Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Facing Up to the Demographic Dilemma

Facing Up to the Demographic Dilemma

The world is in the midst of an epochal demographic shift that will reshape societies, economies, and markets over the next century.

The big news is that the world population, according to United Nations forecasts, will either stabilize or peak around 2050, after growing for centuries at an ever-accelerating rate.

The main reason is the decline occurring in birthrates as nations advance economically, and it is already having a significant impact: As birthrates drop and better health care prolongs life spans, the world’s population is aging rapidly. For example, between 1950 and 2000, the percentage of the world population older than 60 rose almost imperceptibly to 10 percent from 8 percent.

By 2050, however, that percentage will more than double, to 21 percent. And in many countries — notably Japan and those in western Europe — the share of population age 60-plus will be more than 40 percent by mid-century.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

H5N1: Influenza detector gene stops virus transmission to humans

Katharine Magor, a U of A associate professor of biology, has identified the genetic detector that allows ducks to live, unharmed, as the host of influenza.

The duck's virus detector gene, called retinoic acid inducible gene -- I, or RIG-I, enables a duck's immune system to contain the virus, which typically spreads from ducks to chickens, where it mutates and can evolve to be a human threat like the H5N1 influenza virus.

The first human H5N1 cases were in Hong Kong in 1997. Eighteen people with close contact to chickens became infected and six died.

Magor's research shows chickens do not have a RIG-I gene. A healthy chicken can die within 18 hours after infection, but researchers have successfully transferred the RIG-I gene from ducks to chicken cells. The chicken's defenses against influenza were augmented and RIG-I reduced viral replication by half.

One potential application of this research could affect the worldwide poultry industry by production of an influenza-resistant chicken created by transgenesis.

The work of Katharine Magor, her U of A PhD candidate Megan Barber, and researchers from the United States (Jerry Aldridge and Robert Webster) was published March 22, in the online, early edition of Proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences.

For further information check out the Univeristy of Alberta website

H5N1 Avian Flu: New Outbreak in Romania

A suspected bird flu outbreak has been reported in a remote Romanian village, the Sanitary and Veterinary Authority said Saturday.

Samples of two dead hens were sent for confirmation of the potentially deadly H5N1 virus to the Animal Health Institute in Bucharest and on to the Weybridge laboratory in Britain, the Authority said.

The poultry in the small private farm at a village on the Danube Delta were slaughtered and the area disinfected.

"There is currently no risk of the disease spreading," the Authority said.

Two weeks ago, a bird flu outbreak was reported in the nearby village of Letea close to the Ukrainian border, the first case in Europe for a year.

The previous case in the European Union had been confirmed in March 2009 in a wild duck shot during a hunt near Starnberg, in Bavaria, southern Germany.

Romania was hit by massive bird flu outbreaks in 2005 and 2006, when more than a million poultry were slaughtered.

Avian influenza or "bird flu" is a highly contagious viral disease which primarily affects birds, but on rare occasions can also be contracted by humans and other mammals.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation said the H5N1 virus remains a threat to humans, after bird flu outbreaks killed seven people in several countries since the beginning of the year.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Early warnings: The IT project failure dilemma

Early warnings: The IT project failure dilemma

I am confident that you will recognise the following dangerous “big project psychologies” and behaviours:

  • Wishful thinking: we’ll be able to launch on time, because we really want to
    Self-congratulation: we’ve been working awfully hard, so we must be making good progress
  • Testosterone: nobody’s going to see us fail. We ROCK!
  • Doom-and-gloom fatalism: we’ll just keep coming in every day and do our jobs, and what happens, happens. (See Dilbert, virtually any strip).
  • Denial: the project just seems to be going badly right now; things are really OK.
  • Gridlock: the project is stuck in a kind of limbo where no one wants to make certain key decisions, perhaps because then they’ll be blamed for the failure
  • Moving the goal posts: for example, we never really intended to include reports in the system. And one week of testing will be fine; we don’t need those two weeks we planned on.

An experienced Project Manager or good project leader, will of course be aware of all of these syndromes, and know when to probe, when to regroup, when to shuffle the deck.

Unfortunately, sometimes it’s the leaders themselves who succumb to those behaviours and for people on the project periphery, such as other C-level executives, it’s hard to know whom to listen to on the team.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Microsoft Courier and Moodboards in action

Do you use moodboards as part of your design process. Well, we believe that working with moodboards is considerably more effective than producing multiple design concepts.

They have the advantage of being quick and easy to produce. This means that, unlike design concepts, they are disposable. You can try lots of different approaches to find the one that works for both you and the client.

However, they can be tricky to produce. Inexperienced web designers can often overwork moodboards, making them more like a design concept than a useful tool for brainstorming and firming up some initial ideas.

Although the Courier technology looks very impressive, what really impressed was the moodboard, created to show off the technology. This is a good example of a moodboard in action and demonstrates the kind of look and feel a moodboard should have.

Of course we don’t all have fancy (and as yet non-existent) tablets to create this kind of thing on. However, all of this could just as easily be achieved using a Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Avinash Kaushik - Four Stages of Search and Google Analytics

Avinash Kaushik, Google Analytics evangelist, explains the four stages of understanding and using analytics. Visit Avinash Kaushik at his blogsite

New malware overwrites Adobe and Java software updaters

For the first time security researchers have spotted a type of malicious software that overwrites update functions for other applications, which could pose additional long-term risks for users.

The malware, which infects Windows computers, masks itself as an updater for Adobe Systems' products and other software such as Java, wrote Nguyen Cong Cuong, an analyst with Bach Khoa Internetwork Security (BKIS), a Vietnamese security company, on its blog.

BKIS showed screen shots of a variant of the malware that imitates Adobe Reader Version 9 and overwrites the AdobeUpdater.exe, which regularly checks in with Adobe to see if a new version of the software is available.

Users can inadvertently install malware on computers if they open malicious e-mail attachments or visit Web sites that target specific software vulnerabilities. Adobe's products are one of the most targeted by hackers due to their wide installation base.

After this particular kind of malware gets onto a machine, it opens a DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) client, a DNS client, a network share and a port in order to received commands, BKIS said.

Malware that poses as an updater or installer for applications such as Adobe's Acrobat or Flash are nothing new, said Rik Ferguson, senior security adviser for Trend Micro.

Decent security software should detect the malware, but those people who do become infected could be worse off even if the malware is removed, Ferguson said.

"They will lose the auto-updating functionality of whatever software is affected even after the malware is cleaned up," Ferguson said. "That could of course leave them open to exploitation further down the line if critical vulnerabilities don't get patched as a result."

That means that users would need to manually download the software again, which they may be unlikely to do if they don't know the effect of the malware.

Me And My Mobile Phone Survey Results

Check out this SlideShare Presentation from Captura Talk:

China Dictates: New Rules on Media Coverage and censorship

A new set of rules and instructions from the Chinese government itself suppresses and oppresses China media outlets from reporting almost anything about Google’s recent pull out from China.

The dictated instructions outline a series of rather disturbing edicts to media outlets that are attempting to cover the Google story. While this is nothing new, the Chinese government’s broad and suppressive mandates are particularly striking.

The next section includes not only the Chinese Government’s memo, but analysis of it;
China’s Message to Media: A Breakdown

China’s message is indented; the analysis is below each part. Important parts have been highlighted.

“To all chief editors and managers:

Google has officially announced its withdrawal from the China market. This is a high-impact incident. It has triggered netizens’ discussions which are not limited to a commercial level. Therefore please pay strict attention to the following content requirements during this period:”
Analysis: Clearly China is taking this incident very seriously. The government understands that Google’s move out of China could make its censorship methods more widely known among the Chinese populous and it could affect its relationships with other companies. They are not wrong.

Section A
"A News Section

1. Only use Central Government main media (website) content; do not use content from other sources
2. Reposting must not change title
3. News recommendations should refer to Central government main media websites
4. Do not produce relevant topic pages; do not set discussion sessions; do not conduct related investigative reporting;
5. Online programs with experts and scholars on this matter must apply for permission ahead of time. This type of self-initiated program production is strictly forbidden!
6. Carefully manage the commentary posts under news items.”

Analysis: One of the government’s biggest tactics in controlling the media is controlling the source of news. By limiting news reporting only from a media source controlled by themselves, the government, it can control the message and the meaning of the message.

This same line of thinking also explains why it is openly and strongly discouraging investigative reporting, which is a key pillar of free speech and journalism in the western world.

Discussion, forums, and other online and offline mediums for expressing opinions are also being very strictly monitored and controlled, to ensure the message favours the Chinese government.


Section B


“B. Forums, blogs and other interactive media sections:

1. It is not permitted to hold discussions or investigations on the Google topic
2. Interactive sections do not recommend this topic, do not place this topic and related comments at the top
3. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which attack the Party, State, government agencies, Internet policies with the excuse of this event.
4. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which support Google, dedicate flowers to Google, ask Google to stay, cheer for Google and others have a different tune from government policy
5. On topics related to Google, carefully manage the information in exchanges, comments and other interactive sessions
6. Chief managers in different regions please assign specific manpower to monitor Google-related information; if there is information about mass incidents, please report it in a timely manner.”

Analysis: Online media is being strongarmed as well. Don’t expect any forum topics, open-comment blog posts, or other interactive discussions on the China-Google standoff. The key to this section is that websites cannot have any media or stories that “have a different viewpoint or interpretation from government policy.”

The rows of flowers that Chinese citizens put in front of the Google logo sends the wrong message to its citizens, and China’s relying on the media to clean it up and tow the line.

“We ask the Monitoring and Control Group to immediately follow up on monitoring and control actions along the above directions; once any problems are discovered, please communicate with respected sessions in a timely manner.

Additional guidelines:

– Do not participate in and report Google’s information/press releases
– Do not report about Google exerting pressure on our country via people or events
– Related reports need to put our story/perspective/information in the centre, do not provide materials for Google to attack the relevant policies of our country
– Use talking points about Google withdrawing from China published by relevant departments”

Analysis: Overall, these guidelines are no surprise. The supression of free speech and diverse public opinion is how the Chinese government works. It’s a different culture from the West, with a different regime acting as a government, and along with that comes a very different set of rules.

In conclusion, it is clear that Google’s negotiations with the regime in China has put them under pressure, but it won’t be enough to break the censorship and oppresive chains that bind China’s Internet and nor should it.

This task should be in the hands of the Chinese people and in their development as a global nation, they should be able to decide on how, and by whom, they want their future to be shaped.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Materialism in youth linked to self-esteem

Peer pressure, targeted marketing campaigns and bad parenting have all been blamed for increasing materialism in children. Until now, there has been little evidence showing when this drive for material goods emerges in kids and what really causes it.

In one of the first studies to focus on the development of materialism among children, Deborah Roedder John, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, reveals that a young person’s level of materialism is directly connected to their self-esteem.

In her recent paper “Growing up in a Material World: Age Differences in Materialism in Children and Adolescents,” in the December 2007 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, John and co-author Lan Nguyen Chaplin, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Illinois and Carlson alum, report the results of two studies conducted with children in three age groups.

In the first study, they found that materialism increases from middle childhood (8 and 9 years old) to early adolescence (12 and 13 years old) but then declines by the end of high school (16 to18 years old). This mirrors patterns in self-esteem, which instead decreases in early adolescence but increases in late adolescence.

“The level of materialism in teens is directly driven by self-esteem,” said John. “When self-esteem drops as children enter adolescence, materialism peaks. Then by late adolescence, when self-esteem rebounds, their materialism drops.”

In a second study, John and Chaplin boosted self-esteem by giving children positive information about peer acceptance. Children were given paper plates with positive descriptors about them, such as smart and fun, which were provided by their peers in a summer camp setting.

This seemingly small gesture drastically reduced the high levels of materialism found among 12 to 13 year-olds and the moderate levels of materialism found among 16 to 18 year-olds.

“Particularly relevant,” said John, “is the fact that by simply increasing self-esteem in teens, we see a decreased focus on material goods that parallels that of young children. While peers and marketing can certainly influence teens, materialism is directly connected to self-esteem.”

It is clear from this study that 'label' marketing is cynically aimed directly at the self-esteem of young children, teenagers and young adults.

For parents interested in instilling positive values in their children and teens, the message is clear: encouraging a sense of self-worth among young people can reduce the impact of cynical marketing and the emphasis on material goods.

Symantec Guide to Scary Internet Stuff - Botnets

This blogsite does not in anyway endorse products or suppliers but we do value the information provided in this video and the clear way it explains Botnets.

A good suite of internet, malware and virus checkers, blockers and killers is essential. We recommend you shop around for the most suitable products for you.

New App for LinkedIn: Claims to Match Users to Job Openings

LinkedIn announced a new beta feature this week, Real-Time Profile Matches, intended to help make it easier for users to find the right jobs, and for hiring companies to find the right talent.

When a LinkedIn user posts a job opening on the site, LinkedIn's new proprietary technology searches its database of more than 60 million professionals for profiles that best match the job description.

It then returns a list to the job poster of up to 24 matches, displaying candidates in a business-card-style format and rating them on a scale of 1through 10.

Because the search technology is proprietary, Parker Barrile, director of product management at LinkedIn, could not say what the technology looks for in a profile to deem it an appropriate job match but Barrile does say that it "goes a level deeper than just keyword matching."

If you're looking for a new job, Barrile suggests two things to ensure that your profile is appearing as an appropriate job match. First, be sure that your profile is up to date and complete.

That means filling out the experience, summary and professional headline sections, and including comprehensive details about your past and present work positions. Second, utilise the Status Update feature, which can alert your network that you're job searching and inform a job poster that you're an available candidate.

Currently, Real-Time Profile Matches is a free feature, but Barrile couldn't say for how long.

Job Losses, Unemployment and Depression

Job loss and unemployment are all too common in tehse troubled times and each can hit their victims hard.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
When people lose their jobs, they also lose a significant components of their identity, confidence and self-esteem. Along with this, comes a sudden disruption to their well-established daily routines and financial security.

Job loss and unemployment seriously undermines a person's feelings of self-worth, comfort, security and personal control. The first step on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Traumatic loss
In the current economic environment, job loss is a traumatic experience. People say they are terrified that they are not going to get a new job, what they mean is that their basic sense of what they are worth and who they are, has been seriously compromised.

The emotional impact of an individual experiencing a traumatic job loss, is akin to the death of a close family member, a divorce or a car accident: They feel defeated, demoralised, a sense of loss, disoriented, worthless, rejected and scared. Depression can, and does, easily follow.

Handling Rejection
Today's merciless job searches compound people's feelings of fear and worthlessness. There is little or no feedback and therefore no payback for all your efforts. Clearly, it is not a deliberate action, but this lack of feedback from recruiters and employers, leads job seekers to further doubt their value.

The emotional roller-coaster that job seekers experience, when looking for work is normal, but it can so easily trigger a paralysing depression. Mental health experts say negative, self-defeating thoughts can so easily take over the minds of job seekers and govern their behaviour.

People will indulge in coping mechanisms and in self-depricating behavour; over-eating or under-eating, sleeping too much or too little. When depression sets in, conducting a job search and crawling out of unemployment becomes even harder.

If looking for a new job is really getting you down, seek help from the experts. If you need help to find a new job then don't be afraid or too proud to accept it, from wherever you can.

Join a job club or seek advice from a professional agency. They will provide you with resources and good hard-won practical advice as well as keeping your morale and motivation high.

If your mood sinks into a depression, them you may be the last one to admit it but be honest with yourself. If you are becoming less active and have stopped enjoying other people's company or have stopped enjoying your favourite activities, seek professional help from your doctor.

You are not mad, crazy, useless or any of the other things that your 'head' tells you, you are simply in a period of unemployment during a global economic recession. Keep pitching and trying. Things will change and you will win through.

FBI lists Top 10 posts in cybercriminal operations

The security world is finally coming to realise that terrorists and criminal hacker organisations are operating with increasing corporate-like efficiency, specialisation and expertise.

From a business perspective, these criminal enterprises are highly productive and staffed by dedicated people willing to operate worldwide, around the clock "without holidays, weekends or vacations," according to Steven Chabinsky, deputy assistant director in the FBI's cyber division. "As a result, when an opportunity presents itself these criminals can start planning within hours."

"The cyber underground now consist of subject matter experts that can focus all their time and energy on improving their techniques, their goods and services," Chabinsky told an audience today at the FOSE conference, a government IT trade show, held here.

During the presentation, Chabinsky presented or proposed, a tentative list of the top 10 positions or roles, in cyber crminal organisations

  • Coders/programmers, who write the exploits and malware used by the criminal enterprise.
  • Distributors, who trade and sell stolen data and act as vouchers for the goods provided by other specialists.
  • ISP;s, Tech experts, who maintain the criminal enterprise's IT infrastructure, including servers, encryption technologies, databases, and the like.
  • Hackers, who search for and exploit applications, systems and network vulnerabilities.
  • Fraudsters, who create and deploy various social engineering schemes, such as phishing and spam.
  • Hosted systems providers, who offer safe hosting of illicit content servers and sites.
  • Cashiers, who control drop accounts and provide names and accounts to other criminals for a fee.
  • Money mules, who complete wire transfers between bank accounts. The money mules may use student and work visas to travel to the U.S. to open bank accounts.
  • Tellers, who are charged with transferring and laundering illicitly gained proceeds through digital currency services and different world currencies.
  • Organisation Leaders, charaismatic figure-heads, often "people persons" without technical skills. The leaders assemble the team and choose the targets.

The China Strategy book - Author Edward Tse

The China Strategy

China for the World
In The China Strategy, Edward Tse, Booz & Company’s Chairman of Greater China, describes how to build the capabilities that business leaders need for operating an integrated China-global strategy.

Tse explains how to tell which Chinese companies can provide the best alliances for particular purposes, what parts of the country to enter first; how to manage Chinese financing; and how to establish a trajectory for growth that profits with the growth of, rather than just fighting against the growth of, the next wave of Chinese competitors.

Tse also discusses flexible “footprints” for locating innovation, manufacturing, and services; the adaptation of brand names in China’s many markets; and the integration of back-office functions between China and the rest of the world.

Additionally, Tse describes how success in China can be applied globally, using the market knowledge, networks of low-cost suppliers, and scientific talent that can be found there as a platform for reaching a worldwide scale.

In the world’s fastest-growing economy, the experience of the last ten years will not be the best guide to the next ten years. Business leaders around the world who want to be successful—not just in China, but anywhere—will need a new China strategy.

A new China strategy does not merely mean a set of plans for doing business in China. Most big companies are already selling to China’s markets and competing against Chinese companies. Many more, even relatively small enterprises, will join them. But a true China strategy is different. It is a one world strategy: a long-range developmental plan for doing business as a global enterprise in which China is a central and integrated component, in a world where China plays a very different role than it has in the past.

Together, the four drivers of change in China—Open China, Competitive China, Official China, and One World—will transform the way in which businesses operate everywhere.

Meeting The China Challenge - Strategy+Business

The China Challenge

For global companies, ignoring China is not an option. But they must adapt their strategies to the country’s changing markets, increased competition, and shifting government priorities.

IBM’s executives knew, from many years of firsthand experience, that this region in southern China had become home to one of the biggest pools of procurement talent in the world.

The company had arrived in 1993, manufacturing personal computers — a business it eventually sold in 2005, to Lenovo, a Chinese company. Over the years IBM had produced servers, retail store systems, storage devices, and printers in Shenzhen: first for overseas markets, and later, increasingly for the Chinese market.

It had seen massive supply networks develop in the Pearl River Delta. Some suppliers made parts for toys, sports shoes, and other low-end products; others made components for sophisticated computing and telecommunications equipment.

Still others provided logistics and supporting technology. IBM had also seen the Chinese government invest in business-friendly infrastructure: economic zones, industrial parks, highways and container ports, universities and training colleges.

By locating its global procurement headquarters in Shenzhen, IBM was not only strengthening its own supply base, but better positioning one of its core businesses: helping clients strengthen their supply chains.

Getting China Right Strategy+Business

Getting China Right

Booz & Company’s Edward Tse believes that, despite the challenges in today’s headlines, companies should take a long-term view when shaping their China strategy.

The practice of doing business in China has come into question in the early months of 2010. The disputes between Google Inc. and the Chinese government have been one factor; others have included the continued concerns raised in the West about China’s currency policy, and in China about Western financial policies. Moreover, questions about intellectual property protection in China have not gone away.

At the same time, the consumer markets within the country are more vibrant as its pace of growth increases, and Chinese businesses are becoming innovative, fierce competitors within their country, and increasingly in the world outside. There has never been a time when getting China right is more important — or more difficult.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Avoiding Mistakes in Managing Change

We are all facing change in our lives and some would say it was always there but there is normal ongoing 'change' and sudden 'traumatic change. This is the change involved in downsizing, layoffs and restricting employee benefits in a shrinking market and a very tight economy.

Traumatic change is difficult enough without mis-managing the change and adding insult to injury. When crises occur, managers need to be strong and be good leaders.

They need to know how to avoid the traps that make it harder to recover from. Here are 13 common mistakes and some guidelines for avoiding the downside of them.

1. Pressure to act quickly undermines values and culture.
Leaders take drastic steps quickly with no time to fully explore alternatives. Values about participation, involvement, or concern for people disappear. Cynicism and disloyalty grows.

Look to the long term and avoid the temptation to announce short term decisions for short term benefits. Allow employees the chance to be involved in problem solving and assign teams to tackle issues.

2. Management exercises too much control.
In crises, management can become insular and decisions get confined to the top. Top managers are micro-managing and rethinking everything. The people below become marginalised and passive. They lose motivation, cease to be innovative and become reactive. They simply wait around to be told what to do.

Keep the middle managers and workforce involved. Establish short-term tasks that empower employees to seek quick wins, giving them a feeling of responsibility and control over results.

3. Urgent tasks divert leaders' attention from the mood of the organisation.
Managers are swamped with meetings and decisions. No one takes the view from the workforce or takes responsibility for assessing the impact on employees' motivation and performance.

Appoint a representative or a team of natural leaders to monitor the culture, take the pulse of employees, and coach managers on an effective process.

4. Communication is haphazard, erratic and uneven.
The truth is sometimes the first victim of chaos. Things change quickly, leaders are distracted, and it's not clear who has the most accurate or th elatest information. Potentially destructive rumours take on a life of their own.

Establish an interactive communications site to reach everyone with the same information in a timely fashion. Keep it going throughout and for some time after the worst of the crisis is over.

5. Uncertainty creates anxiety.
Most executives don't like to be caught without an answer or be forced to say they "don't know," so they will normally wait until they do have an answer, before they talk to their people. Unfortunately, your people can't take positive actions when they are hindered by anxiety.

Establish a middle-of-the-road process, when there is some uncertainty about decisions. Create a calendar of briefings so that people know when they'll know. If you don't have an answer yet, just say so.

6. Employees hear it from the media first.
In public profile comanies, aggressive journalists dig for information, and speculation and rumours can run in the media before employees hear about them. The worst case is when workers hear that their plant may be closing, on the radio while driving to work. Middle managers look ineffective and uninformed. Employees feel insulted and left out.

Manage any press interfacing very strongly and if possible keep them away from the staff. Develop networks of employee-leaders to connect an information chain as part of your communication plan.

7. There is no outlet for emotions.
Traumatic change can lead to strong feelings. Anger and grief can build up with no way to express or deal with these emotions. People can become dis-orientated and start acting in negative ways, undermining cooperation and positive teamwork.

Establish facilitated or managed sessions /workshops specifically for venting emotions. Teach managers about dealing with trauma and ensure that they acknowledge their own, and others, grief and anxiety.

8. Key stakeholders are neglected.
If executives are too busy internally, there is a risk that they fail to fully engage with other key stakeholders. It is a mistake if your key customers, dealers, suppliers, or local government officials hear about a crisis via an unsympathetic media or with a competitor's negative slant. They can feel slighted, offended or simply get nervous about the depth of the crisis and withhold much-needed support.

Manage all your interfaces and relationships. Identify all groups that need to be to be involved in communications and talk to them regularly. Make it a part of your communications plan.

9. It seems easier to cut than redeploy.
Reducing budgets or people on a percetage basis or in equal proportion across the board, seems easier from an accountancy perspective than taking time to re-assign people or re-allocate valuable resources. Unfortunately, this is a weak or poor tactic, a knee-jerk reaction that ensures you loose strong performers which, with some more thought, could serve you well, elsewhere.

Establish a pool of strong performers from all the areas that are facing reductions. They will be able to help the business in a number of ways. They can be used as consultants or called back for special assignments to support the change and transition.

10. Casualties dominate attention.
Sometimes empathetic leaders want to do the humane thing by offering help to people who are being dismissed, while neglecting the the loyal employees that will be remaining and on whom their future depends. This lack of 'care' for resident staff can lead them to feel insecure, under-valued and they may either, become un-motivated or may decide to leave.

Cherish all staff and treat them all equally. Meet individually with remaining staff leaders. Remind them that they are the future and show your appreciation. Offer recognition for extra problem-solving efforts and collaboration during this stressful crisis period.

11. Changes are expedient, not strategic.
Managers often restructure by removing the weakest or newest people, without regard to true business needs. The unit continues to do what it has always done, in the same way but with fewer people. The opportunity for positive re-structuring in the face of change, is lost.

Identify a team and process to re-examine mission and priorities, to redirect activities toward more productive future uses.

12. Leaders lose credibility.
The shock of crisis, lurches in business strategy, and performance shortfalls can make some leaders' appear less potent and their words less credible. If the staff do not believe in the new strategy, then it is doomed to fail.

Be aware of your image as a leader and make short-term, tangible, achievable promises, one's you know you can keep. Your credibility is on the line.

13. Gloom and doom fill the air.
It is very easy for everyone to be preoccupied with the negatives in the current situation. They feel guilty about losing people. Morale can sink very low very quickly, and it is hard to find the energy to be creative or productive.

Focus on and show them the future beyond the crisis. Repeat the credible positive vision at every possible opportunity. Emphasise the steps being taken to avoid any re-occurrence of the present crisis. How we've grown, what we've learned and how things are going to change so it doesn't happen again.

Winners and good leaders make their own luck. In the face of traumatic change, it is important to take the time to anticipate and avoid 'unlucky' mistakes. Better leadership in the face of change is difficult, but it will help everyone get through the crisis and secure a better future for everyone.

Nature by Numbers - Cristóbal Vila

For centuries, artists and architects have used some well-known geometrical and mathematical formulas to guide their work: The Fibonacci Series and Spiral, The Golden and Angle Ratios, The Delauney Triangulation and Voronoi Tessellations, etc.

These formulas have a reality beyond the minds of mathematicians. They present themselves in nature, and that’s what a Spanish film-maker, Cristóbal Vila, wanted to capture with this short film, Nature by Numbers. You can learn more about the movie at the film-maker’s web site

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Enterprise 2.0 ROI Needs

You may be familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, a theory Abraham Maslow proposed in 1943, that provides a structure of priorities that relate to human needs. At the bottom of the pyramid are basic physiological needs: breathing, food water, etc.

The fundamentals needed for basic survival. The needs then climb the pyramid, becoming more intangible as one goes along: safety, love/belonging, esteem, self-actualisation, variety.

The theory's structure of moving from tangible/tactical needs to those that are intangible and more impactful is used here to examine the software decision-maker inside modern companies.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Enterprise 2.0 ROI
The decision to purchase an enterprise software application is one that generally demands a variety of different views about benefits. Because with most enterprise systems - Enterprise 2.0 included - there are a variety of benefits:

Cost Savings
Saving money is one of the easier ways for an enterprise decision-maker to justify an investment.

The savings can more than offset the costs of a enterprise system. This correlates to Maslow's original hierarchy of physiological needs. The dollars saved cover the cost to purchase.

Saving money occurs in multiple ways when it comes to software. While a traditional measure is that the new application replaces a more expensive one, that's a benefit that doesn't scale.
A stronger benefit is one which opens up a pipeline of new cost-cutting and operational efficiency measures.

You've covered the lowest level ROI needs with this one, the benefit that is easiest to see and measure. The importance of this should not be underestimated. However, it's also the benefit with the lowest impact on the organization.

Revenue Generation
Next rung up the ROI hierarchy is creating new revenue. In this case, the benefit is more localized to new products and services, as opposed to entirely markets. Increasing the top line is great for the social software ROI calculation. It's not surprising to see the social CRM space heating up.

Getting ideas from employees and customers that lead to new revenue-generating products is a solid business case for Enterprise 2.0. Employees have ideas, but have lacked effective means of making them known to a wider audience.

Customers have great ideas, and provide great direction for new products. They also love to hear about your new product concepts, and will gladly offer feedback.

The reason revenue generation is above cost-cutting is that there is an increased level of uncertainty as to how the revenue will come about, from which idea. Still, this is a solid level that deeply satisfies the ROI needs of companies.

Customer Satisfaction
Happy customers. What every great company wants and continually works for. Anyone with experience on the "front lines" of a company understands the importance of this. Enterprise 2.0 platforms that help companies find ways to increase customer satisfaction hit on an important need for companies.

Having customers suggest their ideas is a valuable approach to improving products and ideas. With an eye toward higher satisfaction and lower churn.

There's also a new factor emerging: social media. Customers who are unhappy can create publicity problems for companies. Companies should factor in the power that social influence has in total Customer Value.

The other value of engaging customers is that while their ideas may be incremental, there may be patterns companies can pick up in what the customers are proposing. In other words, look beyond the tactical feature or service idea, and see what the customer really wants from your service offering.

This benefit scales well, and is of high value to companies. It does have a softer ROI story, however.

Employee Satisfaction
Enterprise 2.0 has more highly engaged and connected employees at its core. The ability to make a more substantive impact. The ability to find that right person to help with an idea or project.

The aha moments of discovering information you need. Making connections with people who see the possibilities you do. The ability to carve out a basis for recognition more broadly than has been available previously.

All of these relate to the issue of more satisfied employees. Now a social software application cannot on its own get you there. But it can play an important role in making that goal a reality. In Ideas Are Core to Enterprise 2.0, four elements of ideas are identified relating to higher employee engagement:

1. Ideas are me
2. Ideas Are the Basis for Finding Like-Minded Colleagues
3. Ideas Are Social Objects
4. Ideas Become Projects

Now the benefit of employee satisfaction is moving higher up the pyramid. Which means its measurability is limited. But it also means its impact is higher.

Cross-Organisation Collaboration
An important objective of companies to getting employees to work together. It's not enough to have the expertise and experience resident in employees. People need to work together to achieve the various objectives of a company.

Cross-organization collaboration does three things:

1.Improves outcomes as a diversity of knowledge and perspectives are brought to bear
2.Strengthen bonds for the next initiative an employee works on
3.Reduces cases of duplicative efforts and unnecessarily starting from scratch

As has been discussed here previously, people with access to a wider range of viewpoints consistently produce higher quality ideas. That only happens when the full intellectual power of employees can be tapped through collaborative networks.

There is a tremendous opportunity for organisations to help their employees increase the closer ties and extract much more value from those who are more distant, away from one's strong ties. Because for most workers, those distant connections are practically non-existent.

We're getting pretty high up on Maslow's ROI Hierarchy. The previous level of employee satisfaction was more emotional. This level weaves in intellectual benefits as well.

Innovation Culture
Innovations that arise from a social software initiative can be measured; indeed they are the most tangible ROI of Enterprise 2.0.

Ideas that are discovered and turned into action have produce an economic return of business value. Where we are finding it tougher to quantify is, determining improvements in team collaboration, communication, individual productivity and the softer side of enterprise 2.0.

It's harder to measure; how deep is a company's innovation culture? This is a culture where the nine principles of innovation management flourish inside an organisation:

1. Innovation benefits from a range of perspectives
2. Four of the most damaging words an employee can say: "Aww, forget about it".
3. Allow some freedom to try things that don't work
4. Create a culture of constant choices
5. Looking at innovation as a discipline
6. Focus employees' innovation priorities
7. Recognize innovation as a funnel with valuable leaks
8. Establish a common platform for innovation
9. Innovation must be more than purely emergent, disorganised and viral

What is the value of creating a sustainable innovation culture - as opposed to a series of one-off innovations? Recent reports tell us that companies that are the innovation leaders in their industries generate 430 basis points more in shareholder returns than do average companies.

We're talking culture here, so it's a soft ROI discussion but the end-results are quite measurable and powerful for this part of Maslow's ROI Hierarchy. Combined with executive commitment, strong incentives and a can-do attitude, social software becomes a critical tool for helping companies achieve an innovation culture.

Organisational Agility

This is the equivalent of self-actualisation, the top of Maslow's needs hierarchy. Companies that have achieved the other benefits, both hard and soft, will find they have a much higher level of organisational agility. Including:

• Seeing changes in the market faster
• Shifting resources in response to new opportunities
• Mixing incremental and disruptive innovation
• Moving on from initiatives, programs,markets, products that no longer work
• Employees can recognise opportunities and threats themselves, and act accordingly

Monday, March 15, 2010

H5N1 Avian flu Bangladesh: 117,000 birds slaughtered to stem infection

At least 117,000 chickens were destroyed in northern Bangladesh Sunday after avian flu outbreak on one of the country's largest poultry farms, a local official said.

The deadly H5N1 strain of flu was detected on Saturday when 400 chickens died suddenly at the Kazi Farms complex in Thakurgaon town, district livestock chief Mosaddekur Rahman reported.

"Tests confirmed presence of the H5N1 bird flu in 15 sheds of the farm and we ordered destruction of all 117,600 layer chickens," he said.

Kazi Farms is Bangladesh's largest poultry bird and egg producer. General manager of the company Ataur Rahman said another 200,000 eggs had also been destroyed in the single largest outbreak of bird flu in the country.

"Our loss will be more than 400 million taka (six million dollars)," he said.

Bangladesh was hit by bird flu in February 2007, when more than one million birds were slaughtered on thousands of farms across the country.

The last major outbreak was in November 2008 when 10,000 birds were culled over a two-month period, with smaller outbreaks detected in 2009.

Bangladesh's poultry industry is one of the world's largest, producing 220 million chickens and 37 million ducks annually.

The country reported its first confirmed human case of bird flu in May 2008, but the government said the 16-month-old baby who contracted the virus recovered.

H1N1 Pandemic swine flu toll reaches 16,713: WHO

Pandemic H1N1 Swine flu has claimed at least 16,713 lives around the world since it was first uncovered in Mexico and the United States last April, the World Health Organisation said Friday.

The pandemic, which has spread to 213 countries and territories, has since waned in much of Europe and North America, but data indicated that transmission may be increasing in West Africa.

"In Sub-Saharan Africa, limited data suggests that on-going community transmission of pandemic influenza virus continues to increase in parts of West Africa, without clear evidence of a peak in activity," said the WHO. More cases were being detected in Senegal, Ivory Coast and Rwanda, it said.

The A(H1N1) virus was also spreading in Southeast Asia, with transmission "most active in Thailand," added the UN health agency.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

H5N1 Avian Flu: Labs Producing Virulent Flu Strains

Engineered hybrids of H5N1 bird flu and H1N1 human flu strains have proven virulent in mice, raising the danger that a natural recombination would be deadly to humans.

For years, researchers have worried that H5N1 avian influenza would mix with human flu viruses, evolving into a form that keeps its current lethality but is far more contagious.

That hasn’t happened in the wild yet but the latest findings, published Feb. 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show how easily it can happen.

Mind the Gap
“Fortunately, the H5N1 viruses still lack the ability to transmit efficiently among humans.” However, the virus may soon be overcome this obstacle when it mixes with human flu strains. These are the findings of researchers led by University of Wisconsin virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka. “The next pandemic is inevitable and it will be more devastating than the last.”

Current strains of H5N1 have infected 478 people since 2003, and killed 286 of them. It’s has difficulty transmitting to humans. It requires close contact and exposure to an infected person, bird or animal.

H5N1 in Birds
In birds, however, H5N1 is far more contagious, and here the virus has killed tens of millions of fowl. Fortunately, cases have been concentrated in Africa and Eurasia, but as the swine flu pandemic demonstrated, any flu contagious to humans will quickly spread on a global scale. This is mainly thanks to air travel and the free movement of peoples across state boundaries.

Influenza viruses mutate and swap genes easily, with co-infections turning animals into mobile petri dishes. In 2008, hoping to learn more about how H5N1 might evolve, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention combined it with a common human flu strain.

The researchers engineered all 254 possible variants of hybridisation between the deadly H5N1 avian flu strain found in Borneo, and a, H1N1 human flu virus from Tokyo. They identified three strains that were both contagious and deadly, in mice.

The New Pandemic
A flu virus that kills mice won’t necessarily kill humans, but the results are very disturbing. All three killer hybrid strains possessed a protein taken from the human strain. Called PB2, the protein appeared to help the virus survive in the mice’s upper respiratory tract. As of now, bird flu stays in the lower respiratory tract, where it’s less likely to be casually transmitted.

Although the recent H1N1 pandemic has not proved to be as lethal as originally feared, it certainly exposed how unprepared the world is for new influenza strains. At the same time it also exposed the ability of pharmaceutical companies to frighten the WHO, governments and politicians into spending $Millions to stockpile ineffective vaccines.

Source of Infection
In May, Hong Kong University virologist Yi Guan, best known for finding the animal origin of SARS, was asked by Science Insider about the possibility of H5N1 and swine flu mixing.

“If that happens, I will retire immediately and lock myself in a sealed laboratory", said Guan. "But, historically the Chinese mainland would be the most likely source of such a virus."

Global Alert
Unfortunately, in such a situation, the imposed cover-up by local authorities would mean that the virus will have spread with a high rate of cross-infection and will have escaped globally, even before we are alerted to it's existance. We will not be alerted until it has spread to the Western world and many people have become infected and died.

Lethal Viruses Escape
The other issue is the development of virulent and lethal strains in laboratories and institutions. There has been a sad history of viruses erroneously 'escaping' from pharmaceutical labs and there is no reason to believe that this will not happen in the future, despite due diligence.

Should we live our lives in a bubble? No, definitely not but we should be aware of the dangers we are facing and how these may manifest themselves. Yes, there is a lethal danger from a mutant virus but this danger is greater if the world's health authorities are not communicating properly or collaborating on a global scale and this is something that can be mitigated against.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Customer Service versus Fraud Management

Ooops! Accidents will happen but sometimes they may not be what they seem.

Price and customer service have always been the two biggest influencers behind the purchase of insurance, and insurance companies are seeing this trend increase significantly. This is partly as a result of current tough economic conditions and partly from the emergence and availability of new distribution channels for customers.

Insurance companies can offer very little by way of flexibility on pricing structures, and the provision of enhanced or better customer service is an issue facing increased scrutiny in the boardroom.

Also, insurers are facing an ongoing battle against insurance fraud - an issue that according to the ABI, costs the industry $1.6bn a year.

The need to provide policyholders with an efficient and positive claims experience, as well as managing fraud effectively, has proved to be a big challenge for the industry in recent years as fraud increases and fraudsters become more sophisticated.

Forensic Psychology

Since the introduction of forensic psychology to the insurance market in 2001, the adoption of 'cognitive interviewing' has grown rapidly as a means of detecting honesty and combating fraud in a more empathetic way. Perhaps its success is not surprising because this is a common sense approach to comfortably extracting information, which complements the service delivered to the genuine policyholder.

Cognitive Interviewing
Cognitive interviewing is a system which incorporates a number of key components. Since 2001, when it was introduced into the insurance industry, cognitive interviewing has been further refined.

Today, it draws on advanced forensic psychology, behavioural psychology, advanced conversation management, communication techniques and experience, in identifying and anticipating fraud trends.

Rapid Detection of Honesty
The key is to identify honesty rapidly, and fast tack genuine claims through to settlement whilst simultaneously pinpointing fraud and extracting the evidence to robustly repudiate such claims.

The methodology has also evolved to cater for, and manage, claim volumes with no loss of service or fraud identification. Commercial advantage can consequently be realised in terms of cost and the ability to ramp up the service as required. This is a real bonus.

FSA Regulations
As well as helping to enhance the customer service experience during the claims process, cognitive interviewing can also play an intrinsic role in supporting FSA regulations and TCF guidelines.

The methodology of obtaining information at the outset of a claim rather than weeks or months down the line when it has been flagged as high risk, is a natural complement to best practice and TCF guidelines. The cognitive process leads to early decisions with no need to keep referring back to various parties for additional information.

The industry as a whole recognises that working collaboratively is vital to combating fraud, yet historically there has been a deep mistrust between brokers and insurers in handling suspected fraudulent claims.

BIBA Survey
In last year's BIBA survey, it was reported that insurers tend to bypass brokers when dealing with suspicious claims because they feel they are obstructive when it comes to identifying fraudulent policyholders. Brokers, meanwhile, have concerns about the impact of fraud investigations on policyholders' customer service aligned to the claims experience.

Fraud Detection Tool
Forensic psychology as a fraud detection tool can help brokers and insurers to work together in collaboration throughout this sensitive process. Cognitive interviewing meets the needs of both insurer and broker alike, enabling a joined up approach which drastically reduces claims spend in relation to fraud whilst simultaneously delivering strong customer service to policyholders.

Protecting the Bottom Line
This joined up approach shields genuine policyholders from the additional costs of fraud, supporting FSA guidelines, whilst at the same time protecting the bottom line of both broker and insurer businesses. Policyholders value the fact that they are being protected from unnecessarily high premiums through the proactive pursuit of fraud and the swift resolution of genuine claims is a powerful reputation booster.

The significance for insurers of adopting empathetic methods of fraud management that will impact positively on both customer service and the bottom line cannot be overestimated and
this is a trend that is definitely here to stay.

On of the more popular versions of this Fraud Detection system is Absolute's Flatline

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mariposa Botnet Authors and Distributors Caught

Three Spanish men were arrested last month for allegedly building an international network of more than 12 million hacked PCs that were used for everything from identity theft to spamming.

But according to Spanish authorities and security experts who helped unravel the crime ring, the accused may very well never see the inside of a jail cell even if they are ultimately found guilty, due to insufficient cyber crime legislation in Spain.

According to Spanish security firm Panda Security, the massive botnet, dubbed “Marioposa” (Spanish for “butterfly”), was rented out to criminals as a delivery platform for installing malicious software such as the data-stealing ZeuS Trojan and pay-per-install toolbars.

Panda said the gang, also stole directly from victim bank accounts, using money mules in the United States and Canada, and laundered stolen money through online gambling Web sites.

Panda said Mariposa helped crooks steal sensitive data from more than 800,000 victims, including home users, companies, government agencies and universities in at least 190 countries.
Spanish police estimate that at least 600,000 of the victimized PCs belong to Spanish citizens, and yet they concede it may be extremely challenging to put the men in jail if they are convicted at trial.

“It is almost impossible to be sent to prison for these kinds of crimes in Spain, where prison is mainly for serious crime cases,” said Captain Cesar Lorenzana, deputy head technology crime division of the Spanish Civil Guard.

“In Spain, it is not a crime to own and operate a botnet or distribute malware. So even if we manage to prove they are using a botnet, we will need to prove they also were stealing identities and other things, and that is where our lines of investigation are focusing right now.”

Spain is one of nearly three dozen countries that is a signatory to the Council of Europe’s cybercrime treaty, but Spanish legislators have not yet ratified the treaty by passing anti-cybercrime laws that would bring its judicial system in line with the treaty’s goals.

The Mariposa botnet takedown was orchestrated by a working group comprising Panda, the Georgia Tech Information Security Center, and Canadian security firm Defence Intelligence, which first detailed the workings of the bonnet in a white paper released in May 2009.

On Dec. 23, 2009, the working group was able to “sinkhole’ the botnet by hijacking the command and control networks that were being used to orchestrate the botnet’s activities. But according to Defense Intelligence CEO Christopher Davis, a few days later, the alleged ringleader of the Mariposa botnet gang who goes by the hacker alias “Netkairo,” bribed an employee at a Spanish domain name registrar that the gang had been using to register Web site names that helped them control the botnet.

Armed with those domains, Netkairo was able to rebuild the botnet, as the individual PCs enslaved by the Mariposa botnet were still programmed to regularly connect to those sites and download updated marching orders.

Davis said that on Jan. 22, the hacker launched a distributed denial of service attack against Defense Intelligence’s Web site, using more than a million PCs the gang had managed to corral back into the Mariposa botnet.

That assault, which forced the infected PCs to flood the company’s site with junk Web traffic, not only knocked Defense Intelligence offline, but took out networks of several other organizations that were using the same Internet service provider, including a local university and a few government agencies in Ottowa.

Lorenzana said the three men haven’t been named publicly because they haven’t yet been charged with a crime. Until that happens, which will probably be in a couple of weeks, the men are all free on their own recognizance.

In the meantime, they are free to hoover up as much stolen data as they please, as the Mariposa working group has not yet been able to shutter the Web sites that served as the repository for personal and financial data stolen from people whose systems were ensnared by the bot.

“The main problem is that even though the botnet itself has been taken down, these bots are all still infected, and these guys who operated the botnet can still go and download all the details of the data they have stolen,” Lorenzana said.

Juan Santana, CEO of Panda Security, said he hopes this case will spur Spanish lawmakers to amend the penal code to more specifically punish cyber crime activities.

“I don’t think these guys will go to jail, especially if it is the first time they have committed a crime,” Santana said. “The government needs to pass laws that are enforceable and enforced afterward.

In the vast majority of countries, malicious hackers do not fear that if they do get caught that they will go to jail, because the benefit for them is far higher than the risk right now.”

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tiger Text: The iPhone app that erases sent messages


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