Tuesday, January 14, 2014

11th January – Getting to know Old Jaffa; Benny H. shows us how the Tel Avivian’s live.

Old Jaffa is the original settlement and port for the area before a Jewish breakaway of about 60 families settled the sand dunes north of Old Jaffa to form what is now Tel Aviv. Today is Saturday, the Shabbat (like our Sabbath) and no buses are running. It’s a nice sunny day so we decide to walk toe 4-5 klms to Old Jaffa. We find out from the Lonely Planet that where we are staying is just across the road from the acknowledged “Gay” beach area. Its winter though so we are comfortable walking across to the beach through gardens running alongside. We find out later from Benny H., that is not a place you want to be at night….not because of violence, but because of some practices that you might prefer not to view!

The beach stretch to Old Jaffa is ideal for promenading on a sunny Shabbat morning.
Tel Aviv Beach Front
The locals are out in force. We are impressed with the adult playgrounds (actually they are gym stops for 14yrs and over). The local Israeli racket ball game called Matkot looks fun. The bats are like enlarged table tennis bats. The ball is the size and colour of a squash ball, but hard as a rock. From what I can tell the idea is to maim your opponent with the hard rubber ball …. I think I could take to this game 

On the way I see an artistic interpretation of “The Last Supper” that appeals to me. It has Einstein sitting in the middle in pride of place. Not something I expected from the Holy Land!

Last Supper - Israeli style? .... reflecting their new hi-tech bias?

We call into the famous railway station that used to connect the Tel Aviv port to Jerusalem, but now is now disguised as an up-market shopping centre. Surprisingly despite the males in our party having worked with trains and transport systems, it was the females who seemed most attracted to the site, spending what seemed like a long time perusing the complementary artefacts (read jewellery and art stuff) on display.
Baklava BReak in old city Jaffa

Old Port in Jaffa

We finally make it to Old Jaffa, to find that its not all that ‘Old’ anymore. Its been renovated to be much like the ‘Rocks’ in Sydney with museums, galleries, gardens and a popular place for weddings. We are looking for a quick and easy lunch and find a well-patronised pastry shop. At the same time the owners of a Baklava shop, up the road a little, implores us to come in. Lyn pulls off what we think is a clever piece of negotiation by telling them that we will come in and use their facilities and have coffee and Baklava if they allow us to bring our pastries from the other shop to eat there as well. We later find out that they also own the pastry shop!

In the afternoon Benny H. picks up Julie and I for a tour of how the real Tel Avivian’s live. His parents had first lived in old Jaffa when they first came to Israel from Europe, when it was much more downtrodden. Benny H. had been involved with a number of start-up ventures post his military career in medical instrumentation and electronic communications. He had also worked at a large agricultural firm. Agriculture, Electronics and software are the big export industries for Israel. Defence is a big industry as well, complementing the electronics and software industries.

We think of Israel as a complex fusion of religious and ethnic differences. Benny indicated that conflicts between these divergences are often reported out of proportion. The wealthy suburbs had representations from all sectors. Like any large city there are preferred areas. And as like in Sydney, the leafier suburbs are the most prestigious. We were taken to the site of the assassination of the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. A memorial is placed in the spot that he was murdered. Benny indicated that most Israeli’s could not believe that such a thing could happen with all the security that surrounds the Prime Minister. I indicated that we had a Prime Minister that went for a swim and never returned! (unintended one-upmanship J)

Side- Bar – Social Technologies finding mainstream application

We mostly think of social software being designed specifically to bring people together for social interactions. Facebook facilitates interactions between friends, Linkedin facilitates more business focussed interactions. We are however now finding mainstream applications that have social technologies at their heart and with the expectation that they will outperform traditional software because of that. Twitter is perhaps a good example of software software designed for people to socialise via short sound bites, that is now being used as an early warning news source. Breaking information around natural disasters more regularly comes through Twitter, than conventional sources, with the people on the ground, in the event, being able to act as reporters. News trends are also being reported through mining of Twitter hash tags. Twitter is one of the reasons for the disruption being felt now in the publishing industry, worldwidewide. Ebay’s auction application was arguably the first major application of social technologies for mainstream use. Ebay was started as a means for people with common interests to get together and trade artefacts. This has now grown to be the world’s leading online selling application, on its way disrupting traditional retail markets.

In our tour with Benny H. I noticed that he was using a GPS application that is gaining popularity and one I had recently also loaded on my iphone. It is called Waze and as it turns out , it is an Israeli software innovation and the CEO is a friend of Benny’s. What is unique about Waze is that it does not rely on existing road maps as its base. It simply tracks where vehicles using its software are travelling and therefore builds its maps from this data. Additionally it uses social techniques to encourage people to report on points of interest, the most important being traffic incidents. As Benny suggested, Waze uses complex systems methods to collect information from independent agents and then to fuse this information in a way that it benefits all of the agents. Clearly cloud technology and the ability to collect realtime information from agents has made the Waze model possible….and we are likely to see more of this as cloud technologies mature. The unique utility that Waze offers is that the path it provides to you takes dynamic notice of traffic situations, and is therefore really the fastest route to your destination. As with all new software there has been some interesting anecdotes about its early use. Waze can claim to be the first GPS software with a map to the Antarctic! All it took was for someone travelling there to have Waze operating while they made the trip. It did not need a pre-existing road system. On the more negative side Benny told a story about one time where the software actually created a traffic jam by sending people through the same bottleneck. He called his CEO friend to point this issue out, only to be told that he wasn’t the first and the CEO had been inundated with complaints. Apparently there was a glitch in the cloud system that prevented certain servers from updating information …. I suspect this is an issue that only real-time applications like Wayz might be impacted by.

We will undoubtedly see more mainstream software relying on social models as their core means of delivery. This fusion of social and traditional is an exciting evolution which promises to bring another level of everyday utility to software consumers.

We finish up on the hotel rooftop terrace having drinks and solving the world’s problems (again).

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