Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Name-tagged photo galleries - what a nice tool for the (secret) police.

Google Picasa recently launched facial recognition for photos. The software works OK and with a decent effort you can "name-tag" all your photos. The name-tags give you nice organizing and sharing possibilities. So quite an ingenious option! The same kind of technology is available for Apple iPhoto and with add-ons also for Flickr. Probably this feature will soon become a must for all bigger photo galleries.

Now lets think about it a bit. A name-, geo- and date-tagged photo (or a movie) in a gallery is an enormous source of information: who knows who, who has been where and when did this happen. If one would gain access to the Google's, Apple's and Flickr databases and all the tagged galleries one could build up information banks that are unprecedented. And if you happen to be amongst the secret police then why stop there. Next connect the photo databases with information from social networks, public internet and the traditional police, bank, credit-card and other databases. So with a simple "select..." query you might get more information about a person than he himself knows. Like what are his 1970's classmates doing at present or what really happened at the party his teenage daughter attended last Friday.

Most surely the amount of geo- and name-tagged photos is growing exponentially with camera mobile phones becoming cheaper the gallery services becoming better. If you have small children and have visited their kindergarten parties you probably have noticed that practically every parent is taking (name-, geo- and date-tagged) photos and making (name-, geo- and date-tagged movies). The lives of our children will be really well documented.

Google's Privacy Policy sais: "We do not sell, rent or otherwise share your personal information with any third parties except in the limited circumstances described in the Google Privacy Policy, such as when we believe we are required to do so by law." Now surely the police and especially all the anti-terrorist units can require Google to do so by law.

A rather nasty side-effect is that besides "the good" also "the bad" will sooner or later gain access to the data. Through hacking or ... just making offers that one cannot refuse to the developers, testers, sysadmins, back-up administrators working for the web-galleries. The only serious obstacle at the moment protecting the data is the share amount of it.

So what are the conclusions and uses of this new development:
- Firstly, live decently. Be aware that everything you do is essentially public information.
- Secondly, this technology could be used more at spots of crisis. For example, why not build a free and easy to use mobile-gallery service for Pakistan and Afganistan. One might even share out GPS enabled mobile phones for free. It seems that the Taleban members like to take photos and show off their arms. Why not let these photos be automatically geo-, date- and name-tagged. :-)
- Thirdly, learn IT! Integration of IT systems and query building will become more and more important for the police and military each day. At least for the next ten years this will create many IT jobs.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Good people management and family life ...a collision?

How to motivate your team of specialists? This is a question frequently asked by modern managers. Everybody knows that a good salary is only a pre-requisite. In order to motivate your team and get the work done much more is needed. You have to make the work interesting, you have to give people freedom of choice and let them develop their own ideas. Modern management is a craft.

Almost all successful companies and amongst others the technology companies have discovered the importance of motivation years ago and have all started to systematically develop the work-place "atmosphere". This is really good as it has made working fun and people much more enthusiastic. If the people love their work and do it with a passion great things happen! Everybody wins - specialists love their work, the companies get good results, customers get nice products....but there is a serious downside to this.

Few companies and few specialists have realized that there is a zero-sum game going on. The object of the game is the employees (and why not also the employers and owners) time. The employers have become really good at this . The best workplaces have an atmosphere where:
- People love what they do.
- People feel that their work is important and they are important.
- Somebody always listens to you. Either your manager, your collegue or the personel manager. They care!
- Because it is fun and important you give 110%.

Now time is a finite resource - so if the workplace wins more of your time and attention then somebody must lose? Who? This is of course different for each one of us, but consider this:
- Does your partner and family have advisors and consultants on "people and relationship matters"?
- Have your relatives been trained on relationship management?
- Do your partner, friends and relatives get paid to have a good relationship with you ... or are they in turn seriously motivated by their employers to pay more attention to their important and fun job?
- Does your partner organize really fun events where you can really party and express yourself ... or are the events dominated by your children expressing themself and you trying to get them scream and dangerously run around less? :-)

So inevitably it is the family and friends who lose in this game. And I would say that this is the second most important reason why we have so many divorces nowadays.

My suggestions:
Firstly everybody can make the TV to be the ultimate loser. Don't watch it! Spend the time won with your family, friends, work and studies.

Secondly the employers should take a second step in the employee motivation plan - think about the families. If we have been successful in making work seem important and fun we most certainly can make family life important and fun.

Thirdly the employers should put some limit to the workhours. And I do not mean switching off the e-mail system at 17:00, but maybe sometimes ask your people to sleep and not to send e-mails, develop software or configure IT systems at 3 o'clock in the night.

* Thanks to Linnar Viik and his great innovation course where we discussed this issue.

** I think that the most important problem why people divorce is the possibility to buy ready made food from groceries and have machines do most of our housekeeping work. This eliminates the important physical reason - hunger and dirty clothes - to live together.