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February 23, 2005
I'm Giving Up Blogging!
Topic: 4) A Random Walk

Actually, I'm going to be moving ... my blog that is. After some discussions with both my wife and my blogfather (Paul Brown), blogging appears like it is going to stay with me. I've been getting more interest in blog projects, blog writing, blog marketing, blog networking, blog small talk ... as much as I've been bucking moving, I need to just do it. My current service with Tripod does not support some of the front-end authoring productivity tools that I need. Additionally, although most of my readers are non-bloggers and non-technical, things like lack of support for trackback and some other technical things are not ideal for me. Time to bite the bullet. This move may also give me an opportunity to start fresh and get rid of some bad habits I have like maintaining multiple RSS feeds, writing some stuff in HMTL but having some stuff in other formats, etc.

Here the new destination ... http://www.steveshu.typepad.com. Hope to see you on the other side! We'll be covering Suzanne's series of posts there as well.

Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 3:03 PM CST
Updated: February 23, 2005 3:55 PM CST
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February 18, 2005
Dallas - Business Forecast Luncheon 2005 (The University of Chicago)
Topic: 4) A Random Walk

Today the University of Chicago held its Business Forecast 2005 at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. Excellent talks. Prognosticators were:

Robert Z. Aliber Professor of International Economics and Finance Emeritus, Chicago GSB. Director, Center for Studies in International Finance. Formerly Senior Economic Advisor, Agency for Economic Development, U.S. Department of State.

and

Harvey Rosenblum Senior Vice President and Director of Research of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Economic Policy Advisor to the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Associate Economist for the Federal Open Market Committee.

My key notes from Harvey Rosenblum's talk (my key takeaways: be thankful, be wary):

  • Shocks that happened since the late 90s - surprised they haven't sent us into a deep depression
  • Y2K overspending and then drop in spending
  • Loss of wealth due to stock market crash
  • 2001 World Trade Center
  • 2001 Corporate scandals (Enron, MCI, etc.) drove up cost of capital
  • Sarbanes-Oxley caused unintended consequences where all public companies now have to bear significant costs of implementing S-O compliance, etc. where only 2% of public companies may have problems
  • Iraq war
  • It is surprising we (United States) are not in a depression
  • Credits attributed to good monetary policy and fiscal policy
  • Additionally deregulation has provided the US markets with flexibility to weather these shocks
  • Growth 3-4%, inflation low, unemployment dropping
  • President Bush, while Time's Man of the Year, didn't get enough credit for just in time fiscal policy
  • Long bond rate "conundrum" exists, but the economy appears to be in a zone of price stability
  • Interest yield curves are flat, but history shows that if these tip then 1 year after that there will be a recession
  • Need to watch yield curve. Some concern if Fed follows historical raise rate policies there will be problems.

My key notes from Robert Aliber's talk (my key takeaways: international policy is biggest issue, trade deficit bigger concern than budget deficit, international shocks translate into the United States importing issues as the trade deficit):

  • $600 billion hole is trade deficit
  • 25 year slide of US dollar against Yen & Swiss (which basically means Europe)
  • Thus, we have sharp slide of dollar yet the trade deficit is increasing?? (rarely happens)
  • Perspective on why this is happening. When financial crisis occurs in other countries, it shows up as an import to our trade deficit (i.e., our deficit grows)
  • China's investment boom slowing because of evergreen finance (essentially loans being made, accruing interest, but funny money since no one is paying interest)
  • Going to be a problem in the future.
  • Turning back to international trade as a whole (not specific to China), the asset price bubble may burst if US puts in import controls.
  • Housing market may have some issues. Did we see the Las Vegas numbers?

One question I had in my mind after this talk was that I understood venture capitalists in the States to be eager to do deals in China. That said, given what I heard today, I would be wary of the propsect of things going south for investments in China in a timeframe that would be shorter than the investment horizon of a VC.

Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 4:06 PM CST
Updated: February 18, 2005 5:02 PM CST
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February 15, 2005
Recently Attended Author Talk On The Human Fabric (Covering Team Building)
Topic: 4) A Random Walk

I recently attended a talk by author, Bijoy Goswami. Bijoy covered team building as based on his book "The Human Fabric". I have to admit that I'm generally skeptical of the practicality of these kinds of talks, especially in cases where modern artwork is posted. Boy was I *wrong* (about both the content and the artwork - the artwork really drove some points home for me - sorry blog readers, no visual reference). All of it turns out to be great stuff. Bijoy's frameworks are useful and can be applied much like Myers-Briggs stuff can be applied (as opposed to being only descriptive).

Although I'm going to botch some of Bijoy's specific nomenclature, Bijoy's talk centered around building teams, and he talked about how successful teams need to build around three archetypes of people: the Maven, Evangelist, and Relater.

As I come from spending a good amount of time in the software world, people that are Maven-types are basically "Tools". Mavens are geniuses when it comes to technology and love architecturally cool stuff like gmail. They tend not to be good marketers.

Evangelists are thought of as people that come across as flashy, and they know exactly how to pitch a product with the one, two, and three top business points why one should buy.

Lastly, there are the Relater-types that are emphathetic and maintain relationships. They put people at ease and seek first to understand before seeking to be understood. They hate gmail, but they love Outlook because it helps the Relater stay connected with people.

In any case, Bijoy's claim is that teams (whether the team consists of two people) need to cover all bases.

As I think about my own archetype (a Relater-Evangelist), I realize that one of my past business relationships had been successful because my counterpart is an Evangelist-Maven. In one of my past client projects, I realize I plugged a key gap because of my Relater background. Now that I'm helping a friend recruit a key person for his company, aside from covering the nuts and bolts during the interview process, I'm thinking about how the new hire will round out the executive team.

Anyway, please check out Bijoy's book. I'm a believer now, and may end up buying the book for some of my clients.

Update (2/17/05): Bijoy has let me know offline that readers can take a look at the art and his website at http://www.thehumanfabric.com . Thanks, Bijoy!


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 10:00 PM CST
Updated: February 17, 2005 9:19 AM CST
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February 1, 2005
The Power of Microsoft Moves Markets and Economies
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
Back in November 2004, I referenced the historic Microsoft dividend payout in the context of what one could buy with money. I often perform these numeric exercises or reference work by others because it can sometimes be hard for people to comprehend how big numbers are. The influence of Microsoft is simply huge. I referenced how their recent moves affected the stock markets in the antivirus space. Now as Suzanne has pointed out to me, it appears the dividend payout has positively influenced the government's measure of consumer spending. Simply wow.

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 9:41 AM CST
Updated: February 1, 2005 9:45 AM CST
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January 31, 2005
eBay Advertiser Sold Out Too Cheap
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
Now I'm no expert when it comes to pricing real estate in terms of advertising dollars (although I could probably put my quant-head genes to work), but methinks this guy sold out too cheap. Efficient market theory, auction theory, winner's curse, ... ba humbug ... set a higher reserve price, man!

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 10:01 AM CST
Updated: January 31, 2005 10:05 AM CST
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January 25, 2005
Gates Foundation Pledges Ton of Money for Infant Vaccination
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
This is heartwarming stuff. I am very touched that Bill Gates (via The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) is spending much more money on vaccinating the world's young ones as opposed to vaccinating computers. The numbers are sometimes hard to grasp when talking about numbers this large, but if you can imagine cities and cities of people all being all infants, this money enables vaccination of that many kids. The population of the entire United States is 290 millionish.

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 9:01 AM CST
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January 24, 2005
Finding One's Groove As A CIO
Topic: 4) A Random Walk

This post has been cross-posted at The CIO Weblog.

buildingclouds.JPG
One of the well-respected consulting firms in Chicago (my prior hometown), Blackwell Consulting, has published a good article on CIO.com covering "The Top Things Every CIO Should Know". While that may be an appropriate title for the article, I thought the article actually captured a framework for finding one's groove as a CIO as opposed to being a list of 10 things that a CIO should know. Although it's not talked about that much, different styles of CIOs thrive in different jobs. To highlight a portion of the article that jumped out at me (because it focuses on what type of valuation mindset one has with a CIO),

"It's important to identify the primary goal of the company's IT efforts. IT may be viewed as a means of cutting costs by increasing efficiency, or as a way to get new things done, or as an opportunity to gain an edge that can't be replicated by the competition. The trend is toward cutting costs.

I would caution CIOs about going into an environment where it's all about increasing efficiency for two reasons. First, there are only so many costs you can take out, and then you've got to do something beyond that. Second, it's just not as rewarding as working in an environment where IT is valued for its strategic value in moving the company ahead. Ultimately, cutting costs is part of the job, but any worthy CIO should excel in both operational and strategic areas."


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: January 24, 2005 6:02 PM CST
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January 19, 2005
How Efficiently You Can Reach The Network May Be More Important Than How Good Your Network Is
Topic: 4) A Random Walk

Interesting information from The Wisdom of Crowds, by James Surowiecki. The book recounts some stats from the TV show, "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire".

For those unfamiliar with this groundbreaking multiple-choice Q&A contest show, participants were given "lifelines" that they could rely for assistance when they did not know an answer to a question. For one of the lifelines, the show participant was able to call up any trusted person that they could think of. The other lifeline enabled participants to poll the audience in the studio, where the masses would respond to the multiple choice question via keypad, the results would be displayed via histogram. The histogram, in effect, showed whether the majority of the crowd believed the correct answer was A, B, C, or D.

Turns out that for response accuracy, 65% of the time "phone a friend" resulted in the right answer vs. 91% of the time "ask the audience" resulted in the right answer. Although the results may be be subject to some selection bias where show participants tended to ask easier questions when polling the audience, it is a very interesting finding for those that leverage networks in personal and business contexts.

How often in the real-world have you gone to friends and business contacts to try to get answers? Now there appears to be a case for reaching a larger audience if you want to get more accurate information. Good research finding for those exploring wiki, open source, blogging, and information market technologies methinks.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: January 19, 2005 12:06 AM CST
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January 14, 2005
Non-Tech Phishing
Topic: 4) A Random Walk

Paul Brown has a very well-written (but sobering) post on the symmetric identity problem. Also demonstrates how phishing can be done without ever touching a computer.

I'll also support Paul and vouch for his wife - she is smart.


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 8:21 PM CST
Updated: January 15, 2005 4:38 PM CST
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January 12, 2005
Perhaps Not The Best Choice Of Domain Name
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
Perhaps marketing genius. Perhaps an oversight. You be the judge. (safe to click through today [until someone decides to trade it away ...]) http://www.penisland.net

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: January 13, 2005 11:39 PM CST
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January 7, 2005
Good Article on Venture Capital Blogging ... And Random Thoughts on Business Blogging
Topic: 4) A Random Walk

By way of Jeff Nolan ... one of the best profile articles I have seen on the Net on the small, but distinguished population of venture capital bloggers. Covered in the Venture Capital Journal.

To digress a bit, as a freelance management consultant (and not a VC), I resonate with some things here with respect to business blogging (as opposed to personal blogging): 1) blogging helps me to keep track of non-confidential information that I want to keep track of in a richer format that is better than bookmarks, spiral notebooks, etc., and 2) blogging forces me to actively process information and thus serve a goal of continuous learning. The publishing aspect of blogging is good too in that it is an efficient means to deliver and synthesize information in new ways. Good for low-level, bootstrap marketing (or at least branding if you take a stricter definition that marketing is about lead generation).

Some of my original goals for blogging were to learn more about the format, its use as an informal communication channel, impacts on search engine cataloging, and use as an online networking tool. For the most part these goals have been satisfied.

Unlike some of the VCs in the article, I have not yet experienced any impact on deal flow from maintaining a blog. My product offering is different though, and my audience is different too.

In any case, this circles back to my addition of blogging more about technology in 2005. It serves a goal of continuous learning. It makes no presumptions that efforts will lead to deal flow. Based on reader feedback, however, thoughtful and professional blogging does help me to preserve the brand of my reputation. Reputation and integrity are most important to me.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: January 7, 2005 10:02 AM CST
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January 5, 2005
Cool Vision for Event and Calendar Management
Topic: 4) A Random Walk

Scott McMullan has a cool vision for event and calendar management. From his post:

In the spirit of "tags are the new black," here's a vision for how event and calendar management should be handled by 2006: Wouldn't it be grand if all events in the world, from a garage sale in Lexington to a tech conference in SF, could be automatically discovered (Google), stored in one central, public domain, web services accessible database (Internet Archive), where the events could then be categorized (Topix), community rated and recommended (Amazon/Netflix/Last.FM), personally tagged (Flickr/del.icio.us), and ultimately custom-fed (PubSub) directly to your calendar device of choice (Calconnect)?


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: January 5, 2005 8:45 AM CST
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January 2, 2005
A 10-Year Old "Angel" Recognizes Signs of Tsunami and Saves Lives
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1179413,00050003.htm

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 1:08 AM CST
Updated: January 2, 2005 1:10 AM CST
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December 28, 2004
Asia Tsunami Footage in Beach Bar (Via Blog Entry)
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
I guess it's still hard to find much tsunami video footage on traditional news websites. I get essentially all of my news from people and the Internet (not TV). Here's some footage I found via a blog entry. Note: Windows Media format.

Located via: http://xo.typepad.com/blog/2004/12/amazing_tsunami.html

Update (Jan. 2, 2005):
This is a terrible tragedy beyond comprehension. For those still seeking information, here is one of the best sources of consolidated and comprehensive information I have run across: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Indian_Ocean_earthquake.

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 10:47 PM CST
Updated: January 2, 2005 1:00 AM CST
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December 22, 2004
More Glamour Than Cash With No Guilt And No Guesswork ... The Gift of The Gift Card!
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
Still having trouble thinking of a gift for the holidays? Yesterday the Christian Science Monitor interviewed my wife (Dr. Suzanne Shu) about the growth of gift certificate purchases. One would think that since gift certificates aren't fungible like dollars that there would be no rationale for their existence (applying pure economics theory). The positives for purchasing gift certificates are clearly there ... including glamour and providing the recipient a way to circumvent guilt of buying things. Make sure you read the fine print associated with gift certificates though. I'm still sore about the Chili's card mentioned in this article.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: December 22, 2004 12:00 AM CST
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December 20, 2004
New Study By PRTM in CFO Magazine Paints Bleak Picture for General Capex Trend But Reflects Optimism for Best-of-Breed Companies
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
December's issue of CFO magazine references in detail a study by my alma mater, Pittiglio Rabin Todd and McGrath (PRTM). I never knew Amram Shapiro when I was with The Firm, but Amram's reputation was great and preceded him.


What can I say? The CFO article is a great one to look at more closely. Here are some of my quick takeaways from CFO magazine's report on the PRTM study:
- Some of the largest companies in the world have cut back capital investment expenditures (Capex) substantially *in spite of* healthy increases in revenue.
- The Capex trend does not look like it is going to reverse soon.
- The hold back will, in turn, hold back the global economies.
- When segmenting out top performers (i.e., best-of-breed companies), results show that capital expenditures can be increased without affecting the bottom-line adversely.
- Key is integrating R&D and Capex (e.g., operations and product development) processes.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: December 20, 2004 2:18 PM CST
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December 16, 2004
Entrust e-Card Gives New Meaning to Having a Safe Holidays
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
The world is not safe enough. No longer does Frosty the Snowman have simple issues like evading greedy magicians after his magical hat. In today's scary world of malware, spyware, worms, phishing, and Trojan horse attacks to steal people's login information to online banking ... well Frosty has new issues to deal with. John Heltzel sent to me the following e-Holiday card, brought to us by Entrust, a security software provider.


While recent contextual advertising innovations by companies like Google, Kanoodle, and Quigo are clearly up and coming, I thought the branding associated with having a straight-up, cynical yet humorous, and timely e-Card was pretty clever.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 10:20 AM CST
Updated: December 16, 2004 11:29 AM CST
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December 15, 2004
Revisiting "The Blogging Iceberg"
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
Just more than a year ago (October 2003), Jeffrey Henning (COO and CTO, Perseus Development Corp.) wrote the influential article on "The Blogging Iceberg".


There are some that have indicated that Henning's research is flawed in that it does not address this, that, and the other thing. Yet others that criticize the research may have misunderstood Henning's use of statistics terminology. I lean towards the perspective that Henning's research was on target and that the scope of the research and limitations had been clearly cited in the original release.


That said, what is interesting to reflect upon as we draw to the end of 2004 is how the picture portrayed in "The Blogging Iceberg" has changed.


On the one hand, it appears unlikely that the hosted blogosphere will have grown to more than 10 million by the end of this month. Nevertheless, the blogosphere is clearly growing very rapidly as cited by sources like David Sifry of Technorati.


On the other hand, Henning's observation of nanoaudiences has begun to take shape in other areas. Numerous blogging authors are starting to point out the increased formation of microbrands. Although Henning refers to nanoaudiences in the context of small blog audiences consisting of family, friends, etc., the concept of microbrands stems directly from the nanoaudience concept. Microbrand blogs have developed identities analogous to niche magazines like Cigar Aficionado or Modern Drummer. In any case, I suspect the nano-micro-thing will continue to play out given sheer economies and that blogging may have an oversupply of authors right now.


On the demographics front, things didn't change that much in 2004, and I don't expect the blogger makeup on US soil to change all that much in 2005. That said, blogging technologies are going to be much more widely available given 2004 happenings such as Microsoft's entry with MSN Spaces and venture capital financing of Six Apart and Technorati, to name a few events. Who would have known that "blog" was going to be the #1 searched word and added to the dictionary?


Although Henning's research did not cover sociological impacts, it probably would have been difficult back in 2003 to predict that blogging would have created such a polarization effect with people. As evidenced by the massive split in the election results, I think that users are beginning to become more acutely aware of the power of a blog author to get a polarized readership (i.e., there are either those that love you or hate you). As companies begin to grapple with corporate blog policies and use of blogging as an informal marketing channel, it will be interesting to see how the polarization effect (if even mildly inherent to the beast) can affect customer acquisition and retention strategies.


2004 has been a year of blog activity for sure. For 2005, I personally expect to author a little more on the software markets. More details and experimentation to come.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: December 15, 2004 12:57 AM CST
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December 14, 2004
The Print Publishing, Open Source, and Blogging Crossroads ... the Blogozine!
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
Remember Tony Perkins, who brought us the Red Herring magazine? He's at it again. A new, quarterly magazine will go into circulation in early 2005. The magazine (coined a "blogozine") will draw heavily from blog material initially published at the AlwaysOn Web site.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 8:58 AM CST
Updated: December 14, 2004 9:03 AM CST
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December 13, 2004
Interesting Research on Email Use and Patterns of Communication and Relationships By Leaders in the Community
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
While researching information on Internet traffic patterns, I ran across the following research by Dr. Alaina Kanfer, National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: "It's A Thin World: The Association Between Email Use and Patterns of Communication and Relationships". The survey and research included 424 community leaders whose communication patterns were tracked over a week each.


In her the closing section of her paper, Dr. Kanfer writes (I have added bracketed terms to ease casual reading):
"The statistics presented above portray a "thin world" -- one in which the communication networks of email users are geographically more spread out than those of non-email users and they include more work-related [unique communication contacts] and strangers but fewer [unique communication contacts]with whom they have personal communications. Email users also have fewer friends to provide strong emotional support, and communicate with fewer co-participants in organizations, which suggests a decreased involvement in volunteer and local community work. Moreover, email users have more communications, but spend no more time communicating with each of their [unique communication contacts], have more brief relationships and decreased percent of communication partners in their immediate family. While some of these differences disappear when age and education are controlled for, note that the email users are relatively young and educated acting as early adopters of new communication technologies in their personal as well as work lives. These early adopters may be setting the standards for general email use. Thus, email use in a thin world seems to facilitate communication patterns and distributions of [unique communication contacts] that are increasingly important in a competitive global economy."


I think that is it is important to note that Dr. Kanfer measures the closeness of relationships along several dimensions used in the organizational and social sciences (brackets added as before):
1) Average minutes of communication per [unique communication contact]
2) Average number of communications per [unique communication contact]
3) Average duration of relationship [with contacts of person]
4) Percent of [contacts] who live inside county[/nearby]
5) Percent of [contacts] with personal communications


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: December 13, 2004 7:20 AM CST
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