Sunday, February 23, 2014

MediaWeek (V8, N8): Amazon Work Practices, Medical Information, London Romance, Lending eBooks, Newspaper Paywall +More

Over at Salon Simon Head suggests Amazon is worse than WalMart.
As at Walmart, Amazon achieves this with a regime of workplace pressure, in which targets for the unpacking, movement, and repackaging of goods are relentlessly increased to levels where employees have to struggle to meet their targets and where older and less dextrous employees will begin to fail. As at Walmart, there is a pervasive “three strikes and you’re out” culture, and when these marginal employees acquire too many demerits (“points”), they are fired.
Amazon’s system of employee monitoring is the most oppressive I have ever come across and combines state-of-the-art surveillance technology with the system of “functional foreman,” introduced by Taylor in the workshops of the Pennsylvania machine-tool industry in the 1890s. In a fine piece of investigative reporting for the London Financial Times, economics correspondent Sarah O’Connor describes how, at Amazon’s center at Rugeley, England, Amazon tags its employees with personal sat-nav (satellite navigation) computers that tell them the route they must travel to shelve consignments of goods, but also set target times for their warehouse journeys and then measure whether targets are met.
All this information is available to management in real time, and if an employee is behind schedule she will receive a text message pointing this out and telling her to reach her targets or suffer the consequences. At Amazon’s depot in Allentown, Pennsylvania (of which more later), Kate Salasky worked shifts of up to eleven hours a day, mostly spent walking the length and breadth of the warehouse. In March 2011 she received a warning message from her manager, saying that she had been found unproductive during several minutes of her shift, and she was eventually fired. This employee tagging is now in operation at Amazon centers worldwide.

Author Robin Cook penned an item in the WSJ about digital medical information will save us:
The brave new world of digital medicine is coming about by the convergence of three rapidly evolving technologies: IT, or informational technology, involving wireless signaling, cloud computing and, most particularly, the spread of ever more sophisticated smartphones; medical applications of nanotechnology; and the progressively lower cost and availability of genome sequencing.
Today, all the physiological data monitored in a hospital intensive-care unit—including ECG, blood pressure, pulse, oxygenation, sugar level, breathing rate and body temperature—can be recorded and analyzed continuously in real time on a smartphone. A small piece of hardware, either the size of a cellphone, or one integrated with a cellphone, held against your body, functions as an ultrasound device. It can deliver information instantly to you or anyone you designate, and the information rivals that collected in a physician's office or hospital setting. It can do so when you are experiencing specific symptoms—no appointment necessary—and at virtually no additional cost.
Thanks to more than 20 Silicon Valley startups and advances in microfluidic technology, smartphones will soon be able to function as a mobile, real-time resource for rapidly obtaining all the studies done currently in a medical laboratory, including chemistries, blood values and microbiological studies. A device worn on the wrist, called Visi, has been approved by the FDA for hospital use that can measure your heart's electrical activity, respiratory rate, blood oxygen and blood pressure (without a cuff), and transmit the data wirelessly. Many other such devices are coming out that could be used by patients in their own homes.
Mind the Gap in London: Where's the romance? (More Intelligent):
Romance, generally, is not something London does well. Paris, Rome and New York, yes: the boulevards, the ruins, the fountains, the cafés, the autumn leaves: even, for heaven's sake, rude waiters and the steam from the manhole covers. But, London: the river's too wide, the parks uninspired, the weather too grey: where is there in London to weep and linger over, memory pricked? Oh, it has a certain grandeur, and, even sometimes, a rough charm, a brusque wink in the bustle; but where is the love?
Or so it seemed until the recent revelations about one of the announcements at Embankment underground station. In the unfathomable ways of transport authorities, the northbound Northern Line platform at Embankment had become the last place on the entire system where the spoken version of the famous warning—"Mind the Gap"—could be heard. And so it was that the widow of the man who made the recording began to make special journeys to listen to it, and remember; until, inevitably, it was replaced by a digitised announcement, leaving the widow to write and ask for a recording.
Etymology of swearing.  Where do the words come from? (NewRepublic)

"The Girl who" titles (NewYork)

Consortia begins experiment to inter-library lend e-Books (Chronicle)
The Greater Western Library Alliance, a consortium of 33 academic libraries, came up with the idea. Developers at Texas Tech University and the University of Hawaii-Manoa, both members of the alliance, created the software, and the publisher Springer agreed to let its e-books be guinea pigs in the experiment.
Scheduled to begin in March, the pilot will run for a year. If it works well enough, the library alliance hopes to make Occam’s Reader available to other academic libraries and perhaps to persuade other publishers to join in.
Joni M. Blake, the alliance’s executive director, says the idea for Occam’s Reader dates to a meeting a few years ago. "People got to talking and saying, What are we doing? We’re buying all these e-books with licenses that say we can’t lend them to our consortial friends and neighbors."
Everyone agreed that had to change. But nobody had built a good-enough software platform for lending e-books. Other groups, including the Triangle Research Libraries Network, had tried, only to be tripped up by problems like how to respect copyright while giving designated borrowers access to only the specific books they wanted.
CJR takes a look at the London Times paywall and suggest it may be working:
One problem with the “newspapers have more readers than ever” notion, is that most of those readers click on a link, leave after 20 seconds, and don’t come back. They’re worth virtually nothing unless you can ramp up the scale, which tends to happen by going for the lowest common denominator. Indeed, in saying about the Sidebar of Shame, “Don’t confuse Mail Online with a business based on professional journalism,” Darcey sounds like Audit Chief Dean Starkman, who’s argued that paywalls necessarily bring a quality imperative while the free model tends to push the other way.
Subscribers, on the other hand, are loyal readers who spend lots of time and attention with one paper. Total time spent with a newspaper’s website is far, far below the time spent with its print editions.
But core readers are different online. The Times says its digital subscribers spend 40 minutes with it online, just shy of the 44 minutes print readers spend (though Sunday digital usage is still well below Sunday paper dwell time). That’s a big deal for advertisers and means The Times can charge exponentially more for each digital reader than it could with a clicks model.
The unanswered question, though, is how much digital ad revenue The Times is foregoing with its hard paywall and how a meter model would fare instead.
From twitter this week:
Here’s An Actual 3D Indoor Map Of A Room Captured With Google’s Project Tango Phone
Finally! How to walk across Dublin without passing a pub.

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