17 April 2009

All Quiet on the Windows 7 Front

This pair of articles from ZDNet sum up the situation.

A non-news website is an interesting idea, like a Journal of Negative Results. At the very least it fosters a realistic view of the world because nothing new is happening most of the time in the real world.
Journals that publish only stories about things that are happening give the biased impression that things are happening most of the time. A more balanced view of the world could be given by padding each page of news with 9 pages of non-news. The ZDNet team seem to be exploring  this idea. Good luck to them.

Meetings as News Shows
When I was working as a manager in a 1000+ person company, I was faced with the opposite problem. There were weekly "status" meetings on a variety of critical projects which were made up of 90%  repeating the status that had not changed from the previous week and 10% new information. After 2 or 3 meetings on any project, even the people with the worst memories could remember the unchanging 90% component of the project status but still had to attend the meetings to find out the 10% new things that had happened in the last week in case it affected them.

I "solved" this by tracking the project status on versioned web pages (wikis with links to the sources of the data that measured most of the status). When we had this we started discussing what had changed since last week and who was affected by it. Then the meeting times dropped by a factor of 10.

A few months later I was checking on how staff were spending their time and found that the time they were spending in meetings had returned to its old level. That led me to think that there must be some equilibrium time spent in meetings that was determined by company culture or company circumstances.

This in turn reminded me of how people consume news from the media. A news show or newspaper is a relatively fixed size and gets filled with some mix of real news, fluff, human interest, sport etc. A serious type of person might try to increase the information density of the show but he would be misunderstanding  why people were watching the show.

Filling the empty time on news sites with negative results is probably not going to be less productive than increasing information density in meetings in a large company.

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