Organizational Comm Blog

Sunday, May 01, 2005

GNU Linux & Wal-Mart

The Frontline special “Is Wal Mart Good For America?” was an interesting documentary about the negative effects of Wal-Mart on our economy. With their “always low price” motto, the global retailer has become hugely successful in America, but at what costs? Wal-Mart doesn’t mind bullying their manufacturers. Even as the manufacturer's cost of production rises, Wal-Mart will not raise their supposed “low price,” forcing the company to lose profits. If the manufacturer does not comply with their demands, Wal Mart will no longer do business with them. Rubbermaid, for example, became hugely successful thanks to Wal-Mart, but now the business has gone bankrupt...also thanks to Wal-Mart.
A former Wal-Mart Store manager exposes the true scams behind Wal-Mart’s advertisements promoting low prices deals. Wal-Mart, like most cheap retailers, get most of their goods from foreign countries. If a customer is looking for a product that's not from China, the ex-manager says that the price will not be low at all.
Wal-Mart’s success is due to their excellent organizational structure and management. They were the first retailer to make good use of barcodes. Using Telzon guns, they can keep track of sales and other data. At midnight every night, an automatic order is placed in a Wal Mart warehouse, where the order is immediately shipped to the store. According to the documentary, Wal Mart is a world leader in logistics. Wal Mart’s relationship with it’s manufacturers is revolutionary. A push system is when manufactures decide what they what to produce and they try to get retailers to buy that product. Wal Mart uses a pull system. A pull system is when the retailer tells the manufacturer what to produce based on what products are selling.
Linux’s relationship with developers is exactly the opposite. GNU Linux is an open source operating system, which means that the source code of the software is available to the public. This allows any developer to be able to create software for Linux, and alter software that is already been created. Software is developed for Linux like the push system. Developers decide what they want to make for the Linux operating system, and then Linux users may decide whether they want to use that software. Very different than the pull system of Wal Mart.
Of course, there is a big different between Wal-Mart Corp. and GNU Linux. The difference is money. Wal-Mart seeks to make the highest profits by buying the cheapest merchandise and selling it for the highest markup. Linux has a philosophy that open source software is essential in a democratic society, and they are a not for profit group.
In her blog, “Vive Le Target,” Jill expresses her opinions about Wal Mart in comparison to her favorite store, Target.
Meghan takes a humorous approach to the subject in her post “My way, my way/ What I say goes, and I'm in control…”

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Long Tail

Have you ever been frustrated due to lack of options? I have. Growing up in a small town in Florida, only the most popular blockbusters were released in the theaters, and then six months later....the same movies were the only ones available to rent. It’s hard for New Yorkers and other city slickers to remember a time when they lacked options, but it is possible. For me, relief came in 2001 with the invention of Netflix, which allowed me to rent films online from a huge collection. After joining Netflix, I found myself watching movies I would have never seen anywhere else...indies, cult flicks, documentaries, tv series on DVD, and even movies with gay characters.
My history of movie watching and Netflix is an example of the positive effects of The Long Tail. The Long Tail describes products that are not “most popular,” and therefore don’t sell well without a quality distribution channel- like the internet. What is amazing about The Long Tail effect is that when enough “unpopular” products are marketed over the internet, they become more profitable than their “popular” counterparts. For example, once I fell in love with independent films on Netflix, I never ordered mainstream or “blockbuster” films from the service again. I was so engaged with indies that I had absolutely no interest in watching another film where Sandra Bullock plays a model/detective/alcoholic/mother/bus driver.
The Long Tail has many positive social and economic effects. Through the internet, various “niche” products can be distributed to a mass market. Physical retailers (non-internet) will only carry products that can generate sufficient demand and therefore make profit. This lowers the amount of selections available, because the only products sold are the ones that appeal to a mass audience. Luckily, this is changing due to the internet, which is the most powerful distribution channel imaginable. Services like Amazon.com or Ebay.com are great examples of internet distributors that have created The Long Tail. These services have proved one thing: people want all sorts of products, not just best sellers. Industries don’t care what customers want, they are only concerned with making profit. What is amazing is that people want products on The Long Tail. Have you ever heard “one person’s trash is another one’s treasure”? I think Ebay.com has proved this correct, by selling myriad products (most of which would normally be considered unmarketable) and making large profits. Chris Anderson, the man that coined the term, says it best “ Combine enough nonhits on the Long Tail and you've got a market bigger than the hits.”
In regards to organizations, online business have greatly profited from The Long Tail. In comparison to a retail store, the internet is a cheap distribution channel. Companies that have utilized the net’s capabilities, such as Netflix and Ebay, are constantly growing and profiting. Christopher Carfi discusses in his blog post that The Long Tail brings profits because it offers the customer personalization. No longer do they have to chose from only mainstream options, the customer can have exactly what they want. Companies must become aware of this, because many are losing money due to The Long Tail. Mainstream products are making less money than products on the tail, which really alters the definition of “mainstream.”
In Jill's post "Gotcha By The Tail," she reflects on how efficient the internet is for marketing products. For another view, check out Meghan's post "Wag Your Tails Everyone"

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Folksonomy: A Way To Organize Information

Metadata is information about information, and is often highly structured and serves a purpose to its user. Descriptive metadata identifies and functions to organize information based on intellectual content. Folksonomies are a form of metadata. Folksonomy describes the practice of categorization using freely chosen words. The term is a modern update of “folk classification,” which describes how average people (non experts) describe the world around them. If you’ve ever used a service such as Flickr or Del.icio.us, you’ve used a folksonomy, which are called “tags” on these services. A folksonomy is a way to organize information, and its uncontrolled nature has many positive and negative aspects.
Inspired by the Age of Internet, keywords have become a fundamental organizational construct. Keywords, which are called “tags” on sites such as Del.icio.us, allow users to organize and describe content with any vocabulary they choose. Using these “tags,” users can not only organize their own data, but also find other data by related tags. There is no hierarchy to these systems, the way the data is listed depends completely on the user. There are inherent problems to this method of organization. One major limitation is ambiguity, due to the fact that there are not a predetermined set of labels and categories. Since users describe their data using their own preferred terms, many different users may use the same tags in different ways. Similarly, users also describe the same content in many different ways. For example, many users create tags like “PC,” “Windows,” and “Microsoft,” but these terms usually describe the same content. Another limitation is that most services only allow tags to be one word, and it’s hard to describe most content in detail with only one word. Some users chose to eliminate spaces so they can use multiple words (ie. museumartwork) but this can often add to confusion.
Even though there are many limitations to folksonomy, there are much more advantages.
A folksonomy directly reflects the language of a user, which allows users to organize their data in a way that is efficient for them. Unlike other information retrieval systems that are designed by professionals, folksonomies allow the individual to label or classify their data. This enables users and not just professionals to participate in the system immediately. I think that the most important strength of a folksonomy is the ability to browse a variety of information. I’ve used tags before to find information that is related to a particular topic, and I find this process very useful.
A folksonomy is an effective way to organize information, and they are becoming more popular, with more services offering users a way to organize their data by keywords. In regards to organizations, folksonomy is helpful for sharing information and researching data. The overall cost for users in terms of time and effort are much less for folksonomies. Unlike complex hierarchal classification systems, a folksonomy is often easier for the user because they don’t have to learn a new system, they can organize things in a way that they can understand.
A folksonomy not only provides an efficient way to organize personal information but also a way to communicate and share information. This ease of use will make them more popular in the future.
For more information on how a folksonomy can benefit organizational systems, check out Alexis' post "Folksonomy Breakdown."
Meghan's post "Putting the Folk back in Folksonomy" offers a very clear explanation of folksonomy. You have to check it out!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Cluetrain Manifesto: Chapter Three

The third chapter of The Cluetrain Manifesto discusses various ways in which the internet encourages discourse. The entire internet is based on text. Text doesn’t magically appear, it must be written by someone. As Locke wrote in Chapter Two, the internet’s popularity is due to its potential for interpersonal and organizational communication. The web is a giant virtual message board with conversations flying around at great speeds. The net offers a place for individuals and organizations to voice their opinions. Personal webpages are created by a person’s individual voice, their honest opinions. Corporate sites are more likely to be written by PR people, whose primary goal is to convince readers that the companies agenda is the right agenda. Of course, it is not very hard to decipher between the voice of an individual and a PR team. An individual’s voice is more authentic and seems less edited. We listen to an individual’s voice differently than we do organizational speech.
With millions of people communicating over the internet, there are various services that allow for instant discourse. Levine notes that the majority of internet conversations occur through e-mail, mailing lists, newsgroups, chat rooms, and web pages.
E-mail is the primary tool that I use to communicate over the internet. Electronic mail has many advantages. Especially where work and school is concerned, e-mail works as an extremely effective transmitter of shorter, factual messages. Since I don’t have a lot of time for phone conversations, e-mails provide a way for me to communicate information with others who I don’t necessary need to speak with on the phone. One great advantage of e-mail is that you can attach data. For my internship, I research educational information pertaining to themes in different children’s books. The Producer of Reading Rainbow and I keep in contact regularly through e-mail. Through attaching documents, I am able to send her my work from the office, home, or elsewhere. Due to the rising costs of regular mail and messenger services, e-mail is a cost effective way to communicate, considering it is included in internet service packages. There are also web based e-mail services, like Yahoo Mail, which are free and easy to acquire. E-mail is just as effective as regular mail, if not more effective because it transmits the information instantly. E-mail is also great for keeping in touch with friends who live in distant places. I rarely know my friends schedules, so phone calls can turn into a long game of “phone tag.” E-mail solves this problem because you can send a letter, usually a primarily factual message, and keep in contact with people with very different schedules. Using attachments, my friends and I can even send pictures to each other, which has become common thanks to digital cameras. Without e-mail, time constraints would make it impossible for me to keep in contact with most people, and it has many advantages for a college student, and in the workplace.
In Meghan’s blog “Quicker than a New York Minute,” she discusses various forms of online communication tools and how effective each one is in facilitating certain types of social conversations.
In Jill’s blog "What's That I Hear...", she further discusses the relationship between the internet and corporations. She also notes ways in which large corporations could use the internet more effectively.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Cluetrain Manifesto: Chapter Two

We all want more satisfaction in our lives. The second chapter of The Cluetrain Manifesto states that the internet’s popularity is largely due to its ability to allow people to communicate on many levels.
In an attempt to organize our lives, we manage every aspect of it around time. We mimic businesses in that we try to manage our day for maximum efficiency. There are advantages to living such a managed lifestyle. Weinberger writes “Management is a powerful force, part of a larger life-scheme that promises us health, peace, prosperity, calm, and no surprises in every aspect of our lives.”
However, in living such managed lives, we have muted our own voices.
In Chapter 1, Locke wrote “Inside companies, outside companies, there are only people.” This is correct. A company is no stronger than the employees in there office. Even so, employees adhere to a strict code of professionalism. This means employees muffle their personal voices and play the character of “Employee.” As an employee, you must dress a certain way, avoid talking about personal or touchy subjects, not swear, and kiss your bosses ass. The act of Professionalism has made us long for more-- a way to communicate our real voice.
The environment of the internet has made this possible. The net is a virtual encyclopedia of information with a place for every subject imaginable. The net is also easy. For example, anyone with AOL can create there own homepage in minutes. This flexibility has made it possible for people to communicate their interests globally. Weinberger believes that this trait is responsible for making the internet so popular. I would have to agree. The first time I used the internet (AOL) was 8 years ago and my primary internet activities was chatting with net friends and creating a homepage on Geocities. I loved the ability to have a website about vegetarianism and to be able to have conversations with people with similar interests. I was able to voice my opinions.
In regards to the workplace, I think Internet technology is the most powerful tool available to businesses. The advantages of the net have made companies more efficient. Paper memos have been replaced with e-mail, a much more efficient and instant way for employees to communicate. But with the internet, corporations must “rise to the occasion” and continue to satisfy their employees...and customers. With blogs, employees can voice their own opinions, and divulge internal information. Customers can also fight back, information moves quick on “the information superhighway.”
With this, the internet is popular because of its potential for interpersonal communication and also because is a tool that helps us manage our lives more efficiently.
I really appreciated Alexis’ Blog. She notes how important professionalism is because companies need organization. She is very correct, but I think that Weinberger wasn’t insulting the act of professionalism, rather he was arguing that it has caused us to lose our personal voice.
Meghan’s discussion of Professionalism in an academic environment was insightful.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Cluetrain Manifesto: Chapter 1

“Networks greatly facilitate the sharing of knowledge within a community of like interests.” This quote from The Cluetrain Manifesto clearly states the inherent power of the internet.
As a Senior at Marymount with a Comm Arts major, I’ve had many classes in which I’ve discussed and studied the hegemonic powers of our modern media. This has helped me realize the reality of our society. Television, for example, is just a tube that combines light to display a myriad of images-- and it influences us greatly. Only television producers can create the images on the screen, ergo the audience has no control of the medium. The disproportionate amount of power given to media producers has lead our society to be conditioned through constant messages in the media. Americans feel compelled to consume...in a desperate attempt to achieve the happiness and contentment similar to false characters on TV.
The internet has changed this forever. The creation of a global network that is simple and accessible is quickly altering traditional methods of interpersonal and organizational communications.
The internet was created and developed by the US Department of Defense and was originally thought to be only useful to government agencies. Thanks to some “killer apps,” such as e-mail, IM, blogs, and MP3, the net now has a much wider commercial appeal.
Huge corporations spend an enormous amount of money on market research. The one thing that no market analyst expected was the internet.
In an attempt to raise profits, large companies have almost disassociated themselves with their customers. Inspired by Taylor’s Theory of Scientific Management, executives don’t know their customers, they are more concerned with mass production and marketing.
The internet is a powerful medium that is quickly changing the way companies communicate with their customers. Using the net allows corporations to receive customer feedback, market themselves, and stay competitive. Communication is a powerful tool, and the internet is a medium that makes it possible.
One of the primary advantages of the internet is that is gives the power back to the people. Unlike mediums such as TV, web pages and blogs can be created by Joe Six Pack, someone who doesn't have ulterior motives like media producers.
“Inside companies, outside companies, there are only people.” And the internet provides a way to connect these people.
Like Jill, I am enjoying The Cluetrain Manifesto very much. In her blog, she notes how corporations could be more effective if they used the internet more efficiently. Meghan is an excellent writer, and her blog discusses the unmeasurable power of global connectivity.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Command & Control Model

Americans have become the consumers of the world. Supersaturation of media accompanied by sheer lack of motivation has caused the American society to become needy. Americans NEED to consume in order to feel content with their lives- satisfaction must equal a purchase. Due to this, American businesses have chosen to rely on foreign countries to produce our goods. With the many advancements that were made recently in technology and telecommunications, companies can now headquarter themselves in America but essentially produce all of their goods outside of the US. This “Command & Control” approach is thought to be beneficial to both the company itself and to the consumer. The production of goods in foreign countries is much less expensive than homeland production, with all of our country’s minimum wage rules, union regulations etc. Corporations also feel that by producing goods in other countries they can appeal to a global market.
Unfortunately, there is also a downside to this model. Because of outsourcing, we begin to rely on other countries in a way that could be very dangerous to our economy. As Barry Lynn mentions in his article, our computer manufacturers heavily rely on Taiwan for parts. If anything disastrous occurs in Taiwan , whether political or environmental, our country’s computer manufacturers will be left with nothing to work with. To make matters worse, this sort of event could send tech stocks to the ground.
Haven’t we learned anything from Enron?

Also, Jill continues to discuss how problematic the production process is for corporations who are trying to save money to increase profits.
As a sidenote about outsourcing, check out Jessica's Blog. She is very concerned about the abusive nature of sweatshops and how they continue to produce cheap products for our country.