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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Photography Business

I was previously involved with a startup company that sought to bridge the gap between amateur and professional photographers. There have since been many changes in this industry. This article is a good overview of where that stands. This industry is a good example of the considerable influence of digital methods as they spread.

Pushing the Drive-Through Concept

We looked at this through a number of drive-through supercenter concepts. A good overview article in the Chicago Tribune. Online is open 24/7, so why not have a way to get to goods at all times? If you don't have aisles and have just an automated super-warehouse you can have much more selection. You can pick up your own orders eliminating the cost and complexity of distribution. Past attempts at this have not done well, but it is an innovative direction.

Food Lion Tracking Shopper Data with Cameras

Several reports on how Food Lion is gathering video data from cameras in-store. They are using the videomining system to gather and analyze results. We talked to them at the innovation centers some years ago. We did similar internal analysis. See the videomining site for more.

How Procter Remains a Global Marketer

In AdAge, a video: Video: At Induction to AAF Hall of Fame, Execs Discuss Importance of Multi-Brand Efforts.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ease of Blogging

Walter Riker expands his new blog on The Ease of Blogging. Read it and follow.

On Prediction Without Markets

Good overview and link to the original Cornell paper, here an abstract of that:

' ... Though theoretical and empirical evidence suggests that markets do often outperform alternative mechanisms, less attention has been paid to the magnitude of improvement. Here we compare the performance of prediction markets to conventional methods of prediction, namely polls and statistical models. Examining thousands of sporting and movie events, we find that the relative advantage of prediction markets is surprisingly small, as measured by squared error, calibration, and discrimination. Moreover, these domains also exhibit remarkably steep diminishing returns to information, with nearly all the predictive power captured by only two or three parameters ... '

Cloud Computing

CACM, the worlds preeminent computing professional society, gives a good view of cloud computing: Clearing the clouds away from the true potential and obstacles posed by this computing capability ... '

Geolocation Apocalypse?

The AdAge article is provocatively overblown, but the warnings are worth understanding. Geolocation is one of those tech things that are relatively easy with today's capabilities, so it is being taken up everywhere. The Semantic Web, by comparison, is harder to implement, but would be of greater value.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Smartphones Will Rule

Nielsen says that although only about 21% of phones today are smart, it will be 'most' by 2011, and 35% in the US by the end of 2010. Fast changes. This could make for lots of opportunity for location services and communicating with the consumer in retail.

What's Behind Procter's Strong Quarter

A very good and relatively detailed article. The short answer: Innovation... What’s Behind P&G’s Strong Quarter?. Via Richard James.

Official Google CPG Blog on the ZMOT

Brought to my attention by Dave Knox. (His excellent blog). The Google CPG Blog On the Zero moment of truth. One thing I do note is that although they imply they came up with this term, very shortly after the first-moment-of-truth was coined, a number of people at P&G started talking about the zero-eth moment, even the -1st! I saw these suggestions often in the innovation spaces. Just to set the historic precedent straight. Good CPG blog to follow:

" ... The term "First Moment of Truth" (commonly called FMOT) was coined by Proctor & Gamble in 2005 to define the first interaction between a shopper and a product on a store's shelf. This moment was considered one of the most important marketing opportunities for a brand, as P&G asserted -- and others believed -- that shoppers make up their mind about a product in the first few seconds after they encounter that product for the first time. While this first moment of truth is still important, the rise of full internet adoption and increased search engine use often lead to many brand interactions taking place between a consumer and a brand before that consumer ever sees a product on a shelf. This phenomena is what we are calling the "Zero Moment of Truth", or ZMOT .. '

Del Monte and Social Media ROI

There always has to be some measure that people will agree to. Being a quant I like the numbers. Here a good view:

' ... Doug Chavez, head of digital marketing at Del Monte Foods, advises brands looking to provide a social-media space for customers to "focus on engaged participants, not raw fan counts.... '

Where 2.0, The Next Wave of AR

A very good piece on: The Next Wave of AR: Exploring Social Augmented Experiences at Where 2.0. It describes upcoming work at the forthcoming conference. My interest in retail applications continues, will cover aspects of that here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Five Things you Need Before Deploying BI

From Kevin Quinn of Information Builders, a 19 page paper:

' ... Before you start your next BI project, take a look at my recent white paper, Five Things You Need to Know About Your Users Before Deploying BI, and learn how to make your BI deployments more successful – right from the beginning ... ' .

L'Oreal Advances With Mobile

In Consumer Goods Technology. A good interview ... requires registration.

L'Oreal Case Study: Advancing Mobile Technology in the Field
CGT Executive Editor Kara Romanow talks with Kelly Malone, Vice President at Spring Wireless, and discusses how L'Oreal leveraged technology in implementing a new field solution, impacting business processes in the areas of mobile sales force automation solution; a trade promotion management and marketing budget management solution, and a merchandising solution for retail execution. The implementation resulted in a 20% increase in productivity; higher order prices and reduced stock-outs... Listen (requires registration)

Play Fast Flip in Google Reader

The Google Reader RSS system now has a way to fast-flip through images. Good way to preview possibilities within your feed. It is also able to recommend other resources outside the space of your feed. Well done.

Statistical Methods for Behavioral Modeling

Steve Miller on misconceptions about using statistics for behavioral models. ' ... “Traditional statistical analysis is often of limited value. It is not that these tools are somehow flawed. Rather, it is that they are overly simplistic and, in many cases inappropriate for the task of modeling human behavior.” . Optimistically tilted I think ... but would like other comments on this. Also good links to related papers on the topic. See especially Leo Breiman's Statistical Modeling: Two Cultures.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Digital Scent and Scent in Marketing

A recent query about the progress of digital scent made me review the mentions of the idea in this blog. Have always been interested in the idea, and have been involved in a number of related innovation center investigations. Follow that search link to see what I have written about it. Would appreciate any additional resources and pointers you can provide.

Tableau IPhone Visualization

Michael Cristiani sends along a link to a test App for Tableau to do BI style visualization on the IPhone. Nice idea, I think having mobile visual business intelligence is very useful. The lesser real estate of a phone makes you need a redesign of how visuals will normally appear, so it is more than a trivial effort. If anyone knows of other useful BI efforts in this area, send them along and I will review them here.


Newly discovered: ' ... NeuroPod is the neuroscience podcast from Nature, produced in association with the Dana Foundation. Each month, join us as we delve into the latest research on the brain, from its molecular makings to the mysteries of the mind. We'll also be bringing you the latest news from neuroscience conferences around the globe, along with special reports on hot areas in neuroscience .... '. Via Ron Wright.

EmSense Announces New Headgear

New sensory development in EEG sensors:

' ... EmSense proprietary sensors provide more targeted measurement with greater precision than medical sensors. The Contact Cluster technology enables the ability to take individual anatomical differences into account and give maximum spatial resolution in targeted regions. New Through the Hair EEG sensors allow non-obtrusive measurement without the need for unpleasant, messy gels that require respondent clean-up.

Using 24 EEG sensors, each measuring at 20,000 times per second, the headset collects 480,000 measurements per second. In addition, the EmBand 24 provides an unparalleled signal-to-noise ratio in real-world, in-context conditions. In keeping with the company's non-invasive design philosophy, the EmBand 24 headset does not require caps, gels or wires and calibrates in only one minute... '

Friday, March 26, 2010

Eye Tracking Tablets

Considering adaptive text:

'... What if the words you're reading were watching you? Some fear for the demise of reading real books and magazines, but some tech could breathe new life into the written word and the act of reading change what you are reading -- for the better.

The best thing about reading a book on a tablet (so far) is how closely it approximates reading a “real” book — which is why the Kindle’s screen is matte like paper rather than luminescent like a laptop. Some (not all) fear for the demise of real reading and writing, but it’s more likely we’re really at the leading edge of an innovation curve that could breathe new life into the written word.

For example: What if those written words were watching you reading them and making adjustments accordingly? Eye-tracking technology and processor-packed tablets promise to react, based on how you’re looking at text — where you pause, how you stare, where you stop reading altogether — in a friction-reducing implementation of the Observer Effect. The act of reading will change what you are reading ... '

Micro Industries Retail Signage Blog

Micro Industries, who contributed advanced digital signage to our innovation centers, has just added a blog to their site. A number of posts have been made, including the latest, a report by John Curran from the recent Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas. Check out this blog for more news from the experts in advanced signage.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Things Tweet

Twitter is starting to animate things in the evolving 'Internet of Things'. Seems like a very trivial way to talk about interaction of people and things. Some interesting examples given. Simple starts.

Cheap e-Book Reading Devices

It's not unexpected, relatively inexpensive uni purpose e-book reading devices emerging. Not unlike the very inexpensive calculators that also emerged in the 1980s. Shall we expect throwaway digital readers soon?

Privacy in the Era of Digital Glass Houses


' ... As the boundaries for privacy have been redrawn by the connected world, the social norms and legal support structure that we count on to preserve privacy have shown more and bigger gaps. These awkward openings raise two key questions: How will an increasingly open cyber society affect my life? And how can I protect myself? ... '.

A Look at Metcalfe's Law

A look at long quoted Metcalfe's law, about how value grows as networks grow. It has been the 'rule' of Web 2.0, in GigaOm:

' ... Networks — be they telecom, social, transportation or otherwise — are the fabric of modern society. They provide immense value to consumers and businesses alike, enhancing mutual relationships and enabling the distribution of goods, services and information. But does this value grow as the size of the networks grow? And if so, how much? .... '

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

UK's Online Plan for Public Services

Online Plan for Public Services: ' ... Everyone in the country is to be given a personalised webpage for accessing Government services within a year as part of a plan to save billions of pounds by putting all public services online, Gordon Brown is to announce ... '

Google Searches in Local Shelf Inventory

In StorefrontBacktalk:

" ... The capability for a search engine to have a current and comprehensive list of products (SKU and sub-SKU) for every retailer in a given geography has huge potential to reshape E-Commerce. If nothing else, it could be some very good news for the smallest of retailers today, which hardly ever see any search engine revenue ... Last Thursday Google made a major—albeit extremely preliminary—move into local inventory search through a deal with a handful of major chains: Best Buy, Sears, Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn and the Vitamin Shoppe...

Interface Appeal in BI Tools

A good report, includes overview of a number of common BI packages. Requires registration

Ease of Use and Interface Appeal in Business Intelligence Tools, by Cindi Howson

Business intelligence tools play a mission-critical role in identifying new business opportunities and helping knowledge workers make better decisions. But the widespread adoption of BI tools has been hindered by their reputation as being hard to use. Cindi Howson researches the impact of an appealing user interface and ease of use in this report... '

Fax App With Signatures

A Fax App for the IPhone that includes a digital signature mode. Faxes are one of the oldest digital transmission modes. Yet despite their age, there is still a need for them, for example in relaying signed documents. A simple and clever example for providing the capability on a smartphone.

Herb Sorensen Articles

An index of a number of articles by consumer behavior scientist Herb Sorensen. See also my review of his recent book and other technical pieces on shopper behavior. All thought and value provoking.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Data Mining in Social Networks

In the World Flattener, from Sammy Haroon: ... ' ... Behram Mistree talks about his data mining and analytics experiment using Facebook while he was at MIT ... ' . We continue to gather data and have to consider the consequences with the ready availability of advanced analytics.

The Deep Dark Web

Instructive, most people assume the search engines find everything:

" ... Google sees only a fraction of the content that appears on the internet. Stuart Andrews finds out what's lurking in the deep web
When Google indexes so many billions of web pages that it doesn’t even bother listing the number any more, it’s hard to imagine that much lies beyond its far-reaching tentacles.

Beneath, however, lies an online world that few know exists. It’s a realm of huge, untapped reserves of valuable information containing sprawling databases, hidden websites and murky forums. It’s a world where academics and researchers might find the data required to solve some of mankind’s biggest problems, but also where criminal syndicates operate, and terrorist handbooks and child pornography are freely distributed ... There's many valid reasons why you might not want your online exploits searchable... At the same time, the underground web is the best hope for those who want to escape the bonds of totalitarian state censorship, and share their ideas or experiences with the outside world ... "

Interaction Dynamics and Behavioral Economics

I recently discovered Interaction Dynamics via their Twitter presence. See also their blog:

' ... Interaction Dynamics is a tool to increase online customer conversions through personalized user experiences. Custom content is delivered to users via Interaction Dynamics software that learns and reacts to users’ onsite behavior. Interaction Dynamics will increase a website’s conversion rates or readership by providing a much simpler and interactive experience ... focuses on artificial intelligence and behavioral economics. Managed by Matt Leeburn' ...

Monday, March 22, 2010

3M Tracking and Inventory System

In an interesting development: -- 3M Launches Asset and Inventory Tracking System ... The solution includes 13.56 MHz passive RFID tags, handheld and pad readers, and a hosted software application in which asset data can be stored online... '.

Berners-Lee Building Web of Data

Intriguing and a natural expansion on the notion of a semantic web, plus looking at the infrastructure required to deliver it. In ReadWriteWeb:

Inventor of the Web Gets Backing to Build Web of Data

' .. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, and prominent researcher Nigel Shadbolt will lead a new British Institute for Web Science with $45 million in government backing. The announcement was not without its critics, but the Institute could have a world-wide impact.

The two men collaborated in helping build the excellent data.gov.uk and will now expand upon that work. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said of the move: "We are determined to go further in breaking down the walled garden of Government...This Institute will help place the UK at the cutting edge of research on the Semantic Web and other emerging web and internet technologies." ... '

Procter Opens e-Store Consumer Lab

I mentioned this some time ago, here is more. Via Richard James. Procter has run physical store 'sand boxes' of this type for a long time, it is long overdue that they are also doing this online to collect consumer behavioral data in that channel. And much more detail here. (Thanks again to Richard)

On Building Distinctive Brand Assets

Via Byron Sharp:

Understanding, Identifying and Building Distinctive Brand Assets
This post is part of a continuing series of guest posts. Jenni Romaniuk is an Associate Research Professor of Brand Equity, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, University of South Australia. (See also their blog for more commentary and more papers)

This post is a summary of an Ehrenberg-Bass Institute corporate member report written in conjunction with Nicole Hartnett, Research Associate at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute. Distinctive assets are non brand-name elements that are able to evoke the brand in the memory of consumers. Some of the most famous examples include the Nike ‘swoosh’, the Aflac duck and Mastercard’s priceless advertising. All of these elements are able to represent their brand name without needing any other prompting ... "

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Simpler Strategy

In Fastcompany: How do you make business strategy easier to understand? Have seen this happen a number of times. Then strategy has to catch up with understanding.

Is Everything a Game?

Jerry Michalski has an upcoming conference call talk on serious aspects of games, Monday. March 22, 2010, 10:30 PDT, 1:30 EDT, Dial-in: 1-270-400-1500, Access Code: 778778. More details here.

More Followers Does not Prove Influence

Good piece in the NYT: The Million Follower Fallacy: Audience Size Doesn't Prove Influence on Twitter Sign in to Recommend
' ... A group of researchers have proven something we already expected to be the case: your Twitter follower count is somewhat of a meaningless metric when it comes to determining influence. To reach this conclusion, the researchers examined the Twitter accounts of over 54 million active users, out of some 80 million accounts crawled by their servers ... '

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Total Engagement Book

Although published late last year, this book was just brought to my attention: Total Engagement: Using Games and Virtual Worlds to Change the Way People Work and Businesses Compete by Byron Reeves and J. Leighton. The book's site is here, and there are also a number of book excerpts. The Amazon site also has a 'look inside' link.

We connected with Byron Reeves at Stanford a number of times and reviewed his Seriosity work, which also has a blog. And is active on Twitter. Some of Reeves ideas were also inspirational for our early online advisory work.

Have not read the book yet. It's on my stack now.

Augmented Reality Windshields

Early work at GM, but I do not expect it to see it available soon. Distraction too, could be a big problem.

Very Rapid Book Scanning

Have recently taken a look at how to get printed data from books and manuals into a database. There are some new methods that look to make in volume operations of this type easier:

From IEEE Spectrum:
' Scanning a book manually, page by page, is a slow, mind-numbing task. Google has had some ideas on how to speed up the process, but apparently these methods are still limited by how fast human hands can position a book's pages before an image-capturing system.

Google, meet Masatoshi Ishikawa, a professor at the University of Tokyo. Ishikawa is well known in robotics circles for his Matrix bullet time-style amazing demos -- like a robo-hand that can dribble a ball and catch objects in midair with superhuman dexterity. How he does it? A Super Vision Chip (that's what he calls it) that can "see" events too fast for the eye ... '

Friday, March 19, 2010

3D Universe

You can experience Hubble's 3D universe. More background and sample images here.

New Supply Chain Analytics Needed

In Sascom Magazine, at a recent conference of industry practitioners:

' ... Industry incumbents, academia and industry analysts all agreed that in the new-economy, supply chains of the future need to be:

Smarter (i.e., automated and data driven).
Intelligent (i.e., analytics-based).
Interconnected (i.e., collaborative).

Is that a new message? No, not really – the essence of the message has been known for years. To make smarter, faster decisions, you need to be data-driven, analytically superior and collaborative. Leading companies have repeatedly shown that by leveraging the data in their systems across geographic and functional silos, and by applying analytical insights to that data, they can improve forecast accuracy, reduce over- and under-stocks, optimize inventory and improve asset uptime... '

SETI at 50 - No Evidence Yet

Searching for extra-terrestrial intelligence. Despite extensive crowd sourced efforts there has yet to be any evidence of ET. There are some useful comments (and the usual non-useful ones) in Slashdot.

You Are Who You Know

Intriguing paper with privacy implications:

You Are Who You Know:
Inferring User Profiles in Online Social Networks

In this paper, we ask the question: given attributes for
some fraction of the users in an online social network, can
we infer the attributes of the remaining users? In other
words, can the attributes of users, in combination with the
social network graph, be used to predict the attributes of
another user in the network? ... '


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Architecture of Apps

John Battelle makes make the case that the architecture of apps is broken. They do not each rise above the level of a single purpose and do not communicate.

Netezza Retail Analytic Appliance

I have had a number of conversations with Netezza in the past. They announced their Retail Analytics Appliance this January. I just got an offer for their white paper (sign in required). Have not looked at it yet, but will. Their advertisement states:

' ... The Netezza Retail Analytic Appliance™ (RAA) is the high-performance, low-cost way to get the business intelligence you need in a customer-centric retail environment. RAA works from advanced software “Playbooks” to optimize how your data is analyzed and how your results are delivered... '

Navigation in Rigorous Environments

Rockwell Collins handheld GPS receivers. ' ... For today's soldiers, handheld navigation is a necessity for situational awareness and surviving the rigorous environments of war.... ' -

Internet Retailers and Location

More GIS based Business intelligence needed from the Knowledge@Wharton article outlined and linked to below. This also points to the prototyping and development of systems that can predictively analyze by location, which was also done in our enterprise. Good article that points to additional papers. More data is being gathered every day, and the need for better analytical methods is clear.

Geography Lesson: Why Internet Retailers Should Pay Attention to Where Potential Customers Live
While the Internet holds immense promise for reaching retail customers far beyond traditional trading areas, new Wharton research indicates that old world dynamics, such as neighbors sharing word-of-mouth recommendations, can still have powerful effects on Internet sales ... '

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Operations Room

Wim Vandevelde points me to Northwestern/Kellogg's blog on operations management: The Operations Room.

' ... is a forum for discussing current topics in operations management (OM). We have no particular agenda but are looking to identify interesting strategic and tactical developments in the field. Along the way, we aim to create a catalog of articles on OM topics that is useful to both the Kellogg community and a wider set of readers.

... we do not interpret operations as simply manufacturing. Rather we think of operations as the on going work of the organization. As such it has relevance for any industry, any market, any firm, any nonprofit organization, or any governmental agency. We thus intend to cover a wide variety of settings and topics.... '


The Year of Social Collaboration

If it is this year or next, I agree. Have been involved in many attempted methods at this. If it wouldn't always also get in the way as well.

2010's Collaboration Imperative: Where Social Technology and Enterprise Content Collide, by Phil Green, Inmagic

Many analysts are predicting 2010 to be the year of collaboration. In a recent study of IT strategists, Forrester found 70 percent of respondents believe collaboration technology will significantly cut decision making time and improve productivity this year. Couple that with Forrester’s Global Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Survey, which found 61 percent of organizations believe "content sharing" is a major ECM investment driver, and it’s clear business leaders have recognized the collaboration imperative .... '

Publix and Coupons.com

Well known retail grocery innovator Publix is linking with Coupons.com. A&P is playing too. It seems that more retailers are taking Internet promotion coupons seriously. As it says in the link's comments though, the execution of the idea is not universal. A local independent grocer still has a sign up saying they do not take online coupons due to rampant fraud. There needs to be much more public communication on the subject.

Internet of Things Report

Mckinsey and the Internet of things. ReadwriteWeb provides an overview and link to their report. Good overview.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Engineering the Web's Third Decade

Very insightful piece, a reminder that the Web is very young and evolving. That could create lots of new problems and opportunities for business:

From the CACM:

Engineering the Web's Third Decade
As Web technologies move beyond two-way interactive capabilities to facilitate more dynamic and pervasive experiences, the Web is quickly advancing toward its third major upgrade .... '


'Checking in' to a Box of Tampax for Charity

In Adage: " ... The CauseWorld App Gives Consumers Something Else to Do With Foursquare, Gowalla and Loopt, Would you check in to a box of Tampax like you'd check in to a bar on Foursquare? How about a jar of Miracle Whip? P&G, Kraft and a Silicon Valley startup are betting you will, well, at least for charity ... '

The idea of 'checking in' with location-aware devices is mostly about defined spaces like retail . Checking-in is what you do with a loyalty card, to indicate your loyalty to a atore. The new idea of linking to a specific item takes this to a different space. Related to the idea of manufacturer oriented loyalty.

Perils of Market Research

In Bloomberg Businessweek: What can and cannot be measured with some market research tools. Very good introduction to the inadequacies of the survey. ' ... It can be a powerful weapon in any company's strategic planning arsenal. But it can also backfire. Steve McKee offers five essentials to consider...'

Getting Yelped

In BusinessWeek, A new dynamic, but not any different than newspapers have experienced in the past. Also speaks to the motivation of review/criticisms in general.

Yelp: Advertise or Else?
The site faces a lawsuit—and a barrage of criticism—for mingling ads and reviews ...
Getting Yelped. That's the term angry business owners have started using when they feel unfairly criticized on the popular review site. Now Yelp is being forced to deal with its own unanticipated criticism ... '

Monday, March 15, 2010

Procter Visualizing Plant Designs

From Consumer Goods Technology: P&G using visualization to optimize plants via fast prototyping. Includes images and vendors involved. Plant design and improvement via visual simulation-based methods is not new, has been done since at least the 1970s.

Geotagging the Future

Daniel Inniss makes some useful comments on Geotagging and business:

'Geotagging the Future with Foursquare, Gowalla and TwitterWritten
Location based services are not new, some, such as Loopt have been around since 2005 but 2010 is the year that they’re really taking off. Loopt has around 3 million users in the US (its not available anywhere else) but it differs greatly from the current trend in location based services, that of moving away from “always on” location to that of “checking in” at specific locations .... '

In-Store Marketing Measurements

In AdAge: A favorite topic of mine: Shopping Aisles at Cutting Edge of Consumer Research and Tech: They Learned It From You: Marketers Working to Better Understand Supermarket Psychology. ... We experimented with this kind of measurement extensively in the innovation centers.

Relentless Growth of Online Shopping

In FastCompany: The continuing growth of online shopping. Physical stores continuing to link up.

SXSW Conference Stream

I notice that there has been more than usual buzz about the SXSW conference (South by Southwest) this year. Its a set of interactive, film, and music festivals and conferences that take place every spring in Austin that occurs this week. ... It has become increasingly important for interactive startups. If you want an introduction to what is going on, you can check out its (unfiltered) Twitter feed. Which is also an introduction to how Twitter is being used with events like this. You need not join Twitter to do this.

Valuing Spontaneity

I was surprised a while back by getting a number of birthday wishes in a social networking package from people whose names I did not immediately recognize. I quickly realized that the package allows you to automate the greetings. So how heart-felt are those wishes? In The Noisy Channel by Daniel Tunkelang he discusses: Is Spontaneity overrated? how much we now value such wishes now that we know they are not spontaneous, and should we care? How does this then relate to product and service reviews. When I look at a set of reviews I am always suspicious of where they come from and if they are mostly from friends of the venues. The level of that suspicion increases depending upon the cost of the potential transaction, in time or money. Despite being analytical its usually not calculating a potential value, but rather a feeling for its value. The post goes on to look at aggregated reviews, if all buzz is good buzz, and thoughts about soliciting reviews. Good piece.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Foursquare for Business

An interesting item on on the Foursquare space about business applications for the social networking game. Includes a number of examples of businesses doing promotions with FS:

FOURSQUARE FOR BUSINESSES foursquare aims to encourage people to explore their neighborhoods and then reward people for doing so. We do this by combining our friend-finder and social city guide elements with game mechanics - our users earn points, win mayorships and unlock badges for trying new places and revisiting old favorites ... '

Cognition and Culture

Mind Hacks posts about the Cognition and Culture blog: ' ... covers the territory where culture and psychology meet ... ' . Also points to their reader section which has lots of useful background sources.

When BI Does not Work

Interesting piece on the issues with Business Intelligence: BI. ' ... When a user of a BI application complains about the application not being useful - something that I hear way too often - what does that really mean? I can count at least 11 possible meanings, and potential reasons ... '

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Richer Geolocation

In MIT Tech Review, Getting More from Location Data: Companies are working to add value to geospatial information. For those already playing in this space much of this is known. It is a good piece to send on to those getting started. The wealth of geospatial and location data and the analytics to use it continue to get richer.

New Thoughts on a Second Life

Its been over a year since I have been to the virtual world Second Life. Before that I was a user, watched in real time as IBM programmers build their own spaces there, saw my company set up a (private) space for experimentation, went to conferences held there and thought about how SL could be used for business intelligence. I got a little bored, and backed off, and never really felt like going back. Now I have heard that there is a new viewer that makes SL easier to use. The link also goes to an article that discusses other ease of use issues. The ease of use was always a big thing, experts saying it takes about twenty five hours to gain basic competence there. I think it is more than just the time required ... you just don't get immediate pay-back for the time invested. While I still think there is a place for this idea in the future, its not ready yet.

Visualizing the Uses of the Internet

Richard L. James sends along a link to a BBC treemap visualization of the use of the Internet based on Nielsen data. You can float your mouse over the chart to get subcategories of Internet volume. A good example of the treemap visualization form. An example of such a form is on the right, which shows a piece of a stock market treemap.

Friday, March 12, 2010

What Smartphone Users Want

Readwriteweb reports on Compete's recent survey of smartphone users. It turns out that what they want most are ads, coupons and location-aware promotions. See the complete survey.

Using Science to Teach and Learn Science

Keynote address, via the CACM:

Physicist Carl E. Wieman ’s keynote speech at SIGCSE 2010 , “Science Education for the 21st Century: Using the Insights of Science to Teach/Learn Science,” focused on a scientific approach to the teaching and learning of all sciences, and began with a discussion of two models for teaching science and their respective pros and cons.

Is Bubbly the Next Twitter?

I know a few of my colleagues and clients will cringe at this, but there is a new voice-centric, mobile social networking capability taking off in India. Is it the next Twitter?

Badge Value and Loyalty

From Knowledge@Wharton, building retail loyalty with carefully chosen brands:

'Badge' Value: Finding and Promoting Products That Inspire Customer Loyalty
Alex Panos and his colleagues at TSG Consumer Partners, a San Francisco-based investment fund, believe that consumers will always be interested in products that enhance their lives, even if it means paying more than they have in the past. That philosophy has brought impressive results for TSG primarily in the beauty, food and beverage areas. Panos, who joined the 23-year-old firm in 1998, spoke with Knowledge@Wharton about the company's strategy, why it favors family-owned businesses, where to find opportunities in a recessionary economy and how to build up a brand, among other topics.... '

BART Examines the Use of Augmented Reality

I have done some examining of the Junaio package here recently, which permits the overlay of information on top of 3D reality representations on smart phones. Lisa Murphy just sent me a note which announces Junaio's partnership with the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency (BART). It is meant ...

' ... to visualize transit data using augmented reality. BART is one of the 1st transit agencies in the nation to use augmented reality to integrate station locations and estimated arrival times in a digital display of information in the real world ... ' . Some examples of visuals from the BART channel at the right.

Here is the press release for the effort, also a video clip, which does a good job of explaining the concept. The IPhone Junaio application can be downloaded from ITunes.

Overall a very good place to experiment with augmented reality. What is more 'real' than transit information? And what could use better information augmentation to make it easier to use? I look forward to following this and seeing how the average consumer of transportation services will react to this. Plus, once they use it for these most obvious applications, why couldn't they use it for many others? I have some ideas.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Avoiding the Hype Virus

Most readers of this blog are early adopters of technology. In the past we would have had to go to a computer store or mail order something to try it out. Now within a minute or so I can try most anything and have it operating on laptop or smartphone. So how can we choose what makes sense to even try? Alexandra Samuel at Voices - HarvardBusiness.org gives a good set of guidelines for what makes sense, she has developed these for an upcoming high tech conference, but they apply anywhere. Are they common sense? Yes, but it is worth ticking through these when a new 'opportunity' reveals itself.

Has the Spam War Been Won?

From the CACM Blog. I still certainly still see lots of Spam.

Google Opens Apps Marketplace

Another very innovative idea out of Google:

. " ... Google launched on Tuesday evening Google Apps Marketplace, providing a venue for third-party, cloud-based applications to supplement Google's own online applications. The program enables integrations with such applications as Google Gmail, Documents, Sites and Calendar. All told, the effort begins with 50 vendors participating, including Atlassian, NetSuite, Skytap and Zoho ... ".

This has the possibility of being useful for an App we are currently working on.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

CG Direct Selling to the Consumer

In StoreFrontBackTalk, a discussion of manufacturers direct selling to consumers online. This has been avoided for a long time in big CG to avoid antagonizing the very big retail channels that make up such a large percentage of sales.

Now Procter & Gamble, and others are taking a more substantial plunge into ecommerce, as the article details. Increased competition within the channel, via private-label and their own ecommerce plans, make it almost a necessity.

Could you say that because the manufacturer knows their own goods best, they can sell them better online? It also permits them more contextual engagement with the shopper. Or did the large retail channels just not care when the ecommerce experiments were such a small percentage of sales?

Bring Your Laptop to Work

An idea discussed at Procter & Gamble for years, but always shied away from due to security and data ownership issues. Driven in part by complaints from new-hires that the company issue laptops were not the latest in capabilities. Now being formally tested.

Staffing for Intelligence

A good CW report on the general use of analytics in the enterprise. Its the use data, models and intelligence to find better solutions. It is a domain that I have been involved in my entire carrer, in government and in the global enterprise. This serves as a good introduction with a number of good use cases.

Competitor to Google Voice

In Readwriteweb. A free system called Phonebooth has emerged to be a VOIP phone service similar to Google Voice. Likely interesting to small companies and startups. Includes call routing feature and a local phone number. I still use Google Voice to some degree, but have found that the features of my Smartphone service are enough for typical uses.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Procter and HP Ten Years Later

Some interesting observations on the outsourcing, looking back ten years to the present. I have known many peoeple that were part of this and were ultimately influenced by it. Could be used as a case study for outsourcing.

New Age of Online Grocery Shopping

Good piece in Ars Technica that covers the current state of online grocery shopping and the current players in this space. ' ... Shopping for groceries and household items via the Internet is making a huge comeback, however, thanks in part to some major players who have taken it outside of the typical niche markets ... ' . Includes a good overviewing chart of all the players in the space, including sometimes forgotten Amazon. We did lots of examination of this space.


I had a conversation with IdeaConnection recently. Have been getting their newsletter for some time and it is informative. See their writup on open innovation.

Predict Marketing ROI with Next-Gen Planning Tools

I repeat this invitation for a Webinar next week. We worked with Thinkvine in the enterprise and remain impressed with their work.

March 18, 2010 | 2 p.m. ET | Duration: 1 Hour
More information and Register Now

Can you predict marketing ROI before spending a dime? Marketing Simulation technology can! This new technology is allowing CG companies to test and learn from an unlimited number of detailed “what if” scenarios – even the ability to test new media.

On March 18, 2010, join AMR’s Senior Analyst Steve Steutermann and ThinkVine CEO Damon Ragusa for the latest on Marketing Optimization technologies. Speakers will answer critical questions such as:
--What is the optimal mix of my marketing dollars?
--What is the ROI of each marketing outlet?
--What would happen if I moved a large portion of my budget into an emerging media vehicle?
Plus, hear case studies from brands with marketing budgets ranging from $10 Million to $80 Million on how they are using these cutting edge planning tools.


Monday, March 08, 2010

Startup Visa

In the World Flattener: Sammy Haroon posts about Startup Visa to USA. Always provocative.

Power from Nanotubes

From research at MIT: Big power from tiny wires: New discovery shows carbon nanotubes can produce powerful waves that could be harnessed for new energy systems.

Statistics and Behavioral Modeling

Intriguing article, by Steve Miller. I have now dealt with these 'two cultures' a number of times in various enterprises. This article and the included link are worth the read ... about the application of traditional statistics in behavioral realms ...

' ... My take on the article was less literal. I think the author's point that traditional statistical models might not be up to the task of predicting the realities of human behavior is quite valid. In fact, one of the giants of the statistical world, the late UC Berkeley professor Leo Breiman, originator of Classification and Regression Trees (CART) and Random Forests, said as much in a provocative 2001 article, Statistical Modeling: The Two Cultures, in which he criticized the statistics status quo. The abstract for this paper is telling:

"There are two cultures in the use of statistical modeling to reach conclusions from data. One assumes that the data are generated by a given stochastic data model. The other uses algorithmic models and treats the data mechanism as unknown. The statistical community has been committed to the almost exclusive use of data models. This commitment has led to irrelevant theory, questionable conclusions, and has kept statisticians from working on a large range of interesting current problems. Algorithmic modeling, both in theory and practice, has developed rapidly in fields outside statistics. It can be used both on large complex data sets and as a more accurate and informative alternative to data modeling on smaller data sets. If our goal as a field is to use data to solve problems, then we need to move away from exclusive dependence on data models and adopt a more diverse set of tools.” ... '

Phone Lip-Reading

Can you have a phone read your lips and interpret what you say? Silent verbal communications. Research in that area.

Lessons from a Restaurant App

Well stated, I like simple apps with a recognizable and uniform interface. Because mobile often means we don't have the time to learn a new user interface on the fly ... again.

Three lessons from the Chipotle iPhone app
How centralization, a defined use case, and a uniform menu shaped Chipotle's iPhone app ... '

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Micro Industries

Micro Industries is a company that does some very innovative work in the area of retail signage. We worked with them in the innovation centers. They now have a Facebook site worth taking a look at. Particularly interesting, some of their work with Intel and multi-touch displays.

Do School Libraries Need Books?

A debate in the NYT: I am the patron of a regional library that just relocated to a new modern building. There are fewer shelves of books now. There is an enormous room full of computer screens. Very convenient for me, yet likely the signal of a new era. I still wander the shelves looking for serendipity. Its not the same thing as an inexact search ... it's touch and feel and knowledge.

Browse Popular Science

You can now browse online the last 137 years of the magazine Popular Science for free. A good view of previous times. Pretty outrageous predictions at times, I note especially those about the soon to be common personal robotics. The Web remains amazing.

Hand Touchscreen

Body acoustics can turn hand into a tochscreen. Work at Carnegie Mellon and Microsoft produces a system called Skinput.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

WSJ Style of Informational Graphics

Good review on this new book. A style guide on how to do mainly quantitative graphics. " .. Dona Wong, who had stints on the graphics teams at both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, has contributed a how-to book on statistical graphics. It is called "The Wall Street Journal. Guide to Information Graphics"...

I have it on my list to review later.

Foursquare for Loyalty in Cincinnati

In today's local paper a good article on the use of the social location game Foursquare in the Cincinnati area. Good to see the idea being explored outside big urban areas where it originated. I am currently examining this and other social networking methods for loyalty applications in small retail.

March/April Analytics Magazine

New in analytics magazine for March/April

Analytics is brought to you by INFORMS (www.informs.org) -- the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences -- the largest membership society in the world dedicated to supporting operations research and the analytics profession. Visit our website and see how INFORMS can serve you. Featured in the March/April 2010 issue:

Revenue Management vs. Social Networking: At a time when tech-savvy, Web-connected consumers can counter RM returns, how should companies respond?

Successful Solution Startups: Seven suggestions every systems analyst needs to know in order to launch a project (or a career) on the right foot.

On the Road to Connectivity: Vehicle routing software survey: creative integration of computer, communication and location technology.

Analytics at UPS: Corporate profile provides an inside look at the tech tools empowering $50 billion delivery and logistics company .... "

Friday, March 05, 2010

Time to Take the Internet Seriously

Very thoughtful piece in the Edge by computer scientist David Gelernter, author of the book Mirror Worlds. Is it time to take the Internet seriously, or just let it evolve randomly like it has since the early 90s? Certainly one thing that the semantic web effort is trying to do.

Evolution of the Google File System

From CACM. An interesting technical and historical piece about decisions made at Google to make their massive file requirements work on challenging hardware: ' ... During the early stages of development at Google, the initial thinking did not include plans for building a new file system. While work was under way on one of the earliest versions of the company's crawl and indexing system, however, it became quite clear to the core engineers that they really had no other choice—thus, the Google File System (GFS) was born ... Given that Google's goal was to build a vast storage network out of inexpensive commodity hardware, it had to be assumed that component failures would be the norm ... '.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Best Buy to Buy Back

Evan Schuman in StoreFrontBackTalk writes about the intriguing implications of Best Buy re-purchasing used products: ' ... With the economy putting intense pressure on supplier costs—while also making lower cost merchandise highly attractive—Best Buy is quietly making a push into the secondary market, a strategy that is opening huge possibilities in its CRM analytics. Suddenly, a sold product starts the clock on when it can be profitably bought back ... '... And it's an application for the process known as reverse logistics.

Crowdsourcing a Fragrance

Can a fragrance be crowdsourced? " ... New Global Online Platform 'Womanity' Will Try, With Help From Women and Martin Sorrell ... French beauty marketer Clarins Fragrance Group is launching a major global campaign Monday that's missing one major thing: the product ... '

The Innovation Imperative

This is a relatively old article, but worth reading again:

The Innovation Imperative
By Darrel Rhea, Cheskin CEO
Originally published in The HUB Magazine, March 2006

Attempts by America’s major corporations to innovate new products almost always fail. Business Week’s estimates of single-digit innovation success rates confirm what innovation practitioners have known for years: What makes the cultures of our largest corporations so successful at squeezing profit from manufacturing and marketing products often makes them inept at inventing them.

This creates a painful dilemma for executives. On the one hand, they know that the market rewards organic growth obtained from internal innovation over growth generated through acquisitions. But because of a poor track record of corporate innovation initiatives, they also observe that resources spent on these activities usually offer management a very poor return on investment ... '

Data Everywhere

From the Economist:
Data, data everywhere
Information has gone from scarce to superabundant. That brings huge new benefits, says Kenneth Cukier (interviewed here)—but also big headaches ... '

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Addressing Writers Block

IBM was one of the first companies to actively encourage their employees to blog. As a way to accumulate knowledge and make social network connections in and outside the company. We examined their social networking methods and they were impressive. Now their researchers have developed a method to help those with writers block. " ... IBM was one of the first companies to encourage blogging by its employees. However, only 3 percent of employees begin blogging, and 80 percent only post five or less posts ... " . So their researchers have developed something called a 'blog muse' to help them out by promoting topics. More in Silicon Valley Watcher.

Implications of Mobile in Retail

Have been members of the non-profit GS1 for many years, download their new excellent 34-page paper on Mobile retail. Also had a conversation with Joe Horwood today who is responsible for their eCommunication and MobileCom group. He helped us a number of times in understanding how the retail space was changing and how to adapt. They hold conferences throughout the world on these topics. Well worth following their work.

An Update on Google Knol

Around now since 2007, Google's Knol was described as a Wikipedia killer, but has seen little commentary for some time. I was surprised to see this article which reviews its progress, surveys what is there and does some volume comparisons to the WP. By their count there are 163,000 entries, but also lots of spam. It also does a good job of listing Knol's novel features. My own quick look, searching for a topic I know something about: AI (Artificial Intelligence) shows lots of fragmentation, and little attempt to consolidate the topic into one useful piece. In other words, no editing, just lots of individuals crafting their own view of the topic. That is not as generally useful as the WP. Still surprised that the WP was not bought by Google.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Mobile Apps Changing Retail

A good set of examples in Adage of smartphone Apps that could change retail. Nice breadth of examples, all worth a look, though I would add others. There is still a considerable distance to go. Only about 15% of consumers in the US have smartphones. Retailers have not been convinced that 'scanning, planning and digital clipping' is the way to go. Manufacturers have still not bought in. Yet anyone can see this is the future of interacting with both manufacturer and retailer, plus anyone else that wants to get into the conversation.

What Facebook will Reveal about You

I used to advise people in the early days of the Web about the dangers of revealing too much online. Things have gone far beyond those early days, but it is always good to exercise caution. Here is another reason, much in the news this week, about what what very popular systems like Facebook will reveal about you to the authorities. Caution.

Digital Coupon Use Beats Newspapers

In Mediapost an intriguing post that further confirms the advance of the digital coupon. ' ... says the report, redemption values on its digital offering outstripped the increase in newspaper-based coupons by more than 10 to 1 ... ' . More bad news for the newspaper.

Apps for the Army Challenge

I worked for the DOD at the Pentagon years ago, they were a very innovative group, its good to see this kind of collaborative work going on. On Apps for the Army, much more information at the link. Via Robert Neilson.

" ...Open to all Soldiers and Department of the Army civilians, A4A offers Army personnel the opportunity to demonstrate their software development skills and creativity. In return, the Army hopes to improve its current capabilities or to add new ones – all through the ingenuity of its people.

“We’re building a culture of collaboration among our Army community to encourage smarter, better and faster technical solutions to meet operational needs,” said Army Chief Information Officer/G-6 Lt. Gen. Jeff Sorenson ... "

More here and press release, there is also considerable buzz in the Twitter stream.

Optimizing Your Enterprise

The current Baseline Mag has a lengthy article on Business intelligence and analytics, with some useful integrated case studies.

' ... In a world that’s awash in data, assembling the right information about customers and business conditions has never been more difficult. It’s a paradox that Jay Dittmann, vice president of marketing strategy at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Mo., knows all too well. Having 13 million loyalty program members who purchase thousands of different greeting cards and other items makes tracking trends a daunting proposition. “There are mountains of data to sift through and limits to our marketing budget,” he explains ... '

Monday, March 01, 2010

Internet Grows as a News Source

Via Pew and Computerworld. The Internet is continuing to grow as a news source in the US. Also about news as a shared social resource.

Statistics on the Smartphone

From correspondent Sy Truong, his newly developed paper on SAS and data Macros on the IPhone. I have used his IPhone App. He will present this at the upcoming SAS Global Forum conference. Sy is President, Meta-Xceed, Inc.

Eye Tracking Mobile Devices

Very interesting piece from
the Tobii blog and download of an extensive white paper on the subject.

Eye tracking the use of mobile devices

With a worldwide increase in the number of mobile devices, interest in eye‐tracking studies on these devices has also increased. Eye tracking can provide valuable information on a number of areas, such as how well a graphical interface works, where on a physical device the user looks for certain options (such as buttons) and how the user’s attention shifts between the different parts of the phone when interacting with it. However, carrying out eye tracking tests on such small devices is not an uncomplicated task. Due to the way the human eye works, we are able to see a large part of the mobile device even if only one fixation has been registered by the eye tracker. Also the accuracy of the eye tracker (which is about 0.5° for all Tobii models) plays a more significant role the smaller the interface becomes. In addition, as the mobile device is three‐dimensional, eye tracking interaction with it can result in data offsets and errors if not set up properly. In order to overcome these issues, several different set‐ups have been developed..... '