Dear Brit friends. I feel for you.

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For reasons I still fail to comprehend, Yianis “the Modest” Varoufakis, still manages to surface in the media, either as a celebrity speaker or as a controversial author. But it is probably only in the UK, where his status has been recently elevated into that of an unlikely hero. More than a year after that horrendous decision of the British, and with no solid strategy in hand, it seems that many Brexiteers believe they could draw useful lessons from the negotiation between Greece and its EU and IMF creditors, Varoufakis led back in 2015.

Well, I have news for them. It failed. Miserably.

If you want to understand why, I highly recommend WSJ’s article “”What Britain’s Brexit Negotiations Can Learn From Greece and a recent LSE Discussion Paper “Why Grexit cannot save Greece (but staying in the Euro area might)“. The later is an excellent brief analysis on what the short, medium and long term problems Greece would face had we left the Eurozone under Varoufakis’s “inspired” plan B.

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Back in 2015, Syriza was advertising its glorious ideas in one of the headquarters of international capitalism

After endless discussions with British colleagues and friends I feel their frustration. Don’t worry. You’ll get used to it.

We Greeks live with it for most of our lives.

Btw, if you want more read about where we stand at the moment in Brexit read the recent Guardian article: “UK’s approach to Brexit is ‘nostalgic and unrealistic’, says EU negotiator” (Guardian, 31/8/2017) and why “Brexit Is Beginning to Look Like No Brexit” (Bloomberg, 28/8/2017).

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Welcome to the Ultras. Rodopi Challenge 50 miles

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Τρέχοντας 82 χλμ. στη Ροδόπη

Λίγο πριν περάσεις τη γραμμή του τερματισμού στα ultra της Ροδόπης, σταματάς για να χτυπήσεις τις κουδούνες. Οφείλεις να σταματήσεις, αυτός είναι ο ήχος της επιτυχίας σου. Ακούγεται για αρκετές μέρες μετά στ’ αυτιά σου μαζί με τα συγχαρητήρια και τα μπράβο των φίλων που σε περιμένουν εκεί. Ο Χρήστος και ο Ηλίας διογρανωτές και ψυχές του αγώνα, θα είναι εκεί. Θα σε αγκαλιάσουν και θα σε φιλήσουν σαν να σε ξέρουν χρόνια. Θα μείνουν εκεί στη γραμμή του τερματισμού, μέχρι να φτάσει με ασφάλεια και ο τελευταίος αθλητής. Συναθλητές, εθελοντές, προπονητές, φίλοι και σύντροφοι εκεί, από το χάραμα ως τις μικρές ώρες μετά τα μεσάνυχτα.

18222146_10155235295088908_4787587821378942416_n.jpgΟι αγώνες ultra ξεκινάν εκεί που σταματάν οι υπόλοιποι: 70, 80 και άνω χλμ. χωρίς σταματημό. Δεν είναι καθόλου εύκολο να βγάλεις έναν τέτοιο αγώνα 82 χλμ. και 4.200 μέτρων θετικής υψομετρικής. Δεν είναι ποτέ αυτονόητο ότι θα τον τερματίσεις, ειδικά όταν είναι ο πρώτος σου τόσο μεγάλος αγώνας.

Ο Χρήστος είχε πει κάτι στην τεχνική ενημέρωση που θα μου μείνει: “Οι  ultra δεν είναι για όλους. θα ξέρετε αν κάνετε για αυτούς 1 ή 2 μέρες μετά.” Σωστά. Όταν το σώμα θα έχει ηρεμήσει από την ένταση του αγώνα και ο πόνος θα γίνεται αισθητός σε κάθε κίνηση. Όταν το στομάχι θα μπορεί πλέον να δεχθεί κανονική τροφή χωρίς να διαμαρτύρεται. Όταν το μυαλό θα έχει καλμάρει από τη ζάλη και θα μπορείς να αξιολογήσεις καλύτερα το πριν και το μετά (αν θα υπάρξει μετά).

Είχε δίκιο. Ο πόνος σε συνοδεύει για μερικές μέρες. Όμως καθώς εξασθενεί και φεύγει, έρχονται και σε πλημμυρίζουν οι στιγμές του αγώνα.

IMG_0343.jpgΗ στιγμή της εκκίνησης. Η ώρα που φτάνεις στους σταθμούς και οι εθελοντές σκοτώνονται να σε βοηθήσουν (αν είσαι πραγματικά τυχερός είναι και η γυναίκα σου εκεί).  Η προσπάθεια να ανέβεις την ατελείωτη ανηφόρα του Θεολόγου χωρίς να βλέπεις ίχνος αθλητή ούτε μπρος, ούτε πίσω. Η νύχτα που πέφτει στο δάσος βαθιά και το φως του φακού στο κεφάλι σου. Τα χιλιόμετρα που μετράν ανάποδα στο τελευταίο κομμάτι. Τις μικρές κουδούνες που ακούγονται από μακριά σημάδι ότι πλησιάζεις. Τις μεγάλες κουδούνες που χτυπάς όταν πια φτάσεις στο τέρμα. Τις αγκαλιές των φίλων στον τερματισμό.
Και καθώς δυσκολεύεσαι ακόμα να κατέβεις πολλές σκάλες και τα μισά νύχια έχουν διαλυθεί, βεβαιώνεσαι. Του χρόνου θα είσαι πάλι εκεί. Να ξανακάνεις την υπέρβασή σου. Να ξεπεράσεις πάλι τον εαυτό σου. Σκέφτεσαι ήδη για ακόμα περισσότερα χλμ. ακόμα περισσότερες ώρες στο βουνό.

IMG_0339.JPGΜάλλον κάνεις για ultra. Η κοινότητα του Rout υποδέχθηκε όλους εμάς τους νέους στα ultra με τον καλύτερο δυνατό τρόπο. Δεν θα την απογοητεύσουμε.


Υστερόγραφα: Τι άλλο μου έχει μείνει από τον αγώνα.

ΥΓ1: Ο Γιάννης Κουρκουρίκης, πρωταθλητής και προπονητής μου, που αφού τερμάτισε πρώτος σχεδόν 7 ώρες πριν, με περίμενε στον τερματισμό.

ΥΓ2: Οι 2 διοργανωτές, ο Χρήστος Κατσάνος και ο Ηλίας Σπυριδόπουλος που με την ακούραστη διάθεση τους, το χιούμορ τους, την προσιτότητα τους μας έκαναν να αισθανθούμε μέλη μιας οικογένειας.

ΥΓ3: Το άψογο επίπεδο των εθελοντών, που τέτοιο σπάνια βρίσκεις σε αγώνες.

 

Truth is under attack. We need to fight back

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Why ruin a nice story with inconvenient truth? In the aftermath of BREXIT and USA elections, it has become more than obvious that one of the biggest dangers our liberal democracy faces, is the avalanche of “post-truths”, misinformation and straight-out lies.aaeaaqaaaaaaaajiaaaajgq5m2q2y2q5lty2nwytnddkoc04nzliltu2nmzkowvjmwq2mw

Nobody cares for the facts or for any details for that matter. Much too often we are surrounded by people ready to believe anything convenient for them in Facebook or Twitter and at the same time disregard any hard data and evidence, provided by the most distinguished media outlets or scientists.

The discussion has just started, and we need to act before it is too late. Social Media are a part of our life and quitting or abandoning them is not the answer in my humble opinion. From what I’ve read and realised so far, we need to focus on 3 objectives:

  1. Stop lies and block trolls which is apparently a very lucrative business (see #3 below).
  2. Create stricter verification systems where anonymity could not be used to harass or intimidate people (see #5)
  3. Educate users, especially young, for whom Social Media is often the only source of information.

But, please. Do not stay in this article. Dig deeper, investigate, argue. I’ve put together an inconclusive list to help you started:

  1. You can start with BuzzFeed’s Analysis that Shows How Fake Election News Stories Outperformed Real News On Facebook. It’s short, informative and easy to read.
  2. Continue with Foreign Policy’s (Nov 16) article: “Facebooking Ourselves to Death“. Ilya Lozovsky is crystal clear: “Americans are awash in a sea of disinformation. We’ve got to fight back.”
  3. Learn how “Trolls” operate in these pieces by Washington Post (Nov 16) and this slightly older piece by Business Insider (Jul 16).
  4. Read “Why Facebook and Google are struggling to purge fake news” (Washington Post, Nov 16) and if they actually can solve the problem. (Can Facebook — and the Republic — Solve the Fake News Problem?, Foreign Policy, Nov 16)
  5. See what Reuters has in mind (Reuters built an algorithm to flag and verify breaking news on Twitter. A tool that filters out the fake, VERGE, Dec 16) and Jason’s Calacanis post (a well known Angel Investor) on what Twitter should do.
  6. The same are more or less repeated in this recent TechCrunch article: UPDATED: Machine learning can fix Twitter, Facebook, and maybe even America.

Finally, I highly recommend this very interesting article on MEDIUM: ” How We Broke Democracy, Our technology has changed this election, and is now undermining our ability to empathize with each other“. If it is one piece you select to read this should be it.

Now, nobody said that this is easy and misinformation is not our only problem. Inequality exists and we can not ignore it. Stephen Hawking believes “This is the most dangerous time for our planet” and at least one, one-percenter agrees (Watch Nick Hanauer at TED).

But, the problems of our society will not be solved by populism, lies and empty promises. We need truth, empathy, hope and realism.

AI, Modern Gov and the power of Networks

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Amid the recent bombing mayhem in Ankara, an ever escalating refugee crisis, a stagnated global economy and the EU-Turkey Summit of 17-18th, I picked up a few reads that you might find interesting or even intriguing and will probably take your mind off disturbing  headlines (at least for a while).
If you are in a hurry start from the links in BOLD.
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GoToVan, Science World, Flickr

Incredible Science: AI

The latest “Human vs. Machine” game has ended. Read what Google has to say about it, in their latest blog: What we learned in Seoul with AlphaGo by Demis Hassabis, CEO and Co-Founder of DeepMind (a google subsidiary focusing on AI).
  • If this AI thing is new to you, maybe a non technical video from DAVOS 2016 will enlighten you: Key people from academia and industry discuss “The state of Artificial Intelligence“.
  • Not everyone is partying with the prospect of more AI though. Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking are not that thrilled. Read here why.

Looking for more?

Modern Government & data

In the era of Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) and big data, ODI (the Open Data Institute, UK) is making a very important argument on Data Infrastructure. What is it and who owns it? This argument is even more important as UK government is thinking of privatising the Land Registry, as it recently announced in the 2016 Budget.

And if you wonder how local governments can benefit from digital technologies then Nesta  has a very comprehensive report for you: Connected Councils: A digital vision of local government in 2025. (Download the pdf here)

Nesta has also “5 ideas for renovating democracy“. May sound obvious but it’s governments we are talking about.

The power of Networks

Last but not least, a long but very concise presentation on Network effects (think Facebook, Airbnb, What’s App). What they are, why they are important, how they can help you in business. A highly suggested read.

I guess these are enough for the weekend!

So much to read, so little time!

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The abundance of information and news is a fact. The difficulty we now face is how to pick up the ones that matter (for each one of us). Every day I get about 10 news bulletins from various sources including: The Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, TIME, DW, BBC (mainly through their excellent tech shows: Click & Tech Tent), TechCrunch and Crunchable and of course many Linkedin groups or twits from people or organisations I respect and follow.

Usually all this stuff is piled up in my inbox and I go through it early in the morning or late at night, trying to identify those reads that actually mean something to me. I’m fascinated from technology and science, entrepreneurship, innovation and of course International relations.

Thomas Hassel: reading, Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart
Thomas Hassel | reading, Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart | Flickr

 

So these are my picks for this week:

Intriguing Science

Deep Learning for Robots: Learning from Large-Scale Interaction; Posted on Tuesday, March 08, 2016; by Sergey Levine, Research Scientist on Google’s Reseach Blog. It is a great piece on how interconnected robots can learn and improve their performance through repetition. Neural networks and AI is here.

Now, speaking of AI, I cannot but jump to another company promising amazing change in human computer interaction. Check out Magic Leap and put them on your radar. I think we’ll soon hear more about them.

New kids on the block

Another start up to follow is LightSail. They are developing an adaptive literacy software, and managed to raise $11 million in a Series B round. Among the investor was Scott Cook, the co-founder and Chairman of the Executive Committee of Intuit (leading the round) and the Bezos Family Foundation.

Open Access

This week the US government, announced a new initiative that gives access to local & federal datasets. The Opportunity Project, will allow developers to access under-utilised data to build new solutions. After Open Data maybe the next evolutionary step is the market of personal data. Although this is not new, Nesta (UK) has conducted some very interesting reports and they share their valuable insights. Read this post by John Davies to find out more.

Another report worth reading (only 26 well designed pages) would be Research Software Sustainability“, Report on a Knowledge Exchange Workshop, by Simon Hettrick, of The Software Sustainability Institute.

Never Stop Learning

If you are looking for an intriguing listening, you can listen to “Blitzscaling” podcasts. This was an entrepreneurship class at Stanford presenting  a strategy in which a company “pursues unusually high rates of growth in a way that’s tactically inefficient in terms of capital and other resources, but strategically essential to capitalizing on a large and attractive market opportunity.” You can find everything you may need here.

With so many examples of disruption in established sectors, we still haven’t seen any real revolution in education. Despite e-learning, MOOCs and so much tools, mainstream education (from K-12 to higher) still follows the same structure (lectures, assignments, exams). A new paper by Nesta discuss “The challenge-driven university: how real-life problems can fuel learning“. Inspiring food for thought.

In memoriam

It’s always good to remember people whose contribution to this world was far beyond their existence. One of them was Ray Tomlinson, who died on Sat March 5th, at the age of 74. He was the inventor of the email and of the @ symbol. He will not be forgotten. Read about how he died, but more importantly how he lived here.

We were all Agile: Agile Greece Summit 2015

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I spent last Friday in Athens in a conference taking place for the first time in Greece. Agile Greece Summit 2015 was the first of its series in Greece and I do hope that more will come. Not only the speaker roaster sounded very promising on the announcement, but it proved an exciting one indeed. From Spotify to Swiss Postal services and from Vodafone to IBM, every session proved revealing.

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Photo Courtesy of Jason Carter @Flickr

I did not have the chance to follow every speaker since the programme was deployed into two parallel sessions, but I did manage to have a full day of interesting discussions, provoking arguments and inspiring ideas.

I particularly enjoyed the presentation from Spotify, on “Why autonomy is at the heart of agility”. Kristian Lindwall & Cliff Hazell talked about Spotify and the autonomy of every worker. You can get an idea of their talk from a previous presentation you can find here.

I liked the approach of Gunther Verheyen, from Scrum.org for scalling scrum, although before we scale scrum we first have to impelment it successfuly and to really hone it. If you are new to agile and scrum by the way, Scrum.org is an excellent starting point, which also offers a range of Scrum Courses and Certifications.

Ben Linders, a world class agile expert, showed how using different exercises can help you to get more value out of agile retrospectives. You can find his presentation along with other very useful material in his web site.

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Niels Pflaeging at Stage

Claudio Perrone, another speaker with many capacities and even more skills, presented PopcornFlow, his new model for continuous evolution through rapid experimentation. His web site is full of interesting information and tools.

But probably the real revelation (at least for me) was Niels Pflaeging. It wasn’t just his relaxed American style, nor his humour and provoking (to some) language. More than that, it was his profound ideas and fascinating arguments that engaged the whole audience. Niels is worth reading. His short and nicely illustrated book that we got as a freebie proved a great companion in my way home. Niels has a whole universe of books, white papers, videos and presentations and it’s worth looking at every one of them. (Start here).

All in all, it was a great workshop and I hope we’ll have the chance to build further the agile community and knowledge. Maybe some day we’ll manage to even actually use it in Greece.

Up there on the mountains

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Summer. Just a few weeks ago, end of July and instead of being at a beach and listening to the waves, you drive for about 3,5 hours to be in Zagori. Along with you another 1000+ athletes waiting to climb Timfi as fast as they can and run it downhill even faster. Before that there was Olympus Marathon, and half a dozen other races on mountains all over Greece.
Snow, mud and icy trails during spring. Dusty, dry rocks and hot sun during summer. Almost every weekend, you are there, standing at the starting line, regardless of the weather, the season, your problems and your worries. Read the rest of this entry »

One last hope

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Photo by Rania Hatzi @Flickr The Greek Parliament behind bars

Ι recently read a great article in HBR by Michael G. Jacobides entitled “Greece’s Problem Is More Complicated than Austerity“. I’d like to urge my FB friends (especially non-Greek ones) to read it carefully and give it some serious thought if they want to really understand what is taking place in Greece.

After the latest Greek deal in July, the parliament indeed voted for some (not all) prior actions necessary to re-start negotiations on a new long term bailout program (the third since 2010). Nevertheless, the ruling party is (as most of us expected) heavily divided between more than one of its political components. The most influential of which are the radical neo-communists led by the Former Minister of (non) Development, P. Lafazanis, who believe that the new Drachma is the solution to all our problems. Unfortunately, they are not offering any solid justification of how leaving the Euro will actually help the country and not their own political nomenclature. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to change! Greek crisis & reforms.

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18576973764_2c2156c253_kSo, we now have a result. The Greek people have voted no to our recent referendum. I’m still not exactly sure what the question was in the first place, or even why it was necessary to go through such a process, at this particular moment in time. Regardless of all these, I follow the ubiquitous social media and I am convinced that we’ll need considerable time to heal and recover, from this friction and conflict. I see fear, distrust and genuine concern from those of us who voted YES, bitter and arrogant comments from many that supported NO, unbelievable accusations (from both sides) and masses of people celebrating in streets and squares as if the war is over and we have won the lottery, both as a nation and as individuals. Either I totally get something wrong or I’m biased and pessimistic by nature (which, I probably am). Read the rest of this entry »