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Comment: Re:Information isn't matter, symbols are one encod (Score 4, Interesting) 211

by Shazback (#47117913) Attached to: Amazon Confirms Hachette Spat Is To "Get a Better Deal"
"Mathematics, Fashion, Automotive industries have no copyrights or design patents and yet are very profitable"

You might have been lured in by a very bad TEDx talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/johanna_blakley_lessons_from_fashion_s_free_culture) but this is pretty much entirely false.

Mathematics is not profitable, by pretty much any metric imaginable. Lots of things that use mathematics are very profitable (pretty much the entire IT sector and any heavily engineered business), but mathematics itself isn't. In order to translate mathematics into goods and services, a significant amount of work is required, and whilst the mathematics itself can't be protected under IP laws, the product of the work put into making the service or good can. Programs can be copyrighted, goods or services that leverage mathematical properties can be patented if they meet the required criteria, and so forth.

The automotive industry is a hot-bed of IP protection. Ford alone has been assigned over 6 000 patents in the US, looking only at the records from 1979 onwards (http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.htm&r=0&f=S&l=50&d=PTXT&RS=AN%2FFord&Refine=Refine+Search&Refine=Refine+Search&Query=AN%2FFord+and+Global+and+Technologies). Toyota, VW and all the other major automobile manufacturers have similarly huge patent stashes that they guard preciously. In the past decades they have been more aggressive with design patents in order to stop aftermarket parts makers from successfully entering the replacement parts market. Design patents are ubiquitous, and pretty much every single car since the 70s has a few... Porsche (http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect2=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/search-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&d=PALL&RefSrch=yes&Query=PN/D673484), Toyota(http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect2=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/search-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&d=PALL&RefSrch=yes&Query=PN/D688160), Ford (http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect2=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/search-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&d=PALL&RefSrch=yes&Query=PN/D488405) just to name one in each major market.

As for fashion, well it's hardly a brilliant example of a "beneficiary" industry when it is the sector that pursues the most aggressive out-sourcing and mechanisation strategies. Buying things made in the USA isn't always easy, but for clothes it's almost impossible. A few companies that are pushing the high end of the market manage it, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement of a sector that is in great health.

But beyond the obvious financial difficulties that many fashion companies have had over the past decade or two, a more potent criticism is the actual lack of innovation that fashion has brought over the past century or even two. In 1930 IT didn't even exist as a sector, and pretty much every aspect of our lives have been transformed. Cooking has seen the meteoric rise of the microwave oven and the freezer, whilst fridges became basic home appliances. Communications went from the radio to TV and online broadcasting, whilst telephones have become mobile personal assistants. Cars have seen vast transformations in performance, variety and ease of use. Air travel has gone from a luxury reserved to a prestigious and wealthy elite to a popular mode of transport. Electricity has definitively finished its transformation from a convenient novelty to a base necessity of achieving any decent standard of living. Plastics have gone from being synonymous with bakelite to a whole group of materials with ever more varied properties...

The changes in pretty much every facet of life have been huge thanks to sustained innovation over the past century. What has fashion (or even apparel in a larger sense) brought to the table? Very little I fear. New materials have been brought to the market by companies that had nothing to do with fashion, being only used by fashion as a direct substitute for a different material well after the product had been developed (like Nylon, developed by DuPont and first used as toothbrush bristles and only used as a direct replacement for silk in stockings seven years later... by DuPont ! ). Sure, some fashions have done away with some conventions (hats), or shifted perceptions on what is appropriate or not (jeans). However nobody can hold a straight face whilst claiming that the fashion industry's lack of IP regulation has spurred it to greater innovation than heavily protected sectors such as IT or manufacturing.

Going back to the initial statement for a second, it still seems surprising that all sources seem to agree that people spend less each year on clothing (and fashion in general) than they do on cars by a vast margin. Whilst the latter are certainly extremely useful and in rural environments almost mandatory, the former is quite literally mandatory in order to live in society. That a non-necessary sector manages to trump so convincingly a necessity of social life shows that for many people fashion fails to capture their imagination and interest, whilst the automotive industry manages to do so and in this manner convince them to part with a greater share of their money.

Comment: Re: Looks nice; way too expensive (Score 1) 251

by Shazback (#44444327) Attached to: Ubuntu Edge Smartphone Funding Trends Low
Damage risks also did the project in for me. I've just bought a nexus 4, and despite that the project looks tasty. Incredible specs, dual boot android (if I don't like canonical's os), etc. The works. 600-800 bucks for a phone I'll only see in a year (at best) isn't great, but I can live with that and it can always make a nice present for my s.o. or parents. Like everybody, I've got the odd question, but nothing so significant it would have been "make or break". But the more I thought about it, the more I felt damage would be a p.i.t.a. The OS relies heavily on "edge gestures" and the design is very, very much reliant on the edge of the screen being flush with the casing. Swiping seems to be more common than tapping or prodding in Canonical's OS, and unlike iOS or android, these swipes don't rely on prompts or skeudomorphics, but are accessible by "edge". All this means that the chance of knocking the phone out of your hand in "normal use" is increased, on top of the risks of falling, dropping, etc. that all phones have. Furthermore, whilst sapphire crystals are highly scratch resistant, they're also very brittle. As they're flush with the edges (I'm not sure if the design is supposed to help in this regards, but I don't think it would affect screen shattering), this means there is nowhere but the screen for the energy to disperse. Cases with rubberised edges are a no-no because of edge gestures. The angled slab design also makes finding and producing a viable design is going to be a lot harder. Although given it's a limited run, I don't see who would give it much effort. As far as I can see there is no lanyard holder, so that's also out of the question (short of taking a gamble and drilling into the phone case on the hope that the honeycombed structure won't snap because the holes you made weakened the structure). All this means increased risk of broken screens. I've yet to shatter a screen on my phones, but then again I've always used a lanyard & case combo. Sapphire screens being rare, they'll be expensive and hard to find (if they even can be found). Damaged internals won't have much in the way of repair options due to the small volumes and the most likely over-cramped interior. This seems to me to be a very serious oversight by not just the hardware team, but also the software team. Dropping phones and cracking screens are things that happen quite often overall. It's why phone cases are a multi-million business, and why most people (experiences may vary) have cases. It's any phone repair businesses are a multi-million business and spare parts are a significant part of manufacturers' revenue streams. Making people swipe from the edge increases this risk significantly, and not finding a design that mitigated that risk isn't indicative in my opinion of a great first step towards a revolutionary superphone.

Comment: Re: Demand More (Score 1) 665

by Shazback (#42772691) Attached to: As Music Streaming Grows, Royalties Slow To a Trickle
If you were rich enough, you did. Troubadours, orchestras, cover bands... All technology has done is drive down the price of this type of service by several orders of magnitude, and re-directed some of the cash flow to the original artists. When an orchestra played the latest "hit", most of the time none of that money would ever reach the composer. Whilst a few composers would be paid by the printers, most composers actually paid the printer or even did it for free so that they would be better known and thus incite people to come and listen to "the real version". Most of the larger orchestras (philharmonics, symphonics, etc.) were paid by local nobility or royals at relatively meager wages, and composers would be invited to perform for free, something they happily did because of the status boost such a concert could have. Once the composer left however, the copies used by the musicians to learn the piece would usually be left for the orchestra to use, and usually became the basis for "bootleg" copies of sheet music, which gave naturally no revenue to the composer and enabled many, many more orchestras to learn the music at a very reasonable cost.

Original artists weren't paid much for most of human history because their ideas would be duplicated by others, enhanced, transformed, etc. The cost of maintaining musicians was high, but that didn't have any effect on the original artist's income. Today, the cost of buying an iPod/MP3 player and stuffing it full of music (or streaming, or...) is much lower. But because we have recognised copyrights for musicians, they get some revenue from these sales/performances. Sure, they don't get as much as they did at the beginning of the music industry (mid-20th century), but as the parent poster said, that was the exception rather than the rule. As technology goes forwards, the "revenue per purchase/performance" of non-live music will decline (accounting for inflation, etc.), but never quite be nil. On the other hand, the revenue from live performances will remain stable, and perhaps even increase thanks to platforms like StageIt, easier access to additional merchandising and greater independence of artists.

Oh, and I have the "benefit of their work anytime I want" only if I (or an advertiser, or a company, etc.) have paid the musician (or the label, or the agent, etc.), which means that they "get to benefit from their own work". Spotify offers 0.4 cents a performance. Too low? Don't agree to let Spotify use your music. You might lose some exposure though, and if you've agreed to let a label sell your rights, then raise the issue with your label. The only case in which the musician doesn't get any benefit from their work is in the case of pirated/illegally copied music. Whilst this is an issue, it's not the one in the topic, which is about legally streamed music.

Comment: Re:Abused, yes. Most abused, probably not. (Score 1) 287

by Shazback (#41198493) Attached to: Is Innovation the Most Abused Word In Business?
My links didn't seem to format properly, so here they are in un-edited format : http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=13671279 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1559-1816.2003.tb01876.x/abstract

These both clearly show social facilitation for cognitive tasks, with effects that increase as the task is complexified.

The article you put forth, by the way, doesn't support your initial postulate that the Ringelmann effect "means" the group cannot perform better than the sum of its parts. They did not disprove in any way the Köhler effect. They merely were not able to say that the variation was statistically significant. This is very interesting (particularly given that the second study, concerning word associations, indicates a decrease in performance in almost all group situations), but I can't find a follow-up work. Usually, this is the sign that there was a parameter that was unaccounted for and after correcting the structure of the experiment the results were "as expected", or merely that upon repeating the experiment they observed the expected outcome. Furthermore, I can't seem to find the paper you are putting forth in its full form, nor in a journal. The work in question seems to have been presented at two working groups (the EAESP General meeting 2005 and the Jena Social Psychology Task Group 2005), and then quite suddely vanished. The University hasn't kept the presentations (the wayback machine has archived them, but the links on the university's own page are dead : http://epb.uni-hamburg.de/de/node/3703 ), Dr Nina Plum now works as a consultant, and I can't find Gabriele Engelhardt on either the university's website nor an open search. Dr. Witte has retired, but only in 2011, and after 2005 there does not seem to be any collaboration between any of the three authors to deepen the elements presented in this research.

This isn't an attempt at character assassination, but I feel you're engaging in what would pass for irrational behaviour in conspiracy circles. Evidence that goes your way is necessarily true, despite being incomplete, not peer reviewed, nor having been followed-up, whereas evidence that suggests the opposite is "wrong" despite meeting all these criteria.

Comment: Re:Abused, yes. Most abused, probably not. (Score 1) 287

by Shazback (#41179989) Attached to: Is Innovation the Most Abused Word In Business?
I'm not an MBA either, but I don't know where you find that the Köhler effect doesn't apply to cognitive tasks. Various papers tend to indicate that the Köhler effect does cross over to purely cognitive tasks. Always with the same rules : conjunctive task, limited discrepancy between team members, information about each member's performance being available.

I'm not saying that in every or even most situations groups out-perform individuals. In many cases it's true that social loafing and other effects decrease group members' performance. But the point that you made was incorrect as a general rule. Social facilitation has been described for ages and ages, and shows that people who are good at things perform even better when they are in a competitive environment. Yes, not all workplaces are (nor should be) competitive environments. But this just reinforces the need for managers who actually understand these aspects rather than yes-men with MBA-lights who just bleat "synergy" every time they enter a meeting room. A good manager should be able to recognise if a task is conjunctive, additive, disjunctive, compensatory or discretionary, if the intended target is a function of maximization or optimization, and if the task is divisible or unitary (this is really basic). Of course, the same strategy can't be used to solve a conjunctive, divisible task intended to optimize and for an additive, unitary task intended to maximize. Organising a team in the same way to pull a rope and to cook a meal would not lead to the best outcome in both cases, would it?

Comment: Re:Abused, yes. Most abused, probably not. (Score 5, Interesting) 287

by Shazback (#41177437) Attached to: Is Innovation the Most Abused Word In Business?
The Ringelmann effect shows how in certain structures and certain tasks, group efficiency is decreased. However, Köhler showed that in other structures for other tasks (conjunctive tasks), the group can incentivize weaker members to consistently perform better than when they are alone. As long as the Köhler discrepancy is low, the task is conjunctive and the group has a manner to view the contribution of individual members, then yes, a group -can- produce more than the sum of each person (i.e. the performance if each member performed the task alone, without any information about others performing the task at the same time or location).

It is also worth noting that both the Ringelmann and Köhler effects were described with regards to purely physical tasks, over 75 years ago. Their relevance in more complex and more intellectual tasks is highly disputed, in particular ones where solutions and methods to achieve solutions are non-obvious or novel. For instance, solving simple mazes exhibits social loafing (decreased performance relative to individuals), but as the maze's complexity increases, social loafing is eliminated, and group performance increases as they grow larger! This is of course a very "basic" cognitive task, but already illustrates that groups -do- out-perform individuals in correct conditions.

Yes, lots of MBAs or MBA-lights don't understand what they're talking about, but some people are actually interested in the concepts that are brought to light during such courses and go read about them, rather than just relying on the buzz-words and five minute discussion before the next subject arises.

Comment: Re:Flamebait Headline (Score 1) 1010

by Shazback (#40822077) Attached to: Political Science Prof Asks: Is Algebra Necessary?

Would we end up with a society where everyone was an expert at something, rather than a society where everyone has a little knowledge everywhere but no real spectacular skill?

When I look at the world today, I do not bemoan foremost the lack of experts, but the lack of generalists at a high level. Of course, I am not asking why there are fewer polymaths today than in the 17th century, since science has broadened and deepened since then. But be it in academia, the business world or even in public office, I see people whose expertise is more and more limited. This means they are less able to explain their ideas to people from other expertises, and in turn less able to understand changes in other fields.

I suppose most people here work in the business world. How often do we come across people (managers, programmers, colleagues, bosses, clients) who whilst experts (or at the very least trained) in their subject have no idea or understanding of what other people are trying to explain, simply because the person they are talking with has a different expertise? How often have businesses made poor choices because engineers, managers, salespeople and every other branch of the company has no understanding of what the other parts do? Naturally, the world is increasingly complex, and as such there will always be a growing need for experts. But there is also a huge need for "high-level generalists". People who are not an expert in any specific sub-field, topic or subject, and yet have a good enough understanding of a multiplicity of subjects, topics or sub-fields so that they can bring various experts to work together and benefit in a mutual manner from each expert's insight.

Comment: Re:Oblig: TED Talk (Score 2) 372

by Shazback (#40566235) Attached to: Apple-Motorola Judge Questions Need For Software Patents
I know this might not go down well with some /.ers, but really, this talk is laughable. Name three innovations fashion has brought in the past half century. Try it. Is a new cut an "innovation"? Not more than the various Thermaltake cases are "innovations" in the computing industry. Is a new colour an "innovation"? Possibly, but only if it's genuinely new, and I fear that's not something that's happened often in the past 50 years.

Computing, Automobile, Aerospace... These are sectors with high copyright protection. Car-makers guard their motor secrets jealously, as well as all kind of information about the electronics within their cars. Aerospace has only a few companies that have survived, but they make damn sure they protect every tiny thing they invent so as to gain a competitive advantage (this is often doubled by the "nationalist" side of military aerospace, which means many things are "national secrets" and therefore protected even more strongly than patents or copyrights would). Computing in fifty years has gone from a rare thing companies had in large rooms to ubiquitous tools every person uses multiple times a day, often without even noticing it.

The fact she talks about car designs is the real give-away. She's not talking about innovation at all. She's talking about the appearance of innovation. Changing a car's exterior design is perhaps slightly "innovative" (aerodynamics, etc.), but by and large it's the same process used in the previous generations of cars, tweaked to the current fashion, the latest design requirements the brand/law has set up, and other minor considerations.

Changing a car from red to blue isn't innovation. Changing it from running on petrol to hydrogen fuel cells is. "Copy-ability" encourages the first. Copyrights are intended to encourage the latter.

Comment: Re:It is a real problem (Score 1) 1201

by Shazback (#40409997) Attached to: Why Bad Jobs (or No Jobs) Happen To Good Workers

If your resume is a bunch of 6-24 month jobs there's no sense in any long term investment, they can count on you leaving in a big hurry. It would be a waste for them to invest you in the long term. You aren't an asset to be invested in, you are a resource to be exploited.

As someone who has had a "buch of 6-24 month jobs" at one point in my career, this was not at all why I was in that situation, and if employers thought like you do, I'm hardly surprised they're passing over talented employees. Part of the problem I had was that I reached the limits of the jobs offered very quickly. When I'm the person posting the best numbers in the department after 4 months on the job and my manager has nothing but praise to say to me but tells me I won't be able to "move up" until I have at least a year of experience with the company, I don't feel that my decision to move on was the result of me wanting to bounce around or deny them their return on investment. When I oversee a project in 6 months that is on time, on budget and secured an unexpected follow-up contract, I don't think I'm being too demanding to tell my employer that I want to manage the follow-up contract rather than be transferred to an identical project to the one I just finished. Again, I left. Not because I didn't want my employer to get a ROI (I didn't have any training), but just because I felt as though I was not valued at all by the company, the project they were suggesting I work on was relatively simple and boring as well as providing no interest (intellectual of professional) to me.

I'm quite good at what I do. When I work, I like to go all out. I like to work 100%, give it my best and I treat it like a "challenge". This means I particularly enjoy intellectual stimulation in my work. I know that working on boring/uninteresting projects means I'll not perform well, so I try to avoid them. I am upfront with my employers and potential employers regarding this situation. Sadly, despite pretty much every employer and HR person saying "of course working with XXX is challenging, and we'll make sure to keep you on interesting projects", I have found that's pretty much a lie. The first project is interesting because it's new, and after that they want you to stick to doing that over and over again. So I ended up leaving those companies. They didn't invest in me (training), so I don't feel bad about leaving them. Thankfully, some employers can see that people who are interested in challenging themselves, discovering new projects and giving the best they have each time are not "resources to be exploited" but rather can be turned into specialised, rare and useful personnel that is able to work across departments and projects seamlessly. Of course, this means investing a little. But I think my employer is not disappointed with the results of that investment, nor with taking the risk to actually move me to another project when I refused the offer of doing the same thing over and over again.

Comment: Re:Should companies train employees who jump ship? (Score 1) 1201

by Shazback (#40409899) Attached to: Why Bad Jobs (or No Jobs) Happen To Good Workers
So start-ups and consultancies didn't exist before the 1990s? Consultancies have existed since long before that (perhaps not in IT), and are part of the "normal" ecosystem : bright graduates go to large/medium sized company for 3-5 years, where they receive normal training for their position, then they jump ship to a consultancy, where they receive more advanced and more general training, after 5-6 years in the consultancy, they go back to a large/medium sized company, or in rare cases a start-up, at a higher position than they would have reached if they had stuck with the initial company. They're a kind of "fast track" for bright, hard-working, driven individuals. Companies profit because despite paying for the initial training that is "lost", they are able to acquire someone with a much broader spectrum of skills than they would have been able to train internally at a later point. These consultants often not only have good knowledge of the market, innovative techniques and insight, they also have contacts that are very interesting to the business, and because they're "external" to a degree, they were more likely to raise issues with top management and therefore ensure that the company was well run with greater efficiency than those who had risen through the ranks.

My interpretation of this issue is rather that large/medium sized companies are shitty employers. Sure, some of them offer decent benefits and salary packages. But the jobs they offer people are not interesting, not engaging, and quite frankly don't allow for much when it comes to decision-making/responsibility. Work for X large/mid company? Sure! I'll work there for 5 years, get the training I can, and then I'll leave to go to join a company that's offering me a challenge, rather than just being a cog in their multiple layers of middle management, repetitive projects, pointless reporting and feeling like I'm wasting my days away. Companies where people feel like they're being pushed to their intellectual limits, they're being trusted with making meaningful decisions, they're given opportunities to improve themselves, take risks and do something that they -want- to do (within the limits of the company's business of course) are so rare that they can probably be counted on one hand. Google and Apple aren't amongst the place that people want to work for just because they've got good products and nice benefits+salary packages. It's also because people there are encouraged to go beyond what would be expected elsewhere. Turn their ideas into personal projects and see if they work. Become the best at what they do. Quasi-direct contact with top management with whom they can actually discuss aspects of their project, rather than go through dozens of middle management committees. Taking bold decisions and sticking to them rather than going for middle of the road decisions that nobody is unhappy about. This is why people don't care about sticking with large/mid sized companies. They're shitty employers. Every day feels like the one before it, nothing meaningful is ever done, decisions take weeks to be made, there's no possibility for your ideas to become anything more than small talk and frustration, and everything is ruled by meetings and strict hierarchy which prevents change, advancement or any kind of expertise from emerging.

I wouldn't mind working for a large/mid sized company that actually tries to interest me. Sadly, I haven't found many, and employment opportunities there are highly sought-after. So yes, I'm interested in consulting and start-ups. Not because I relish the risk and the thrill of becoming a millionaire (I can't say that hurts, but it's a remote probability rather than a certainty), but because they're actually companies that are prepared to let me become an expert. They'll help me specialise in what I want to do, they'll encourage me to seek out best practices and make my own decisions, for which I'll be directly accountable. They're prepared to let me take my ideas for a ride on their dime and see how they work out. Of course, I'm using broad strokes intentionally, and it's not black and white. But if companies are interested in retaining talent, it's not salary that they should be worrying about, but how their organisation stifles creativity, decision-making, engagement and personal development.

Comment: Re:REAL TALK (Score 1) 1201

by Shazback (#40409653) Attached to: Why Bad Jobs (or No Jobs) Happen To Good Workers
The Academia part here is oh so true.

I'm a European non-IT graduate from a college/university that is considered to be one of the best 2-3 in my country, and within the top 10 in Europe for my speciality. I have a Master's degree, but I can safely say that half of the people that graduated alongside me are not just incompetent, they lack substantial knowledge that is crucial to do their job properly.

Colleges are failing to uphold sufficient standards, they're pushing for "internationalisation" and "work experience" during the education cursus and not seeing that if what they're teaching can really be learnt "on the job" then there is no reason to pay them hand over fist to study there. Businesses are receiving graduate students who are intelligent (selection by elimination during high school and the early years of college, especially in the better ones), but who don't have much knowledge they can apply to their job.

Perhaps in IT it's different, but in my field this is a major problem. Businesses reduce graduates to doing menial tasks that are a waste of their intelligence because they feel they don't "know" enough to do other tasks, and only accept to give them a shot at other jobs when they have years and years of experience under their belt. Even then, it's pretty much hit-and-miss if these people succeed in their position, since they're not trained properly nor given any tutoring/assistance by experienced people within the company. As a result, businesses are roughly around 30 years behind research in my field. The only thing is that since managers are convinced that you learn the job "on the job", they refuse to even look at research, claiming it's "too abstract/not relevant/only theoretical". Ergo, they don't value graduates knowing about research or being pushed to their limits, and in turn colleges/universities don't teach their graduates about existing research or bother pushing them to the limit of what they can learn in this field. Which in turn convinces businesses that graduates don't know anything, and that it's all learnt "on the job"... See the vicious cycle? Academia needs a kick up its butt and to start genuinely pushing students.

Comment: Re:Like Microsoft Excel? (Score 2) 245

by Shazback (#40404925) Attached to: Bev Harris of Black Box Voting Releases Accenture's Voting Software
Amen brother. I was hired by a large, international IT consulting company as an intern (non-IT graduate) for the same reason - despite being assured repeatedly during interviews that I would do something completely different.

The Regional Director wanted to be able to see all the company's experience : which company, which department, what speciality, what system, what budget, what country, what type of mission, etc. After three attempts in Excel (which took over 5 weeks in total), I tried to explain that the quantity and diversity of information he wanted was impossible to express in a concise manner using Excel or another spreadsheet. Furthermore, I explained that just maintaining this database would take hundreds of man-hours a year, if not a whole different order of magnitude once he decided to integrate other information or expand it to other countries/regions.

He steadfastly refused even using something like Access. I ended up making a further 4 or 5 Excel sheets over the next month, but then I pretty much gave up on the project. I'd change the order of some columns, do some cosmetic changes and was really just showing him repeats of those 5 Excel sheets for the remainder of my internship. Thankfully, I had other things to do after the first two months, so I wasn't bored stiff, but it baffled me (and continues to do so) that someone who reports directly to the CEO of a major IT company can have no understanding of why it's impossible to represent a large number of dimensions of information in what is essentially a two-information-dimension manner (spreadsheet). I'm still sure that something done with relatively basic database software would have been perfect for what he wanted, but my latest sources tell me that the project has been "shelved" indefinitely after the intern that followed me didn't manage to solve this problem either.

Comment: Re:So what are you saying exactly? (Score 2) 130

Easier said then done, there is a lot of marketing behind Germany, along with a lot of positive stereotypes about their engineering quality, etc.... When people think Germany, the think high quality engineering, studious and stable country, well educated workforce, beer and sausages. When people think Greece, they think ancient ruins, philosophy, beaches, hot sun, sea, holidays, parties and natural beauty.

Perhaps differenciation is to be looked into then? Finland didn't have the reputation of being consumer-friendly before Nokia burst onto the scene. It had a few industrial machinery companies that had a good business-to-business relationship, but the main players in Finland were heavy industry and natural resource companies. Was Sweden famous for simple design, efficient management and furniture before IKEA became big in the 70s? Was Spain considered an important fashion destination before ZARA spread like wildfire in the 90s? Countries aren't created with a God-given reputation and a set of stereotypes that are set in stone. Countries shape their own reputation and their own stereotypes. Japan's change from "cheap knock-off and unreliable electronics" to "precision electronics and fancy design" happened in barely over 20 years, and companies like Sony, Nintendo, Fujitsu, Toshiba, Canon, Honda, Toyota as well as artists like Haruki and Takashi Murakami, Kusama...

Sure, Germany has a reputation for certain goods : cars, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, industrial goods. But that still leaves loads of areas for other countries to gain the upper hand. France has a reputation for more fashionable goods, but they also have big car companies, aerospace and defence companies, as well as natural resources, food and beauty products companies that are huge. Sure, France and Germany are "big" countries with populations that are several times that of Greece, and longer-established companies in most sectors. But the Netherlands managed to get to the top of some markets : Unilever, Philips, ASML, TomTom, Akzo Nobel, TNT Express... Why couldn't Greece have prospered in a similar manner? What was stopping these excellent Greek engineers, industrialists, marketers, etc. from founding companies that would compete in new, different, niche markets and then grow big? Sure, Greece's auto industry might not have been able to hold up to the German auto industry. But what about IT? What about architecture and construction companies? Why not become leaders in geothermal and solar energy? What about holiday resort construction and management?... The list goes on and on. As you say yourself, Greece had some advantages Germany didn't : history of engineering discoveries and applications going back to before the Roman Empire, key artistic and philosophical theories, climate and history particularly suited to tourism, a famous and healty cuisine, a trade position on the cusp of three continents just accross form the Suez Canal... How come the only things that came out of these advantages were a huge (but barely taxed) shipping industry and a strong tourist industry?

If Germany was not in the Euro, it's DMark would be so strong, that their goods would be uncompetitive with the the rest of the world. They would also not have a captive market (in the case of the rest of the eurozone countries) which can guarantee some exports no matter what.

Trust me, if the eurozone wasn't working out for Germany they would leave. They are not staying the out of the goodness of their hearts, or due to some old war guilt. The fact is that the German government knows what the grand parent posted, they know that they are getting a huge boost for free, they know that the eurozone is helping them immensely.

The problem is that the status quo cannot continue. Germany has sucked up all the production out of the rest of the eurozone (barring Italy and northern countries) and countries are collapsing. So at this point either the EU integrates further, which involves some redistribution of wealth from Germany, by whichever mechanism is chosen (euro inflation, bailouts, etc...), or it starts falling apart (perhaps the development of a "Core" EU of stronger economies, with peripheries that can use a weaker currency).

The Eurozone (like all economic questions) isn't a zero-sum game. Germany are in it because they see an advantage (indeed, lower export costs due to weaker economies keeping the Euro down, and easier exports within the EU/Euro zone). But Greece also had huge advantages. The EU doled out money like every day was the return of the prodigal son (in 2009 alone it was 260€ per Greek citizen) which enabled Greece to undertake ambitious infrastructure projects (and possibly left the door open to corruption) and finance generous social well-being programs. With the Euro, Greece's borrowing rates plummetted, allowing individuals as well as the state far greater access to credit, which in turn allowed for greater consumption, investment and increased quality of living. The Euro also helped increase tourism to Greece by Europeans due to the elimination of change mechanisms. Both Germany and Greece gained, and they also both suffered. Germany saw the writing on the wall that its workforce, despite being highly productive, was expensive, and underwent deep reforms around 2000-2003 to bring the cost of labour down. Germany also reformed their social welfare policies to account for increased life expectancy and competition within the Eurozone. Greece didn't reform, and now they're faced with a mountain to climb regardless of staying in the Eurozone/EU or leaving.

Greece's problems run deep : inefficient and obscure bureaucracy, systematic tax evasion*, low penetration of communication technology**, lack of diversification in the economy, corruption and bribery in administration and politics... These are problems that Greece will have to address regardless of staying in the EU/Eurozone. They won't be easy, and it's not by going back to the Drachma that they'll suddenly dissappear.

*: Don't believe me? the Greek tax bureau recently let out the names of 4,152 "major" tax dodgers, all of whom owe more than 150k€ in tax (link). This isn't even -all- the people who owe more than 150k€ in tax, since the tax evaders that reached a deal to restructure their tax payments or were already taken to court by the tax bureau aren't included. Given that Greece has a population of 11 Million, and an average household of 2.7 people, that's at least one household in a thousand that owes over 150k€ in tax... Since tax evasion amounts seem to be likened to an exponential decay curve, one can only expect that the number of individuals that owe 149-100k€ is greater than the number that owe over 150k€, and the number that owe 100-50k€ greater still! Perhaps there are as many as one household in a hundred that owe over 50k€! At this point, yes, "systematic" is the adjective I'd use.

** : The ITU estimates that only 44% of the Greek population has accessed the Internet in the past 12 months... The lowest proportion in the Eurozone, and last-but-one in the EU (thanks Romania!).

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying. -- Woody Allen

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