Jennifer Magnolfi on Marrisa Mayer’s ‘no remote work’ edict

I was talking with Jennifer Magnolfi, a leading proponent of the new thinking behind workplace design and its impact on innovation, creativity, and work culture. Since I had her on the line, I thought I’d get her take on Marissa Mayer’s motivations for the recent Yahoo ‘no remote work’ edict.

Stowe Boyd: I wanted to take a minute to get your thoughts about Marissa Meyers ‘no remote work’ edict.  it’s not in effect yet, it will be going into effect in June. There’s all sorts of controversy about it but I think the biggest question is does it represent a step backward to the panopticon notion that workers have to be watched in order to be productive?

Jennifer Magnolfi: Yes, of course I’m familiar with the case. There’s been a storm online of responses: critics and supporters alike have shared their opinions. From my perspective I wouldn’t attribute to this business decision to a broader statement of about the way we should work in the 21st century. I would imagine this to be a more specific business tactic, serving a near-term strategy to reinvent and bring the company forward to a degree of innovation that hasn’t been present there in a while.

Boyd: I think that’s the most generous interpretation I’ve seen. Various entrepreneurs are saying she has a problem, her house is on fire, and she has to put it out. The fact that she believes pouring water over the building is the best thing to do now doesn’t mean she wants it soaking wet for the rest of all time.

Magnolfi: I just got back from Las Vegas where I worked with another business leader of a tech company who is making a very specific, conscious investment in the importance of the physical environment of the culture. At Zappos, Tony Hsieh sees that as having strategic importance for the future of the business. It is widely known that this is what Tony has brought to his company. And to the world of business management — from a purely research-based perspective — it sounds really contrary to the mainstream view. And many people outside of Yahoo think companies benefit from the concept of worker mobility.

This is one of the biggest shifts in technology, and that has caused shifts in business culture, and in the social contract between employees and employers. From a purely research perspective there is no doubt that the potential for increasing knowledge creation, or the probability of increasing knowledge creation (which just means the creation of new ideas) is much higher when you are able to combine digital space interaction and physical space interaction. When you can combine the serendipity or the seemingly random knowledge streams you have online to offline, and to develop a ‘community of work’: it’s obviously a tremendous asset.

Boyd: I agree to the extent that you are looking at it micro-economically, relative to a single business for a short period of time.

Magnolfi:: I don’t think Yahoo’s internal strategy has been disclosed. I certainly haven’t come across it. It strikes me that it makes sense that one of the tactics that Mayer is deploying — at a specific moment in time — to reignite or accelerate a certain type of performance. I just can’t imagine the company or certainly Ms Meyer isn’t aware of the potential mobile technology has. Given her previous track record,  I’m a little less shocked by this. For a quite a bit of time now, I’ve been studying the potential and actual benefits of certain types of interactions being augmented in the physical environment.

Boyd: The term I use is concidensity: by increasing the density of people you are increasing the probability of coincidence, or serendipity.

Magnolfi: That’s a really good term, it’s a really fun term. I think if you are in that position, why wouldn’t you leverage that asset? I guess that’s the question I would ask, not knowing the internal context. I guess I’m not as harsh a critic of that, since it’s a tactical move. I don’t think it means more than that at this point.

Yes, I think coincidensity is a useful (and fun) term, one that I stole outright from Matt Biddulph, formerly of Dopplr. And I have to grant that Mayer is trying to make a cultural shift: specifically trying to get a culture that has been running in a fast-and-loose, networked way to a more tight-and-slow, collective mindset.

Mayer thinks that sort of culture is what is needed to turn the boat at Yahoo, and, grant you, she might be right. But it is running cross-grained against a number of newly instituted cultural work norms related to the  value of higher individual autonomy, results-oriented work, and application of social and mobile tools to support distributed, disconnected, and decentralized work.

Travel Social Net Dopplr Sold To Nokia?

Nokia (NYSE: NOK) may have added another location service to its collection. TechCrunch is reporting that the handset company has acquired D…

Dopplr Commits Hara-kiri, Sells to Nokia

[qi:gigaom_icon_geolocation] At our Mobilize 09 conference, someone joked that Nokia was the Yahoo (s YHOO) of the mobile world. I’m sure he meant that Nokia was bereft of direction and purpose. You can also extend that argument to Nokia’s acquisition strategy. The company has been buying up tiny companies, hoping to get a bit of web services magic. Unfortunately, all these acquisitions are like Band-aids applied on a cut carotid artery — they wouldn’t do much good unless Nokia has a platform that’s developed specifically for the mobile Internet.
That’s why I think that Dopplr, a London-based startup that marries location services with the social graph, is committing hara-kiri. The company is rumored to have been acquired by Nokia (s NOK) for between $15 million and $22 million. I’m happy for the founders and backers of Dopplr, after all it is a nice financial outcome for a service that hasn’t grown beyond a base of passionate users. It’s only a matter of time before Nokia mucks up this acquisition, however, much like it has in the past.

Safeguarding Energy Data Amid the Rise in Consumption Calculation

To manage it, you must measure it. That’s the mantra behind both consumer and enterprise carbon accounting initiatives. But to measure their eco-footprint, individuals often must share details about their lifestyles — everything from how often they run their heat or how much water they consume to what personal items they purchase — with service providers. Even if some don’t consider such information hugely confidential, storing this information attached to names or other personally identifiable data makes many people uncomfortable.

Following the boom in e-commerce and online social networking, one thing is painfully clear: Digital identities are powerful tools that can do as much harm as good. Identity theft, often perpetrated through online channels, hurts millions of consumers each year. So how can service providers go about creating digital profiles to detail energy consumption without compromising the security and privacy of the sources of the data? Three factors are key: control/ownership of data, data-sharing standards, and anonymity.
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Well-Traveled Angels Back Dopplr Again

Dopplr, a travel-focused social network based in Helsinki, has raised an undisclosed amount of money from an investor group led by well-known technology industry insider, Esther Dyson. It was an all-angel round of funding, something we’ve discussed on our FoundRead channel. Apart from Dyson, other investors in the company include Xing founder Lars Hinrichs and de.lici.ous founder Joshua Schachter. Saul Klein, formerly of Skype and currently with Index Partners and Seedcamp, invested again; as did he was joined by Martin Varsavsky, Reid Hoffman and Joichi Ito.

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Why Blogs Need To Be Social

Earlier this week, San Francisco-based Six Apart released the newest version of its flagship product, Moveable Type Pro, and pushed the blogging community toward a very social future. It is not a new concept — but now, it’s time for blogs to evolve and embrace the different ways in which we’re sharing our digital lives with the world. In short, they need to become social – very social. Continue Reading.

Review: Nokia Sports Tracker… Now That’s Hot

Phone makers these days are packing so many new technologies into their wireless handsets, it’s enough to make you nostalgic for a plain ole phone. Take Nokia’s N95, which has networking technologies including 3G and Wi-Fi, a still/video camera and a GPS module. But all of these features are pointless unless they’re easy to use and are stitched together in a such way as to fit into our daily lives. The best way to do this: software.

Nokia seems to be learning this lesson. A perfect example is Nokia Sports Tracker, which allows people to access statistics and other relevant information on their workouts. For instance, those who walk, run, cycle, or ski can track metrics such as average speed, total distance, altitude, and so on. By starting the application at the beginning of your workout, the program, through the use of GPS, tracks your positions and gathers statistics as you go. Sports Tracker’s latest version also includes the ability to include videos and pictures with your workout by attaching the media from your phone.

Nokia has also released a Sports Tracker beta web site that allows you to create a free account and upload your workouts from your handset directly to the web. There you can display a map of your workout route, average speed, elevation, and a host of other statistics.

But Sports Tracker isn’t just for fitness nuts. Travelers can share data about their trips with family and friends by way of a travel map accompanied by images and videos taken along the way. As Symbian-Guru has suggested, Nokia might want to consider a name change for Nokia Sports Tracker, something like Nokia Travels. Perhaps an integration with Dopplr is something the company should consider as well.