunch, you can choose from a selection of gourmet food made by the resident chef.

  4. After lunch why not avail of a free body massage, you might need it after your midday volleyball game.

  5. Scooters to get around, curling irons for your hair, toothbrushes, umbrellas and a bidet in the bathroom.... i could go on.

Don't know about you but i think that's a fairly cool place to work, and from their performance i think that it has shown that as loony as they seem, Google seem to have hit the spot with these workplace niceties

Purple Cows?

I was browsing the web not so long ago looking for marketing presentations due to my interest in both marketing and the art of the presentation. I came across a gentleman by the name of Seth Godin who was talking on the subject of what he considers to be "broken" or not.
I found his presentation truly fascinating and just generally eye opening, his style is so relaxed and the usage of slides really does add significantly to the message being conveyed.

After doing a little more snooping around, i found more videos on the net that has convinced me that Seth Godin is most probably a representation of a god on earth (along with Guy Kawasaki and ironically enough Richard Dawkins)
So i headed out to Hodges and Figgis to purchase his book "Purple Cow" which i must say achieves near perfection by being both educational and entertaining at the same time a feat achieved by a select few. I'm not fully done as of yet, but i feel that this should really be part of the school curriculum in secondary schools or at least at third level.

Frederick Taylor: What a man

I was recently involved in helping design an eCommerce website that is being put forward for a grant proposal, during the process of designing the interface, I noticed that above all, even more than complaining about things, I have a huge tendency to look for the most efficient ways of doing things. My task in assisting in the site layout was to create an interface where the most functionality could be fit around minimal and optimal amount of actions and reducing the “click distance” from place to place, and also how much space each item is allocated (for e.g. why all buttons on a remote the same size when some are hardly ever used, most used = most space)

For me, the shining lights of the beauty of efficiency and simplicity have come from the works of Jonathan Ive. Mr Ive has won numerous awards for his product designs, based on their simplicity and ultimately, their levels of efficiency in one regard or another.
In the last decade the Englishman has brought you products such as the iMac, iPod and more recently the groundbreaking iPhone.
In terms of devices such as the iPod and iPhone, efficiency is measured as the amount of processes it takes to achieve your end product and their simplicity. (E.g. to send a message do I need to press one button of 4 different ones)
The modern iPod has five buttons that will navigate you through simply laid our menus, which themselves never leave the user more than 4 clicks (click distance) away from the media they want to access.

We are now in an era where the quest is to create the most efficient way of using our technology, however this is most certainly not a new endeavour. The end of the 19th century saw a push toward increasing the efficiency of industry and manufacturing, and at the forefront of this was a man named Frederick Taylor.
Taylor was born in 1856 and was a huge proponent of the industrial efficiency movement, and is widely acknowledged as the “father of scientific management.”
His theories improved the efficiency, output, profitability and quality of life for workers, and set the basis for the modern day manufacturing processes seen around us, and the reason why so many of our everyday consumables are relatively much cheaper than before his reforms were introduced.

He claimed that all industrial processes should be standardised and based on scientific research rather then more unreliable rules of thumb or anecdotal evidence, by finding this “one right way” efficiency would be increased, this was achieved by bringing in mechanisation and assembly lines in which jobs were broken down into their simplest aspects and standardised.
(Taylor was also the inventor of the “time – motion study” which breaks all the processes involved in a product down into seconds and allows accurate estimation of ideal output. I saw in a recent documentary that the modern day masters of this are Nike who measures their processes in terms of thousandths of seconds. 6.6 minutes is assigned to the production of each t-shirt, pay rate in Dominican Republic = 70c an hr = 8 c per t-shirt = 3/10ths of 1% of the retail price is labour costs!)

It was also of the utmost importance for appropriate worker must be assigned to each task

“A man who is fit to handle pig iron as a regular occupation is that he shall be
so stupid and so phlegmatic that he more nearly resembles in his mental make-up
the ox than any other type. The man who is mentally alert and intelligent is for
this very reason entirely unsuited to what would, for him, be the grinding
monotony of work of this character. Therefore the workman who is best suited to
handling pig iron is unable to understand the real science of doing this class
of work."

Linkage of wages to output was another key foundation on which his theory was based.
Taylor observed that people, especially in monotonous jobs, will tend to work at the slowest rate at which they will not be punished, a condition known as “loafing”
This is due to the fact that people are inherently lazy unless motivated to be otherwise, and, when payed the same people will tend to benchmark their productivity against that of the slowest worker.
I have worked in only one real job so far in my life and that was in Marks and Spencer, and the problem posed by lack of incentives is huge, Taylor from what I can see was entirely correct, for instance we knew that if we just worked a little faster than the mentally dim guy who turned up about half of his allotted days we’d be grand, a condition in which striving for to be the best does not exist, instead it is striving to be slightly more acceptable than the worst.
The simple fact is that in absence of incentive staff will do the least work they can do for the same amount of money.

Work breaks
Taylor was also one of the first advocators of regular breaks in the working period. Against what might seem common sense it was found that when tested scientifically, a ten minute break for every hour worked would increase productivity and efficiency hugely and also as a coincidence led to happier workers.
Taylor undertook these studies in the 1930s and was seen as a shining light for the progression of the industrial revolution bringing in a new era of critical and scientific thought on how things are done and how they can be improved for mutual benefit of management and employees alike.

The example that convinced me of the genius of Frederick Taylor was shown to me in a class I had last year and can be quite easily demonstrated by the following chart.
Taylor agreed to pay his staff far above what their peers were earning as long as they would unquestioningly abide by his new techniques, and as you can see it worked
Traditional way /Taylor’s way
Workers 500 /140
Output (tonnes) 16 /59
Wage per day $1.15 /$1.88

I do apologise to have kept you this long and I realise that the chances are that this interests none of you in the slightest, but I do still think its important to know that the products you use and the price you have paid for them are often influenced directly by the theories of Frederick Winslow Taylor and the era of industrial improvement that he introduced over a century ago. It is important to know the principles behind scientific management so as they are not forgotten, as they have been at Marks & Spencer (I feel a lawsuit coming!). Lecture over. You may leave.