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Current Events

Order out of Chaos

From tweet aggregator site, prayforjapan.jp

As people begin to pick up the pieces following the terrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan we’re hearing stories of how people are helping each other. Stories that warm the heart and give you hope that Japan will actually grow stronger from this disaster.

CNN has a story about the calm social order that has remained despite the surrounding chaos.

The communitarian spirit at the foundation of Japanese culture seems to function even more efficiently under the stress of disaster.

And this from the Los Angeles Times,

She was elderly and alone, injured and in pain. When the massive earthquake struck, a heavy bookshelf toppled onto Hiroko Yamashita, pinning her down and shattering her ankle.

When paramedics finally reached her, agonizing hours later, Yamashita did what she said any “normal” person would do, her son-in-law recounted later: She apologized to them for the inconvenience, and asked if there weren’t others they should be attending to first.

This is a time of incredible stress but also a time for Japanese society to re-evaluate who they are and what makes them special. I have great hope and optimism for the people of Japan.

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Current Events

Japan, how to help

Meta

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Current Events

Japan Earthquake – Useful Links

Projected height of tsunami as it travels across Pacific

At 2:46 pm today, an 8.9 earthquake hit off the coast of Japan in the afternoon local time. It was the largest earthquake in Japan in 300 years and the 6th largest recorded earthquake in history. A quick call to my parents and inlaws and thankfully everyone is OK.

I’ve collected a few links where you can get more information and will update as I learn more.

Video

Photo Galleries

Coverage

  • New York Times The Lede is live-blogging the latest developments.
  • Wikipedia has a developing reference page.
  • TWIMPACT is a realtime twitter analysis site translating Japanese tweets into multiple languages.

Resources

  • Google Crisis Response page – links to telecom bulletin boards, transportation info, and utility info.
  • Google Map showing location of emergency shelters.
  • Google Person Finder – if you’re looking for someone or want to let someone know you’re ok.
  • TimeOut Japan resource page has sections listing public shelters and emergency messaging services.
  • Bic Camera and Apple Stores are offering a free re-charge on your cell phone.
  • If you need water, Suntory vending machines have emergency levers beneath a sticker on the upper-right corners. Pull the sticker off, pull the lever firmly and you’ll get free drinks.
  • Free Wifi from Softbank, Livedoor, and FON
  • OLIVE, Survive Japan wiki – survival tips and making do with what you have

How you can help

I am collecting a list over on another post.

Depreciated

Categories
Office

Social Decay

The money shot from yesterday’s Yahoo Research’s Like Log study is the social activity graph below showing how this activity drops off a cliff after the first 24 hours.

Looking at over 100,000 articles across 45 big media sites over the course of three months, Yahoo researcher Yury Lifshits found that a vast majority of the Facebook Like and Twitter Retweet activity. Broadly, 80% or more of the activity takes place during the first 24 hours following the posting of a story. No surprise here, News is about New.

The conclusion from  Yury makes is that sites that put out more than one story a day actually run the risk of splitting their traffic if they can’t double it. Each additional story/day diminishes the return and may contribute to burnout of your audience. This runs counter to the leaked AOL way memo pushing for quantity over quality.

Gawker Revisits the Front Page

Gawker famously underwent a redesign that reinforces the conclusions made by the Yahoo research. Look at the redesign before and after and you can plainly see. The image below is their traditional “blog” output which presents the latest story at the top with newer stories pushing the older ones down the page. The default Popular Now column on the right gives some counter-weight but otherwise it’s the standard, reverse chronological layout.

Gawker.com Old View

Now contrast this with their new look below. Notice how much more emphasis is placed on the images. This view is called their “Top Stories” view and they’ve taken away all timestamps on the stories as that is not the point of how things are laid out. This layout has an editorial touch to it, the Gawker editors are putting stories in front of you they want you to see.

Gawker.com New Design

Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker, posted at length on the thinking behind the redesign.

We need a few breakout stories each day. We will push those on the front page. And these exclusives can be augmented by dozens or hundreds of short items to provide — at low cost — comprehensiveness and fodder for the commentariat. These will typically run inside, linked by headlines from the blog column, so the volume doesn’t overwhelm our strongest stories.

and later,

A prominent “splash” slot on the home page — taking up the two-thirds of the page — can promote the most compelling gossip and scandal. But it also provides the opportunity to display our full editorial spectrum. The front page is our branding opportunity. It’s a rebranding opportunity, too, a way to demonstrate intelligence, taste and — yes, snicker away! — even beauty.

Back when I was selling the idea of blogs to media companies, I remember saying to them that the front page is dead and that people were coming in the side door to their sites via shared links and pointers from the search engines. This was why it was important for them to make sure each page could stand on it’s own as its own front page for their business.

It seems as we have come full circle with the larger blog sites now focused back on the front page, picking favorites to be their star headline stories for the day. Are we giving up on social mediation to solve the information filtering problem? Are we going back to a world where we start each day with a collection of bookmarked top sites we visit daily? Are we going back to appointment television? Do we abandon the firehose feed and stick to just the top stories?

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Office

Hakkapeliitta spirit

During the Winter in Finland the ocean freezes over. Highways that normally twist around the lakes in the warmer months are re-routed to cut straight across, efficiently. GPS vendors offer Winter Packs to take advantage of these new routes, cutting Winter travel times considerably.

But this is Finland. Not only do they keep driving at normal speeds, studded tires helping keep traction on icy roads, they also have world records to break. Which brings me to today’s headline.

I didn’t know much about tires to begin with, nor anything about Nokian Tyres except that they are one of the original business lines for the company I work for, Nokia. The news story was interesting, bits of trivia on the challenges of designing tires for sub-zero temperatures, but what was really interesting was the section on the Nokian site which described their working spirit.

Nokian Tyres employs over 3700 people, who have their own joys and sorrows, dreams and values. These is something that we all share: solid faith in our competence and skills, confidence in finding answers together, respect for hands-on hard work. We are there for those in need, and we never give up. This is what we call the Hakkapeliitta Spirit. it is something very tangible yet difficult to define, still natural, genuine, real. Frighteningly simple. And impossible to imitate.

“Joys and sorrows?” This passage seemed so utterly Finnish. What American company would admit their employees are anything but joyful? My Finnish colleagues here at Nokia have tried to describe to me this acknowledgement that an honest life is a struggle.

This is something that existed in the early days of Nokia when young Finnish engineers were sent to Singapore with a suitcase of phones and a bag of cash and asked to “set something up.”  The goal of work, for these Nokia old timers, was less about waving your flag at the top of some mountain and more about the struggle (sisu) it took to get there and how that struggle brings people together.

Broken out into sections, the Nokian site goes on to give you a little thumbnail what it’s like to work at Nokian. Sections are titled things like, Together we can achieve more and include phrases such as, “We support each other and never leave a colleague in a pinch.” All of this comes under the header, the Hakkapeliitta spirit.

Wikipedia gives some background on Hakkapeliitta.

The Hakkapeliitta were well-trained Finnish light cavalrymen who excelled in sudden and savage attacks, raiding and reconnaissance. The greatest advantage of the fast and lightly-armored Hakkapeliitta cavalry was its charge. They typically had a sword, a helmet, and leather armor or a breastplate of steel. They would attack at a full gallop, fire the first pistol at twenty paces and the second at five paces, and then draw the sword. The horse itself was used like another weapon, as it was used to trample enemy infantry.

Wikipedia

If I’m going to be driving at top speeds on the ice, I know who I want making my tires!

Categories
Office

Driving around with lasers

I heard about this cool project from a Nokia colleague on the Maps team using some amazing hardware used by Navteq. I promised not to blog about it but I discovered today that it was shown off last year so I guess it’s OK to talk about what’s already been reported. Apparently this was all the buzz at CES 2010 but I was in Finland and Mapping isn’t really my field so I didn’t know it was public. Any excuse to blog about a car mounted with lasers!

The image above is the output from a specially equipped car that scans the road and surrounding buildings with an array of 60 lasers on it’s roof. Think of it as an über-version of the standard camera cars you see mapping the streets today. It’s insane. Here’s how it’s described in a post by CNet.

One big part is a LIDAR (light detection and ranging) system that uses lasers to construct 3D maps of the world out of a sea of data points. The company boasts that its True system uses 64 rotating lidar lasers, captures 1.5 million 3D data points per second from features as far as 150 meters away and works even when the data collection vehicle is traveling at highway speeds.

There’s more that can be done with the hardware than what you see above but I better not go into that. Rest assured, it’s mind-blowing. I was joking with a colleague, combine the plane and landscape database from the Flight Simulator guys at Microsoft with the street view database from Navteq and you’ve got a hyper-realistic gaming environment.

If you want to learn more about LIDAR and the technology about it, there’s a talk by two folks from Navteq at the upcoming Where 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, CA in April.

Categories
Current Events

More CNN on Helsinki

Following on the popular Helsinki Snow How piece, CNN’s Richard Quest went on to make three more short pieces about the city I currently call home.

Helsinki’s Underground Master Plan includes a bit about an innovative new server farm I highlighted in Heating by Bytes that uses the excess heat from the computers to heat the city.

Expanding Helsinki’s Horizon covers the on-going construction in the old harbor of the city that will almost double the surface area in downtown Helsinki via the Horizon 2030 plan.

Helsinki’s Battle Against the Darkness is about how the inhabitants of the city cope with the dark, Winter days.

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Office

Conan O’Brien updates Nokia Ringtone

Conan available online all week in Finland thanks to Team CoCo. Tonight’s segment? A rockin’ update to the Nokia ringtone!

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Current Events

All Aboard for the Cloud Wars

Marketing campaigns are gearing up for the major players offering cloud services as add-ons to their core products.

Google Docs recently launched Google Cloud Connect,  a plug-in which lets  you add your Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents to Google Docs and share with your colleagues. (Ars Technica reviews Cloud Connect and says it’s “not ready for primetime”)

Microsoft will be ending the beta of it’s Live Mesh service on March 31st and has announced Windows Live Mesh 2011 with the byline, “Access the stuff on your computers from almost anywhere.” It’s part of Windows Live Essentials bundle which you download and install and includes,

Messenger, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Mail, Writer, Family Safety, Bing Bar, Messenger Companion, Microsoft Silverlight, and the Outlook Connector Pack (Microsoft Outlook Hotmail Connector and Microsoft Outlook Social Connector Provider for Windows Live Messenger)

There is a custom install option in case you don’t want to take all of this in one go. You can learn more at explore.live.com

Finally, Apple has just changed it’s tune. I took a screenshot of me.com yesterday and got the image you see above. It’s all about the services. Mail, Address Book, Calendar, Photos, Cloud Storage, and the Find my iPhone app. I just went back today and the site has been refreshed and the message is totally different.

Today, when you visit me.com it’s all about the hardware. The cloud is front and center and behind are the familiar outlines of the Apple brand of glass tablets and phones. If you wave your mouse over the cloud, you’re greeted with a pixie-dust effect adding some magic to an otherwise plain ol’ login page.

Could this be positioning for the launch of the rumored Media Stream service or is this just a routine update now that we’ve rolled over from February to March?