Unthinkable Solutions Ltd

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Why web sites fail

Web sites go down and software companies would have you believe that the answer is to get them back up as soon as possible.

But is that the answer? Why not prevent failure happening in the first place?

Research shows that 51% of web site failures are caused by operator error, 34% by the software they use and 15% from hardware. Traditionally the approach has been to ignore the possibility of human error - which soft/hardware engineers to at their peril!

Just remember the human factor!.

Keep going Shell

During the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa, Shell issued their take on the topic.

It was impressive, not the sort of thing you associate with oil companies:

"There is a clear business care for sustainable development. Long-term competitive success depends on being trusted to meet society's expectations.

The challenge of achieving a sustainable world is huge and daunting, but there is no alternative. All stakeholders must move forwards together to address that challenge and business has a key role to play.

Shell has made a commitment to contribute to sustainable development and we will continue to play our part in achieving a more sustainable work in line with our Business Principles.

We look to the World Summit on Sustainable Development to focus on real deliverables of benefit to people, plant and prosperity."

I couldn't put it better.

So, if a leading oil company is trying, what are you doing?

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What Americans think about technology

A recent (summer 2002) survey of the American public about their attitudes to technology throws up some interesting results (as reported in Scientific American August 2002)

With regard to theraputic cloning 59% thought it would improve quality of life and 36% harm it. However, ther age the the respondent had a bit impact. Of those over 65 only 43% thought there would be an improvement compared with 65% of the 18 to 34 year olds.

Interestingly, when asked if computer chips linked to nerve cells would improve quality of life, only 38% agreed and 52% thought it would harm life quality.

Finally, when asked about the pace of techological change 20% were comfortable with it overall. There was a gender difference with 25% of men being confortable and only 15% of women.

These results are contradictory to a certain extent, but remember when pushing through change in any situation but especially technology change, not that many people are happy about it. Something that has to be addressed if you want success.

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52% of the worlds population speak just 20 languages

That's right, but what's really surprising that those 20 from a total of 6,060 languages.

At the other end of the scale, 3,340 languages are used by communities of fewer than 10,000 people (In total less than 0.3% of the world's population.

Currently, not a lot is being done to try and save endangered languages - the potential loss of understanding and human diversity is great. As with endangered wildlife, very few of those who can make a difference seem to care.

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Who's looking after your archives?

In 1986 the British Broadcasting Corporation embarked upon the Doomsday Project, this was a multi-media record of life in late 20th century Britain. Schools amoungst other contributed to this, which was designed to be a resource for generations to come, just as the orginial Doomsday book compiled nearly 1,000 years ago is today.

Sadly, the Doomsday Project is no more - the computers designed to read the 12 inch video discs of data no longer work; computer technology has moved on and nothing currently will read the discs. It is hoped special equipment can be made to solve the problem, so preventing the data from being lost.

But where would history be without old manuscripts? What are we leaving for future generations to learn from? Very little it would appear.

This isn't the only time data has been lost through equipment becoming obsolete, NASA too has had similar problems.

So what does this mean for business in general?

Well, also ensure your electronic archieves can be migrated onto your newest equipment - in a large company it may well pay to review the status of such items every year to prevent such things happening.

Or you could get all your documents transcribed onto vellum using finest calligraphy ink!

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What's in a name?

Well, according to a recent report in Scientific American quite a lot actually.

There is disquiet in the world of medical drug testing at the names used for drug trials. It would appear the spin doctors now dictate the names used. Eli Lilly trialled a drug called raloxifene - the science showed no benefit over traditional drugs, yet after reporting of the trial sales rose by 47% (equalling $48million).

What had they called the trial MORE.

The use of the MORE name and it's repetition in the reporting was enough to increase sales, regardless of the science involved.

Other names in use are CURE, HOPE and MIRACLE - imagine what patients think when they start that trial?

So what does this mean for business in general?

Leaving aside the medical ethics, this can teach us an important lesson for business in general. If you are starting a new project, the name you give it can make a difference to the outcome. It's all about setting expectations.

So maybe instead of calling the latest cost cutting drive "50% cost reduction in 2002", try for a more positive name like "Join the Cost Cops".

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Internet Buzz - tracking web dynamics

A company in the US, called Opion is attempting to track "buzz" on the Internet to discover trends and new ideas as they happen. By attempting to identify and track what opinion formers are saying, without violating privacy is their challenge.

This is being achieved by using the public Newsgroups and chatrooms on the web to monitor social interaction. Clever software analyses language usage in an attempt to supply companies with real time information about what people think.

The software is being tested and other "engines" to do this type of work are in the pipleline. So marketeers, be aware, the "prediction" of trends may be just about to happen.

Now if politicans get hold of this................

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Silicon Chips go 3D

Moore's Law is familiar to many of us, it says that every 18 months (or less) the power and capacity of computer chips will double. However, it has been known for some time that the fundamental limits of this law are being approached.

To put it simply, the laws of physics mean that drastic new solutions will be needed to keep computing power increasing. The implications for business are profound. (Although it would mean the end of buying a new PC every 3 years!)

A solution has been found that is so simple it's surprising it's not been done before.

Until Matrix Semiconductor came along all chips were made with just one layer - a single storey house if you will. They have perfected the fabrication of multi-storey chips, using existing production methods, which gets around the potential problems with Moore's law. Using exsting equipment means chip makers don't need to make massive captial investment to exploit the breakthrough.

You can expect to see a new generation of cheap and powerful memory chips during Q1 & 2 of 2002 that use this technology. What's more it is expected that they will be so inexpensive they will replace photographic film and audiotape.

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