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Friday, December 31, 2010

Disney Crowd Control Center

I mentioned the science of queuing theory here recently.   In the late 70's I had a chance to meet with scientists at Disney theme parks to talk crowd control.  As you might expect they were very interested in the dynamics of crowds as augmented by lines.   I was convinced they were the most advanced in this realm, combining both mathematical and psychological principals.  They have advanced, as is indicated by this recent NYT article.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kurzweil Evaluates His Predictions

Ray Kurzweil evaluates the predictions he made in his book: The Age of the Spiritual Machines. I like futurist self evaluation, and he does it frankly and well. I don't agree with all that he predicts, but the thoughts themselves are mind bending.

Skype IPhone App Includes Video

Engadget post on the update of Skype App which now includes video interaction in 3G and Wifi. Depending on quality could compete strongly with FaceTime.

This Year in Mobile

Technology Review post on important developments in 2010 in Mobile tech.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Need Help?

Wanted to remind my readers that I am a consultant.   I have over thirty years of experience with major companies and the US government.   I have saved companies many millions of dollars in costs and  led a number of major innovation projects.  This coming year I am starting a push to link with new clients.  Need help?  Lets talk.  Contact me.  More details and my contact information can be found in the left hand column. 

Analytics at Work

Late, but just brought to my attention: Analytics at Work: Smarter Decisions, Better Results by Thomas H. Davenport , Jeanne G. Harris  and  Robert Morison.   In previous books Davenport used our enterprise as an example for excellence in Analytics.

IBM's View of the Future

In Computerworld: A view of the future by IBM. Some interesting and some unusual.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Nivea Facebook Promotion

An example of a contest style  Nivea Facebook promotion in Mashable.

Mobile Business Intelligence

Emerging Tech: Business Intelligent Apps go Mobile.  Fairly good CW overview piece that is worth a look.  Includes some simple real examples.  I agree this can be a powerful idea, especially if the analysis can be taken into the true context of the data.  Like on the shelf of a store, or into a warehouse being analyzed.

AI Revolution

I was involved in the development of AI applications for a large company.  A dozen people developed applications for five years.   A few applications were very successful, but most failed to be what was expected.  They were not used, were not trusted, or proved to be far too expensive to maintain.

As the group faded away the outgoing explanation was that the artificial intelligence was still there, but was now embedded in applications.   Exactly what it was, other than complex computer coding, was less well defined.   The default answer seemed to be that the AI elements were not doing human style reasoning, but were too complex for normal humans to fully understand.  A strange definition by itself.

An article in Wired brings up this same point.  What is AI?  It positions it as clever methods, but not necessarily the ones that humans would use to address the same problems.  A number of interesting examples are given, including a bot warehouse at diapers.com

Monday, December 27, 2010

Snowflakes in 3D

Snowflakes under an electron microscope.  No 3D glasses required, only the old eye-crossing and relaxing trick.  Phenomenal to see the details of structure there. 

Algorithms on Wall Street

In Wired: The increasing use of artificial intelligence on Wall Street.  I remember going to a number of presentations on this once before, at the Santa Fe Institute, back in the late 90s.  And wasn't that just before .... ?    I like the analysis direction, it is certainly data rich, but  I advise caution.

Smart Swarms Book Reviewed

Just read: The Smart Swarm: How Understanding Flocks, Schools, and Colonies Can Make Us Better at Communicating, Decision Making, and Getting Things Done.  by Peter Miller.   We used swarm and complexity technologies in the enterprise as models for complex, difficult to solve problems. This book mentions work with companies we also used there.  Specifically a chapter on Bios Group, a spin-off from the Santa Fe Institute,  which merged with NuTech, and was ultimately absorbed by Netezza.  I still know some of the participants in that group who are doing excellent new work.   Chapter One:  'Ants', well describes their work with a difficult scheduling problem with Air Liquide

More attention is paid to the biological inspiration for these kinds of problems than the specific technical solutions to industrial examples.  That is OK, but may be disappointing to those with a problem ready to solve.

Interesting and well described is the section detailing how traveling salesperson routing problems can be solved using biologically inspired methods.  It should be noted though that this is not the usual way these these problems are typically solved today, for a number of technical reasons. 

 Even if you don't actually use this kind of model to solve a problem, the book is useful as a way to understand shoppers, consumers, elements of a supply chain, friends and anything that consists of many simple components that communicate in simple ways. This is not a technical book, and will not help you in either precisely formulating or solving these problems.  It also shows how simulation methods, in general, are useful.  You will still need professional help to proceed.

  Complexity models can be applied as a way  to simulate, explore solutions and thus improve systems. This book is a very non-technical overview.  For a more technical view, see the Swarm Development Group wiki.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

IPhone Apps Resources

A good post on Apps and other resources for the IPhone.   Worth a look.

Recorded Future Visualizes Foreign Relations via VIP Travels

I have mentioned the Recorded Future company here a number of times.  Their innovative methods allows you you analyze specific time dimension relationships among online data, resulting in some particularly unique insights.  They build off of some of the recent work done with Facebook relationship data that I also reported on, but this time using the Recorded Future API  and Spotfire to produce some striking and insightful global relationships " .... We used the Recorded Future News Analytics API to extract travel events on 1,000 “VIPs” – prominent politicians, generals, business people from around the world, and created a data set first of 350,000 events. After removing duplicate reporting and other clean-up we ended up with 7,000 unique VIP trips done during 2009-2010 ... " .   Striking visuals and potentially unique insights.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Printable Paper Batteries

Printable paper batteries.  Advances in an idea that has been proposed for some time.  Its practicality of economical manufacture has been suspect, but is improving.

Miracle of the Marketplace

In Cape Diem, a comparison of 1964 and 2010 in the purchase of typical home appliances and the discovery that the marketplace now allows much more value for equivalent dollars.  That is before considering all the technology innovation that makes completely new things available today vs 1964. The magic of the market.

The Math and Psych of Waiting in Line

Short post in Flowingdata about both the statistics and psychology of waiting in a line.  Companies that deal in local customer service figured this out a long time ago.  In particular pioneered by early theme parks like Disney. Queueing theory is used fundamentally in most complex businesses.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Facebook Tips

In ComputerWorld : Fixing Facebook, Tips and Tricks for Handling Common Complaints " ... If you like Facebook but don't like the way it handles privacy and annoying applications, here are some simple fixes .... ".  Well done and useful.

Kroger Coupon App

In Supermarket News:  Kroger has launched an IPhone and Android coupon App.  " ... lets customers download coupons to their loyalty cards from their Androids or iPhones. Food Lion earlier launched an iPhone app for coupons and weekly specials, and Safeway is rolling out a mobile app for product location ... "

Enterprise Information Management

Interesting talk, have not been introduced to the complexities of what is called EIM

Scott Vogan, Capgemini, from Business Intelligence Network
Scott Vogan, who leads the North American EIM Practice for Capgemini, discusses the primary drivers for Enterprise Information Management (EIM), the barriers to successful EIM and Capgemini's approach to EIM ....


I see that colleague Mark Lacy has a new Blog. Bibliovorous - Book-Eating and Related Vices - over 2000 books read since 1971

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SAS Survival App

Reviewing information about wilderness camping I came upon the best selling SAS Survival Guide by John Wiseman.  It was interesting that they are pushing the associated IPhone App on the cover of the book.  Two versions exist, a free Lite version and a $5 full version.  I downloaded the free version and scanned it.  Remarkably good example of delivering knowledge as an App.  It contains lots of useful information, not all that is in the 380 page book. Very simply presented, as an index and documents.  But should I depend on a powered device in the woods?    An example of  how information is now shared between text and mobile devices.  The future?

Bumpy Road to Private Clouds

A very good article in Computer World about the complexity of setting up internal clouds.   Most of the conversation about Clouds have been those externally situated,  but concern about the security risks involved has driven some enterprises to look at the inside the firewall.  The suggest that:  " ... Building an internal cloud isn't easy, warns a veteran IT analyst. You'll need new tools and procedures ... " . See also CW's other articles on Cloud Computing.

Social Computing's Evolution in the Enterprise

In Computerworld - Social computing is among the most disruptive technologies making their way into the enterprise. The ever-growing number of users in social networks (half a billion for Facebook as of last month) has the potential to radically change how we do business and challenges our traditional notions of workforce collaboration and productivity. In fact, Bill Gates has said that "social networking-type applications will become as ubiquitous in the workplace as Microsoft Office tools and will likely replace e-mail as the dominant form of corporate communications." ....

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wikipedia: Good Faith Collaboration?

Cory Doctorow  review of Joseph Reagle Jr's Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia.  Many people now depend on Wikipedia for better or worse.  How does it work at all?  I have been peripherally involved in examining some edit wars and vandalism there.  What I saw was not good faith, but obsession with a version of the truth.   Read also some of the comments, which give other examples of why it should not work.  Yet it does for most people.  On order.  See also, the book's site.

Group Dynamics Killing Innovation

Provocative thoughts, from Knowledge at Wharton:

" ... To come up with the next iPad or Amazon, the pacesetters of the future need solitary brainstorming time, according to new Wharton research. In a paper titled, "Idea Generation and the Quality of the Best Idea," Wharton professors Christian Terwiesch and Karl Ulrich argue that group dynamics are the enemy of businesses trying to develop one-of-a-kind new products, unique ways to save money or distinctive marketing strategies .... "

Wal-Mart and Teradata

Wal-Mart enhances its data warehouse agreement with Teradata.   In Consumer Goods Technology.

Value Creation

From Bain & Company's newsletter: 

Value creation becomes more important than ever by Bain partners Alan Hirzel, Charles Tillen and senior director of Bain's private equity practice, Catherine Lemire
Leverage and ever-expanding price-earnings multiples no longer guarantee superior private equity returns. In today’s economy, the PE firms that create value are portfolio activists. Firms that get involved early and effectively in the management of their portfolio companies deliver returns that are more than double those of firms that fail to do so ... "

Robotics Improving Egg Safety

A short piece on the increasing use of robotics for egg handling and examination, leading to fewer damage problems.

Music as a Gateway to AI

Does avant garde music provide a gateway to artificial intelligence? " .... Stretching their boundaries, artificial intelligence researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have teamed up with musicians on an unlikely project: a digital conductor of improvised avant-garde performances ... "

IBM Touts Predictive Analytics

Having worked in this area for years, I have to agree.  The emergence of search has sometimes inappropriately substituted fast and easy for 'right'.   Good article:

IBM Touts Predictive Analytics as Key Differentiator for Businesses

Vendor showcases successful applications of technology, points to recent study indicating top companies more likely to rely on analytics as competitive and performance differentiator ....

Monday, December 20, 2010

Facebook vs Twitter Infographic

Colleague Stan Dyck sends along an infographic from digital surgeons of statistics about Facebbok versus Twitter in 2010.  Nicely done.  It catches your attention, though I still prefer a simpler comparison of this kind of data.

Nestle's Look towards Health

Nestle looks at deeper, health related aspects of food science.  Including addressing chronic diseases. Good detailed article in the WSJ.  (full article requires pay)

On the Failure of Social Media

GigaOm on the failure of social media campaigns.  I agree that it is far to early to predict when these campaigns will succeed or fail. Some good directional thoughts to consider here.

Sharing Your Car

In another innovative personal transportation market, reported in Wired, you can share your car for cash. : " ... RelayRides lets car owners set their own rates starting at $6 per hour. Of the cost, 65 percent goes straight to the car owner, while 15 percent goes to RelayRides and 20 percent covers insurance up to $1 million with a $500 individual deductible. Car borrowers are pre-screened, and online reviews keep hoopty-owners honest about the true condition of their car .... "

An App for an Airport

I reported previsously on developing specialized Apps for conferences.  Here is another example of something similar: A specialized App for an airport, here San Francisco (SFO) .  Nice idea that combines rapidly changing local information and retail interaction.   It is called flysfo.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Brought to my attention and reviewing: Ontoprise. "  ... is a leading independent software vendor for industry-proven Semantic Web infrastructure technologies and products used to support dynamic semantic information integration and information management processes at the enterprise level. With its mature and standards-based products and its extensive experience ontoprise is delivering a key segment of the upcoming Semantic Web. ontoprise has developed a comprehensive product suite designed to support the deployment of semantic technologies in the enterprise.... " .

Products in collaborative knowledge management, Ontology modeling environments and Semantic Web Middleware.  Looks like some impressive Semantic Web based offerings.

Body Browser

Just took a look at the Google Body Browser Beta.  It requires WebGL,  such as that included in the new Chrome Beta. Other options at the link.  Nicely done ... a visual encyclopedia of the body that you can explore in 3D.  I could see it being connected to your own medical data to help you understand what your doctor may have told you.  Also could be linked to medical and drug models to help understand both problems and solutions.  It could be a starting point to understand some of the complex semantics of medical knowledge.  Includes a wealth of 3D knowledge and navigation needs some help. Well deserving of a look.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Private Car Networks

In MF Perry's blog on the natural emergence of markets:  A car network that works from a smartphone:

 " ... "Request a car by telling Uber where you are. Text us your address, or use our iPhone or Android apps to set your pickup location on a map. Uber will send the nearest driver to pick you up, and text message you an estimated arrival time. Cars usually arrive within 5-10 minutes. Your licensed professional driver will park curbside in a sleek black car. Uber will text you again when the car arrives. Hop in the car, tell the driver your destination and you'll be on your way..... ".

Fairly simple idea. working today in San Francisco and seeking to expand.  Is this a cab system?  If so, such systems are heavily regulated in many large cities and the pressure is on.

Ad Injection for Mobile Advertising

Recently in the Metaio Newsletter:

" .... San Francisco / Munich, December 9th, 2010 - junaio, currently seen by many experts as the most advanced mobile Augmented Reality browser, announced today the new "Ad-Inject" service for mobile advertising. It allows major brands and sponsors to inject location and context sensitive messages into relevant information channels on junaio. The well-known German parcel service Hermes launched a first nationwide pilot with this new service. Ad-Inject provides an opportunity for channel developers to be recompensed for their effort of providing useful content for their audiences. As the use of smartphones is spreading at an incredible rate, there is significant potential for mobile advertising. The deciding factor, however, will be the intuitive, location and context sensitive display of user relevant messages. This is where junaio is breaking new ground again .... "

An introductory video can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPH2S8CRXHk

Imaginary Dieting

Thinking about eating can be filling? Research ongoing in this space:   In the NYT:   Real Evidence for Diets That Are Just Imaginary

Word Lens Translation App

I have worked with machine translation in Google and also with high end translation systems.  The result is never perfect.  They can often but not always give you a general understanding of what a sentence means in another language.  It is dangerous to depend on a precise translation without expert human help.

Word Lens is an App that allows you to smartphone camera scan a sentence and then it quickly provides a translation.  Right now it is available only for English to and from Spanish.  The basic App is free, but each to and from language module costs $5.  A second limitation is the image recognition aspect.  It works best with distinct letters that have minimal background.  The system must separate letters from background and the letters must be clearly and distinctly seen.   I would also not expect it to do well with the semantic complexity of a paragraph of prose either.

So this is a great direction.  Yet it depends on two yet unsolved problems.  Image recognition and machine translation.

As their clever video shows, this can be useful for easily translating signs and headlines.  It eliminates the need to type in the letters into a translation system.   Yet I would again be careful about understanding even minimal subtlety in the message itself.  Would be useful , with caution, when you are working with signage or short phrases in a language you know minimally.

A hands on test by Ars Technica.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Food Lion IPhone App

In SupermarketNews: Always innovative Food Lion is promoting its new IPhone App with contests.

Bradley Efron Says it Simply

A very good interview with Stanford statistics prof Bradley Efron in Significance Magazine.  I was sent a PDF, but I see it is regrettably behind a pay wall. There are some tempting quotes in Numbers Rule Your World.

Procter Focus on Sales and Innovation

In the Cincinnati Enquirer: P&G outlines focus on sales and innovation at the Wall Street Meeting in Cincinnati yesterday.  A good outline of company direction under the new leadership.

Mechanical Turk Challenged by Spam

We used Amazon's Mechanical Turk to successfuly solve several human intelligence tasks in the enterprise.  Unfortunately it is now reported that a large percentage of tasks and responses there are Spam.   This erodes its credibiity for real human intelligence work.  It may ultimately be a human task to separate the spam generating requests from legitmate ones.

Retailers and In Store Smart Phones

A very good article in the WSJ about the increasing use of smartphones in stores to compare prices and other information about products via search and barcode scanning.  The reactions of retailers to this behavior. We studied this use in the enterprise.   Also how some online retailers like amazon are specifically targeting in-store users.  Retailers don't seem to be in fear of this yet, but are taking notice. 

Blogging has Peaked Says Pew Report

In ReadwriteWeb:  It importantly varies by demographic, but the Pew Internet Report writes that the frequency of Blogging has peaked on the Web.  Many more useful statistics in the article.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

NGram Visualization Tool

New from Google Labs, the ability to plot the usage of words or phrases in Google's huge and growing scanned corpora of text.   Easy to use and simple to apply to understand the changes in the uses of words over time.  In ten different languages. The Google Labs article is here.  Includes a link to technical articles on its development.  Also an article that covers this is as well in ReadWriteWeb. A boon for those studying the use of language. Reminiscent of the Baby name tool, but much more broadly applicable.

Update:  Also mentioned in a WSJ article.

Update:  Much more on the trending tool, including anomalies, errors, etc.   See the link there to Language Log article, which takes it several steps deeper.

Does Analytics Need a Soul?

Article in SASCOM. " ... “We need a “soul” to make analytics successful. We recognize that a culture change is needed to move decision making from an art to a science, but we need the right balance of art and science. Our business will not be run by a computer – we need people with a feel for intuitive decision making that understands the business, but we need to give them tools to better inform their decision making process. How do we evolve this decision making process?” ....   Good conversation about the difficulty of automating decisions in the real world.

Geo-Fenced Advertising in Test

Intriguing direction that could provide better shopper behavior  and location understanding.   For example this could be used to understand when a shopper enters an aisle, or comes into a store. " ... Clinique, Ritz Camera, Groupon and Hewlett-Packard joined mobile-ad provider JiWire in a location-based project that sends ads to shoppers' mobile devices when they're close to participating stores or products. Shoppers can click ads to get more product information and the exact locations of the items they're interested in.... "

Humans vs Computers in Jeopardy

An interesting artificial intelligence challenge.  This has been planned for a few years now,  here is new information about an IBM computer challenging a human in the Jeopardy game.  Contrary to the previous highy structured chess challanges this includes strong elements of semantic and language knowledge.

Procter Move to Social Media

ReadwriteWeb posts about P&G's move from Soap Operas to Social Media.  This is a very thin article, but worth a scan.   Wish they had looked for and provided more detail. P&G has been a pioneer in new marketing spaces, from print, to packaging to TV and Radio, merchandising and  product placement.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Future of Neuromarketing

Some interesting points on the changes in market research and how neuroscience will effect the industry:

Market Research Industry Continues Transformation as Business World Searches for Consumer-Centric Focus and Insight on the Subconscious Drivers of Behavior

PORTSMOUTH, NH--(Marketwire - December 14, 2010) - Noted Behavioral Scientist Aaron Reid, Ph.D., founder of Sentient Decision Science (www.sentientdecisionscience.com), a leading provider of behavioral insight and advanced market research methods, today predicted the 2011 trends that will continue to transform the research industry and help shape the customer agenda for Global 2000 brands ... "

Dole and Price Chopper Use QR

There has been much in the news lately about the use of QR codes in Grocery.  In this latest example, covered briefly in Supermarket News, Dole and Price Chopper are using the code for a holiday promotion.  " ... The code appears in a Facebook advertisement that offers free recipes and a chance to win a $500 gift card. Shoppers who are unable to scan QR codes can send text messages to participate ... " .  Note the inclusion of an alternate redemption method  with texting.  I don't have a number, but I believe the percentage of shoppers who have scanning capabilities, and know how to use them, is still low. 

mCosm Facebook Page

I see that mCosm, who worked with us in the enterprise and innovation centers and has been written about a number of times in this blog, now has a Facebook page.

" ... mCosm delivers a variety of innovative and high impact, consumer oriented strategic marketing and interactive retail solutions. Designed to entice, enhance and engage the consumer in a retail environment, mCosm solutions are crafted to influence the consumers at the point of purchase, increasing sales-per-square-foot at the lowest total cost of ownership ... "

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Visualizing 500 Million Facebook Members

Visualizing   the world's facebook connections.  Interesting is the impressive density of the connections world-wide, and the lack of connections in some areas.   The original facebook article on the visualization has many more details about the visual, created by a facebook intern. The original article lets you get a very high res image you can explore further.  Note that the continent outlines are produced by the connections themselves.

Maps for That: Crowdsourcing Your Mind

Mindjet a vendor of mind mapping software that I have successfully used in the past, has come out with a map sharing site called Maps-for-that.  Nice idea.  The maps need to be based on Mindjet MindManager, which you can download for a short trial period.   There appear to be nearly 300 maps in the library at this time.  More details in Mindjet's blog.

Library Science Blogs

Brought to my attention for some work I am doing regarding cataloging and classification: 50 Excellent Library Science Blogs Worth Reading.

iPads and Archaeology

Doug Lautzenheiser gives another example of iPad usage, in one of my favorite areas of interests, Archaeology.  As a means of simply gathering information as one moves through a space.  Not too much different from gathering information about shoppers in a retail space, you just need the proper supporting App for each context.

Vinimaya Introduces New Capabilities

I have mentioned the Vinimaya virtual marketplace package in this blog a number of times.   Talked to them about their system.   A number of new capabilities have been introduced:

Vinimaya recently announced general availability of our SmartAudit™ and SmartQuote™ modules:
· Vinimaya Introduces SmartAudit™
· Game-Changing Product Innovation Allows B2B Buyers to Monitor Supplier Data in the Cloud...·
· Vinimaya’s New SmartQuote™ Enables Dynamic Bidding with Suppliers
· Instant “Three-Bids-and-a-Buy” Functionality Enhances Online Shopping Experience for B2B Buyers...

via Erinn Tarpey  - Director of Marketing Vinimaya, Inc.  -  etarpey@vinimaya.com

Monday, December 13, 2010

Google Latitude App

Introduced for the IPhone, the Google Latitude App.  What this does is share information about the locations of friends that permit it.  Obvious applications for social connections.  But also has a potential for work groups that need to know the location of their colleagues.  Opt-in privacy settings. The article says that the App will operate in the background with the App closed to keep track of locations.

QR Codes as Magnet for Shoppers

A short Phil Lempert article: QR Codes as a Magnet for Tech Savvy Shoppers with some excellent examples:

"Supermarkets will soon have a potentially powerful way to merchandise with relevancy to tech-savvy shoppers - think Millennials, Generation X and up the age scale. By using technology to instantly share more information about products than appear on their packages, retailers could build credibility helping shoppers make better-informed purchase decisions.  Retailers will not only earn the trust of such deliberate shoppers, but they'll help bring categories to life in new ways - all by showcasing Quick Response (QR) codes on product packages and shelf tags ... "

Antikythera Mechanism in Legos

A very sharp correspondent points me to the post on the fastcodesign site about building a model of the Antikythera mechanism using legos. Watch an Apple Engineer Recreate a 2,000-Year-Old Computer Using Legos  I have written about the Greek mechanism, found on a shipwreck, before.   An anthropology prof showed us a picture of it in the 70s and asked us for ideas about what it was meant to do.  Only recently have a number of researchers, including some at HP, discovered its use as an astronomical calculator.   Likely used as an aid for navigation.

Self Service Business Intelligence

ComputerWorld article on self service business intelligence.  Low cost, easy to use tools are becoming more common. " ... It's all about helping business users collaborate and make faster decisions with complex information ... "

An RFID Turntable

The well known design company IDEO, who helped us construct innovation spaces, has designed a turntable (remember those?) style platform that reads a card with an RFID chip in it to play (stream) music.  Explained further and demonstrated in Engadget.  More of a nostalgia thing than practical.  Also, IDEO is not taking orders for these yet.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ant Algorithms

New work on the use of biologically inspired methods.  Here the problem is finding shortest paths in busy networks.  The inspiration is how ants can find their way in complex and changing mazes. The efficiently solution of this is industrially very useful.   Report in Physorg.  Shortest path methods in networks have been much studied and there are already fast methods for this problem. Still, any inspiration is worth studying. I have yet to see bio inspired methods solution methods that provide remarkable solutions.

HP Gives up on BI

In an intriguing development HP has backed off of their business intelligence and analytics efforts.  I have visited HP labs a number of times and was always impressed my their work in analytics. We tested several examples in the enterprise.

Social Media Resources

A good list of social media resources from Mashable.  Good for those that want to expand their understanding of social methods.

Signals Online

Intriguing essay in Batelle's Searchblog: Signal, Curation, Discovery.  On a number of themes in the search industry, the current players and directions being explored.  The Web sometimes seems like it expands randomly and erratically, the article seeks to show that there are common themes in its evolution, and where it may be going next.   Thought provoking ideas.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Generated QR codes from Google

Its pretty old news that Google has it's own URL shortener.  called goo.gl    It is perhaps also old news that you can also use this shortener to create a 2-D QR code.   This came up in a conversation today about simple barcode generation. 

  The shortened code for the URL of this blog is:  goo.gl/H1P6G   and if you add '.qr' at then end of the shortened URL:  goo.gl/H1P6G.qr   you get the QR code shown at the right.   This code can be read by many barcode readers that can be uploaded to your favorite smartphone.  For example I just read it with the RedLaser IPhone App..

Friday, December 10, 2010

Carbonara: the Possibilities Behind Exotic Carbon Structures

I got late to this article in the Futurist, which extols the continuing possibilities, boosted by discoveries in nanotechnology, and the annoying delays in their realization:  

" .... Observers have been waiting for carbon nanotubes, buckyballs, and graphene to transform the world for quite some time, and the wait has been longer than they expected.  Enthusiasts for this new miracle material had all but vanished.  Is this warranted?  Where does the state of innovation in various forms of carbon, that could yield ultra-strong, ultra-light materials and superfast computing really stand? .... "

Decision Analysis Software Survey

OR/MS Today does an excellent survey of decision analysis software every year.  If you are interested in the topic, take a look here.  " ... Dennis Buede wrote, “Decision analysis is the discipline of evaluating complex alternatives in the light of uncertainty, value preferences and risk preference” . Decision analysis software has certainly changed since 1993. Computational horsepower and memory were critical concerns in 1993. Today, vendors are producing a richer set of analysis tools and better visualization and analysis options. The functionality of tools seems to increase each year, thanks to the integration of optimization, simulation, forecasting and data analysis techniques. Opportunities for Web-based collaboration and integration into business analytics have never been better ... "

The Open Library

There are millions of books free for the e-reading out there.  Most pay reading services include them as well for free.  Now the Open Library has introduced a new e-reader devoted to free books.  This includes improved reading formats and sharing capabilities.

Copying and Pasting Your Interests

I wrote about Tynt before, but this article made it clearer about what it is doing ... Find out more about what people really care about.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Marketing in China's Digital Age

In Knowledge@Wharton:

Marketing in China's Digital Age: How to Win Customers' Hearts?

Companies worldwide are devoting more of their marketing budgets to digital channels such as search engines, social networks and mobile phones. But regardless of the medium, marketers will always need to master the art of winning customers' attention, loyalty and wallets. When it comes to success in burgeoning markets like China, this requires a deep understanding of local customers and acknowledging that simply copying whats being done in the U.S. and elsewhere won't necessarily work. What's more, while finding an audience to target in China may cost less in terms of time and money than in traditional channels like television, communicating a message effectively may require double the effort. .... "

Redrawing Country Regions Using Phone Calls

An interesting proposal in the BBC that the social connections evidenced by phone calls could be used to redraw the map of the UK.  " ... Regional boundaries are useful for governments, said Carlo Ratti, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who led the work. "But they don't say anything about how people in those regions interact." His team used records of more than 12 billion anonymised landline telephone calls, to model who Britons frequently spoke to.... "

Brands and Social Media

In Progressive Grocer:  People are more inclined to purchase social media advertised brands.

Numbers Rule Your World

I have not read the Numbers Rule Your World book yet, but here is the associated blog.   Covers lots of interesting related topics.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Mobile Strategy a Must for Retailers

Obvious but good piece in Computerworld.  The most savvy players in retail already understand it.  As shoppers are armed with sensors,  web connectivity, universal information and acquisition options,  payment capability and tailored promotions .... it is inevitable that the retail world will change significantly, and it will happen soon.

Linkedin and Professional Presence

In Adage: Agree to the basic premise.  There should be a clear distinction between personal presence and professional interaction.   Muddling the two together hurts both.  Its also natural to use the same infrastructure for professional presence and support information to bridge the gap between information inside and outside the enterprise.  I know it is being worked on.  Can anyone provide some examples of that?

Marketing Hub Reports first Win

In the local press: the establishment of Cincinnati, Ohio as a marketing hub moves ahead with the movement of an agency here.

Brands as Media

Dave Knox presents: Brands as Media at the Adage conference.  he writes: " .... “Moving Beyond Advertising” and how brands can change the game through Owned Media. It is a topic near to my heart since the majority of my work at P&G over the past 3 years was about the changes digital will bring in entertainment and content for brands. The slides that I will be presenting are below ... "

Historic Platform Shift

Smartphones, Tablets to overtake PCs in the next 18 months.  In Computerworld. 

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Hint of What are Scientists Reading Online

I had noticed when Springer started experimenting with letting readers look inside their vast library of excellent technical books online.  Now they have a free system where you can see a real time visual look of what scientists are reading from that library online.  A kind of meta view of what people are doing on their site.  Much more in ReadWrite Web. 

Looking at it more closely the results are shown symbolically.  I would have preferred something more accurate so that you could make some conclusions based on what is shown.  Are they trying to protect some information here?  Lets see something more interesting that you drill down into.

Social Customer Engagement Index Survey

The Society for New Communications Research is very pleased to be collaborating with the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals, SOCAP and Social Media Today's TheSocialCustomer.com, to compile the Social Customer Engagement Index.

This project was initiated this past year to explore how companies are using social technologies to better support their customers through improved customer relationships, service and support.

The initial study reveals important data and insights on the evolution of customer service and support, and social media's increasing role in this function. You can download the whitepaper with analysis from Brent Leary of CRM Essentials, LLC here.

We are now reprising the study with a new survey. The results will be used to update the white paper, which will include insights from SNCR Fellows and will once again be available on TheSocialCustomer.com. If you are involved in customer care, CRM, or consumer affairs, we hope you will participate in this important initiative by completing this brief survey.


Thank you very much for your time and participation! We look forward to sharing the results with you!

iPad as a Divergence Product

I know I have been somewhat skeptical of the iPad as a novel product.  Here is an article in Adage which looks at it differently.  Comparing it to the now long ago launch of the tablet computer:  Good thoughts. " ... The tablet computer of 2010 is a divergence product. It's as if Apple took a laptop computer and cut off the keyboard and threw it away, then put a handful of the laptop's more important components into the screen itself.  What remained was a new type of computing device. Lighter, easier to use and almost totally focused on the visual functions of a conventional laptop ... "  

Tesco Launches Mobile Site

My always observant UK retail correspondent reports that retailer Tesco has launched a mobile version of its remote site.

Google Enters eBook Market

A good overview of Google's entry into the ebook market, from an educational perspective.   A very large number of texts are included. 

Monday, December 06, 2010

Gmail Alert Monitor Update

A Gmail alert monitor I had not heard of: Scott's Gmail Alert (SGA) has been a great desktop notifier for a long time. In the just-released version 5, however, SGA has added a handful of new features which make it even better than itspredecessors ....

Procter CIO is Chief of the Year

In InformationWeek:Former long-time colleague Filippo Passerini of P&G is named CIO of the year. " ...  How does Filippo Passerini and his team hope to digitize the company end to end? Not by playing it safe ... "

Spherical Tours

Rently brought to my attention: Spherical Images." .... A London-based virtual tour company, Spherical Images provide HD quality virtual tours by photographing your venue using ground breaking technology - allowing you to bring your venue to the customer with unparalleled impact and quality. Click and drag the image below to control the virtual tour.... ".  We looked at these kinds of methods for remote interacton with retail spaces.  See their demo HD tour of a concert hall.  Impressive.

Tagging Starter Kits

Motorola is offering some out-of-the-box RFID starter kits for companies that want to understand the technology and its application.  Good idea.  " ... Motorola and its channel partners will offer new packages that companies can use to test RFID solutions for tracking retail items, IT assets, returnable transport containers and much more ... "

Productive Obsessions

Intriguing Ideaconnection interview.  The role of a kind of obsession in thinking. " .... IdeaConnection Interview with Eric Maisel, Co-author of Brainstorm, and Creative Recovery, and Author of Coaching the Artist Within, Fearless Creating, The Van Gogh Blues, and Thirty-One Other Books  "A productive obsession is an idea that you choose for good reasons and pursue with all your brain's power….Productively obsessing is the mind-set of the creative person." ... " .   Yes, have seen this kind of thing in my own creative experience.  It works, but can also be personally disruptive.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

On Bayesian Networks

A very good overview article by Adnan Darwiche in the December Communications of the ACM: ...  What are Bayesian networks and why are their applications growing across all fields?  Regrettable that the full text is not available free online.

Social Games as an Advertising Frontier

Good article in Mashable/Business: Reasons Why Social Games Are the Next Advertising Frontier  I do like the idea, but also think it is much harder to implement successfully than a notice-click advertising interaction.   A number of good examples and benefits are outlined ...

" ... Ad spending on social gaming increased 60% since 2009, according to eMarketer. No doubt advertisers have noticed that 56 million Americans are playing social games and that the branded virtual goods market is booming. But more than just social gaming’s growing popularity has gotten attention from advertisers. Social games also represent an environment that is largely conducive to advertising.

“Media buyers and advertisers are recognizing that this is what they want,” explained Robert Tomkinson, Playfish’s senior director of global marketing. “What they want is massive reach, they want targeting, they want performance. And you can have all of these by forming branding opportunities in the right way.” ... "

Physics Simulator using MS Surface: In Retail?

Remember Microsoft Surface?  I barely do, and I saw a demonstration of it to show the dynamics of crowd interactions.  I have rarely seen it mentioned beyond that early example. Yet I think it has value for certain kinds of innovation-interaction displays. Our own research showed that physical interaction with design results can build collaborative engagement with a solution.  Probably not useful as a replacement for the average desk.    Now there is an example of its use for a physics simulator.    And more from engadget on Surface.  Worth another look.  Do you have any retail design and analysis examples, Microsoft?  Pass them along.

Card Trick and Data Compression

In Technology Review, a clever discovery:

Card Trick Leads to New Bound on Data Compression
A magician's card trick has prompted a mathematical re-evaluation of the limits on data compression ...

iMotions Eyetracking Tool

A video on the IMotions eyetracking tool.  More at their site.  " ... To gain a new level of consumer insights to know how your customers perceive, behave and interact with your visual communication, products, interfaces, advertisement etc... to measure and increase your ROI ... " .   I have not seen their software applied as yet.  Eyetracking is becoming an increasingly used approach to understand how people react to stimuli. 

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Common Craft Explanatory Videos

My colleague Walter Riker (see his Ease of Blogging site) sends along a link to the site Common Craft" ... little 3 minute videos for explanation on technology for fun and have not figured out how to monetize it. The video's are fun and have a neat way of dealing with explanations ... " .   I took at a few of these and they are very nicely done.  it is often useful to have simple explanations at the ready  in the enterprise.

About Common Craft - Who We Are (And What We Do) We Make Video
Our videos may surprise you. They're short and simple. They use paper cut-outs. They cover subjects "in Plain English." But lurking under the simple surface are lessons that have been crafted with great care. Despite our fun and lighthearted style, we take explanation seriously ... "

IPads in Academia

In CACM: Faculty innovators explore iPad use.  I am still unconvinced that there are that many fundamental differences between say a small laptop and an iPad.  Are they really unique?

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Value of Smart Swarms

New book in the pile and now being read: The Smart Swarm: How Understanding Flocks, Schools, and Colonies Can Make Us Better at Communicating, Decision Making, and Getting Things Done.  by Peter Miller.   We examined swarm technologies in the enterprise as models for complex systems.

 Even if you don't actually use this kind of model to solve a problem, it is useful to use as a way to understand shoppers, consumers, elements of a supply chain, friends and anything that consists of many simple components that communicate in simple ways.

  So it can be applied as a way to simulate and improve many kinds of systems. This book is a very non-technical overview.  For a more technical view, see the Swarm Development Group wiki.  I will provide a more detailed review later.

Smaller Devices Taking Over

In the NYT Bits column: Smartphones and Tablets to take over in 2011.  There seems to be a rush towards mobile computing power, combined with sensors.   Lots of room for using all of the data that will be gathered.  Business Intelligence will be there. 

Trends in Shopper Behavior

Progressive Grocer posts on some trends in shopper behavior.   " ... Consumers today want value, are less likely to be loyal to one retailer and expect friendly, educated personal service in an innovative environment, according to a retail study by Leo Burnett. "The recession has forever changed people's mindset about shopping. Retailers must understand the changed role ... to maintain customer loyalty," said a Leo Burnett executive ... " .    Obvious, but the article is worth examining.

Small Business Success in 2011

On the steps for of small business success in 2011 from Entrepreneur magazine.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Crowdsourcing Genetic Research

Another example of a game aimed at serious work:

Canadian scientists have stumbled on a novel way to conduct genetic studies: Using a game to crowdsource the deciphering of human DNA.

" ... The new project, Phylo, was launched by a team at Montreal's McGill University on November 29. Players are allowed to recognize and sort human genetic code that's displayed in a Tetris-like format. Phylo, which runs in Flash, allows users to parse random genetic codes or to tackle DNA patterns related to real diseases. In a random game, a user found himself assigned to DNA portions linked to exudative vitreoretinopathy 4 and vesicoureteral reflux 2. .... "

Hints for Building Predictive Models

A set of simple, concise guidelines on how to build predictive models.  Yes, these are largely obvious for those with experience in analytics,  but I like their simplicity.   This is a great place to start when you are attempting to predict anything. This piece is included in the often useful KDNuggets site, which includes knowledge discovery, data mining and predictive analytics topics.

Need Help in Increasing Readers

I am seeking help in increasing the readership of the blog.  Currently it has a quite select but limited group of readers, largely consisting of former colleagues in the enterprise and people that attended innovation center tours and meetings.  Some posts here are also mirrored in Twitter, where my address is: Franzd.   If you find this blog of interest, your colleagues may as well. Please pass its address: http://eponymouspickle.blogspot.com/ along to others.   If you have anything you would like to get my post and comments on, pass it along.   My address is in the left column.  Thanks.

RFID for Cold Chain Monitoring

The 'cold chain' includes the history of the changes in temperatures as products move through the supply chain.  Indicating potential damage from temperatures that are too high or low.  Sensor tagging has been used for some time in this area.  Here a recent example of using RFID tagging in this context.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Fingerprinting Devices on the Web

In the WSJ:  A race to build device fingerprinting methods on the Web: " ... Advertisers no longer want to just buy ads ... . They want to buy access to specific people .... ".  The privacy and intrusion implications are considerable.

Lessons fron the Web 2.0 Summit

Paul Gillin has a nice blog blog post on learnings from the recent Web 2.0 summit.   Paul does a good job in summarizing useful concepts from meetings that we can't all get to.  Subscribe to his newsletter.

Junaio Browser

A press release providing much more information on the Junaio augmented reality browser.  Am exploring on the IPhone, so far this is a good UI update for their capabilities.  More on Junaio posted in this blog.

Consensus for Research Data

This is of considerable interest to retail and marketing. 


This past year was a census year in the U.S. We responded to arguably the most long-lived and broad-based gathering of domiciliary information about the American public anywhere. U.S. Census data, collected every decade, provides a detailed picture of how many of us there are, where we live, and how we're distributed by age, gender, household, ethnic diversity, and other characteristics.

The Census ( http://2010.census.gov/2010census/index.php ) provides an evidence-based snapshot of America. This important information is publicly available and used in a variety of ways—to guide in the planning of senior centers, schools, bridges, and emergency services, to make assessments informed by societal trends and attributes, and to make predictions about future social and economic needs. The Census is particularly valuable as a planning tool in the building of physical infrastructure, as the distribution and characteristics of the population drive the development of hospitals, public works projects, and other essential facilities and services. .... "

Spatial Analysis Techniques in R

What looks to be a good course in using the R statistics language for spatial analysis problems. " ... Topics covered include point pattern analysis, identifying clusters, measures of spatial association, geographically weighted regression and surface procession.... "

Curation Nation

In Adage: On the concept of a curation nation. It has been that way for a long time, the best things are passed along to me by readers.   My readership appreciates me passing along things that I know they are interested in.  That readership was created when I worked with many visitors to the enterprise innovation centers.  It creates continuing value for them and me.