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Social Entrepreneurism

June 27th, 2009

One of the topics that came up in this week’s Thursday Morning Coffee Meetup was the extent to which companies should be following social rather than financial objectives. Most people want to do their bit for society and it seems that possibly the majority of people in the startup community are wanting to adopt a primarily social or charitable focus to their activities. I can’t help worrying that this is not a realistic path for most of the people following it. If one is generating cash then diverting a potentially significant proportion to charity definitely helps us all but trying to factor in social objectives to every business decision leads to some very difficult decision making.

One can barely travel to a client or deliver a product and present it as ecologically sustainable. Even the much heralded virtues of the ingredients of some chunky ice creams are really greening of a product which clogs arteries and even kills off customers. Trying to be truly consistent could lead to some very long office meetings. The effect would tend to be a weight on the ecologically and socially conscious businesses. The more equitable way forward, I would argue, is for people to be better informed to be able to make the decisions they need to make and to be less shy about regulation so that businesses are on a level playing field that takes account of wider social impact. For each company to try to decide this for itself is a less practical solution than the regulation adopted in Europe, Japan and increasingly in China.

The prevailing wish in the discussion this week to have corporations manage the decision is probably in large part an effect of being in US culture where there is minimal regulation, little supervision and a lack of any notion that government should have a more active social role. Or even be effective in general. Corporations seem to be looked to to solve all problems. Our national government spends less than 0.5% of spending on education, less than 1.5% on social programs and a total of 48% of non overhead spending on the military. So the idea that the national government should be taking care of social expenditure, taxing carbon emissions and other destruction often seems foreign. It does seem though that at least the need is being identified, which is a cultural change for the US, if the solution being discussed is still a very different one.

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Governance, Management, Society, Technology, Toys, Travels, Uncategorized

Visual Search That Actually Works: TinEye

August 22nd, 2008

A new visual search engine has been launched by a Canadian company TinEye.

Instead of entering text describing an object such as the phrase “tiger jumping” you upload or provide the URL of a photo.

But this is far more than a simple file search. I tried with jpg and gif photos and it found both file types on the internet regardless of which I provided. It even found photos where they had been cropped or the colour and size changed.

Passing it a collage of several photos it was able to identify other photos containing one of the component photos.

Clearly it is performing a rapid search in its database for some kind of signature of the visual look of the image and this is allowing a range of images containing that pattern to be identified.

It would seem to be mainly useful for researching the origins and usage of a photo in order to obtain, or identify abuse of, the usage rights.

I was very impressed with the tests I performed.

If you would like to give it a go it is at http://tineye.com/

I would be intereseted in hearing where people find the limits are. I ran out of good tests without hitting a problem.

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IP, Toys

Graphic news kiosk for the home

August 15th, 2008
Electronic news kiosk

Electronic news kiosk

The kind of project so many of us would love to get around to. Well, me at least.

It contains a Power Mac G3 which wirelessly receives news paper page images and runs a 3D display of them. It seems it would be very easy to do this with an Apple TV in HD. It has a built in screen saver that gracefully pulls photos from flickr and you could feed something suitable into the flickr account.

There are now several wi-fi digital picture frames from $150 to $170 on the market that would allow all kinds of kiosk options to be constructed in any container. Most of the frames seem to connect to a PC application over wi-fi rather than using RSS so far.

So what kind of a container would you put your kiosk display in?

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