Hans D. Baumeister

Hans D. Baumeister

Oldie but goodie: Rowing Team parable

This is an oldie but goodie from my Kodak days (we’re talking 90’s here, folks) - enjoy:


Once upon a time, an American photographic company and a Japanese photographic company decided to have a competitive boat race on the Genesee River. Both teams practiced hard and long to reach their peak performance. On the big day, they were as ready as they could be.

The Japanese team won by a mile.

Afterwards, the American team became discouraged by the loss and their morale sagged. Corporate Management decided that the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found. A continuous measurable improvement team of executives was set up to investigate the problem and to recommend appropriate corrective action.

Their conclusion: The problem was that the Japanese team had 8
people rowing and 1 person steering, whereas the American team had 1 person rowing and 8 people steering. The American corporate steering committee immediately hired a consulting firm to do a study on the management structure.

After some time and billions of dollars, the consulting firm concluded that "too many people were steering and not enough rowing". To prevent losing to the Japanese again next year, the management structure was changes to "4 steering managers, 3 area steering
managers, and 1 staff steering manager" and a new performance system for the person rowing the boat to give more incentive to work harder and become a six sigma performer. "We must give him empowerment and enrichment" - that ought to do it.

The next year the Japanese won by 2 miles.

The American corporation laid off the rower for poor performance sold all of the paddles, cancelled all capital investments for new equipment, halted development of a new canoe, awarded high
performance awards to the consulting firm and distributed the money saved as bonuses to the senior executives


Ultrasound Networks for Divers

The Verge reported yesterday on a new type of diving console (the device attached to a hose that goes to your vest and lets you control buoyancy as well as giving you information such as depth, etc.) that hooks into a communications network based on ultrasound.

This network allows divers to communicate amongst each other as well as with the “base station” on the diving boat.

The idea, of course, was prone to pop up. Communication between divers under water is line-of-sight only, since it isn’t possible to speak under water - at least with normal scuba gear, This is why every dive should be done with a “buddy” - i.e. a one-to-one pairing of divers that keep each other in sight.

A lot of responsibility rests on the organizer of a diving trip - usually an instructor - when he or she takes a group of divers (not seldom 10 or more) on a dive. If you have inexperienced divers in the group, the “take care of your buddy” system frequently breaks, because it’s so damn pretty down there...

However, I see two main issues with introduction of this type of technology:

1. The buddy system works well - if both divers apply it properly - for a number of reasons. Often, the buddies are friends in real life (most people go diving with their significant other or friends instead of going on a diving trip alone), which helps in many situations where communication is key - if one of the two runs out of air, for example

I’m quite afraid that introduction of underwater communications will break the buddy system and create groupings of divers, as well as the breaking away of individual divers from the group that prefer to dive alone. Should something bad happen - from something simple as a calf cramp to more serious issues such as a broken respirator or a diver that gets stuck in a crack - panic will likely ensue. Everybody will start hitting buttons to “ping” others resulting in a communications overload of the network and a guaranteed negative outcome to the situation.

2. Ultrasonic communication underwater isn’t new; it’s been around as a military application for many years. It does have environmental issues, however. Ultrasound (defined as any sound frequency above 20kHz) is audible to many fish and other marine animals. If you’ve even been diving at the typical hotspots worldwide, you know how crowded those spots get. I’ve seen spots with 10 diving vessels, each carrying up to 30 divers. Imagine the sound pollution generated by 300 divers in the water at a single location, each hooked into an ultrasound network... I don’t want to think about what that will do to the fauna in the area!

Technology is a good thing - I’ll be the first to tell you that. But some things work just fine without it, better even. Personally, I think the buddy system for divers is one of those.
That such a system used only for emergency beaconing would be a benefit goes without saying, of course.

Web Journalism: Where are the editors?

To get updates on various topics, I’ve subscribed to various Twitter feeds. Many of these are not based on traditional journalism models (i.e. Newspapers) but on small, startup agencies that cover specialized subjects. Unfortunately, the issue that many journalists predicted would happen with Web 2.0 journalism seems to be taking hold: the quality of the writing is, IMHO, below 10th grade level.

this post from Mashable as an example. Simple errors here that are easily prevented with one quick look at Google Maps: 1) Jeddah isn’t “near” the Red Sea. It is ON the Red Sea. And Dubai isn’t a neighbor to Saudi Arabia. The United Arab Emirates are. Abu Dhabi is. But Dubai isn’t. Also, if you look at the linked original article, Mashable has conveniently ignored a very important statement: “The $1.2bn (RM4bn) project has been plagued by setbacks since it was first proposed in 2011...”

Nitpicking? Hm. Maybe.

How about this article on Techcrunch. Skip to the section on the wind turbine “Trinity”. And I quoth from the text: “The micro USB port is used to charge the turbine before it can be uses with a 15,000 mAh battery. “ Ummm... why do I have to charge the turbine before using it? And what sort of grammar is “before it can be uses with a ... battery”??? That sentence doesn’t even make any sense!

This sentence from the same post is even better: “The mini turbine is powered by a 15W generator.” Um. I thought the mini turbine is wind-powered? Try: “A 15W generator is powered by the mini turbine”... ahh! Now I get it.

To be fair to Techcrunch: they merely copied the text 1:1
from the Backerjack site. Maybe that’s the new journalism: surf the internet for possibly interesting material, steal the text on these sites without reading it, paste it to your own website and put your name to it to make people think you wrote this stuff yourself.

On Techcrunch, Mr.
Ross Rubin, who posted the article above, did just that. This gentleman calls himself “principal analyst” at Reticle Research, “which he founded in 2012” (please note the quotes - when I got my degrees, we were still taught that sentences from other sources need to be quoted - something Mr. Rubin apparently didn’t learn). I always thought analysts... well - analyze? If you’d like to know what an industry analyst does, check out this extensive entry in Wikipedia.

I don’t want to only pick on Mr. Rubin here - I’ve noticed this as a general trend, and not just in the US. Apparently, the social media culture generates so much pressure to tweet, post, link and blog that folks would actually be required to sit down for a couple of hours a day to generate output.

Good thing that with WYSIWYG computing, Cmd-C/Cmd-V (that’s Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V for you poor folks out there still using Windows) was part of the “package”. And good thing those two keys are so close to one another, otherwise one would burn even more calories copying other folk’s 5th-grade-level content by having to use two hands to plagiarize.

******** April 22 Update: on the day I published this, Mr. Rubin sent me a tweet: “@hdbaumeister Thanks for pointing out the issues. I’ll address them.” He did and I definitely want to mention that here. Subsequently, you’ll find the linked article above has been edited. Thanks, Mr. Rubin!

Mac Ad from 1984 - With an iPod!

I remember seeing this ad on TV back in 1984; at the time I was using an Atari 1200 computer but had a chance to use Macs at RIT a year later.

Coming across this ad video on YouTube, I noticed something I don’t recall from seeing the ad 30 years ago (yikes, I’m getting old!):


This is the part where the girl just lets go of the hammer that destroys the big screen.

Notice something? She’s wearing an iPod! With clickwheel!

The original iPod came out in 2001, so in 1984, when the ad was broadcast, no-one had probably even thought of putting something like an iPod together.

If you check out
this YouTube video in comparison (which is the original clip), you’ll find that the girl isn’t wearing an iPod.

Here is a screenshot of nearly the same frame from that video:


So the above video has been altered; I would say in a massively professional manner, not something you do with mickey-mouse editing software. They probably had an actress, all dressed in black, emulate the girl’s movements. That way, you can capture the motion and light effects of the iPod and the headphone cord properly and overlay it on the original ad video.

The description of the top YouTube entry clears up the mystery:

Published on Oct 18, 2012
For the 20th anniversary of the Macintosh, Apple re-released the ad with the runner wearing an iPod. Steve Jobs unveiled the ad during Macworld San Francisco.