Marissa Mayer has recently said to Yahoo employees that there is no more working from home, and like with lots of things she does that are against the grain, there is a lot of talk about it. I read this article from the Atlantic. And I also read this one from business insider.
I usually like the Atlantic but disagree with them in this case. There are two things to think about here:
- What you would ideologically like to happen (flexibility giving mothers flexibility to return to work without sacrificing as much time away from kids), and
- What is actually happening (people taking a salary from Yahoo and either working on their own projects or generally messing around).
The Atlantic and other publications cite studies from stamford and others that say that $x million is saved, or “y” productivity increases by using specific examples like call centre workers or lone coders. In my experience – actual experience, not studies (which I actually have very little time for) Marissa Mayer is spot on and working side by side is where the benefits really come from, and studies of call centre workers doesn’t apply to more complex work environments.
To quote the Yahoo insider – working from home was “a great way to get Yahoo to pay you while you put in minimal work and do your side startup”. I suspect that this was happening more than people think, and the bad thing is that this ruins it for the people who genuinely want flexibility and are productive with it. But I think that the genuinely productive people are massively outnumbered by the people abusing it.
You could argue that its up to Yahoo to gauge productivity and manage their people more tightly, but what I think about that is we are all grown ups and shouldn’t need someone holding our hand and making sure we have washed our hands after going to the toilet. It should be a given. If people at Yahoo aren’t working productively they should be fired and go and find something that motivates them to be productive.
Of course there are exceptions: One of our smartest and most productive people at Tigerspike works in our Future Technologies division. He works from home and has no working hours. He loves what he does and he works hard and is excited about it. He collaborates with other smart people spread around the world, and with our head of Future technologies most days (and nights). If we could get more people like him it would be amazing. Similarly we also have flexibility for people to work 1, 2, 3 or 4 days a week if they are doing another personal project or looking after young children. And we pay them for that time, but not the time they are at home not working.
In my case, I started Tigerspike while I was still working at KPMG. This seemed sensible at the time because Tigerspike didn’t make enough money to pay me a salary so I still wanted the one KPMG was paying me. But KPMG isn’t a company that you can hide at home and not be productive for, so it very soon became obvious to me and them that I had to leave. After that I still had another 2 years without a salary… and that has to be sucked up if you want to have a start up. Thankfully it worked and we can pay everyone a salary now; and the plan is to pay salaries to people who really want to work with us. If someone wants to go and join a start up, that is great news and very rewarding, and I will high 5 them out the door and wish them the best.
I think that Marissa Mayer is setting Yahoo up to be a company that people really want to work for. I am sure that flexibility will be built back in one day, but it will be flexibility for people who want to be there and who are productive for Yahoo for the money they are being paid by Yahoo. But for now she is shaking the tree so that the rotton fruit falls out. Its sad for the innocent victims but she is right to do it.
So in summary: Marissa Mayer is right, and The Atlantic is wrong. (And how petty – using an unflattering photo of Marissa Mayer with the article… journalism is slipping… but thats another (long) conversation).
Some conspiracy theorists say that Diana and Dodi were killed by someone who flashed a bright light in their driver’s eyes and he then crashed. Consider these three articles and the potential for efficient assassinations made to look like car crashes.
First – this article by the BBC suggests all cars will be ‘on-line’ by 2014. I don’t doubt that and would go further and say that almost, if not all new cars have computerized car management systems that communicate to each other via wireless.
Second - this Ted talk about how easy it was for hackers to break into car management systems from outside the car and drive you off the road.
Third – this article talking about a guy whose brake became an accelerator and he spent over an hour driving around at 125mph before running out of petrol! I think that this is the first experimental iteration of car hacking assassinations.
Its all semi-amusing when you think of the poor French guy in the car, and we all remember the film “Speed”… but the serious side is that technology is accelerating (pardon the pun) very fast. And people aren’t always thinking about the consequences.
PS we have a solution to this issue at least – read here if you are interested.
Keiran from my work send round this really interesting article comparing iOs to Android revenues. iOs earns massively more and I think that there are a few reasons that they didn’t mention in the article.
The first and main one is that Apple make it really easy to buy. Your credit card information is already in there from when you were buying music from them, and you just put in your password and its done. Android doesn’t have that massive base of pre-entered credit card numbers.
Secondly and more interestingly Apple just has things buttoned down a little more tightly. The walled garden here is working. Walled gardens / curated experiences do work, but only if inside the wall is good stuff / experiences. And that is what Apple got right.
In the old days the walled gardens of the carriers and ISPs were shit, and everyone said “oh we dont’ like walled gardens, we want freedom man!”, but that was wrong. They didn’t want freedom they wanted better experiences and content.
People like usable curated experiences, and don’t mind some of the downsides. Geeks who write about it on Wired or wherever don’t like the downsides or the lack of freedom. But normal people don’t mind, and there are way more normal people than geeks. Its like living in Singapore. Who cares if you can’t chew gum or launch a political protest rally. Stuff just works.
People like it when stuff works, and if you have to give up a little freedom for it. So be it.
I saw a really great video today. Watch it here. Its a very simple but very effective visualisation of big data. The venture capital community already know that this is going to be a big area, but I am not sure if anyone gets how big. What we see with our customers is huge amounts of data being generated. We know who did what, when, how much, and where they were when they did it. Each interaction with mobile or tablet yields time and location information that didn’t exist 5 years ago. And there is too much of it.
Most companies realize that this is important but I haven’t seen many who are using this huge amount of data effectively. What they need first is a big data analysis strategy – what are they going to do, and then a plan of how to “drink from the firehose” in the most effective way, otherwise you get bogged down in the sheer volume of the data. The right way to do it is to work out some creative ways of visualizing the data. Take lots of it, and look at it in new ways so that lots of data becomes useful visually summarized data.
In the video you see countries that become richer and healthier over time, and what is interesting is the movement form the 1800s to the present. There is a big collective movement downwards in health (life expectancy) around 1918 from the war and Spanish flu. This is identified by the movement downwards of the dots, which then leads to the analysis and insight about why this is happening. It is the movement of the data that is important. Much more important than the data itself, so visualisation of changes in data over time is what is most important and is what needs to be looked at. Did I make that point enough times? movement / changes over time!
Also see here for a visual attached is a visualisation of 100 million 311 calls in New York (311 is like 911, but for non emergencies) It visualises a 24 hour period and graphs all the calls that are made. You can see that noise is always a big issue, but is most important when people are trying to sleep as midnight approaches and until 6am. Street conditions get many calls at 7pm, probably because people leave work at around 6, and then walk home and then call when they get home about the street conditions. There is also an increase at around 2pm, after people’s lunchtime walking. Those insights are all fairly straightforward, but seeing it all on that graph with time as a key axis is what makes it easy to be insightful.
To illustrate this time based behavioral aspect in a more real world example: Say you wanted to know if your husband was cheating on you. His behavior is not relevant. What IS relevant is his change in behavior If he is always flirting with women and coming home late and drunk then that doesn’t mean anything if that is what he has always done and has not previously cheated. But if his behavior changes and he suddenly starts working late when he didn’t before, and he buys new underwear and starts working out and drinking protein shakes when he was usually a lazy fat bastard, then that change in behavior means he is having an affair! So if you could graph the behaviors of 100 million men with time they came home on the Y axis and frequency of working out and buying new underwear on the X axis, and then play that over time, you would see that anyone moving up and to the right is cheating!
Olly bought me a Nike fuel band. And it is transforming my life, and got me thinking about technology and its ability to transform lives, and businesses. First how is the Nike fuel band changing my life?. If you don’t know what it is, check it out here. What it has done is given me data on how much I move around and that insight (that I am basically a lazy bastard) combined with a daily goal (currently 3,000 fuel points) has transformed how active I am.
I have to make Nike fuel points target every day (I have made this non negotiable with myself), so yesterday I had to go on an hour long walk to get the last 1,000 points. Which was really good as I went for a stroll around my old Sydney neighborhood (I am in Australia for business), and it churned up a lot of happy memories and I did a lot of thinking about how my life has changed since moving to New York and Singapore from Sydney, and how happy I was with things.
Since wearing the Nike fuel band the obvious outcomes are my realisation of lazy bastardness through the data, and my subsequent increase in exercise, and weight loss (yes! I am getting thinner). But the other outcomes which are way more important. Firstly a happier wife (not just because I am getting thinner), because I now get off my ass and do things like go to the fridge and get her a drink or pick up Lucia from nursery. Secondly an appreciation of nice long walks, and time taken out to think about the past and through that appreciate the present.
Whoa! sounding a little hippy… so to work: Relating this to mobiles and tablets transforming businesses: The obvious value of personal media technology in the workplace is an increase in productivity when, for example replacing paper based processes with tablets. An example is entering mining safety information straight onto tablet (that interfaces with company back end systems), as opposed to onto paper then re-entered onto computer back at the office. Less paperwork, no data re-entry, fewer mistakes, more accurate and timely corporate information and many other benefits really are transforming businesses.
But the less obvious value, and the one is actually far more meaningful in the world of doing good for humanity, is happier workers and saved lives. Lives are saved in safer mines, and the mining safety inspector is happier because he gets to go straight home and see his family earlier rather than stopping at the office to re-enter the information. He is also happier as he gets to spend more time doing his job well rather than double entry admin, and the thing is that people do want to spend more time doing their job well, but its often the very company you are working for that stops you by putting needless admin in place. But remember much of that admin is only now not needed due to technological advances in mobile and cloud.
If you think about the fact that you spend 1/3 of your life at work. Why would you not try to be happier and more productive at work. And mobiles and tablets (with some cloud and big data thrown in), really do make that happen.
Its great how technology can transform companies. And fat bastards.
With some of the investment money that we received, we invested in a future technologies division. One of the technologies that we created and registered a patent for is called Karacell. Its a new type of encryption algorithm that has some real advantages over current standards. Learning about the vulnerabilities of the existing “industry standard” encryption made me a little worried too!
The interesting thing that we are experiencing is that there is so much inertia around existing standards and a general unwillingness to consider new and more advanced technologies. Furthermore the way people study encryption is based on the same existing thinking. What I have always thought is what I am now experiencing is that deep knowledge of an area such as encryption doesn’t lead to innovation (True disruptive innovation, not incremental innovation).
To truly come up with something new, you need to not have that prior knowledge or thinking but with encryption this is hard because it is based on complex mathematics, but what we are doing is thinking about fundamentally different mathematics underpinning the encryption and relating that in unique ways to other areas of mathematics and computer and information science.
The truth is that I only understand half of what Stuart Christmas our head of future technologies is saying, and I know that Stuart and Shambavi, our super smart graduate from NUS understands 75% of what Russel our chief information scientist is saying. Luckily the results are starting to come in and that is usually what makes a difference!. More information is below.
The Karacell Encryption System
What is it?
A symmetric encryption system optimized for enterprise mobility
- Karacell is based on the classic mathematical problem known as Subset Sum. The solution to Subset Sum has not been improved upon since 1972 whereas solutions to the mathematics behind other algorithms (prime number factorization for example) have been improved upon on a regular and ongoing basis.
- The way it is designed means that attacks on Karacell require 1,000 times more computing memory than attacks on RSA/AES. This necessitates faster (and therefore more scarce) computing power.
- Related to the previous point, Karacell is new and different. Designed with resistance to modern cryptanalysis techniques such as Gaussian Elimination and Sparse Matrix optimization in mind means that most automated programs and traditional techniques won’t work requiring more time and thinking to launch an attack.
- Karacell is an order of magnitude faster than 12-round AES-128 on existing low-end computers
- Karacell is designed with Parallel processing in mind, its speed scales exponentially with advancements in multi-core technology (whereas AES scales linearly)
- Karacell is designed with extremely low power consumption in mind, requiring only a tiny fraction of the calculations that AES needs when encrypting and decrypting data. Therefore battery life, critical to mobile devices, is significantly longer.
- Recent research has proven quantum computing to be ineffective at solving Subset Sum. This is not the case for industry standard encryption algorithms where Quantum computing significantly increases the efficiency of attacks.
I was reading this article, and gained new respect for Sheryl who I rate pretty highly and the new guy at Yahoo. Spending almost $1bn on patents though, is just idiotic, but probably necessary given the way these things work.
I find these patent wars just ridiculous, and I find most of the patents just ridiculous too. Patenting a tap or a swipe? that is not innovation and doesn’t deserve a patent. One of Motorola’s was recently upheld and their innovation was to break up a message that was longer than 160 characters, sending it as two text messages and then re-assembling it at the other end. Sorry but that is not innovative. In my opinion you can’t patent things that are so obvious that any 10 year old can come up with them, but sadly that is what is happening.
Then the lawyers get involved and its easier and cheaper to settle the case rather than fight it. So even if you don’t infringe a patent you settle because its cheaper than proving that it isn’t infringed. This is what the so called “patent trolls” rely on. This is just wrong, and the problem is that in the USA you just can’t get anything done because trying to change something that everyone knows is wrong is like wading through mud.
We have recently filed a patent around a new way of doing encryption. Our thinking is genuinely unique and original, and it addresses a real need now that many encryption algorithms are being successfully hacked. And we will now share what we are doing so that other people can use it, and we may charge some licensing. That is what patents are for; to promote innovation by allowing genuine original ideas to be shared and those who come up with them to derive some benefit in exchange for sharing them.
What is happening now is Facebook etc. are buying patents so that they can bargain with Yahoo who sues them in order to put pressure on to do a deal. Hat off to Sheryl and Ross for sorting it out, but what they should have done is just do a business deal without the lawyer show or the $1bn price tag for the patents.
The worst is companies who buy patents and all they do is call lawyers and sue other companies who settle even if they are not infringing because it costs more to defend. This is so wrong and anyone who works for one of these patent troll companies should be ashamed of themselves.
I hear that congress is trying to change things and there are a few judges who rightly throw these things out, which is a start, but until then its still just the wrong thing to be doing. Why can’t companies just do the right thing?