Friendly Muscle Support
Sunday December 31st 2006, 20:15h
Filed under: Private

Thanks to all who helped us moving into our new home!! The geographical change is small (PLZ, phone and email stay the same ;), but concerning space, especially for Lionel, it’s a huge change - have a look at it yourself and come visit us sometime. Our new address:

Anita & Matthias Stürmer
Steinhölzliweg 77
3007 Bern

A lost shelf on the grass

Zumi the man!

Exhausted in the new apartment

Lionel's World

Getting ready for Hawaii
Saturday December 30th 2006, 11:37h
Filed under: Ubuntu

As Sebastian and I will fly next week to Hawaii we’re getting ready for departure, thus revamping of my laptop had to be done:

  1. Fresh install of Ubuntu Edgy Eft
  2. Reinstallation of my favorites such as Tomboy, Liferea, gFTP and Sound Juicer
  3. Backwards configuration of Firefox because I’m used to press “delete” in order to step back
  4. Download of many (unfortunately mostly proprietary) Ubuntu enhancements such as Skype, Acrobat Reader, Google Earth, Sun’s Java etc. with Automatix (only VMware Player didn’t work as others figured out, too)
  5. Installation of Internet Explorer 6 (for website testings) with IEs4Linux
  6. Setup of Bluetooth for Ubuntu to send a large VCF contact file (200 addresses exported from Evolution) to my K750i
  7. Configuration of the nice 3D effects using Beryl
  8. Installation of cutmp3 (it does what it says) and ImageMagick (to automatically create thumbnails of my pictures)

Update: I kind of screwed up my Beryl installation, probably since I tried the fglx driver (in order to get two monitors for presentation) and Beryl is not supported together with this proprietary graphic card driver so the window manager Emerald wouldn’t start either removing my window decorations. My short-cut solution was to start metacity again - and then deinstall Beryl and read the manual again…

Make Peace in the War of Methods: Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research
Wednesday December 27th 2006, 1:23h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, Research

While preparing to start writing my first paper for a ‘real’ journal I studied the recent publications in the Journal of Management Science, the journal where we intend to submit our work by the end of January 2007. Appropriately enough I encountered a great methodological article in the current issue, ‘Building Better Theory by Bridging the Quantitative–Qualitative Divide‘, written by Sonali K. Shah and Kevin G. Corley.
It clearly explains the key issues of the frequent discussion on quantitative vs. qualitative research methods and shows the outlines of grounded theory building:

1. Define a research question
2. Find case(s) by theoretical sampling
3. Apply constant comparisons on collected data (four iterative stages)
1) Comparing incidents applicable to each category (coding, comparing and memoring)
2) Integrating categories and properties
3) Focusing the theory
4) Writing the theory
-> Goal: To find concepts that explain patterns in the data
-> Continue until theoretical saturation is reached (no more information is uncovered through the analysis of the data)

Concerning rigor of qualitative research, table II shows four techniques how to ensure its trustworthiness.

Traditional criteria Trustworthiness criteria Methods for meeting trustworthiness criteria
Internal validity Credibility Extended engagement in the field
Triangulation of data types
Peer debriefing
Member checks
External validity Transferability Detailed (thick) description of:
• Concepts and categories in the grounded theory
• Structures and processes related to processes revealed in the data
Reliability Dependability Purposive and theoretical sampling
Informants’ confidentiality protected
Inquiry audit of data collection, management, and analysis processes
Objectivity Confirmability Explicit separation of 1st order and 2nd order findings
Meticulous data management and recording:
Verbatim transcription of interviews
• Careful notes of observations
• Clear notes on theoretical and methodological decisions
• Accurate records of contacts and interviews

Source: Based on Lincoln and Guba (1985).

XMas Cookies 2.0
Wednesday December 20th 2006, 11:04h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, Ubuntu

Always being updated by the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter I just was informed there are really guys baking their Ubuntu cookies this season - so merry Xmas to everyone ;)

A human-friendly baking season

Presenting Ubuntu, a human-friendly Linux Distribution
Sunday December 17th 2006, 12:55h
Filed under: Ubuntu

On January 16th, 2007 I’m doing a little presentation on Ubuntu at the Erwachsenenbildung Zürich geared towards users (since I’m not a developer at all). If you don’t know yet this nice Linux operating system, have a look at the event!

About Efficiency of Fairtrade
Thursday December 14th 2006, 14:21h
Filed under: Fairtrade

As the Economist is also read by our team at ETH I got into the discussion with Stefan blogging his thoughts about the fairtrade article. My response concerning efficiency of fairtrade:

Hi Stefan

Yes, this Economist articles astonished me, too. Therefore I wrote a letter to the magazine - let’s see if they print it ;)

Concerning efficiency of the fairtrade model: I agree, if only 10% of the fairtrade extra charge would reach the farmers it’s not much. This would mean for a fairtrade product that costs 10% more than a conventional product only 1% more would reach the producers. But according to calculations of the Max Havelaar foundation (Switzerland) it’s a lot more as can be seen on page 27 in the annual report 2005. They state the fairtrade premium plus the minimal price make up 6% extra income for the farmers - notably six times more than written in the Economist. For the EUR 1.1 billion fairtrade market this sums up to EUR 66 million more income - a lot for poor people in the south. This is also the explanation why about 5 million people benefit from fairtrade according to the annual report of Max Havelaar.

Instead of bashing on fairtrade, as a clever business man I’d embrace a market with 37% annual growth rate! Well, maybe it’s happening the same with Linux and open source software: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” (Mohandas Gandhi)

Greetings, Matthias

Two Unbelieveably Weak Articles in the Economist
Monday December 11th 2006, 13:51h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, Fairtrade, Politics

With great disappointment regarding the quality of the argumentation I read two current articles, “Good food?” and “Voting with your trolley”, in the Economist. I really wonder what’s the point of the authors: Do they really want to tell us that ethical food is bad? Or do they rather want to give us a clean conscience if we don’t buy it? Although there are also several logical flaws in the critique on organic and local food, I concentrate on Fairtrade issues and wrote the following letter to the Economist:

Sir - Critically reviewing systems that circumvent free trade is fine, but yours on Fairtrade (“Good food?” and “Voting with your trolley”, December 9th) is too simplistic. Applying the standard economic argument that Fairtrade directly encourages overproduction assumes perfect market situation which in reality is never the case, especially not in coffee trade. In this $20 billion industry, Fairtrade certified coffee has a share of about 1 percent. However, six trade firms (Nestlé, Volcafe, Taloca, Intercafé, Decotrade and Ecom) control over 70% of the market volume (source: “Kaffeehandelsplatz Schweiz”, BILANZ #16, 2006) thus controlling much of the market mechanisms. And those are harsh in this particular industry: Highest world market price of the Arabica blend was 317 cent per pound in 1977, the lowest ranged at 56 cent in 2001. Today, the price remains highly volatile because of intense financial market enmeshment applying instruments such as hedge funds on coffee. Meanwhile, according to the report in BILANZ, the price of coffee in consuming countries does not correlate with the producing costs at all. While the world market price sank, the power of the traders rose and the sales price of coffee in retail increased - not exactly the prediction of free trade systems with perfect competition.
I believe your suggestion “Proper free trade would be by far the best way to help poor farmers.” is just wrong, since producers will forever be the weak ones when negotiating terms of trade with a multinational. As you pointed out correctly efficiency of help is always improvable. But buying Fairtrade is definitively better than doing nothing or in your case bashing on ethical food and laughing at people who conduct praiseworthy and pay a bit more to purchase Fairtrade products. Obviously, political action is necessary to improve the position of developing countries in world trade on a global level. Nevertheless, do the one and don’t stop the other - because they don’t harm each other.
Matthias Stuermer, Zurich, Switzerland

Update: I just called the Max Havelaar foundation (Switzerland), our national Fairtrade Labelling Organization. Spokesperson Regula Weber referred to their annual report where they deliberately explain what the farmers actually receive by producing Fairtrade certified goods - it’s definitively more than 10% as the Economist generally claims.

Theoretical Innovation
Sunday December 10th 2006, 14:27h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, Research

Yesterday the three-day doctoral seminar on innovation theory and research was over. Presenting and discussing 14 academic papers on innovation paradigms, modularity, innovation process, organizational behavior and competitive dynamics was highly insightful. And on Saturday each one of us presented the current state of his dissertation project. My learned lessons of this course - although not completely new:

  • State the basic assumptions of your research.
  • Focus on a narrowed down research question identifying relevant gap in theory.
  • Research question leads to research method leads to research design leads to theory leads to stakeholders.
  • Clarify how the empirical data relates to the constructs.
  • Present warrants for the claims.

Zeynep explaining the paper of  J.T. Macher 2006 on boundaries of the firm

Planet LiMux launched
Tuesday December 05th 2006, 16:43h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, Linux, Politics

I just got the note of Florian Schiessl that they launched the Planet LiMux on news about the Linux and OSS migration in the city of Munich.

Fairry X-mas!
Friday December 01st 2006, 11:07h
Filed under: Fairtrade

Yesterday Peter Weidmann, founder and CEO of visited our StopArmut meeting in Bern and presented the new fairtrade shop. He stayed for over two hours and answered all our questions on coffee trade, fairtrade, certification, product manufacturing etc. So if you’re still looking for nice and fair christmas gifts, have a look at: - Fair handeln.