labor posts

ChittahChattah Quickies September 15th, 2009
  • Sleep Dealer – Alex Rivera's 2008 film turns his Why Cybraceros? political-commentary 5-minute short into a feature film about an immigrant labor solution where impoverished Mexican workers use implants to remotely control robots in other countries, performing crappy dangerous jobs no one one in those countries wants to do. But they stay in Mexico to be exploited, rather than coming over the border.

    It's a powerful idea and the movie's history from agit-prop to entertainment meshes nicely with some of the points I made about science fiction recently in interactions magazine, in We Are Living in a Sci-Fi World.

  • Cybracero Systems – The ultimate in remote control. Workers doing whatever you need, from our state of the art facility in Tijuana, Mexico.
  • Why Cybraceros? (1997 video) – Link to the 1997 video
  • Why Cybraceros? – As agriculture has become a larger and larger industry in America, it has become harder and harder to find American workers willing to do the most basic farm tasks. Picking, pruning, cutting, and handling farm produce are all simple, but delicate tasks. Work that requires such attention to detail remains a challenge for farm technologists, and as of yet, cannot be automated. As the American work force grows increasingly sophisticated, it is even harder to find the hand labor to do these grueling tasks.

    Under the Cybracero program American farm labor will be accomplished on American soil, but no Mexican workers will need to leave Mexico. Only the labor of Mexicans will cross the border, Mexican workers will no longer have to.

    Using high speed internet connections, directly to Mexico, American farms and Mexican laborers will be directly connected. These workers will then be able to remotely control robotic farm workers, known as Cybraceros, from their village in Mexico.

  • Organizational Culture 101: A Practical How-To For Interaction Designers – Great piece by Sam Ladner. Success requires so much more than "doing the work" and this is a great look at some of the softer-yet-killer aspects of "consulting."
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ChittahChattah Quickies February 5th, 2009
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ChittahChattah Quickies January 10th, 2009
  • Wired on the big big money being made selling virtual items in online games – With about 30 workers on staff, Liu was able to keep a gold-farming setup running around the clock. While the night shift slept upstairs on plywood bunks, day-shift workers sat in the hot, dimly lit workshop, each tending three or four computers. They were "playing" World of Warcraft, farming gold at an impressive clip by hunting and looting monsters, their productivity greatly abetted by automated bots that allowed them to handle multiple characters with little effort. They worked 84-hour weeks, got a couple of days off per month, and earned about $4 a day, which even for China was not a stellar wage.
  • Wired on Ray Ozzie and cultural change at MSFT: At first, the skunk works-like nature of Ozzie's operation engendered suspicion and resentment – Previously, a big part of any development team at Microsoft was making sure its new product worked in lockstep with everything else the company produced. While that approach avoided annoying conflicts, it also tended to smother innovation. "This philosophy of independent innovation…is something Ray pushed very strongly," Ozzie's approach was to encourage people to rush ahead and build things. Then he'd have a team of what he calls the spacklers fill in the gaps and get things ready for release.
    He spent a lot of time on the physical workspace for his team. He had workers rip down the labyrinthine corridors on one floor and called in architects to create a more open design. Now, walking into the Windows Live Core group is like leaving Microsoft and visiting a Futurama set. Office windows open onto hallways so that quick eye contact can trigger spontaneous discussions. Whiteboards are everywhere. Pool tables, mini-lounges, and snack zones draw people toward the center of the space.
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Transparency January 30th, 2007

We’re located near the Pacific Ocean, where Highway 1 scoots along past small towns like ours, and then zips long a crazy road known as Devil’s Slide, with a mountain to the east and a cliff edge to the left. A tunnel is being built (after decades of controversy and planning) but most of the progress is hidden by the mountain itself. Not to mention that as you drive along at breakneck speed, it behooves you not to peer too closely at whatever is not the road itself.

So what are they building in there? Well, Caltrans, in a remarkable display of transparency, has photographers who document the work as it progresses. The pictures are really amazing, showing the people, the process, and the previously hidden environment. For some these are simply your usual construction photos, but for people who drive by there every day, waiting for the tunnel to open (2011 or something) and have little sense of the work behind the scenes, this is a really wonderful peek. There are tons and tons of pictures to browse, and I’ve nicked a few, below.

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