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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Managing Business Complexity

Just received and have been exploring the book: Managing Business Complexity: Discovering Strategic Solutions with Agent-Based Modeling and Simulation by Michael J. North and Charles M Macal. The Amazon link is a 'search inside the book' so you can take a quick look. The second chapter 'The ABMS Paradigm' is an especially useful and relatively detailed introduction of the idea. The following chapter gives you an idea about what agents are all about, and why you should care. Later chapters are more academic, but also include examples of both approach and business problems being addressed by these models. Of particular interest, a store simulation model.

I was struck while scanning and reading parts of this book by how similar this approach is to the AI methods of the 90s. What it adds to the idea is the aspect of the agent, a simple entity that forms the basis of the modeling approach. And, finally, but also very important, these models are all simulations, often adaptive, that need to be understood statistically.

The authors are practitioners of this form of modeling at Argonne National Labs, and are consultants for ABM work. I have heard North talk on the topic and he knows the approach very well. I saw some early drafts of this book as well. Recommended.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Robotic Insect Flies

This, like general autonomous robotics, is a long predicted development. Small scale flying robots. I glean from the article there is still much to do to make these useful, especially with regard to power sources and range. It is though a first step. Surveillance is the obvious application. Robotic Insect Takes Off or the First Time Researchers at Harvard have created a robotic fly that could one day be used for covert surveillance and detecting toxic chemicals. In a broader sense these kinds of systems could be used as swarms of cooperating elements, used to solve a problem that involves delivering sensors to a location and reacting intelligently. And of course, the implications could be scary. This article emphasizes the mechanical difficulty of creating such a device. Early on you would expect there to be examples of remotely controllable systems, rather than autonomous capabilities.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Art and Interface


Some of you may have seen the recent PBS program on the art of Van Gogh by Simon Schama. A colleague sends a link to a YouTube video that shows a Second Life build by Robbie Dingo that constructs a 3D version of Van Gogh's 'The Starry Night'. This is very impressive if you have, like me, done some simple builds in SL. Its like giving me a set of paintbrushes and paints, and telling me, certainly you can reproduce it, you have all the elements.

Although I have been developing some skepticism that Second Life specifically will succeed, this video does show how impressive, awe inspiring and attention grabbing things can be built in virtual worlds. So what does this mean to a soap company? It means that some of the things you can do on TV or in the movies will eventually be possible in a virtual worlds with complete interactivity. That will mean a very different world for marketing. This video is a demonstration of the first steps in that direction.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Want vs Should

From HBS's Working Knowledge: Understanding the 'Want' vs 'Should' decision. Todd Rogers and Katherine L. Milkman discuss their working paper on impatience in grocery purchase decisions " ... How do people's preferences differ when they make choices for the near term versus the more distant future? Providing evidence from a field study of an online grocer, this research shows that people act as if they will be increasingly virtuous the further into the future they project ... ".

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Reclaiming History

I have had a long time interest in the history of the Kennedy Assassination. I remember distinctly when it was announced to our grade school class in the 60s. I bought a copy of the Warren Report in the 60s. In the 70s at the University of Pennsylvania a freshman hall-mate had written what must have been one of the first conspiracy books. Now there are over 800 books on the topic. With many hundreds more articles and now blogs. I don’t know how many I have read, but in the 90s I read a few of the conspiracy books and was briefly converted to strong skepticism about the lone gunman. Some 75% of American’s still have that view. In the 90s I saw the movie JFK, and due to the magic of cable a few times since. In the 00s I visited Dallas for the first time, and stood on the grassy knoll.

Now I have read Vincent Bugliosi’s: Reclaiming History : The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Well, OK, I have not read the whole 1,600 page thing, but I read much more than I expected to read when I started. Bugliosi takes the lawyers view. Since we will never know exactly what occurred that day, he looks for the preponderance of evidence, and seeks to refute the hundreds of theories that have emerged since then. He has taken twenty years to do it, and it shows. He has covered just about every variant if every conspiracy theory and puts them all directly in their place. He explains how every natural inconsistency has been twisted and turned to hatch yet another conspiracy theory.

This long book can be read as a set of separate parts. For example the chapter on Oswald stands alone as a insightful view into the character of Oswald and makes it clear that the idea that he was hired as an agent is laughable. A long chapter lays out what we know about what happened during those days, minute by minute. Bugliosi makes the case that there are naturally holes in that narrative, as one might expect, and the conspiracy theorists have spun a theory into every one of them.

Ballistics, rifles, bullets, logistics and strange motives are all discussed in considerable detail. The motives of the CIA and FBI are explored and the politics of the time.

A chapter in the movie JFK lays out why that piece of Hollywood slickness is a particularly dangerous piece of work. It takes the worked of a deranged prosecutor and then twists its weird logic to make it plausible. Yet it is not. A good example is how the case of the ‘magic bullet’, now long debunked, is played out there. This movie was seen by many reviewers as masterful, but can it be if it proposes a lie? Now many people think of it as definitive. This is the part of our history that needs to be reclaimed, making Bugliosi’s title so apt.

So will this movie change anything? Will the 75% be converted back to reality? Likely not. Just read the comments on Amazon. Lots of folks who admit they have not read the book, but have their own theories about what conspiracy occurred, and nothing will convince them otherwise. Even scarier, its starting all over again with 9/11 ‘truthers’.

And, if you have not had enough, there is an included thousand page CD-ROM with lots of readable footnotes. Here Bugliosi adds lots of additional text, including descriptions of some of the wackier theories that have been spun. There are multiple Oswalds, Oswald lovers and conspiracies so vast and convoluted only the desperate can claim them.

There is also something to be learned here about how to think about evidence and truth. In instances where there is no truth we can examine. Will this change as we have more cameras, more recording? I admire Bugliosi’s taking it to this level of detail.

Very good book.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Stephen Jay Gould and the Richness of Life

Have read a number of the works of Stephen Jay Gould over the years and met him at one of the TED conferences in the 90s. We had a nice conversation, I think about the implications of evolution in the modern world. He was one of a group of a few authors where I anticipated heir new books. I am neither a trained biologist nor a paleontologist, so my view of his writing was always that of an enthusiastic amateur. He did an excellent job of translating his profession and some of its odd corners to me. I was happy to see a recent edited collection of his works entitled The Richness of Life. I am now making my way through it and remember many of the essays. Recommended for an introduction to his works if you have, or have not explored them already.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Children's Safe Drinking Water

This has achieved considerable publicity, but it deserves more:
P&G's Children's Safe Drinking Water Program Reaches Final Twenty Five of AMEX Members Project. See the full Drinking Water external blog. This blog was one of the first to push this project.

GPS Pact with Galileo

Global Positioning System (GPS) location satellites have changed our world in the last dozen years, We see it in cars, airplanes and phones. It allows us to perform actions with locational intelligence with increasing precision. I recently consulted on its use in an agricultural application that aimed to optimize harvest processes. New methods of interpreting the satellite data has greatly increased its leverage. Methods now exist to improve the analytical analysis of signals from the satellites to several meter accuracy. The system does not work indoors, limiting its use for applications like store shelf.

Its a global system, but the European Union has been in the process of developing their own network of satellites called the Galileo Positioning System, planned to be operational in 2010. I had wondered how this might work in conjunction with the US system. The answer is here, a pact is in the works between the US and EU to share standards, signal and development to improve the overall accuracy of the system.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Top Marketing Blogs

Draft of a list of top marketing blogs written by client-side marketing professionals. Good examples, amny I had not seen. Via and more at Pete Blackshaw's CGM blog.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

HP's Cell Phone Color Matching for Cosmetics

colormatching2.jpg Via StorefrontBackTalk, which links cellphone cameras to cosmetic choices. Would seem to naturally derive from HPLabs work on colors in printers. Though I wonder how well it works on a small screen. Another article.
" ... Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday announced that it has created a mobile application that uses imaging algorithms, wireless broadband and the phone's digital camera to allow on-the-fly color matching.

HP is pushing the technology as a way for retailers to help boost sales by, for example, helping sell makeup that matches specific skin shades.

An HP statement paints this retail scenario: "Instead of sitting down with a consultant at a beauty counter, a shopper photographs herself using a mobile phone camera and while holding a specially designed color chart ... "

Friday, July 13, 2007

Euro Parliament: No Significant RFID Privacy Impact

Privacy has long been mentioned as an area of negative impact for the broad use of RFID tags, from the RFIDJournal: " ... Issued by the European Parliament's Scientific Technology Options Assessment committee, the report finds that the use of RFID to date has not had significant negative impacts on the privacy of individuals, though it does call for transparency ... ". Have tracked and have been involved in this area for some time. Although there is some weaseling in the 'to date' above, this is a very positive statement for the industry. I think it it will still have to wait for some more technical developments and shakeouts before it becomes broadly applicable.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

P&G in Myspace


Short article in today's Cincinnati Enquirer on the P&G effort in social networking, a MySpace profile for "Miss Irresistible" to promote Crest oral care products. Also other company efforts: " ... H.J. Heinz Co. has a create-your-own video commercial contest: www.topthisTV.com, ConAgra Foods Inc.'s Slim Jim brand created a fictional meat-snack "snapalope" and an online site for snapalope "hunters": www.shaa.com ... Unilever Corp.'s Hellman's mayonnaise is behind a food and cooking site featuring a video series and blog with chef Dave Lieberman: http://food.yahoo.com/realfood/ ... "

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Davenport Webinar on Analytics

Recall that P&G was interviewed by Tom Davenport for this book. Warning, the sponsoring company will likely put you on their call list. I will attempt to attend.

"Competing on Analytics: How Fact-Based Decisions and Business Intelligence Drive Company Performance

Thursday July 26, 1-2PM ET, Sponsored by: CFO.com and Applix
Tom Davenport, Analytics Industry Expert, Author

Join Applix and Analytics Industry Guru and co-author of "Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning," Tom Davenport for this one hour, high impact webinar on how to separate your company from the rest of the pack and compete based upon the analysis of your company's data. in a world where the traditional bases of competitive advantage have gone by the wayside, the question becomes "how do you separate your company's performance from the rest of the pack?"

Easy, use analytics to make better decisions and extract maximum value from your business processes. This webcast will discuss how this is done and what the benefits derived are. Companies have long used business intelligence for specific applications, but these initiatives were too narrow to affect corporate performance. Now, leading firms are basing their competitive strategies on the sophisticated analysis of business data. Instead of a single application, they are building broad capabilities for enterprise-level business analytics and intelligence.

Register today to learn more! 50 lucky registrants will receive a complimentary copy of Tom Davenport's book "Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning." ...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

More Serendipitous Search.

Most of the time when we do a search we want the most precise answer possible. When we do a Google search we almost always get something that is in total very imprecise with dozens of pages of hits. People also rarely browse beyond the first few pages because they have learned that the way that Google's pagerank works, later hits are usually too broad with regard to the search terms, and usually worthless. The search site BanannaSlug adds 'random' search terms in the same category to broaden the topic, which can produce more useful search neighborhoods, especially where an exact hit is not sought. Testing now. Mentioned in Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman's recent book "A Perfect Mess", which touts the benefits of messiness versus order.