Friday, January 23

Obama: "more productive than any on Earth"

Obama is, quite simply, an amazing man. Whatever happens from now may change that opinion but at this time you couldn't hope for a smarter, stronger more truthful leader.

We can restore opportunity and prosperity. We should never forget that our workers are still more productive than any on Earth. Our universities are still the envy of the world. We are still home to the most brilliant minds, the most creative entrepreneurs, and the most advanced technology and innovation that history has ever known.

There's not a single claim in this inauguration quote that isn't true (and I'm not from the U.S).

America's own inventiveness and productivity creates new prosperity. Sitting here in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam has the same drive and desires. But right now the productivity of people (as a whole) is not anywhere close to the West.

There are many very smart, motivated and highly productive people in Vietnam but the pool of this talent is still much too small. So the country must still rely too heavily on it's low-cost wage to compensate for lower-productivity.

Within the borders of Vietnam, especially for international companies here, the bidding war to grab that highly skilled worker doesn't matter too much. (If you need a great manager to run your operation you have to pay). That's fine when your selling to the local market but not when you're exporting or outsourcing. Then, the productivity and wage balance must be in tune with competition from China, India, Europe, USA, Russia, S.Africa. So it's important that wages in Vietnam don't get too far ahead of productivity and skills.

Global commerce today is ruthless at finding this productive 'balance' and in allocating business and trade to the best. Vietnam has it's place at the table in textiles, shoes and commodities. China has consumer manufacturing. America continues to have it's place in Finance, Internet, Telecoms... because it's productivity more than compensates for it's higher wages.

Sunday, January 18

Comment: Is there life in Newspapers?

Seth Godin's, the digital marketing guru, has an interesting post on what will we miss when the Newspaper is gone. As a former 'digital' exec at News Corp's The Times and The Sun, I've had a good close look at this.

Back in 2005 I used to think the newspaper would quickly be superceded by the web, blogs, online newspapers, citizen journalism. Actually, it's pure economics that will bring their downfall, eventually. But unlike Seth, I think there is and will continue to be a demand for the newspaper experience. The problem is how to replicate it without paper?

Unlike the web, newspapers bring it all to you, in one convenient, well organised package. Rather than using a website where we headline scan or just delve into the categories we love (Footie, Business) to get our fix, a newspaper has an ability to 'interrupt', to get us to read something we may not have looked for. I personally never look at the celeb gossip on the web, but in a newspaper, I'll read those stories and quite like it.

The Sun, for example, offers a strong point of view, it champions charitable causes, it play's with celebrities lives, hits you with football gossip. The experience is light but this is a well crafted product. It can be 30 minutes of entertainment to fuel a 'pub conversation'. It's a marmite product for most (either love it or hate it) but either way, it offers a wrapped up read. Plenty of websites do the same but I would never consumer as much of the content across as many subjects on a screen.

The Times is an entirely different beast. Founded in intelligently crafted articles and analysis, it has gravitas and authority. Individually bloggers, such as Seth, can give us this same quality but they are each covering one topic or category, and we have to discover each one of them to get the total picture. The web is great for 'otaku' not so good for the wider picture.

It is easy to pull the pieces of a newspaper apart and replace each one with a fantastic website, blog, forum. But it is the physical 'paper' that makes the daily or weekly a uniquely captive experience, for readers and for advertisers.

Seth is absolutely right about the things going against the newspapers future. Printing oodles of paper, trucking it around the country, doesn't make a lot of sense in today's world. Surely either the environment or just the distribution costs alone will catch-up and surpass the revenues. But I think that day is still some years away.

In Asia and developing countries many big newspapers are in the growth phase. In Vietnam, as incomes are rising, and despite 100% free wi-fi in the cities, circulations are steadily increasing year on year. Distribution and production costs are lower in these countries too. So we may see the newspaper living on in developing nations, long after it is no longer viable in the West.

If the world's media houses can find a way to give me that 'newspaper experience' without the paper, I'll continue to buy. But it certainly wont be through a website. And I wont fly to Asia to get it!

Monday, January 12

Green: A cup of tea or 2 Google searches

I always held this idea that us internetters are working in a cleaner, greener industry than our offline counterparts. We'll as I kind of suspected, I was kidding myself. Time to clean up our act!

The Telegraph today reports on research showing just 2 searches in Google generates as much C02 as boiling a kettle (14g). That's a lot!

Now if Google handles 2m searches a minute (conservative guess), that's 14,000kg's of C02 produced.

The average car produces 166g per kilometre. So in one minute Google users have produced enough to travel 84,337 kilometres (2 times around the world).

Of course, you'd need a pretty big car to fit everyone in!


Update from Google 13/01/09
Google are clearly sensitive about this, and good on them, so they've tried to set the record straight with their own explanation.

Following their numbers, you could drive that car 2,410 kilometres a minute for all google searches happening. No trips around the world then! But still 'enough' and a reminder of the impact internet has on the environment.

Powering a Google search
1/11/2009 10:48:00 PM
Not long ago, answering a query meant traveling to the reference desk of your local library. Today, search engines enable us to access immense quantities of useful information in an instant, without leaving home. Tools like email, online books and photos, and video chat all increase productivity while decreasing our reliance on car trips, pulp and paper.

But as computers become a bigger part of more people's lives, information technology consumes an increasing amount of energy, and Google takes this impact seriously. That's why we have designed and built the most energy efficient data centers in the world, which means the energy used per Google search is minimal. In fact, in the time it takes to do a Google search, your own personal computer will use more energy than Google uses to answer your query.

Recently, though, others have used much higher estimates, claiming that a typical search uses "half the energy as boiling a kettle of water" and produces 7 grams of CO2. We thought it would be helpful to explain why this number is *many* times too high. Google is fast — a typical search returns results in less than 0.2 seconds. Queries vary in degree of difficulty, but for the average query, the servers it touches each work on it for just a few thousandths of a second. Together with other work performed before your search even starts (such as building the search index) this amounts to 0.0003 kWh of energy per search, or 1 kJ. For comparison, the average adult needs about 8000 kJ a day of energy from food, so a Google search uses just about the same amount of energy that your body burns in ten seconds.

In terms of greenhouse gases, one Google search is equivalent to about 0.2 grams of CO2. The current EU standard for tailpipe emissions calls for 140 grams of CO2 per kilometer driven, but most cars don't reach that level yet. Thus, the average car driven for one kilometer (0.6 miles for those in the U.S.) produces as many greenhouse gases as a thousand Google searches.

We've made great strides to reduce the energy used by our data centers, but we still want clean and affordable sources of electricity for the power that we do use. In 2008 our philanthropic arm,, invested $45 million in breakthrough clean energy technologies. And last summer, as part of our Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal initiative, we created an internal engineering group dedicated to exploring clean energy.

We're also working with other members of the IT community to improve efficiency on a broader scale. In 2007 we co-founded the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, a group which champions more efficient computing. This non-profit consortium is committed to cutting the energy consumed by computers in half by 2010 — reducing global CO2 emissions by 54 million tons per year. That's a lot of kettles of tea.

Update on 1/12 @ 4 PM: Harvard professor Alex Wissner-Gross provided new details on his energy research, in a TechNewsWorld article.

Posted by Urs Hölzle, Senior Vice President, Operations

Google Kettle Response

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