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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Paul Gillin at the Demo Conference

I have introduced a number of people to Paul Gillin, Web 2.0 journalist, who does an excellent job of reporting on the phenomenon. He is author of The New Influencers, which I reviewed here. He is now blogging about the Demo Conference. He gives some highlights of related emergent tech that I had not seen before. Almost as good as being there.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Pete Blackshaw reports on Nielsen's new public beta called HeyNielsen!. Their press release. " ... It's 100% about CGM, and has echoes of the first "consumer expression" business I started out of P&G, PlanetFeedback. In a nutshell, Hey! Nielsen provides a platform for consumers to rate, review, rant, react, and respond to all manner of content related to entertainment ... " . The model, I assume, is to gather the feedback and sell the stats back to us.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Re-Examining MIT's Starlogo

Some time ago we talked about MIT's StarLogo project. I was reminded of the package during a tutorial by Damon Ragusa of Thinkvine. A new version called Starlogo TNG has come out and it is a considerable update. Damon has used it to create a number of agent model prototypes of consumer systems. Although Starlogo was designed to teach computing and logic to kids, this new version is considerably more powerful and useful than previous versions. My only problem has been that it won't work on my issue Dell laptop which apparently has a problem with its Nvidea graphics board. Cannot find a workaround.
" ... StarLogo is a programmable modeling environment for exploring the workings of decentralized systems -- systems that are organized without an organizer, coordinated without a coordinator. With StarLogo, you can model (and gain insights into) many real-life phenomena, such as bird flocks, traffic jams, ant colonies, and market economies... "

Friday, September 21, 2007

Google Presentation Tool

Google has its Powerpoint-lite slide show product out. It's part of the Beta of Google Docs. There is more about it here. I played with it a bit, and like many of the Google enterprise tools, it does the basics well. You can readily collaborate with others in creating or editing a presentation. Like all the Google tools, it runs online. It can read ppt files created by Powerpoint, at least those with basic structure. Even then there are sometimes misalignments. Like all the enterprise tools it contains nowhere near the features of Microsoft's suite tools, thus it's ideal for small business, or most common business presentation needs.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Update on Eldercare Robotics

As a country with greatly skewed demographics, Japan has been doing much in the area of eldercare robotic applications. Here is a Cnet article on new progress. As these ideas progress, they are likely to have broader uses.

" ... "In the type of aging society that we foresee, the situation will likely get to the point where there will be little choice but to get some help from them (robots)," said Isao Shimoyama, dean of the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Information Science and Technology.

Shimoyama is among a group of University of Tokyo researchers who are working with counterparts from seven leading Japanese firms--including Toyota Motor, Fujitsu Laboratories and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries--to develop robotic and information technology that will lead to a new generation of robots in the next 15 years.

"If you leave clothes lying around, a robot might pick them up for you and put them in the washing machine," Shimoyama said. "Once they are dry, it might fold them up and put them away."

Prototypes of new robots capable of performing mundane tasks will be unveiled in 18 months ... "

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

New Communications Review

See the " ... latest issue of New Communications Review (SNCR), a publication of the Society for New Communications Research, a non-profit, global think tank dedicated to the advanced study of emerging modes of communication and their effect on media, business, culture and society ... " .

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

3D Printing to Remote Manufacturing

The idea of 3D Printing has always been intriguing. You have a 3D specification of an object and then a device carves out a model of it anywhere you have such a printer. Its been possible for a long time, first with massive NC machines, later with very expensive floor models, now with desktop devices with a very small footprint that cost about $5K. It points to Neil Gershenfeld's concept of Personal Fabrication covered in his FAB book, ultimately a means of remote manufacturing, a kind of teleportation where you only need the raw materials at a remote site. Well, no, not for some time to come. The kind of 3D printing done here is only a means of cutting an external plastic model of some shell of an object. Useful for the outside form of a small bottle or package design, to see how it looks on a shelf. Still very specialized and simplistic applications, but a hint at what may be possible.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Borders Launches Beta

Borders announced some time ago it was dropping its marketing argeement with Amazon. Now they have launched their beta site. A softer, more book store-like site, even has some simulated bookshelves. Much more at StoreFrontBacktalk.

Tell Your Friends About Kandoo!

Aimed at parents with children ages 6-8, a new Kandoo WB Kids cartoon show (http://www.willdewitt.com). An example of a cinnection between a product site online and a kids TV program.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hidden Persuasion or Junk Science?

I have followed the broad topic of what has come to be called Neuromarketing for some time. Columnist Mya Frazier writes an overview piece about it in AdAge:
"Hidden Persuasion or Junk Science?
Fifty Years After the Publication of Vance Packard's Classic, Mya Frazier Asks Whether 'Neuromarketing' Plays a Real Role in Today's Ad Business .... "
As you might expect, this very new technology draws lots of deserved skepticism. There is little robustness in how it has been used to date. Some of its practitioners have little track record. Yet I don't think we can dismiss it without much more study. Frazier is not conclusive.

I read Vance Packard's related 1957 book Hidden Persuaders in high school, long before being exposed to the business of commercial advertising. I was intrigued and started to look for messages in ads and on the shelf. Much of the specifics of that book have been debunked. Yet we know that there is much afoot in our brains that we do not consciously direct, so subliminal may yet become important to the field. At the right an advertising image of a scotch glass, which Packard saw as containing a subliminal message.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Super Crunchers

Reading Ian Ayres Book : Super Crunchers. Subtitled : 'Why Thinking by Numbers is the New Way to be Smart'. Steven Levitt, the coauthor of Freakonomics, last year's sort of how-to use quant methods to solve odd problems book, did something similar. I liked Freakonomics ... some of the examples are excellent ... but there was little background to the solutions, and I came away having a hard time understanding their depth and robustness.

Levitt is an economist, so his solutions are by their nature more idealistic ... addressing some form of 'homo economicus' that does not exist. Surprisingly Ian Ayres is in addition a lawyer, but his quant econometric background shows up in his also excellent examples. Levitt did not give you enough detail of what was done. I also come away with the impression that each solution is a tour-de-force, that needs special powers. Ayres makes the mistake of claiming that things are easier than they seem. His first set of examples, based on web date-matching site systems, is based on using various kinds of regressions to match people. He makes a very good case of why these kinds of approaches, using increasingly available mega data bases, can be used to generated classifications that are useful for all sorts of problems. He only hints at the fact that these methods can be harder than they appear.

As a quant guy I cringe a bit at both approaches. One giving no clue as to the underlying methods, the other not revealing that they do require rigorous methods. Bottom line: Super Crunchers is the more compelling argument, it sets up an optimistic view of how to solve tough problems by leveraging them with data. Ayres also systematically covers a number of useful methodologies that should be understood by all problem solvers. So if you only read one book, I suggest Super Crunchers, it can empower you with some powerful problem solving ideas.

Seeking Automated Business Intelligence

The SAS Institute provides a useful report: Three emerging uses for automated business intelligence.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Chinese Virtual Worlds

Reuben Steiger of Millions of Us writes:

" ... China's answer to Second Life, HiPiHi, announced at the recent State of Play V conference in Singapore that it intends to work towards standardized 3D worlds, with the aim of eventually delivering interoperability between various platforms. The Chinese virtual world is reportedly talking with IBM and Linden Lab - players that are certainly well-positioned to push through such standards, a notoriously difficult project in the technology industry. In an interview with Virtual Worlds News, HiPiHi's CEO Hui Xu said "we believe when the Internet evolves to the 3D Internet, all current applications can be transformed or upgraded. Therefore, the traditional business models can also be applied in the 3D world. We are willing to cooperate with all companies which are interested in working with us to explore the potential compliances in 3D world, regardless whether they are foreign or Chinese companies." ... '

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Google Wins Wallpaper Suit

This classic suit, mentioned in all the recent Google history books, questioned if Google advertisers could use a competitor's trademark as a keyword. Resolved. A big deal. In E-Commerce News:
"... A home decor merchant has dropped a federal lawsuit attacking Google's ... practice of connecting some online ads to trademarks, handing the Internet search leader its latest legal victory on the prickly issue. agreed to abandon the nearly 4-year-old case without receiving any payment from Google, according to a settlement dated Aug. 31. The truce also stipulated that Google won't change its long-standing policy that let advertisers place ads tied a rival's trademark .... "

Monday, September 03, 2007

Quechup Spam Network.

I have been examining a pretty broad range of social networking sites recently. I got an apparent invitation from a trusted colleague recently to join something called Quechup, part of a UK company called iDate. The social networking site appears to be legitimate, but they spam your entire Gmail address book, sending out messages that appear to come from you. Lots more about the scam out there, see for example here. Some tech savvy colleagues have already contacted me about this, being naturally suspicious. I don't worry about them, but about my less frequent contacts who may misunderstand its nature.

Social Networking sites, dependent on as many contacts as they can get, naturally may believe that this is a way to get as many people on the roll as possible. It's despicable, of course, and is an attempt to ride on your reputation. Another example of why you should be careful about what you get on the net, even if it's apparently from a known trusted source. Many people are looking to get a ride on your social network.

Gmail, my email provider, also appears to be responsible. They are allowing external parties to scan my address book. I do not think I agreed to that! Should make some folks reconsider Gmail as a secure source for email. Have sent a note to them to see how they are addressing this.

If you get such an 'invitation' from me, I did not send it, delete it. Sorry for being an unwitting part of their spam network. IDate and Quechup.com deserve to be carefully avoided.