Do British people have a voice?

What impressed me in this post on the Nick Robinson's BBC Weblog is, actually, not the contents of the post itself (we all knew about the "poodle factor" in British politics way before!) but the comments to it.

Once again I've seen that people in the UK are very much concerned with their country's past, present and future, and they cannot watch indifferently how the current government obediently follows the US President's bold line to destroy the world with his Cold War tactics. They are sincere and open end express their thoughts on the BBC Weblog with a confidence and involvment of the true patriots of their country.

One of the respondents wrote that the Blair/Bush meeting at the White House is "just a way to make Blair more comfortable with his alliance and the British people feel like we have a voice when we have nothing of the sort".

No, it's not true. British people do have a voice and should be proud of it. And Mr.Blair will never feel comfortable with any alliance as long as he works for this country and the people of this country do not share his views and choices and, what's more important, do not keep quite about it.


Minefield of blogging?

Many people assume their blog is read only by people they know. However, this is often not the case and a recent story about the dismissal of a secretary over her blog writing proves that.

There are disputes regarding the bloggers legal rights and speculations on the "fine line between an individual's private online writings and their public work persona". The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published detailed tips on how to stay anonymous and advises against blogging in work time.

But shouldn't we just follow one simple tip: respect.

Blogging is selfish by nature, since the blogger's primary objective is to express himself to the world regardless whether the world wants it or not. A respectful attitude rules out the blogger's selfish behaviour.

This ruling looks as simple as that: before publishing another masterpiece, just pause for a second and ask yourself a couple of questions, such as: "Who are the people I'm going to mention/ refer to in my post? Would they like to go public?"

When I say "people", I mean not only collegues, bosses and other characters from the one's "public" life, but also close friends, family, relatives. And when I say "post", I mean not only stories about personal and public life (including job), but also comments, photos and jokes - they might look innocent for you but have another meaning for the others.

Different people tolerate different level of public exposure, and I think this is what bloggers should remember first, before starting to worry about copyrights, defamation or the employer's bad publicity.


What Business Can Learn from Open Source (part 2)

Shall we continue?

Last time I've made coments on the Paul Graham's essay, it was about Workplaces.
Now, let's challenge Mr.Graham's views on quality and professionalism.

Being devoted evangelist of open source, he starst essay with a bold statement that [open source] is something people do themselves, for free, because they enjoy it (like blogging). Who would argue? But the following passage makes my eyebrows rising:

"The method of ensuring quality is... Darwinian. Companies ensure quality through rules to prevent employees from screwing up. But you don't need that when the audience communicate with one another. People just produce whatever they want; the good stuff spreads, and the bad gets ignored".

Isn't it too good to be true? We all know very well that the Net is full of "bad stuff" and its volume is growing exponentially. Moreover, the "bad stuff" has its own enormous audience and is flourishing on feedback. Following the essay author's line, "feedback...impoves the best work", and that equally implies for both "good" an "bad" stuff, save the specific meaning of "best work" in the "bad" contents.

Quality and joy - sure they go together, but in a much more complex way than Mr.Graham sees...

Further on, Graham elaborates on the prominent distinction between professionals, associated with the "old" business model, and amateurs - those who "work for love and often surpass those working for money".

Yes, if we define professional as the person who accepts payments [for work], (s)he is different from the amateur. But let's look more thoroughly at the definition of profession?

"A profession is an occupation that requires extensive training and the study and mastery of specialized knowledge, and usually has a professional association, ethical code and process of certification or licensing".

All checked, and what do we see?

Mr. Graham's "amateurs" turn into the professionals who "work a lot harder" and for free on something they really like.

If you do something you like but do not possess required knowledge, skills and competences, you won't be able to produce a valuable output, will you? Of course, open source provides enormous support and stimulates rapid development through communication and instant feedback, but feedback itself will hardly cover blank spots on your "professional" mind-map.

I think, what business can learn from open source is that there is no real competition between professionals and amateurs, but there is a competition between professionals, and it was always like that. Just the environment changes...

As Mr.Grahams said: "In the most literal sence,... there is nothing new in it".


How well do I deal with my teen?

While visiting this, I couldn't resist to do a couple of tests concerning two issues important to every parent: knowledge of the teens culture and ability to deal with a teen in conflict.

So, the first test was not as easy as it seemed (5 questions only) because it included questions like "What is special K?" and, of course, I didn't have a slightest idea. Nevertheless, I've managed to score 60% having correctly answered a question "What is Korn" and other two - not so bad!

The second test was much more serious and it was a challenging task, indeed. Why? Because for each of 10 questions there were only two options for answers, and being "old" enough to have a teen child you could obviously figure out which answer is "correct".

I've tried to be honest with myself.

The most difficult question was:

When your teen is angry and hostile, do you escalate the drama or do you work to calm the situation and deal with it when your teen is more under control?

I've opted for the second part, although my guilty conscience didn't let me to make this choice easily - on the contrary... Yeah, the truth is that there were a couple... ok ten - maximum fifteen accounts when (I wish) I could be more calm, thoughtful and patient. But look, guys, I'm also young and have temper, frustrations...just bad days! It's so easy to make wise suggestions like "let the situation diffuse and deal with it when he or she is calmer". Try and do it when your teen tends to get out of control AT LEAST three times a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That makes a good 1095 units of sustainability-tesitng per annum, and I wish your manage to get through without casualties.

Anyway, at the end of ends my score was as high as 90%! Which means that I'm "doing well communicating with my teen when there are conflicts". Wishful thinking?

I can see my lovely daughter reading this post, smiling and nodding disapprovingly, and I hope she won't punish me too much for trying to make things better than they are (sometimes). Because I love her very much and try to be a good Mum.

After all, I KNOW what Korn is, ha?


Knife amnesty

This BBC update made me upset.

I've met a lot of people from the UK here, in Cyprus. Also, we have been in England some time ago and saw different people in London, Manchester, Liverpool. What I remember that, although regularly spotting crime news in Daily Telegraph and scaring articles in magazines, I didn't feel insecure over there. More on the contrary. Friendly people, nice places, interesting events... Even Manchester did not made on us as dreadful impression as some articles and blogs might produce.

However it appears that the ordinary life in England has its dark side. .This particular issue is much disturbing for me because our daughter is going to study in the UK in future. We had been at the Manchester University Open Day, saw the Uni and campus crowded with girls and boys - talking, smiling, with nice open faces. It didn't surprise me that Manchester has been voted the coolest place in the UK outside London by a survey of 18-30 year olds and that it's the third smiliest place in the UK. I was smiling over there all the time!

And now I've learnt that most victims and offenders in the Manchester crime statistics are young people, and some clubs have started introducing airport-style knife detectors at their entrances...

This is sad, and I really don't want to start thinking that there might be other palces to go for studying...


I was born to work with numbers

All the early years of my life I've desperately spent in the music and arts enviroment. That was, actually, my destiny and life-path predetermined by one genuine and unavoidable superpower-force - parents. Been very advanced in maths and having learned how to read and add at the age, when average toddler learns how to walk and run, I was chained to the piano and school's choir for ages...

Since perfection was my ultimate goal in everything, I'd managed to graduate with honours from the Moscow State Conservatory, got my PhD and even published two books and some articles on contemporary music and art. Funny though, in the huge field of the music theory I'd discovered - surprisingly enough - one semi-deserted area where my restless and number-striving mind could get a playground and searchlab the same - this is a theory of Serial Music. Studying and scrutinising endless scores and workings of great composers and analysts during so many days and sleepless nights, I've learned how to turn the music into beautiful equations and proportions, how to find symmetry, balances and progressions in the music texture and - most important - I've discovered that the numerical and logical orders, which I'd carefully ( and maybe rather ackwardly) derived from that music, had been there way before I came to find it... So, the beauty of numbers had been unveiled once again, and I think that was a turning point for my further life and career development.

Why? Because at present I'm a qualified accountant, ACCA member and my everyday chores have absolutly nothing to do with music and arts - unless you count playing CD and occasionally watching my daughter's painting on the opposite wall... But not as simple as that, though.

It seems now that my hard work had served a purpose after all, and more than one.

In the Russian music theory Serial music was presented as underdeveloped area. My initial adea to summarise and further develop existing findings had evolved into a solid monography which had been highly appraised in 1996 (although some people thought that so young girl could not produce something worthy), and the one can spot numerous references and quotes in the Inet articles and catalogues like this for example, mostly in Russia, but in some other countries as well, like Germany, France, China, Azerbaijan - honestly, bearing in mind highly specific nature of the subject, I didn't aim so far...

Also, analytical experience gained in "that" part of my life was very useful and helped me a lot to accommodate myself rather fast and comfortable in accountancy and finacial analysis. It seems sometimes that I could see figures and grasp their sense, meaning and correlations almost instantly, like if I would hear their wonderful music. It's still amazing, after several years on the new grounds, and I'll never get bored of it.


What Business Can Learn from Open Source(c)

Recently I had a conversation with friends regarding the benefits of open source. Some references had been made to Paul Graham's talk at Oscon in 2005, so I was keen to find and read this essay.
Very inspiring and truly reflects the reality.

Just want to make some comments on one particular topic on which Paul Graham elaborates so knowingly... This is about Workplaces - those places where most of us spent a great deal of our lives.

As I can see, Graham's points are:

- The average office is a miserable place to get work done;
- The most demoralising aspect of the traditional facetime model is that you're supposed to be at work at certain times;
- People at the office are prevented from having fun;
- Open sourse and blogging show us what real work looks like;
- Working in crappy informal spaces is better than at office;
- Separation of work and life is one of the key tenets of professionalism.

Of course this is just a bit of exaggeration and the one should bear in mind that this talk had a purpose and been addressed to a certain auditorium. Anyway, without arguing in principle, I want to challenge the author's view on demoralising aspect of the facetime model.

Yeah, who wants to wake up every morning ang go robotlikely to that place the very look of which might send you into the deepest desperation... It looks so great and promising per Graham: wake up any time you like, enjoy your long leisury breakfast, spend hours pondering over some great thoughts and then, being led by sudden breathtaking inspiration, make a discovery of your lifetime which changes the world overnight...

As it turns rather often, many of us would easily get stuck on the leisure-pondering stage without further realisation into something sensible (readable, visible, eatable whatever). So, the boredome of the dull days at the office will be replaced by the boredom of sitting-in-crappy-informal-space(vivat Graham)thinking-doing-nothing... I'm not against informality. I'm for having in mind that some people lack self-discipline, and opensource model might be a threat to their ability to self-control and self-motivate without bad guy from managerial pushing your back from time to time(or kicking your bum - just what is necessary to keep things moving).

And why we cannot have fun at the office? Ofcourse, you might not be able to laugh girls/boys aloud in front of your boss every now and then, but it's almost unbeleivable that the one cannot find time to share a fresh joke with a collegue or surf the Net to find some funny stuff and send to friends. I do not mention extra facilities and staff gatherings which indeed might bring life and fun into everydays office routine. Look, guys, sometimes I'm alone in the office laughing so much over some funny stuff from Inet or telephone conversation with a friend, that my stomach churns. Am I Crazy?

Finally, I found it very funny that Graham suggested to arrange for the Work Day at office, when employees would be prevented from communication and forced to work eight hours flat. Nowadays, nobody can interrupt communication process (unless, ofcourse, the lines are cut and each employee been continuosly supervised face-to-face by invigilator). Probably, the Work Day will be a real fun and sort of a competition for Who Cheats the Boss Better...

I like freedom and sometimes (very often, in fact) I hate office chores. But I don't agree that profeccionalism and realisation depend on where people work. These qualities depend on many other factors, including the one's ability to keep life and work together and have a true joy in "both" of them.



I've got some experience to write on the other people's blogs, so this is time to start doing something on my own.
I've put the description of my blog as "stories and thoughts". It means that I'm going to write something that might be interesting for the outer world (at least for the visitors of my blog). Who knows: may be I'm gonna be a good storyteller or have some thoughts worth to put in writing... We'll see!

P.S. Expecting some response from one nice guy who knows about it:)