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Knowledge management and Methodology and Politics19 Aug 2011 at 13:40 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Whether you like Alvin Toffler or not, he is a visionary with exceptional acuity, and this quote cited by John Perry Barlow was no exception to his outstanding output :

“Freedom of expression is no longer a political nicety, but a precondition for economic competitiveness” – Alvin Toffler

I had never encountered it, so I wondered about where it first appeared. Not finding anything on the Web besides reproductions of the quote blindly attributing it to Alvin Toffler, I asked John Perry Barlow who promptly solved the mystery : “He said this to me in an interview I did of them in 1997” – no wonder I couldn’t find it.

Thanks John I updated Alvin Toffler’s Wikiquote page.

And let’s hope someone tells my employer that freedom of expression is good for business !

Arts and Brain dump and Knowledge management and Methodology and Social networking and The Web23 Jan 2009 at 14:43 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Amanda Mooney remarks that :

It’s hard to maintain the illusion that you’re particularly special, talented and original when, with a quick Google of whatever genius idea you’ve come up with, you see that 3 billion people have already thought that, done that, analyzed that, criticized that, indexed the history of that in Wikipedia and made a fortune on that… In 1995.

So now, to really live up to our parents’ and teachers’ praise, we have to work a lot harder, be a lot smarter and know that we’re competing with all of those other 3 billion people who think like us and have already started to act on the kind of ideas and “talent” we have.

Actually it was always like that, but slower and invisible. Original ideas are few because similar inputs through similar individuals generate similar outputs – the same problems with the same environment and the same tools handled by people who share backgrounds produce the same conclusions. So it is not surprising that concepts are invented simultaneously and reinvented all the time. I don’t feel belittled by finding out that I’m not unique – on the contrary : I feel empowered by finding that I’m not isolated anymore. I remember lounging in libraries in my youth, reading esoteric technical books chosen at random. I often resented not being able to share that with people who have similar interests. Now we can find each other easily and all be surfing together at the wavefront. Childhood dreams came true – life is good !

But if you anguish about being a unique snowflake just like all the other unique snowflakes, there is still hope for you. Our mental agility and cultural maleability suffer from a rather heavy inertia, so the processing stage is not readily manipulable. That leaves only the input to be tinkered with in the short term – and you can play with inputs a lot ! This is why it is important to cultivate diversity in your social network, and it is also why adding some noise into your web feeds is good for you. Who is not addicted to new stimuli ?

Methodology14 May 2008 at 17:45 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Youthful ignorance can be horribly embarrassing, but I hope this confession will help others follow the righteous path. I plead guilt about having in a not so distant past grossly misused Microsoft Excel for writing monster spreadsheets that really begged to be databases. When you reach Excel’s row number limit on several tabs with several occurrences of vlookup on each row, please consider it as a sign that you should reconsider your choice of tool !

This lack of judgment is so common that there are now even Excel add-in tools that mimic joins for users who can’t leave the comfort of their spreadsheets. But a better solution would be to stop being afraid of the big scary database. SQL is not that hard, and if it comes to misusing Excel and not having a MySQL server at hand you even have a credible excuse for using Microsoft Access.

Once you’ll have performed joins in a proper way and seen your files deflate a hundred fold and your query time divided by a thousand, you’ll understand how spreadsheets and relational databases are answers to different use cases – the linked article is thirteen years old but no less true today.

And to help get the message through, I coined a meme that actually seems to have found some traction in the office : vlookup is the poor man’s join !