All you ever wanted to know about bitcoin but knew you shouldn’t ask an academic

Prologue to a blog post:

Gentle Troppodillians, as you know, we keep up with the times here at Troppo. Some people like to think just five minutes ahead. Here at Troppo we’re focused on the long-term – eons are seconds in TroppoTime – or seconds are eons depending on the way you look at it. So I know you want to get the latest on Bitcoin – and in that regard this post should not disappoint. It is indeed about bitcoin. But . . . there’s more. This post is also a meta on academic discourse – and how limited it is.

Academia is where one would hope to find a large proportion of the most insightful minds. But for some time I’ve been struck by how limited the academic genre is at engaging with the social and economic transformations that are going on around us. Thus Tim O’Reilly’s “What is Web 2.0” and Clay Shirky’s Here comes everybody, were far more insightful than anything in academia. Indeed I remember the articles on government and web 2.0 I first came across in around 2008 or so were particularly woeful.

Their methodology was often something like this:

  • Interview some practitioners
  • If it’s an article about government, interview some government practitioners
  • Ask them some questions and then report their answers in wide-eyed form.

Voila, there’s your article – ready to be published by some worthy mid-level government administration or policy journal. And something you can present at seminars. The people you’ve interviewed may not have a the slightest clue what they’re talking about, but their ‘outputs’, give you ‘inputs’. They’re answers to your questions (they might not be the right questions either) will give you ‘data’. And you understand what that means. It means that in seminars you will be able to begin responses to questions with expressions like “According to our data”.

Your conclusions will contain such gems as “Make sure objectives are clearly specified”. “Be clear about who your stakeholders are, and what they are seeking from the project”. “Stay in close touch with stakeholders”. ”Ensure the project is flexible and responsive to feedback”. “Evaluate the success of your project when it’s complete and (if you’re feeling frisky or a little flamboyant, ensure that evaluation methodologies are considered throughout the process).” All deliciously useless, masking a total lack of insight in generalities. One could offer this advice about any and everything from building a bridge to toilet training your kids. Further elaboration can be had here.

Anyway, here’s another example of the  . . .  Continue reading

Meanwhile Gov 2 keeps surging in the GLAM Sector

GLAM highlights

Here are some headlines marking various milestones of progress and regress in the Government 2.0 agenda.

As we recommended in the Cutler Report donations to the global commons are growing apace.

Meanwhile it’s not surprising that the Scandinavians, who are some of the most impressive governors in the world – along with us and the Canadians – are moving towards their government becoming a purchasing aggregator of digital content for their citizens. Here’s the news on Norway.

The National Library of Norway is digitizing all the books in its collection, processing the text to make it searchable, and making them available to read online.

It’s similar to the mass digitization efforts in the UK and Finland, but Norway has taken the extra step of making agreements with many publishers to allow anyone with a Norway IP address to access copyrighted material.

The library owns equipment for scanning and text structure analysis of the books. It’s also adding metadata and storing the files in a database for easy retrieval.

Librarians estimate the digitization of the entire collection, which includes materials dating back to the Middle Ages, will take 20 to 30 years. The effort started in 2006.

 

Meanwhile our government does something like the converse, helping the firms of the world charge our citizens higher prices than those of other countries.

 

 

The co-operation and assistance of great multitudes

Balls around the world

Like Adam Smith said “In civilized society [man] stands at all times in need of the co-operation and assistance of great multitudes, while his whole life is scarce sufficient to gain the friendship of a few.” And for his own purposes spelled out how complex the manufacture of a simple workman’s shirt was. But here is a nice topical outline of the division of labour going into an object of the moment – the Wimbledon tennis ball manufactured by Slazenger. Click through from the image to the article outlining all the steps in making the ball and showing how what turns up at Wimbledon has been responsible for travels of over 80,000 kms

Nobel Prizes: the hard way

I didn’t know this – until my son told me. From this website.

Sometimes it is necessary for doctors to get access to the heart either for diagnosis or treatment. The simplest way to do this might seem to be to hack open the chest and have a look at the organ itself. Obviously this has massive risks and while even today opening the chest is risky, in the 1930s it would have been almost certainly fatal. Werner Forssman studied corpses and decided it would be possible to pass a thin tube, or catheter, along blood vessels and directly into the heart. Needing to discover whether this would be possible in still living humans he decided an experiment would be in order. He cut open his arm and threaded the tube up and into his heart. A small slip could have torn a major vessel and led to his death but he still needed to prove he had reached the heart. So, with the tube dangling from his arm, he walked from the operating room to an x-ray machine, and took the pictures which showed he had been successful. For this bit of scientific derring-do he shared the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1956.

Naturally two thirds of the current Troppo garage – both the Merc sports and “Rooter” – will be made available over some mutually convenient weekend to any Troppodillian who is able to earn a Nobel Prize in similar fashion.

The Australian Centre for Social Innovation: Alive and Growing

Attentive Troppodillians will be aware of the Australian Centre for Social Innovation which I chair. After looking awfully like our ‘runway’ was coming to an end (as we stay in startup land) our first and still flagship program is growing strongly. Here’s a news story from South Australia.

If you’re interested, relax back on an armchair and watch this 27 minute doco as if it were Australian Story. It’s entertaining and inspiring.

Though if you want just the highlights in the condensed version – they’re here – in a 6 minute video

This video is a bit more focused on the building of the program – ie it’s co-design with its intended beneficiaries