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Thursday, July 31, 2008

A look at EMSense

Hub Magazine looks at EMSense, which claims it " .. has created the first scalable physiological and brainwave measurement technology - providing accurate, objective moment-by-moment analysis of how a large audience responds cognitively and emotionally to media messaging ... ". Their web site also points to articles in AdWeek and the WSJ about the topic.

Open Source Business Intelligence

For a client project, I am looking for experiences with the open source business intelligence tool Pentaho. I see it is advertising that it is the first to have a BI application for the IPhone. Use the comments here or send a private note, my address is in the 'about me' at the left. I will relate my findings in a later post. Thanks!

Virtual Worlds for Business

After a few tries with Second Life I was unable to make virtual worlds work for remote business meetings. It is a nice concept, but there just was no substantial benefit to using a virtual world versus the usual screen sharing approaches. It is true that you could build some excitement with people that were already using virtual worlds. But you also have to have all the people that have never used a virtual world trained. In most companies that's a pretty large percentage. These methods have to be very transparent or very valuable beyond the usual conferencing methods to make them work. They also have to include real interaction beyond audio and text. I read the two white papers linked to below:

' ... Clever Zebra has just released two Virtual Worlds white papers in conjunction with the sold-out July vBusiness Expo. The goal of these papers is to give businesses interested in virtual worlds a clear and simple guide to taking first steps in this new technology, and to remove some of the awful complexity involved ... '
These papers are good, there was nothing I disagreed with. They are worth reading. It still does not alter my three objections: 1.) there is no critical mass of virtual world fluent people in business today. 2.) Virtual Worlds like SL can be unstable, thus unreliable for important meetings. 3.) There is no great difference between virtual world interaction and good screen-share plus conference call systems, which also save travel. Beyond the initial novelty I don't see avatars having much social effect.

This is my view on current systems. My experience is mainly with SL. I do hope virtual world systems evolve to become something really worth while. It's not ready yet.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Courts Cite Wikipedia

Courts have cited the Wikipedia over 300 times, when is that proper?

Growing Online Ad Market

From Knowledge@Wharton

" ... Fast Forward: Tech Giants Scramble For Bigger Piece of Growing Online Ad Market
Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have been talking about -- and making -- deals that each believes will help secure its future in the fast-growing market for online advertising. No matter how their maneuvering concludes, advertising and marketing firms must get ready to adapt to new technology that promises to speed the migration of ads from traditional media to the web ... '

Sensors in Retail

Evan Schuman writes:

" ... The data from several unrelated retail sensor projects—all of which track consumers electronically during their shopping experience—will be hitting IT desks soon, as no fewer than three such efforts are going to be announced by September ... "

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Nanotech Guidelines

Foresight Nanotechnology Institute's Molecular Nanotechnology Guidelines. Their blog is also useful to follow.

P&G's New Way of Design Thinking

From Business Week: P&G Changes Its Game:

" ... "Design thinking" may seem like just another new buzzword in the lexicon of innovation, but Procter & Gamble (PG) is using the approach to change its culture. Leadership is listening, learning, and deploying; cross-functional teams are cracking vexing problems across its business landscape; and visualization, prototyping, and iteration are facilitating communication internally and with customers like never before. Here's a look inside one of the most intriguing change management efforts going on in Corporate America today ... ".

Data Visualization

Discovered list of resources for numeric data visualization.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Early Business Intelligence Needs

I have been surveying BIS systems lately, it makes me think of the early days of these systems and their presentation methods. In about 1980 I was asked to help Owen 'Brad' Butler (right) then chairman of Procter & Gamble, to work with some data that he had personally gathered that dealt with sales district costs, financial forecasts and regional profitability. This was about the same year that the first spreadsheet, Visicalc, went public. IBM had loaned him an early and likely very expensive desktop machine, the IBM 5120. It had minimal memory, a floppy disk drive and a BASIC interpreter.

He had already sketched out what he wanted, a simple means to track and visualize trends. It also had to be interactive, allowing him to test alternative hypotheses. He pioneered understanding the need for these capabilities. He and I collaboratively coded a simple business intelligence system and what became our first executive information system. The system was then used for several years with considerable updating until spreadsheets became common.

It then took quite some time before interactive BIS was used again in the executive suite. Butler's system succeeded better than some later BIS systems because it had the direct support of an executive. Later attempts at this kind of transparency did not work as well because the data was not stable and could not be trusted by a broader range of users.

Today there are dozens of BIS packages, most integrating extensive statistics and visualization capabilities. Since the early executive tests I have been involved with a number of them, always attempting to mix ease-of-use and key data integration needs and trust. Labeling these EIS or 'dashboards' or 'war rooms' is not enough. You have to deliver real value very quickly.

The need for this capability for the executive, carefully considered, existed from the early days of personally available computing. It is still not easy to sell the tailored dashboards required for broad ranges of executives.

Contact me for more details, or to help with a BIS or visualization task. My contact address is franzdill atsign gmail.com -

Neil's Strategy Blog

Neil Bhandar, former colleague at P&G, is now doing marketing strategy in the Philadelphia area. He has an interesting blog where he talks strategy topics.

Cuil: Search Competitor

Finally a new competitor in the search arena. You may recall that Google dethroned AltaVista in about 2000. Now it's Cuil.com - I like the way they format the results. Looks more formal. Did a few of the usual vanity searches I know the results of and it performed well. More background and early reviews.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Solar Power Case Study

Slashdot reports on articles in ExtremeTech on the installation and operation of residential solar power. Considerable detail about the practical aspects, good reading for anyone interested. Bottom line, a predicted 9 year payout for a $36k installation (net after rebates and tax credits). In sunny California.

A Trillion Places

In the Google Blog they point out that they have now seen a trillion unique URLs. Only an odometer rollover to some, but impressive given how short a time the Web has been around. Plus lots of other interesting items about the Web. Scary, given it implies that they are the only ones that have now seen all of the country

Friday, July 25, 2008

Not All About Technology

It's not all about technology. I am a not-so-closet botanist. My garden blog. Garden above.

Aroma Ad Delivery in the Theater

AdAge article on use of scent in theater. The ad is for Nivea. See my recent post on the Smell Science book. The book covers the history of this kind of idea in some detail. And more on this in Media Life.

What's That Smell in the Movie Theater? It's an Ad
After Successful Trial in Germany, Cinescent Bringing Scented-Ad Technology to U.K ... '


Enron Communications Viz

The Enron Communications visualization example is fairly old hat now. I saw that the VisualComplexity site has repeated it on it's feed. Reminiscent, a bit, of Tufte's work. I am in the midst of trying to create a simplifying visualization of a complex set of data that can help people understand how knowledge changes in an organization. It also has to be flexible enough for changing forms of data sources and abstraction. Inspiring. See also Enronic.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Death of US Software Patents?

Could be dramatic:
" ... The Patent and Trademark Office has now made clear that its newly developed position on patentable subject matter will invalidate many and perhaps most software patents ... "

Human and Machine Intelligence to Merge

Optimistic view:
Intel: Human and computer intelligence will merge in 40 years. On the company's anniversary, a future of sensors, robots and new thinking ...'

Bletchley Park at Risk

A UK correspondent reports that Bletchley Park, the location that led the breaking of the German codes during WWII, is in danger of being condemned. The site is now a museum. Bletchley Park is historic because it was the first place that computer aided analysis was developed and focused against difficult problems. Problems that some thought were not solve-able. A monument to analytic optimism and a prime piece of technological history that deserves to be preserved. Some additional background:

'Neglect' of Bletchley condemned

Code centre 'in financial crisis'

UK Petition lobbying the Prime Minister to act to help preserve Bletchley Park.

Google Launches Knol

Knol, the Google challenge to the Wikipedia has been launched. It can be found here. Wired has a good overview article. At the rather sparse site Google writes: " ... Welcome to Knol - A knol is an authoritative article about a specific topic. Here are some examples of knols. Share what you know. Write a Knol .... '

Authors have to identify themselves, apparently via a credit card. It sounds like they plan to invite known experts to get credible articles.

Multiple Knols can be written on the same subject. Author affiliation is explicitly asked for. Not a wiki, only the author can edit their own work. Changes can be suggested via comments. Pages are under Creative Commons license. Google claims it will not interfere with content except for legal issues like copyright and porn. (whose laws apply?) Good articles will be float to the top based on a 'pagerank' style rating. Ads will be included and authors can get a share of the revenue.

Sorry, but this sounds like a big potential for abuse. Have they seen the way the WP has had to deal with anything political? Very skeptical about having many 'knols' on the same subject where passions are high.

There are several hundred articles on Beta Knol. Quite a long way to critical mass. The Wikipedia article on Knol has been updated. Will be trying it out.

Also previewed today, a new Medpedia which will cover medical topics, to be launched in late 2008.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

NYT and LinkedIn

The NYT is tailoring its news feeds for Linkedin members. Though there are now fewer people on the web that think of the NYT as a primary source of the news.

Wal-Mart Chooses Oracle Business Intelligence

Wal-Mart chooses Oracle BI package: "Wal-Mart plans to use the system to administer its logistics, transportation, category management, finance, human resources, real estate, merchandising, store and club operations and other business resources, within Wal-Mart and Sam's Clubs." ... '

Soft Reliability

Via Aylin Koca, Eindhoven University of Technology, The Soft Reliability Project, they are doing some excellent work in the area of quality improvement in new product development via more precise and calibrated understanding of user feedback.

" The goal of Soft Reliability project is to control soft reliability problems in technical and end-user terms as well as in terms of (information flows in-) business processes.

In fast, strongly innovative product development processes, one of the key-problems of using formal specifications as reference for reliability problems is the difference between the time that is required to develop a product and to learn the actual product performance in the field.

Applying new technology in new products and submitting them to, for this product, new customers will always involve a high degree of uncertainty; uncertainty about the performance of the new technology and uncertainty about the way customers will apply this new technology. In other words: in strongly innovative products there can be a natural gap between real customer requirements and product specifications. The shorter the (relative) time is between the definition of specifications and actual customer feedback (provided that this feedback is sufficiently detailed) the smaller this gap will be. Over the last decades the speed to bring new technology to the market has increased considerably. However, the time required to learn about the actual performance and perception of this new technology has not been reduced at equal pace ... "

Next Generation Search: Grand Voyage

From Evan Schuman, some clues to the future of data aggregation for search.

Marketers To Try And Use Consumers' Own Games and Cell Phone Cameras To Spy

' ... In an eerie snapshot of where some top marketers want to take the next generation of search engines, a Japanese government-backed research project is working on a search that is based on what a user does, not a keyword a user types in ...

One of the 10 companies involved, NTT DoCoMo, is "examining an ‘activity-linked search service' that collects and analyzes the user's daily activities to provide information matched to the user's taste, without the user having to be concerned about keywords." ... '
I read some of the documents from the project, and it reminds me of some of the optimistic and over-the-top writing about AI that the Japanese did in the early 90s. Not as concerned as I might be, these kinds of things are inevitable. What are Japanese privacy laws like? More about the Information Grand Voyage project. And how DoCoMo plans to use it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Analytics Magazine

The Summer '08 issue of Analytics Magazine is now available free online. This is a version of what used to be called ORMS/Today, which I have read for years. An excellent view of analytical applications in industry at a practical rather than deeply technical level.

Update: It comes to mind that this source is excellent tonic for those who now believe the tale of Malcolm Gladwell's 'Blink'. Careful, experienced analytical work gets better results.

Interview with Jim Stengel

Extensive AdAge interview with P&G's departing CMO, Jim Stengel. About leadership and New Media.

Formula for Altrusim

Research on a formula for the prevalence of altruism. Have not looked at the original Nature paper and math involved, but the fact that it leverages evolutionary game theory could make it a useful learning for social network manipulation.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ahold's Stop & Shop Freshens Up

Have followed developments at Ahold's Stop & Shop stores or a number of years. They were early serious testers of the 'smart cart' ideas, using a display and scanner on shopping carts to help the consumer do a pre checkout in the aisle, minimizing time at the register. This approach, called the 'shopping buddy', also had the potential of delivering location-aware marketing messages. Tested this concept with virtual environments. Interaction in category context.

Now they are in the process of refreshing their stores via a 'value improvement' program. Interesting by itself, but the article also mentions that they have replaced the more complex cart displays with a system called EasyShop, which is a hand scanner that has a small screen (see above). This also allows pre-scanning, and is a less complex solution. Long checkout lines are a frequent complaint of shoppers and solving that problem the traditional way increases labor costs.

This is the first North American example of an in-aisle checkout system that has advanced beyond the 'test' phase and seems to be in production.

The Easyshop hardware is manufactured by Motorola and its software is written by Modiv Media. The system will be available in 90 stores. Will continue to follow.

Instant Co-Workers

One complaint about telecommuting is that it is lonely. I have telecommuted at times, and loneliness is not my main complaint. It's feeling un-connected to what I think is really going on. Mostly a problem at a big company. Now I am in a stranger state of micro-telecoommuting. As I define it, it's telecommuting to multiple jobs. Now telecommuting hubs are being created so that you can have co-workers that don't work with you at all, but provide sort of a faux communality. If there are enough of these in the suburbs you won't have as far to drive.

Summarizing Reviews

A Firefox plugin that can auto-summarize product reviews on the Web: Pluribo. Says it is an application of the Semantic Web.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Watching the English

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox

Stumbled on this book at the library. Thought at first it was some sort of travel guide. Then I saw it was the work of a social anthropologist who was attempting to observe her own culture and build rules about their behavior. More than the 'participatory observation' of the ethnologist, since she actually provokes reactions by going to railway stations and doing things like bumping into people and seeing how they react.

As a physical scientist I have always been suspicious of sociology. It always appeared to be statistically interesting, but the results very suspect. I liked her approach though. She was trying to formulate fairly well proportioned rules. Still admitting that they were sometimes wrong, but useful guides for behavior. I suspect some of the results are comparable for other cultures, with differences in degree.

And why not try observe the English? Because its not like observing a jungle tribe. We Americans are close enough so that the outcome can be understood within our own culture. I have spent some small amount of time in England, and am an anglophile, especially with regard to literature. The legendary English quirkiness, at least compared to Americans, is also interesting to observe. The author says that she found that some Brits were buying this book to figure out how to act in public!

So you end up with a set of social rules. Could a set of rules be used to simulate a social group or develop AI rules to predict interactions? Still pretty hard, I think. What she provides is the closest I have seen to making me think about the possibility of including such rules as AI tasks about consumer beahvior in differing contexts. Worth a read.

Holonic Manufacturing

Had only briefly heard of the term holonic manufacturing, an overview here. Had never heard of Anemona, a book on the topic is about to be released: ANEMONA: A Multi-agent Methodology for Holonic Manufacturing Systems:

"ANEMONA is a multi-agent system (MAS) methodology for holonic manufacturing system (HMS) analysis and design. ANEMONA defines a mixed top-down and bottom-up development process, and provides HMS-specific guidelines to help designers identify and implement holons. The analysis phase is defined in two stages: System Requirements Analysis, and Holon Identification and Specification. ... The next stage is Holon Design, a bottom-up process to produce the system architecture from the analysis models. ... The book will be of interest to researchers and students involved in artificial intelligence and software engineering, and manufacturing engineers in industry and academia ... "

Friday, July 18, 2008

Who Owns Your Brand?

Upcoming on July 22, 2PM ET, the Who Owns Your Brand? Twebinar, More about Twebinars. You can register here, it's free.

Encyclopedia of Life

I attended some early meetings about the Encyclopedia of Life. A very nice idea. Not a Wikipedia model. More of an alternate model of bringing together experts in institutions to provide knowledge. You can apply to become a curator of knowledge, but you need to be affiliated with an institution. Later in the year they plan to allow general contribution, which will then be curated for inclusion. Does not seem to developing quickly since I looked at it last year. Encyclopedias work when there is sufficient critical mass. You won't use an encyclopedia unless it provides you useful information most of the time. Accuracy is important, but first there has to be something there. "80% of success is showing up"? This professional model for knowledge archiving is worth following. A sample entry page, which has some intriguing aspects, like a level of detail slider. Though a bit too academic in tone. Compare it the Wikipedia article on the same topic. I am no judge of their accuracy, but which would even a science educated person get more from?

"What is EOL?
Welcome to the first release of the Encyclopedia of Life portal. This is the very beginning of our exciting journey to document all species of life on Earth.

Comprehensive, collaborative, ever-growing, and personalized, the Encyclopedia of Life is an ecosystem of websites that makes all key information about all life on Earth accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world .... "
Update: In this case the Britannica has a good, detailed article.

Tagging and Metals

When I gave talks on the application of RFID tagging to packaging in a store, I emphasized how difficult it might be to replace bar codes with RFID tags, since there is still considerable metallic packaging on the store shelf, and metals interfere with RF transmissions. An article says the myth has been busted, and passive tags can coexist with metals after all.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Predictably Irrational

Good review, on my reading list, note Amazon has a 'search inside' for browsing:

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely does a great job of demolishing the idea that people make decisions in a rational manner. Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke, describes dozens of experiments that show how we procrastinate, when we cheat, how we interpret prices ... "

Simulation Packages

For a project I have been looking at general purpose simulation packages. This article is a good overview and survey list. And short positioning article.

Brain Image Bias

A NeuroScience Marketing blog post: Brain Image Bias, talks about the use of brain scan images in marketing. I agree that bright brain scan images attract your attention and might lead you to believe that the claim is credible and statistically significant. Bright images like the fMRI scan at the right do capture attention. This is the model visualization effect I have written about before. The observer is not shown the details behind the scan's acquisition, so has no way to judge the bias of the display.

Ironically, a bar chart in the post is itself misleading by starting its scale at two as opposed to zero, implying more difference between the 'with and without' brain scan image' articles. Although it depends on a number of other factors, eyeballing the graph would seem to show there is little statistical significance in how compelling the articles are.

Visibility Towards Transparency

In Consumer Goods Technology :
" ... Susan J. Wilkinson, executive consultant, Traceability Solutions Team for IBM Global Business Services started off the afternoon explaining that traceability supports all keys to Corporate Social Responsibility as identified in a recent IBM survey. Although traceability is usually associated with cost, leading companies are instead using it as a growth opportunity. Next, moving from visibility to transparency enables consumer trust and makes critical information available to all stakeholders. This, in turn, also leads to better partnerships -- "from containment to engagement."

The drivers for traceability are the same as those for sustainability discussed earlier in the day (see previous article): regulation, cost/economics, reputation and consumer/stakeholders -- with this final driver deemed being particularly critical to the business. The growing complexity of supply chain has created challenges and the prominence of product recalls has generated distrust by consumers. In fact, according to Wilkinson, 49 percent consumers don't trust companies to do what is in the best interest of consumers. She noted, "Transparency is necessary to meet the needs of today's Omni Consumer: informed and empowered." ... '

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Alternative Product Use

Should manufacturers accept the alternative uses of their products? When I joined my consumer product goods company a while ago I was told that although we may not mind the additional sales, we never supported them. Fear of lawsuits. Also that it may be a distraction from our marketing message. Things have changed. AdWeek reports in Apply Liberally ... ', includes lengthy quotes about Procter & Gamble repositioning:

" ... Consumers have always used -- or misused -- products however they see fit. And they've always shared their discoveries (that Hellmann's mayonnaise, say, works as a hair conditioner), albeit in limited ways. But when it comes to products these days, the ubiquity of blogs and online inquiries means people are increasingly going public with alternative uses.

"A big part of these social networks is people asking open-ended questions and sharing insights, and it's uncovering these nuggets of off-label uses," says Rohit Bhargava, svp at Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence.

The question for marketers, then, is whether or not to promote these uses -- and if you do promote them, how not to undermine the products' established strengths ... "

TNS In-Store Metrics

TNS Unveils New In-Store Metrics For Grocers
by Sarah Mahoney, Monday, Jul 14, 2008 5:00 AM ET
TNS is unveiling a new way to measure grocery-store behavior, one it says will give both grocery retailers and packaged-goods marketers new insight into their marketing plans.

Called the TNS Insight Dashboard, the syndicated quarterly metric will track many variables over a period of time, enabling marketers to figure out which of their in-store marketing strategies are working hardest ... "

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Online Advertising Portfolio Optimization

Online Media Mix system
Next Generation Online Advertising Technology
ClearSaleing's advanced advertising analytics platform provides online advertisers (Internet retailers and direct marketers) the only accurate way to measure, compare and optimize profit (ROI) across their online advertising portfolio (PPC, Display, SEO, Affiliate, WOM, Feeds)... "

Store Kiosk Help

It does make sense, when an employee is helping a customer in-store, have the employee use the store's own web site. JC Penney does it and it improves customer satisfaction. The employee is augmenting their help with official information. And it likely makes the customer think of Penney's web site later when they are on-line. Their informational kiosks are mostly available to employees only, a practice I do not like. More details from StorefrontBackTalk.

Procter Pushes Mommy Blogging

In AdAge: P&G Relies on Power of Mommy Bloggers .... " Giant Calls Them the 'New Influencers'; Will Recruit Up to 15 to Headquarters ... ". The article gives a surprising amount of detail.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Visual Business Intelligence

Just discovered, Stephen Few's blog on Visual Business Intelligence. Good insights.

Smell Science in Everyday Life

Have read a good grounding book in aroma science as it applies to everyday life. More of a good popular science book than academic, but the author has written academic odor perception papers.

What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life by Avery Gilbert

Gilbert is attuned to the history of scent science, and gives outlines of how smell has been both understood and misunderstood. He covers the use and history of leveraging aroma in detail in Hollywood, Retail, Perfumery, Taste and Psychology. He also loves references to scent in literature, including Poe, Whitman, Dickinson, Hawthorne, Proust and a number of others. Along the way he gives a detailed history of scent evoking memory, and makes the case that it was not Proust that discovered the idea. Only a brief mention of Aroma Therapy. A mention of P&G's scent delivery player, Scentstories, now no longer available except through sources like eBay. Gilbert quotes some bad reviews of the device, but does not comment on why it did not succeed.

In chapter 9 'Zombies at the Mall', despite the implication in the chapter title, he does not make the case that the use of scent in retail is excessively manipulative. He mentions a company, Digiscents, he had consulted with that we also did a project with. They were attempting to digitize and transmit aroma descriptions on the web, but ultimately failed. He says that there are now a number of companies tailoring scent to the retail experience, but unfortunately gives little detail. I guess that his interesting experience there lies behind disclosure agreements. He quotes Brand Sense author Martin Lindstrom "All around the world people and companies are becoming aware of the power of scent." fMRI scanning is only very briefly mentioned with regard to how the brain reacts to scent.

Gilbert's direct (consultants) advice:

" .. Out in the real world, fitting a scent into a commercial context has always been a matter of style, taste and culture. It's what what perfumers and fragrance evaluators do for a living, and marketers are well advised to join forces with these experts. What marketers need to do is develop clear standards for success ... In short, marketers need a Nielsen rating for the nostrils... "
Overall, a very good introduction to the subject. I much enjoyed the history and literature asides, though some may think he went too far in these. I only wish he had spent more space on the retail aspects of delivering smell. Does a good job of linking psych findings to practical uses. What he did say there, that it was difficult to deliver, remove, focus and interpret scent, was not news.

See also Avery Gilbert's site.

Update: See comments, and the Scent Marketing Institute.

Tapping the Power of Social Networking

From Knowledge@Wharton: Tapping the Power of Social Networking.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dim Bulb

Jonathan Salem Baskin posts in a blog called Dim Bulb with opinion, marketing and branding. His new book Branding is for Cattle is available for pre-order.

Oracle BI on the IPhone or Not

I read and posted about this recently. So when I could I update my old IPhone to 2.0 software I did, hoping to see the wonders of Business Intelligence on a mobile device. The download is free and the viewer took only minutes to download. But then the catch, you need to license Oracle Business Intelligence Suite. I don't have such a license, so I could not see anything but a static chart in the intro. BI value is often in the interaction.

What a marketing waste! Why not set up a detailed test database? I am sure they have that. So that you can demonstrate how useful this is. All the infrastructure is there, and would certainly lead to some sales. My challenge to Oracle: I have experience in the uses of business intelligence in the enterprise in many forms, give me access and I will write up a review here. Another review.

More about Oracle Business Indicators.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


I was an early enthusiast for the SETI idea, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Many may know about it from the Carl Sagan novel and movie: Contact. Especially when it came 'home' by using spare computing cycles to look for signals from space that showed evidence of intelligent patterns. There is a new proposal afloat, called METI ... or Messages to Extraterrestrial Intelligence. (also called active SETI). This flips the goal. Its not about passively listening, but rather sending messages into space, some say shouting out our existence and making specific requests for communication. David Brin, futurist author, who we connected with at the Institute for the Future, writes about METI, and the dangers that many see.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Reading Bar Codes from Cellphones

Evan Schuman writes that bar code interpretation software is close to being commonly shipped on smartphones, to be used in conjunction with cell phone cameras. wrote about this before, and our experiments with related methods, but two big barriers exist. The use of non standard codes and that consumers have to download software to do the code analysis. Once these two issues are solved there should be an explosion of phone based uses. Phone as a sensor. Shown, an example of 1D and 2D bar codes. A solution should work with standard forms of each.

Forrester CEO Blogs

CEO George F. Coloney of Forrester Research blogs fron time to time in Counterintuitive. Interesting topics. Informal, a useful study of what CEOs of technology information companies are thinking about.

Interpersonal Perception

A description of findings from a recent conference that addressed how people perceive others based on their profiles. Would also be interesting to see how this links with the kind of profiles being used for dating style matches, which I have been working on. Could this be used to understand how to link people to specific products as well? Has links to the original paper.

IPhone Business Intelligence

Some BI applications from Oracle now available on the IPhone. Track your business from a mobile platform. Is this a step too far, or inevitable? The latter of course.

The IPhone, starting today, will allow more applications that have been 'approved' by Apple. What are the criteria? Would we accept that restriction from other computing systems? Update: Those who have looked at the store applications so far say that they 'surprise and delight'.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Big House R&D

A review of R&D at HP, Microsoft and IBM. Shifting Strategies.

Google's Lively

Much in the news about Google's challenge to Second Life. Called Lively, one thing to observe is that there is no money or ads in it's world, unlike Google's real-life world. Examining and will follow with a review. Some vendors of virtual world concepts, like Millions of Us are already delivering experiences there. The BBC has a good overview. Could these worlds ultimately be innovation centers? Thought of that with Second Life, but it lacked what was needed. Qwaq is another option to explore.

Cargill Innovation Center

Cargill has opened an immersive innovation center, following the lead by other major companies opening innovation centers to both highlight their research and better understand consumer context and behavior. So despite the IBM ads which make fun of needing to have a place to innovate, they are becoming more common.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Tail Spikes

Colleague Sammy Haroon starts a conversation about the tail spike, a captured niche in the long tail.

Wristwatches vs Cellphones

It is not only teenagers. I have noticed that I look at my wrist watch less often. I expect my cellphone (an Iphone) to be there and ready to provide the time as well as the weather, stock price, email, schedule, newsfeeds even a book to read. So why have a watch at all? Perhaps as jewelry, but not as information.

From an Adage article, may require registration, which links to a video:

" ... teenagers increasingly look to their mobile phones -- rather than their wrists -- to tell time. That's one of the surprising discoveries of an ongoing study of how digital technology is changing consumer behavior around the world. Jeffrey Cole, of the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California Annenberg School, appeared at the Advertising Research Foundation's Audience Measurement 3.0 Conference in New York this week ... ".

Estimating Geo Data from Images

Work at Carnegie Melon, that seeks to determine where photos were taken.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Design and the Elastic Mind

Wim Van de Velde points us to a Museum of Modern Art online exhibit, which augments a gallery exhibition: Design and the Elastic Mind. Some very interesting design and visualization displays, three hundred in total, includes science and what I would call 'pure' art and design. There is also a 'random' navigation tool that can surprise you. Each item deserves some study, and they do a good job of linking to background information. Some I have seen, many not. Inspirational at least. It's done spectacularly in Flash, which is impressive, but as a result is not as findable as it could be.

" ... Over the past twenty-five years, people have weathered dramatic changes in their experience of time, space, matter, and identity. Individuals cope daily with a multitude of changes in scale and pace—working across several time zones, traveling with relative ease between satellite maps and nanoscale images, and being inundated with information. Adaptability is an ancestral distinction of intelligence, but today’s instant variations in rhythm call for something stronger: elasticity, the product of adaptability plus acceleration.

Design and the Elastic Mind explores the reciprocal relationship between science and design in the contemporary world by bringing together design objects and concepts that marry the most advanced scientific research with attentive consideration of human limitations, habits, and aspirations. The exhibition highlights designers’ ability to grasp momentous changes in technology, science, and history—changes that demand or reflect major adjustments in human behavior—and translate them into objects that people can actually understand and use. This Web site presents over three hundred of these works, including fifty projects that are not featured in the gallery exhibition.  ... "

Who Owns Your Brand?

David Alston writes:

" ... Just a quick reminder to let you know that the next Twebinar, titled Who Really Owns Your Brand?, is coming up on July 22nd, at 2pm EDT. Visit http://www.twebinar.com to sign up ... "

I found the last one to be very good, even without the Twitter component. Though I do plan to try that as well this time.

Massively Complex Agent-Based Models

During a recent review of agent simulation models I have been involved with it came to light that I had not written publicly about Simulex, which positions itself as developing Synthetic Environments for Analysis and Simulation. Although I cannot provide many details, Simulex tailored its SEAS agent-based economic models, developed for DOD applications, to important regional demand and growth applications for us.

" ... we use our exclusive license to SEAS to provide the next generation of consulting services to our clients in government and the private sector. Instead of experimenting with real people, SEAS allows clients to interact with synthetic people and observe what is happening. Using agent-based modeling in a business war-gaming environment, SEAS seamlessly incorporates all aspects of managerial decision making to provide a complete and integrated view of economies, industries, and organizations ... ".
Some of their application case studies, with strongly visual outputs. Worth a closer look for bottom-up economic and interaction system simulations. Note also the inclusion of gaming environments.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Business Blogging

A blog about Business Blogging. This has been around for some time, just a few posts a month, but some occasional gems. Also, related, a wiki index of Fortune 500 blogs, with some recent reviews. Seems incomplete, but I found all the blogs I knew about and some I had not. Also contains links to other corporate blog lists and resources. I was also reminded of the New PR Wiki, which lists lots of Web 2.0 public corporate efforts, though it has had only a few updates in 08.

Google Research

An overview article by CW on current known Google research. Includes two topics I am looking at closely. Image search and specifically facial recognition. Also, the use of Street View kinds of capabilities on mobile devices, such as their Android mobile operating system. In the article is a link to a PDF, that shows 50 winners of a challenge held to propose Android applications, includes screen shots. And the usual cautions about Google's potential for evil. Or has Google lost its Moho?

Ad Look at Demographic Data

AdAge has a good look at changing US demographics, with lots of graphics. Some data about aging demographics.

Privacy on the Web

From Knowledge@Wharton: Privacy on the Web, Is it a Losing Battle?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Unilever Technology Ventures

I was reminded by a recent reference of Unilever Technology Ventures, an effort by a consumer package goods company to " .. provide a world-wide window on new technologies that will influence the development of next generation products ... ". Compare its approach to that of Procter & Gamble's Connect & Develop program. Unilever does not appear to be doing anything that is equivalent.

In Jonathan Zittrain's insightful recent book: The Future of the Internet ..., he explores the concept of how generative systems (systems that are flexible enough to help generate new ideas, such as the computer or Internet) can be positioned as test-beds for this kind of innovation. So which is more generative, a corporate venture fund, corporate connect & develop? or focused internal R&D? And what are the risks of each?

Kraft's Wall-to-Wall

In former times there were representatives from each major packaged goods manufacturer at each retail outlet every week and sometimes every day. That fell by the wayside due to cost cuts. Now Kraft is reintroducing some elements of the concept:

" ... Wall-to-Wall, an overhaul of how Kraft sales reps work with retailers, has been a big factor in helping the company swing to sales increases ... Under Wall-to-Wall, a Kraft sales rep can be at a store every day and is responsible for almost the entire portfolio of Kraft products, ranging from Oreo cookies to Kraft salad dressing, to Oscar Mayer bacon... "

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Report from ARF Audience Measurement

Correspondent Professor Byron Sharp, Director of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, University of South Australia reports from the ARF audience measurement conference(edited) :
Rachel Kennedy and Virginia Beal from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute were there presenting. Here's their report on key highlights:

1. Tivo and TRA - creation of a joint venture to create a single source panel with tivo set-top box viewing data combined with store loyalty card data for the same people to track exposure and purchasing.

2. Announcement of the establishment of 'The Media Behaviour Institute' - a joint venture between Sequent Partners and Mike Bloxham from Ball State University. They plan to roll out a USA version of UK's TouchPoints.

3. Launch of Google TV - Google is now in to the business of planning and buying TV ad space and allowing more timely measurement.

The 3 Quotes or phrases that we liked from the conference:

1. Media measurement needs an equivalent of the Euro
2. The mobile phone is the remote control to your life
3. What is required to bring about change in media is intellectual curiosity combined with desperation.

Key things that were talked about:

1. About Jeffery Cole from the Centre for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School...key insight was that the internet usage did start to affect TV viewing in the US but that was a function of dial up - with broadband and wireless TV viewing is stronger than ever. ()
2. Internet users starting to accept advertising as the price for free content on the web.
3. Internet allows Magazines and Newspapers to become more like TV - ie 'LIve news' not 6 hour or more old content - so a great opportunity for them
4. Media brands are more important than ever in the digital realm - ie NY Times for news online although you may have never read the paper - but know the reputation as good source of news.
5. 91% of Americans pay for TV (ie cable or satellite) and spend $260 per household per month on content devices - ie Mobile ph, broadband, TV subs
6. Mobile phones being used to interact with outdoor, print and ambient media in terms of texting in codes or photographing / scanning barcodes for vouchers, and also transacting with it like a credit card
7. Much talk about the 3 Screens - TV, Computer/laptop, Mobile (and the complexity of measuring)
8. 90% of US channels have audience shares of less that 1%.
9. Every minute 10 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube! YouTube is now offering cut of ad revenue to posts that are popular and bringing users to the site. Great tool to use to pretest ad creative - calling it 'the worlds largest focus group'
10 88% of online reviews of products in the UK are positive - reinforcing Institute report 34.
11. Rise of the Infopinion Age - ie online reviews etc - Trusted info comes from: 1. Friends and Family, 2. Credentialized expert (ie ebay, reviewers etc) or strangers with experience.
12. Introduction of the C3 measure for TV ratings during the ad break - essentially min-by-min rating and how they are now looking at the performance of ads in the pods and discussing how they should charge a premium for space that is taken by poor ads that turn the audience away.
13. High involvement categories (cars, phones, elec's etc) spending about 10% of ad budget on digital, low involvement about 2%
14. with 250 channels in UK there is 42,000 hours of content a week - with 2000 there is 333,000 hours of content broadcast - raises the Q of what is appropriate to track?? What is the threshold of significance - what is big enough to be worth reporting? .... "

Google Tour de France Street View

Google has launched the use of its streetview capability in Europe by providing views of Tour de France venues. Played with it a bit, nicely done. Another step forward by Google and Microsoft, who are digitizing the world.

RFID Adoption Report

Aberdeen on Maximizing Value Between RFID and IT
By Michael Dortch, Aberdeen Group
Aberdeen Group has released the latest installment in a series of reports on RFID adoption. Entitled RFID and IT Infrastructures: Maximizing Business Value, the report is available as a free download until August 29th. Following is the executive summary, contributed by report author Michael Dortch ... "

Friday, July 04, 2008

Difference Engine

Short video of the first computer of Charles Babbage, finally constructed and in operation. If computers like this had prevailed, machinists would be king. It was never working in his lifetime. At the right, a replica in the London Science Museum.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Aldi Assault

Deep discounter Aldi is planning a major assault on UK grocery markets. This is of much interest to big CPG because Aldi sells few major brands.

Shopping Community

Zeer is a new search engine and bricks-and-mortar shopping social community. More here. Looks to be mainly about food purchases, review and community.

Google Must Divulge YouTube Log

"... Google must divulge the viewing habits of every user who has ever watched any video on YouTube, a US court has ruled. The ruling comes as part of Google's legal battle with Viacom over allegations of copyright infringement ... ". - It is about a specific court case, and likely would deal with aggregate, statistics, though the fear is that the specifics would leak.

The Power of Wind

Long time follower of wind energy, since I was introduced to a system pumping water on a neighbor's farm:

" ... Regional grocer H.E. Butt Grocery Co. has signed on with CPS Energy, San Antonio's municipally owned natural gas and electric company, to use wind energy to help power its 46 stores throughout San Antonio and Bexar County." ... '.
Of course there are likely zoning issues, but wouldn't it be a better marketing idea to place some of these on or next to the at lease some stores? This just designates a portion of power from the grid. Update: And they seem to be moving in that direction.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Public Understanding of Technological Accuracy

This article was mentioned in Slashdot and elsewhere ... Wimbledon tennis is underway and new uses of image analysis to determine line calls, notably the 'Hawkeye' system is now in common use. Based on listening to the commentators in Tennis, the system's accuracy is seen as absolute. In particular the visual display created by the system is so compelling that there seems to be no room for dispute. Yet there are considerable errors in the system itself. How is this reconciled?

It reminds me of a presentation I saw from a consultant which showed a very realistic visual display of atmospheric changes that would occur based on a complex simulation which used a number of positional and operational variables. The output was a realistic graphic which displayed a beautiful blue sky in one case, and a smoggy layer in another. So the output was 0-1 (in or out?) I asked the obvious question: What errors in the system could cause a flip from smoggy to blue sky? Had these been explored? What is the sensitivity of the model? I did not get a real answer, it was an executive briefing after all.

You could make the argument that the tennis game has become so fast that despite the systems errors it is still better than having a human judge the result. True, but I woud like us to make that choice in an informed a way as possible.

You can get a preprint of the technical paper by clicking on the link above.

Battle of Ideas in Your Mind

According to the details of the article, would seem to indicate that there are multiple presences buzzing about in our brain that could be used to make group choices. I am still unimpressed overall with the 'Wisdom of Crowds' phenomenon, its a weak approach that makes excuses for us to keep from really understanding physical phenomena. Last resort at best.

A battle of ideas is going on inside your mind
" [Wisdom of Crowds]... a pair of psychologists have found an intriguing corollary. They have discovered that two guesses made by the same person at different times are also better than one ... Edward Vul at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harold Pashler at the University of California, San Diego, have revealed in a study just published in Psychological Science that the average of first and second guesses is indeed better than either guess on its own ... "
This article also led me to the We're Only Human Blog, which covers this study and related topics.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Pioneer of Business Computing Dies at 92

Most Americans that follow the history of computing think of Atanasoff's ABC machine, Eckert and Mauchley's ENIAC, followed by the Univac, and a large number of IBM machines. I worked briefly with one of the electricians who had maintained the ENIAC at the University of Pennsylvania.

Many of the early applications of these machines were military, such as the computation of artillery tables. It turns out that some of the earliest applications of business computing were done with the LEO computer, for a British tea shop in 1947. David Caminer, the developer of these early business processes, has an obituary in the NY Times, which has details of his developments. More detail about the LEO, modelled on the Cambridge EDSAC. Caminer was one of the few remaining pioneers of practical business computing.

Update: UK Computing Pioneers.

What Happened to Artificial Intelligence

A Network World article on the state and direction of AI. Below are some of the statements at the time that led us to expect we could do lights-out corporate control. It did not happen. The included slide show is mostly about robotics, I guess because software AI is mostly hidden away.

" ... Stanford University computer science professor John McCarthy coined the phrase in 1956 to mean "the science and engineering of making intelligent machines," In the early years of the artificial intelligence movement, enthusiasm ran high and artificial intelligence pioneers made some bold predictions.

In 1965, artificial intelligence innovator Herbert Simon said that "machines will be capable, within 20 years, of doing any work a man can do." ... '