Monday, January 26, 2009

Using IT to create a post-bureaucratic organization

Bringing Change in Government Organizations: Evolution Towards Post-Bureaucracy with Web-Based IT Projects;
This paper examines the following question: How do government organizations become more “post-bureaucratic” with web-based IT projects? It draws on evolutionary thinking to conceptualize processes of change in government organizations as involving sequences of variation, selection, and retention as well as to identify various sources of change: internal ones (e.g. administrators), as well as external ones (e.g. technological innovations and institutional pressures). The paper relates findings from four in-depth qualitative case studies of web-based IT projects in different government organizations. The interpretation of these findings helps expand the evolutionary conceptualization by suggesting how different sources of change interact in the change process and variously affect different stages of the evolution.

Three quotations from the paper;
One of the things that my boss actually wanted to do is start building a knowledge management database, so that when people get phone calls, regardless of what agency does the phone call, there is a knowledge management database that they can refer to be able to better help point that customer in the right direction. That hasn't happened. Part of it was a funding issue also – those packages are very, very expensive - so we just didn't go there.”

“The fear [of government employees] of doing something in a way less than perfect primarily exists toward the outside world. Generally, the way it works in government is that when government makes a mistake, you can read about it in the papers the following day. This, in my view, is the predominant fear of government employees.”

We see people wanting to create an online application that basically mimics the paper process […]. Take [for example] … environmental permits…. There may be paper signatures that are required right now, ink signatures, that are not mandated by any statute or regulation, it’s just that for the last hundred years we've done it this way, so they immediately think, ‘Oh my god, I need an electronic signature’. So we go back and ask, ‘Why do you think you need an electronic signature?’ ‘Because the paper is signed.’ ‘Well, where does it tell you that the paper has to be signed?’ And when they go back and they look at their regulations and statutes, they say, ‘You're right, there's nothing here that says that, so we don't need that, we need to authenticate where the paper's coming from, but we don't need a signature.”

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Did you Know

Two UN agencies have declared 2009 as;

Year of the Gorilla

International Year of Natural Fibres

Cool link for the Day

Crib Candy


Assorted at Neuroanthropology

Obama - Professor President

Obama’s Foursquare Politics, With a Dab of Dijon ;
But while Mr. Obama occasionally slips into the flabby platitudes favored by politicians, enough of the narrative voice in this volume is recognizably similar to the one in “Dreams From My Father,” an elastic, personable voice that is capable of accommodating everything from dense discussions of foreign policy to streetwise reminiscences, incisive comments on constitutional law to New-Agey personal asides. The reader comes away with a feeling that Mr. Obama has not reinvented himself as he has moved from job to job (community organizer in Chicago, editor of The Harvard Law Review, professor of constitutional law, civil rights lawyer, state senator) but has instead internalized all those roles, embracing rather than shrugging off whatever contradictions they might have produced.

Reporters and politicians continually use the word authenticity to describe Mr. Obama, pointing to his ability to come across to voters as a regular person, not a prepackaged pol. And in these pages he often speaks to the reader as if he were an old friend from back in the day, salting policy recommendations with colorful asides about the absurdities of political life.

For Debate

Corseting female sexuality

The whole article is pitched to support that old tired cliché of sexuality that 'women are complicated, men are simple' and it uses the differences in research findings to suggest women are enigmatic, complex, they don't know what they want, or are torn by competing sexual desires.

What do these enigmatic women want?;
Here, we know the score: Diamond arguing women want intimacy, Meana that they want a real man to take them, and Chivers that women want it all, even if they don’t realize it and contradict themselves.

The irony is that, with such a tangle, the conclusion is foreordained: women will seem enigmatic, inconsistent, and irremediably opaque. As I’ll suggest in this, I think that the conclusion is built into the way the question is being asked. If a similar question were asked about nearly any group, in nearly any domain of complex human behaviour, and then a simple single answer were demanded, the questioner would face nearly identical frustration.

Book recommendation

Anticipating Correlations: A New Paradigm for Risk Management
Robert Engle

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Media Trust improves Health

Individuals with high levels of trust in the mass media tend to be healthier, according to a new study of people from 29 Asian countries....

People in Brunei reported the highest levels of health, while those in Turkmenistan had the lowest opinion of their own wellbeing. People in the Maldives reported the highest level of trust in mass media while Hong Kong residents were the most cynical.

-Trusting media may boost health

From Crotch Crescent to Penistone

In the scale of embarrassing place names, Crapstone ranks pretty high. But Britain is full of them. Some are mostly amusing, like Ugley, Essex; East Breast, in western Scotland; North Piddle, in Worcestershire; and Spanker Lane, in Derbyshire.

Others evoke images that may conflict with residents’ efforts to appear dignified when, for example, applying for jobs.

These include Crotch Crescent, Oxford; Titty Ho, Northamptonshire; Wetwang, East Yorkshire; Slutshole Lane, Norfolk; and Thong, Kent. And, in a country that delights in lavatory humor, particularly if the word “bottom” is involved, there is Pratts Bottom, in Kent, doubly cursed because “prat” is slang for buffoon.

As for Penistone, a thriving South Yorkshire town, just stop that sophomoric snickering.

“It’s pronounced ‘PENNIS-tun,’ ” Fiona Moran, manager of the Old Vicarage Hotel in Penistone, said over the telephone, rather sharply. When forced to spell her address for outsiders, she uses misdirection, separating the tricky section into two blameless parts: “p-e-n” — pause — “i-s-t-o-n-e.”

-No Snickering: That Road Sign Means Something Else


What Do Women Want? ;
“I feel like a pioneer at the edge of a giant forest,” Chivers said, describing her ambition to understand the workings of women’s arousal and desire. “There’s a path leading in, but it isn’t much.” She sees herself, she explained, as part of an emerging “critical mass” of female sexologists starting to make their way into those woods. These researchers and clinicians are consumed by the sexual problem Sigmund Freud posed to one of his female disciples almost a century ago: “The great question that has never been answered and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul, is, What does a woman want?

Surveying the Outer Reaches of Lust

Barack Obama’s Prose Style;
And if you look at the text – spread out like a patient etherized upon a table – that’s exactly what it’s like. There are few transitions and those there are – “for,” “nor,” “as for,” “so,” “and so” – seem just stuck in, providing a pause, not a marker of logical progression. Obama doesn’t deposit us at a location he has in mind from the beginning; he carries us from meditative bead to meditative bead, and invites us to contemplate....

There is a technical term for this kind of writing – parataxis, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the placing of propositions or clauses one after the other without indicating . . . the relation of co-ordination or subordination between them.”


Carnival of Podcasts is up.

An overdose of Obama merchandise

We can truly understand the feeling;

Am I the only person who finds the glut of Obama merchandise, well, gross? It has moved from memorializing his victory to trivializing it. There are commemorative newspaper front pages and magazine specials and plates and coins. There are also condoms and cake molds and gym shoes and dolls and comic books and a thousand schlocky t-shirts. (His Senate seat may even have been for sale.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009


Letter from Birmingham Jail

The Origin of Singaporean Crime Policy

How Much Should Judges Make?
Chief Justice Roberts, in his report on the state of the judiciary at the end of 2006, cited a few kinds of data to support his argument that low pay is leading to a crisis. One was that 38 judges left the federal bench between 2000 and 2005, some citing the need to make more money.

Judge Richard A. Posner, a prominent federal appeals court judge in Chicago, called this “crying wolf” in his recent book, “How Judges Think.” The chief justice had lumped retirements and resignations together, Judge Posner said. Only 12 federal judges had resigned out of a total of 1,200 active and senior judges in the years in question, a small number in absolute terms and a smaller percentage than in the six years ending in 1974.

Judge Posner did not dispute that low pay may mean that there are fewer judges coming from private firms, but he did not see why that should matter so long as there appear to be plenty of qualified candidates.

Yes we can, Mr Geithner

Forgive and Forget?

Keith Olbermann's tribute to Bush

Bethany McLean on Daily Show

Bethany McLean weighs in on financial corruption and incompetence.

The Enron Story That Waited To Be Told ;

Bethany McLean, a 31-year-old Fortune magazine reporter with an impossibly soft voice, decided to take a hard look at Enron last January.

The Houston energy company didn't like her questions. The CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, called her unethical and hung up on her. The chairman, Kenneth Lay, called Fortune's managing editor to complain. The chief financial officer, Andrew Fastow, flew to New York to tell McLean and her editors that Enron was in great shape.

McLean refused to be intimidated. "The company remains largely impenetrable to outsiders," she wrote in Fortune's March 5, 2001, issue. "How exactly does Enron make its money? Details are hard to come by because Enron keeps many of the specifics confidential. . . . Analysts don't seem to have a clue." All this amounted to a "red flag" that "may increase the chance of a nasty surprise."

What I'm reading

Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

Kenneth Rogoff Interview, The Region

Making Great Decisions in Business and Life, David R. Henderson

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Matt Taibbi takes on Thomas Friedman

In The World is Flat, the key action scene of the book comes when Friedman experiences his pseudo-epiphany about the Flat world while talking with himself in front of InfoSys CEO Nandan Nilekani. In Hot, Flat and Crowded, the money shot comes when Friedman starts doodling on a napkin over lunch with Moisés Naím, editor of Foreign Policy magazine. The pre-lunching Friedman starts drawing, and the wisdom just comes pouring out:

I laid out my napkin and drew a graph showing how there seemed to be a rough correlation between the price of oil, between 1975 and 2005, and the pace of freedom in oil-producing states during those same years.

Friedman then draws his napkin-graph, and much to the pundit’s surprise, it turns out that there is almost an exact correlation between high oil prices and “unfreedom”! The graph contains two lines, one showing a rising and then descending slope of “freedom,” and one showing a descending and then rising course of oil prices.

Friedman plots exactly four points on the graph over the course of those 30 years. In 1989, as oil prices are falling, Friedman writes, “Berlin Wall Torn Down.” In 1993, again as oil prices are low, he writes, “Nigeria Privatizes First Oil Field.” 1997, oil prices still low, “Iran Calls for Dialogue of Civilizations.” Then, finally, 2005, a year of high oil prices: “Iran calls for Israel’s destruction.”Take a look for yourself: I looked at this and thought: “Gosh, what a neat trick!” Then I sat down and drew up my own graph, called SIZE OF VALERIE BERTINELLI’S ASS, 1985-2008, vs. HAP- PINESS. It turns out that there is an almost exact correlation! Note the four points on the graph:

-Flat N All That

What's her fault?

Being a Palestinian?

Art Therapy for Terrorism

From Jihad to Rehab;
In the first episode of Focal Point, From Jihad to Rehab, Canadian journalist Nancy Durham takes us inside a rehabilitation center in Saudi Arabia, where art therapy and religious re-education are being used to reform militant jihadists,

How to Negotiate with the Chinese

Cultural Notes on Chinese Negotiating Behavior

Friday, January 16, 2009

Photo Caption Contest

Israelis from Kibbutz, near the Gaza border, watched shelling in the distance

The Outliers


THE ART INSTINCT-Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution
By Denis Dutton

Denis Dutton is the founder and editor of the hugely popular Web site Arts & Letters Daily, named by the Guardian as the best Web site in the world. He also founded and edits the journal Philosophy and Literature, and is a professor of the philosophy of art at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What it takes for a girl to go to school in Afghanistan

One morning two months ago, Shamsia Husseini and her sister were walking through the muddy streets to the local girls school when a man pulled alongside them on a motorcycle and posed what seemed like an ordinary question.

“Are you going to school?”

Then the man pulled Shamsia’s burqa from her head and sprayed her face with burning acid. Scars, jagged and discolored, now spread across Shamsia’s eyelids and most of her left cheek. These days, her vision goes blurry, making it hard for her to read...

My parents told me to keep coming to school even if I am killed,” said Shamsia, 17, in a moment after class. Shamsia’s mother, like nearly all of the adult women in the area, is unable to read or write. “The people who did this to me don’t want women to be educated. They want us to be stupid things.”

-Afghan Schoolgirls Undeterred by Attack

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Before you go to the Doctor

Assorted on In Search of a Good Doctor;

Health Calculators

Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making

Cardiac Risk Calculator

Medical Library Association

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

State of California Report Card

and more here.

Religion promotes self-control

“We simply asked if there was good evidence that people who are more religious have more self-control,” Dr. McCullough. “For a long time it wasn’t cool for social scientists to study religion, but some researchers were quietly chugging along for decades. When you add it all up, it turns out there are remarkably consistent findings that religiosity correlates with higher self-control.”

As early as the 1920s, researchers found that students who spent more time in Sunday school did better at laboratory tests measuring their self-discipline. Subsequent studies showed that religiously devout children were rated relatively low in impulsiveness by both parents and teachers, and that religiosity repeatedly correlated with higher self-control among adults. Devout people were found to be more likely than others to wear seat belts, go to the dentist and take vitamins.

But which came first, the religious devotion or the self-control? It takes self-discipline to sit through Sunday school or services at a temple or mosque, so people who start out with low self-control are presumably less likely to keep attending. But even after taking that self-selection bias into account, Dr. McCullough said there is still reason to believe that religion has a strong influence.

Brain-scan studies have shown that when people pray or meditate, there’s a lot of activity in two parts of brain that are important for self-regulation and control of attention and emotion,” he said. “The rituals that religions have been encouraging for thousands of years seem to be a kind of anaerobic workout for self-control.”

-Religion and Self-Control

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Photo caption contest

Israelis watched smoke rise above the northern Gaza Strip

New Year in KL

Police warned that the "no-underwear" event for under-40s, advertised through a website that asked for 250 ringgit ($A100) as an entrance fee, could be a money-making scam.

Party organisers had reportedly said that male guests were banned from wearing briefs to the event, while women were permitted to wear only G-string underwear that had to be removed after midnight.

-Dozens arrested at Malaysian 'sex party'

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fact or Fiction

One developmental psychologist even admitted, one year ago on this very website, that researchers hadn't yet found proof that "parents do shape their children," but she was still convinced that they will eventually find it, if they just keep searching long enough

-The idea of zero parental influence

BH Economics Blog Awards 2009

Bayesian Heresy Economics Blog Awards 2009

A good parenting tip?

We should bring up our children with more emphasis on self-control and less on self-esteem.

via New Year's Resolution: Get Happy

Three New Blogs

Three new blogs have been added to our group of blogs;

Tracking the Economy
The Blog University