Friday, August 13, 2010
In this study, the researchers examined data from more than 2,000 business units (e.g., retail stores, factories, sales offices) of ten companies. The data consisted of employee satisfaction surveys, employee retention rates, customer loyalty, and financial performance of the organizations. Analyses of the data were conducted to identify relationships between employee job satisfaction and outcome measures of the organizations.
The results indicate that employee work perceptions predict important organizational outcomes — if employees have positive perceptions of their jobs, their organizations benefit via higher employee retention, increased customer loyalty, and improved financial outcomes. Interestingly, the analysis suggests that employee perceptions affect outcomes more than outcomes affect employee perceptions of their jobs.
“One implication is that changes in management practices that improve employee perceptions of specific work situation variables will increase business-unit outcomes, including financial outcomes,” the authors note. Additionally, Harter and colleagues offer that one way managers can help boost job satisfaction and help their organization may be to “clarify expectations for employees by helping employees see the ultimate outcomes the organization is working to achieve and how they play a role in achieving those outcomes.”
For further reading on workplace discontent, please read:
LeBlanc, M. M. & Barling, J. (2004). Workplace aggression. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13(1), 9-12. doi:10.1111/j.0963-7214.2004.01301003.x
Riley, H. R. & Gelfand, M. (2010). Status and the evaluation of workplace deviance. Psychological Science, 13(1), 49-54. doi: 10.1177/0956797609356509
Spector, P. E. (2002). Employee control and occupational stress. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11(4), 133-136. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.00185
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
With all the recent privacy uproar over Google’s Street View, especially in European countries, how would you feel if Google launched a fleet of flying drone aircraft?
Here’s the story. Forbes reported yesterday that a German company, Microdrones had sold four of its flying surveillance drone robots to Google.
As it turns out, one Sven Juerss, the chief executive of Microdrones, was so pumped up about his sale to Google that he had to go running to a German magazine, Wirtschaftswoche (in English, that’s “Economic Week”).
Juerss told Wirtschaftswoche (no, I am not going to try to pronounce it) that his robotic helicopters would be helpful in Google’s mapping projects.
Now, let’s break this down into its component pieces. First off, if you’re a company that sells surveillance drones, here’s a tip: don’t tell people about your customers. If I’m a country or even a company and I want to buy some robot spy helicopters, I’m really not going to want my vendor blabbing all about it like a little teenager.
Apparently someone at Forbes speaks Wirtschaftswoche, because as quick as you can say “Bob’s your uncle,” the story was picked up and reported in Forbes.
So is Google planning on spying on you from 1,000 feet in the air? Well, according to Forbes, quoting a “Google spokesperson”, the answer is no. The real answer is, “This was a purchase by a Google executive with an interest in robotics for personal use.”
“Flexibility is good, but too much of it is dangerous,” says Oded Berman, who holds the Sydney C. Cooper Chair in Business and Technology and is a professor of operations management at the Rotman School.
Workforce flexibility is supposed to improve the match between an organisation’s labour resources and the work required. Using a theoretical staffing model under different demand conditions, the study examined the impact of several forms of worker flexibility, including workers with a multiple skill-set (skill mix), variable start times, part-timers and workers switching from one job to another within a shift.
While most forms of flexibility helped reduced costs under normal demand, the study found higher levels of flexibility meant that insufficient staff levels were in place, to respond to unexpected demands, leading to higher inventory costs.
Variable start times created the most robust flexibility, while part-time workers and job-switching within a shift were definitely not as robust.
“The rule of thumb we’ve suggested is, have flexibility and use it wisely, but set your workforce size and service levels, assuming you don’t have it,” says Prof. Pinker.
The suggestion is that workforce 'flexibility' models do not operate at an optimum level when tested or put to practical use. This may be because of the immaturity of the process or system used or the motivation of the personnel involved.
The complete study is available at: www.rotman.utoronto.ca/newthinking/flexibility.pdf
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Security vendor M86 Security says it's discovered that a U.K.-based bank has suffered almost $900,000 (675,000 Euros) in fraudulent bank-funds transfers due to the ZeuS Trojan malware that has been targeting the institution.
Bradley Anstis, vice president of technology strategy at M86 Security, said the security firm uncovered the situation in late July while tracking how one ZeuS botnet had been specifically going after the U.K.-based bank and its customers. The botnet included a few hundred thousand PCs and even about 3,000 Apple Macs, and managed to steal funds from about 3,000 customer accounts through unauthorized transfers equivalent to roughly $892,755.
Anstis declined to name the bank. He said the botnet used in the attack is based on version 3.0 of the ZeuS malware and appears to be controlled from Eastern Europe, with a server hosted in Moldava.
From the investigation into the botnet's server operations, M86 Security has found the criminals controlling the botnet waited until accounts reached at least 800 Euros before initiating a fraudulent funds transfer from the victim's compromised machine to a number of other accounts used by money mules who would forward the funds on to Eastern Europe.
Anstis says the victimised bank was offering "free security software" to customers but it wasn't clear if this software, which M86 declined to name, was in use when the fraudulent transfers were made. Anstis says the process of notifying the bank to let it know what M86 Security has discovered about the botnet was a somewhat frustrating experience.U.K. bank hit by massive fraud from ZeuS-based botnet
The EU has tighter restrictions than the United States does on the collection, use, and sale of data by online companies, but also requires Internet service providers to store personal data in case the government ever wants to investigate an individual user. The European Parliament is currently considering passing a law called "Smile29" that would require the Google search engine – which processes billions of searches a month on the Continent – to retain data on users as well.
The EU effort is just the latest of government's around the globe seeking to glean more about their citizens from their online behavior. To critics, the EU laws amount to a surveillance land-grab that has prompted a groundswell of opposition across Europe. Now a group in Ireland is challenging the new regime – seeking permission from the Irish courts to sue the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to strike down new Irish laws designed to bring the country into line with broader European standards. If Digital Rights Ireland, which argues that the laws violate the European Convention on Human Rights, wins, it would set the stage for successful challenges to the rules across Europe. "The main thing we want to see is our data retention laws repealed," says T.J. McIntyre, a law lecturer at University College Dublin and head of the organisation. Mr. McIntyre says the laws criminalize ordinary citizens.
Online privacy has become a key civil liberty battleground. Facebook and Google are amassing colossal amounts of data about users' thoughts, desires, and impulses, which businesses covet and pay handsomely for. And across Europe, a backlash against the storage of private data is growing. Civil society groups like the European Federation of Journalists have criticized the practice, and in Germany almost 35,000 people, including Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, sued their own government over the issue. "There is a real problem in Europe today. It is a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, which says that everyone has the right to a private life. That fundamental right has to extend into digital life," says Christian Engström, a member of the European Parliament for Sweden's controversial Pirate Party, elected on a platform of digital rights.
In Ireland at present, telephone data must be retained for three years, but there are currently no provisions requiring Internet service providers to retain data, something both the EU and the Irish government want to change. McIntyre says the government already has the upper hand. "In 2002 the Irish government secretly introduced data retention. They did it by ministerial order, and to this day the department of justice has not confirmed it." McIntyre expects the case to be decided by the ECJ.
The EU itself seems to be of two minds when it comes to Internet privacy. While monitoring and surveillance powers have been greatly expanded, the EU body overseeing the effort to expand data retention to search engines under Smile29 complained in a report that EU members are already collecting more information on citizens than they should and "have scarcely provided statistics on the use of data retained under the Directive, which limits the possibilities to verify the usefulness of data retention."
The group advocates major changes to the law, including a reduction of the maximum retention period, reconsideration of the overall security of traffic data by the European Commission, clarification of the concept of "serious crime" at member state level, and "disclosure to all the relevant stakeholders of the list of the entities authorized to access the data." According to Mr. Engström of the Pirate Party, the problem with the EU is a democracy deficit: "Most of the power is with commissioners and [other] unelected officials."
Is Europe building Big Brother? | Presseurop – English
Monday, August 9, 2010
A laptop engineer has been jailed for nine months after being caught out by a Sky News sting.
Grzegorz Zachodni, who was working at Laptop Revival, pleaded guilty to fraud after he attempted to hack into a Sky reporter’s bank account using details stolen from her computer.
"Hopefully this conviction will be a warning to the computer repair industry that the copying or use of customers' private and personal information is not acceptable and the Metropolitan Police Economic and Specialist Crime Directorate will endeavour to prosecute any person found to have committed offences regarding these abuses," said DC Chris Young, the investigating officer.
The reporter was looking into the quality of service at laptop repair shops and took in her computer with a loose memory chip to be fixed.
The laptop contained hidden software in it that recorded which files were viewed and what websites were visited, while taking images through an integrated webcam.
Personal photos of the reporter, including ones of her in a bikini, were stored on the computer along with login details to eBay, Facebook and NatWest.
The shop called her to tell her the laptop required a new motherboard, but she declined the repair.
When she returned to Laptop Revival, the reporter was told the computer had been fixed but she would not be charged as no permission was given for the alterations.
The covert software found Zachodni had only worked on the computer for 20 minutes and in that time had viewed various files and saved passwords and login details. He also took two of the bikini snaps.
Police are cracking down hard on cyber crime and last week saw six arrested in relation to a phishing network which is thought to have compromised 20,000 bank accounts and credit cards.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
It was published in 1956, in Psychological Review, by the cognitive psychologist George A. Miller of Princeton University's Department of Psychology.
It argues, in essence, that the number of objects an average human can hold in working memory is 7 ± 2; this is frequently referred to as Miller's Law (not to be confused with his theory of communication: known as Miller's Law).
An extract from Miller's article
In his article, Miller discussed a coincidence between the limits of one-dimensional absolute judgment and the limits of short-term memory. In a one-dimensional absolute-judgment task, a person is presented with a number of stimuli that vary on one dimension (e.g., 10 different tones varying only in pitch) and responds to each stimulus with a corresponding response (learned before).
Performance is nearly perfect up to 5 or 6 different stimuli but declines as the number of different stimuli is increased. The task can be described as one of information transmission: The input consists of one out of n possible stimuli, and the output consists of one out of n responses.
The information contained in the input can be determined by the number of binary decisions that need to be made to arrive at the selected stimulus, and the same holds for the response. Therefore, people's maximum performance on one-dimensional absolute judgement can be characterised as an information channel capacity with approximately 2 to 3 bits of information, which corresponds to the ability to distinguish between 4 and 8 alternatives.
The second cognitive limitation Miller discusses is memory span. Memory span refers to the longest list of items (e.g., digits, letters, words) that a person can repeat back immediately after presentation in correct order on 50% of trials. Miller observed that memory span of young adults is approximately 7 items.
He noticed that memory span is approximately the same for stimuli with vastly different amount of information - for instance, binary digits have 1 bit each; decimal digits have 3.32 bits each; words have about 10 bits each.
Miller concluded that memory span is not limited in terms of bits but rather in terms of chunks. A chunk is the largest meaningful unit in the presented material that the person recognizes - thus, it depends on the knowledge of the person what counts as a chunk. For instance, a word is a single chunk for a speaker of the language but breaks down into as many chunks as the word has letters for someone who is totally unfamiliar with the language.
Miller recognised that the correspondence between the limits of one-dimensional absolute judgment and of short-term memory span was only a coincidence, because only the first limit, not the second, can be characterised in information-theoretic terms (i.e., as a roughly constant number of bits).
Therefore, there is nothing "magical" about the number 7, and Miller used the expression only ironically. Nevertheless, the idea of a "magical number 7" inspired much theorizing, rigorous and less rigorous, about the capacity limits of human cognition.
To view and read the full article click on this LINK
To view the article in PDF Click Here
For the study, 29 students were given mock terrorist plans and 30 minutes to learn about an attack on a certain U.S. city. They were asked to work out their own details based on information they were given regarding weapons and methods.
The researchers, who also knew about the mock terrorist plans, monitored the students’ brain waves to find out whether they gave away details of where and when the attacks were to take place. They correlated a rise in brain wave activity to guilty knowledge with 100 percent accuracy across all the students that participated.
According to psychology professor J. Peter Rosenfeld, the “guilty” patterns occur in “P300″ brain waves when meaningful information is shown to a person with “guilty knowledge.”
What makes the result so impressive is that in a real-life situation, the knowledge would be much more deeper entrenched, given the months or years of planning that a participant would be subject to.”
In a study released in the May/June Journal of Social Psychology, Stefanie Johnson, assistant professor of management at UC Denver Business School, found that beauty has an ugly side, at least for women.
Attractive women were discriminated against when applying for jobs considered "masculine" and for which appearance was not seen as important to the job. Such positions included job titles like manager of research and development, director of finance, mechanical engineer and construction supervisor.
"In these professions being attractive was highly detrimental to women," said Johnson. "In every other kind of job, attractive women were preferred. This wasn't the case with men which shows that there is still a double standard when it comes to gender."
The study, co-authored by Robert Dipboye, professor of psychology at the University of Central Florida, Kenneth Podratz, an organizational development manager at UPS and Ellie Gibbons, research assistant at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, found that attractive men suffered no similar discrimination and were always at an advantage.
According to Johnson, beautiful people still enjoy a significant edge. They tend to get higher salaries, better performance evaluations, higher levels of admission to college, better voter ratings when running for public office and more favorable judgments in trials.
A recent Newsweek survey of 202 hiring managers and 964 members of the public concluded that looks matter in every aspect of the workplace and they mattered more for women. When asked to rate nine character attributes on a scale of one to 10 with 10 being the most important, looks ranked third, above education and sense of humor, the magazine reported.
But in one narrow aspect of life, beauty can be a hindrance, something researchers have called the "beauty is beastly" effect.
To read the full article Click Here
Saturday, August 7, 2010
......... it demands more than our eyes. The most physically active we may get while reading a book is to flip the pages or dog-ear a corner. But screens engage our bodies. Touch screens respond to the ceaseless caress of our fingers. Sensors in game consoles such as the Nintendo Wii track our hands and arms.
We interact with what we see. Soon enough, screens will follow our eyes to perceive where we gaze. A screen will know what we are paying attention to and for how long. In the futuristic movie Minority Report (2002), the character played by Tom Cruise stands in front of a wraparound screen and hunts through vast archives of information with the gestures of a symphony conductor.
Reading becomes almost athletic. Just as it seemed weird five centuries ago to see someone read silently, in the future it will seem weird to read without moving your body.
Books were good at developing a contemplative mind. Screens encourage more utilitarian thinking. A new idea or unfamiliar fact will provoke a reflex to do something: to research the term, to query your screen “friends” for their opinions, to find alternative views, to create a bookmark, to interact with or tweet the thing rather than simply contemplate it.
Book reading strengthened our analytical skills, encouraging us to pursue an observation all the way down to the footnote. Screen reading encourages rapid pattern-making, associating this idea with another, equipping us to deal with the thousands of new thoughts expressed every day. The screen rewards, and nurtures, thinking in real time.
We review a movie while we watch it, we come up with an obscure fact in the middle of an argument, we read the owner’s manual of a gadget we spy in a store before we purchase it rather than after we get home and discover that it can’t do what we need it to do.An extract from a very interesting article in the August 2010 issue of the Smithsonian magazine, their 40th Anniversary issue. They commissioned 40 views of the future. This one is about the future of reading, or what they titled Reading in a Whole New Way
In January, researchers at Web security firm Imperva announced the results of an in depth analysis (shown in the picture above - Click to view).
Imperva examined a trove of 32 million passwords belonging to customers of RockYou, a developer of social networking software, that had been hacked.
The most popular password, they found, was "123456" - the choice of almost 300,000 RockYou users. The second most popular password was "12345." "Password" was the fourth most popular choice.
Twitter, also, has blocked 370 "obvious" passwords from being used to secure its users' accounts, while others have studied and written about the illusory security of the all-too-common challenge questions used by many financial and e-commerce Web sites.
Herley and his colleagues found that such easy-to-guess passwords are vulnerable to statistical guessing attacks, in which dictionaries of common or popular passwords are used in automated attempts to break into an account.
Limiting the number of log in attempts users are granted is the easiest way to block such attacks, but getting users to pick unusual passwords is also part of the solution.
But ensuring that users actually choose secure passwords is harder than it sounds, the researchers wrote in their paper, which is available on Microsoft Research's Web site.
Features that are common on many Web sites to enforce password security may be having the opposite effect, the researchers argue. For example, features that measure password strength or enforce strong password policies (such as length of password, use of non-standard characters) are indirect means to produce secure passwords that often merely force users into a different set of predictable choices that can also be easily guessed.
Friday, August 6, 2010
An American car firm is hoping to leave the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport in its wake and produce the world's fastest production car.
Entitled the Dagger GT Supercar and built by Trans Star Racing, the 9.4 litre, twin turbo 2000 horse powered engine vehicle is expected to hit speeds in excess of 300mph.
Hitting 0-60mph in 1.5 seconds, the Dagger GT is still only on the drawing board at the moment, but the first prototype is expected to be ready for a crack at the Veyron's 267.8 mph Guinness World Record in April 2011.
A snip at £315,000 compared to the Veyron which costs £800,000, only ten production units will be available after prototype testing in the second half of 2011
Thursday, August 5, 2010
The study, the first to identify a specific gene associated with psychopathic tendencies in youth, appears this month in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
People with psychopathic traits generally are more callous and unemotional than their peers, said University of Illinois psychology professor Edelyn Verona, whose graduate student Naomi Sadeh led the study.
“Those with psychopathic traits tend to be less attached to others, even if they have relationships with them,” Verona said. “They are less reactive to emotional things in the lab. They are charming and grandiose at times. They’re better at conning and manipulating others, and they have low levels of empathy and remorse.”
Although psychopathy is considered abnormal, these traits may be useful in certain circumstances, Verona said.
“For example, these folks tend to have less anxiety and are less prone to depression,” she said, qualities that might be useful in dangerous or unstable environments. In most cases, their cognitive abilities are also intact.
Studies of psychopathy often focus on those in prison for violent crimes, but most people who commit such crimes are not psychopathic, Verona said.
Unlike the detached, methodical psychopath, violent offenders are often highly emotional and impulsive, and their cognitive abilities are sometimes impaired.
Early research on psychopathy sometimes confused these two “subtypes,” Verona said. “But our research suggests that offenders are very heterogeneous in terms of causal factors,” she said. “That means that although they end up in similar places, they don’t get there through the same pathway.”
The new research focused on two variants of the serotonin transporter protein gene. This gene codes for a protein that transports serotonin from the synapse into presynaptic neurons. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep and other functions including memory and learning.
The two variants, or alleles, of the serotonin transporter protein gene differ in length. The longer allele produces more of the transporter protein, which researchers suspect results in more serotonin being shuttled out of the synapse. How this affects brain function is unclear, however; less serotonin in the synapse could mean less — or more — serotonin in the brain.
Previous studies have found that those who are highly impulsive and aggressive tend to have less brain serotonin than their peers, while people with psychopathic traits generally have higher brain serotonin levels.
Other research has found an association between the highly impulsive personality type and the shorter allele on the serotonin transport protein gene.
Economic status, genetics together influence psychopathic traits — Science Blog
The alleged cyber gang are thought to have compromised 10,000 online bank accounts and are also believed to have taken control of 10,000 credit cards, from which it is estimated they gained over £3 million, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) said.
The suspected scammers also allegedly stole £358,000 by taking over bank accounts.
“A great deal of personal information was compromised and cleverly exploited for substantial profit,” said Detective Inspector Colin Wetherill, from the MPS' Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU).
“By disrupting the operation we have hopefully prevented further loss to individuals and institutions across the UK.”
The investigation was part of the PCeU’s anti-phishing initiative, otherwise known as Operation Dynamophone.
PCeU Officers made the arrests after carrying out five searches across London and an address in Navan, Ireland, with the assistance of the MPS Territorial Support Group and the Irish Garda Siochana Fraud Investigation Bureau.
It is thought the gang behind the illicit operation had been sending a large amount of unsolicited spam emails, asking recipients to visit specially-created websites claiming to be legitimate banking webpages.
Victims were then asked to enter personal data, in the classic phishing style, which was taken by the suspected fraudsters to access online bank accounts and move funds. Credit card info was obtained in the same way.
How much the phishing network managed to acquire in total is yet to be ascertained.
The number of legal outsourcing companies in India has mushroomed to more than 140 at the end of 2009, from 40 in 2005, according to Valuenotes, a consulting firm in Pune, India.
Revenue at India’s legal outsourcing firms is expected to grow to $440 million this year, up 38 percent from 2008, and should surpass $1 billion by 2014, Valuenotes estimates.
“This is not a blip, this is a big historical movement,” said David B. Wilkins, director of Harvard Law School’s program on the legal profession. “There is an increasing pressure by clients to reduce costs and increase efficiency,” he added, and with companies already familiar with outsourcing tasks like information technology work to India, legal services is a natural next step.
So far, the number of Western lawyers moving to outsourcing companies could be called more of a trickle than a flood, but that may change, as more business flows out of traditional law firms and into India.
Compensation for top managers at legal outsourcing firms is competitive with salaries at midsize law firms outside of major metropolitan areas of the United States, executives in the industry say.
Living costs are much lower in India, and often, there is the added allure of stock in the outsourcing company.
Clearly, the Indian authorities are making it very attractive for US lawyers to settle in India but this is a tactic that has worked for them before.
The question is, how soon will the tide turn in the other direction? Is this the first step in bulding a more competitive India law capability that can directly address the US and othe European markets?
US or Europe?
The feeling is that the US is most at risk from this venture because it has a reputation for being a more litigious society, and this has already established a huge market and an enormous opportunity for price competitive outsourcing.
Europe is a more difficult and specialist market with each country having it's own legal system and language preference. A lot of work and study needs to be done to capture a relatively small piece of the larger market.
To read the full article click here
Wave, a real time messaging platform, was unveiled in May 2009 to an enthusiastic crowd of developers at the Google I/O event in San Francisco. It would “set a new benchmark for interactivity,” said Sergey Brin.
The product is part email, part Twitter and part instant messaging. Users can drag files from the desktop to a discussion. Wave even showed character-by-character live typing. It fully launched this last May.
And while the service has many, or at least some, passionate users (including TechCrunchers), it “has not seen the user adoption we would have liked,” says Google.
The service will remain live, says Google, although they say it may eventually come down. Google has also open sourced parts of the code and say they will create tools to let users “liberate” their data: “The central parts of the code, as well as the protocols that have driven many of Wave’s innovations, like drag-and-drop and character-by-character live typing, are already available as open source, so customers and partners can continue the innovation we began. In addition, we will work on tools so that users easily “liberate” their content from Wave.”
What happens to the Wave team, mostly located in Australia? Google won’t say, other than that they will be given new projects. Our guess is many, or all, of them will soon be working for Vic Gundotra and his new WWF (war with Facebook).