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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Violating Terms of Service

The Lori Drew cyber-bullying case verdict. Is it a federal crime to violate a website's terms-of-service? And a darkly tongue-in-cheek statement of the implications. Troubling aspects for users of Web 2.0 as viewed by lawyers. Makes me worry about Searchwiki as well. Apparently Drew did not click the 'I Agree' box to the terms of service. Some think this is where online speech may ultimately be curtailed. And more.

SearchWiki not a Wiki but may be Evil

Just started to look at Google's Searchwiki, recently released. It works when you do a search and you are signed in to a Google account. Allows you to re-order the results of a search, add things that were not found, and add text comments. Identified by your search results and attached to any URL.

The reordering you do only changes what you see. Yet the text comments will be seen by anyone that gets to the same commented result. First I saw this as an annotation capability, but I was wrong. Nothing like a Wiki. It is more like a comment section of a blog, but attached to a specific URL result in a Google search. You cannot search the comments. No way to make your comments private. An un-moderated comment free-for-all attached to any URL when you do a search with Google! No room for abuse there?

It has already attracted lots of what can only be called comment spam. Only Google can police comments according to their own standards? Google seems to making the assumption that commenters will be reasonable and cordial ... not likely.

You can also add your own URLs to come up when you search, so if you were using this to aggregate URLs for some search projects, you could use it to assemble what data and comments you have. Not really annotations, since the comments point to a URL, not a part of it. To effectively use this you would need to be religious in using it, creating a critical mass. Not sure I would do that.

Overall quite shaky, childish capability, with the potential of driving people from Google. I would turn it off if I could.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Olfactory Route

In the World Flattener: Is there an An Olfactory Route to the Consumer's Heart? Agreed. Cited Economist article.

This Blog in ACM

I have been a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) for many years. It is the premiere information technology professional organization. They have a very useful technology news page. Happy to say that my blog, among others, will be featured in ACM's site in the coming months. I will report when that happens.

Marketing and the Semantic Web

Good Adage piece on the semantic web, which is explained, and its implication for marketing. Not technical at all.

What the Semantic Web -- or Web 3.0 -- Can Do for Marketers
Whatever you call it, get ready for more relevant ads. Marta Strickland explains the semantic web and its implications for marketing ... "

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Smell: The Secret Seducer

In an ongoing look at sensory topics, I read Smell: The Secret Seducer
by P. A. Vroon et al. It does a semi-deep dive of scent subjects and their implications. Smell is a particularly interesting because it appears to be one of the most primitive, yet for precisely this reason is can produce subconscious effects we are unaware of. The book is translated, which sometimes shows. Written in 1994 and is also dated in that respect. Still worth a read.

For a more updated, and less technical view, see Whiff!: The Revolution of Scent Communication in the Information Age, by Russell Brumfield and James Goldney.
I posted about it previously here.

Metro Tagging

Germany's Metro Group continues to progress with uses of RFID tagging, in this example tagging meat and promotion activities.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Housecleaning Robots Still a Dream

Lots of military things underway, but robot housecleaning is still a chore.

Unilever Axe Web Campaign

From Brandweek via GMA Smartbrief:

Unilever launches Web campaign for Axe product
Unilever is teaming up with Wired Digital to promote its Axe Detailer Shower Tool through a targeted ad campaign operated by SnapAds. The push is part of a larger campaign to promote the Axe brand to men through online and print media ... "
SnapAds is interesting because it seeks to optimize online ad placement, including the use of genetic algorithm methods. This makes sense since online presence gives enough data for testing and then evolving better solutions.

Mother of All Demos

Upcoming, December 8-9, quite interesting for those interested in computing history and future. See also the time line link embedded below:

" ... www.programforthefuture.org, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the "Mother of All Demos." But Doug Engelbart's invention of the mouse, videoconferencing, hypertext and all the rest is only the beginning of the story. Look further and you will find it all began with a quest to: Raise the Collective IQ of humankind to solve complex global problems.

An amazing group of people are assembling: Steve Wozniak (Apple founder) Tom Malone (MIT, Future of Work), Hiroshi Ishii (MIT Media Lab), Alan Kay (computer visionary), Andy Van Dam (ditto) and a host of educators, business people, and nonprofit leaders will gather December 8 and 9 at the Tech Museum of Innovation to carve out the next steps.

Where are we today? See for yourself on this mural/tiimeline Valerie Landau and I created in celebration of Engelbart's vision: http://www.visualinsight.net/_engelbart/Engelbart_Mural.jpg (click to enlarge) ...

Please join us for an historic event. www.programforthefuture.org

Eileen Clegg, www.visualinsight.net +1.707.486.2441 ... "

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Robot Ethics vs Human Morals

In a NYT article today a view of how the ethics of robotic devices are being explored. Of primary immediate consequence to the military, it will ultimately have broader implications. The interesting point is made that a machine, without emotions, could be more 'ethical' than a person. Yes, if the machine had the same processed sensory information that a human has. That is not currently the case and still a tough artificial intelligence problem.

Gestural Environments

Good video of Oblong Industries G-Speak system. A three dimensional gestural environment reminiscent of the user interface featured in the film 'Minority Report'. From the video it appears that the system requires the user to wear special gloves to have it recognize gestures. I like the overall idea ... though it requires some careful design, and likely considerable expense for implementation. So its likely useful for the most focused applications. Also, just because you have a complex interface does not mean you should not simplify your information design. There is only so much we can perceive even in a multidimensional space.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kraft Open Innovation

I was reminded this week that Kraft Foods has an open innovation site. Worth a look, I will review it in a later post.

Forecasting Product Success: AdPlanit

I have now mentioned DecisionPower's AdPlanit a number of times. It is based on methods that some of the largest and most sophisticated companies use to plan their media. Still an early beta, this is a really remarkable capability which you can test free for yourself online.

Ken Karakotsios informs me that his team have now added two new capabilities to the beta:

1. Plan improvement Suggestions: For any plan, whether input by you or auto-generated by AdPlanit, you can now request advice on how to improve that plan. AdPlanit will generate specific advice and, if you choose, automatically implement that advice in a copy of your plan, test the modified plan, and tell you the results. Are there ways your current advertising can be improved? Try AdPlanit and find out!

2. Closing the loop: Sure, awareness and persuasion are interesting, but what everyone wants to know is, “How much will I sell?” Now AdPlanit can estimate this. All you need to do is add a little information about how much you spent on advertising in the past, and what the results were. AdPlanit uses this information to tune the simulation to your specific business. Now you can find out the return on investment for that idea you have…

Text Message Dieting

From Healthday:

"A new University of North Carolina study shows that kids aged 5 to 13 are almost twice as likely to text daily records of their food intake, exercise and screen time as those using the old-fashioned kinds of diaries. The research was published in the November/December issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior ... "

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Getting Things in Order Quickly

Sorting data, getting things in a preselected order, is a fundamental need for computing systems. It allows data to be accessed and delivered efficiently. Writing and analyzing sorting algorithms is one of the first tasks you do when studying computer science. Practitioners rarely write their own sorting methods these days, but sorting methods are still often used as benchmarks for computing efficiency. Now Google announces " ... we were able to sort 1TB (stored on the Google File System as 10 billion 100-byte records in uncompressed text files) on 1,000 computers in 68 seconds. By comparison, the previous 1TB sorting record is 209 seconds on 910 computers...". More details on their blog. These levels of storage quantity are common these days, browsing my local Microcenter I note that 1TB backup drives are inexpensive. It is estimated that the US Library of Congress has nearly 100 Terabytes of printed data.

Shuffling and Randomness

A short article on some of the randomness inducing aspects of card-shuffling, and how that is important for tasks other than card-playing.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Railway Maps

I am a big buff of the representation of rail and subway systems. Visualcomplexity posts a view of three railway systems. My favorite and broadest work on this is Mark Ovenden's book: Transit Maps of the World, posted about previously here. Compare the complexity of these maps to a map of the US Tax code. Or at the right, the display of a Korean subway navigation application for the IPhone.

Friday, November 21, 2008


A blog about marketing to women, Wonderbrands, by Michele Miller, which I follow, has some interesting comments about the J&J Motrin twitter debacle. She suggests they should have shown it to some real moms. Hard to believe that they did not. Probably did not show it to just those twitter-enabled moms that would make a big case of it. I agree with the two-way conversation point, but I am not sure it was much of a conversation. We can now be offended by most anything, and have the power to show it. The post also links to a video of the ad, which is no longer online otherwise, so you can make your own call. See also Paul Gillin's take on this. And AdAge takes a closer look.

Keeping Our Brains at Work

In The TimesOnline on Can everyone be an Einstein? "Science is getting ever closer to solving the complex puzzle that is the human brain. And it’s beginning to look as if there’s genius in all of us ... " . Largely popsci piece makes some points out that there is no empirical evidence that the rash of 'brain training' games that have come out of late have any effect. We are, though learning more about how creativity can come out of a small glob of tissue we use every day, rationally or not. Links between music and genius? Even madness and genius. Challenging the brain in some some ways, especially in ageing, may well help us. Pardon me while I run the spell checker.

The Online Life

MIT Sloan's JoAnne Yates talks about information overload, the stress of 'always being on' and 'CrackBerry' addicts hiding out in the bathroom.

Lively Virtual World Shut Down

Only a short time after its startup the Virtual World Lively has been shut down.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Much More to NFC

NFC (Near Field Communication), which can be installed in cellphones and smartcards and other devices, is a form or touchless card reading that has now more than a half million readers. It is a form of RFID. It has been promoted with seemingly endless TV ads about their use for payment. A recent conference indicates that it is expected that there will be many more kinds of applications for NFC. At the article there is also a link to a replay of the conference. At the right an NFC phone interacts with a poster.

Business Intelligence at Ferrari

An IDC case study of the use of business intelligence at Ferrari NA.

Twittering Moms

Paul Gillin writes about the recent example of the power of social media where moms using Twitter were able to criticize a tongue-in-cheek Johnson & Johnson ad. He outlines what J&J should have done, and asks if what they did was really the best response. Good case study of consumer reaction and response. Also means that certain kinds of satirical humor could disappear because of the leverage of a few, quickly defining what is PC.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Flexible Displays

In what might be seen as an unlikely collaboration, we could end up with some very different looking devices. How about pull down screens on store shelves? That was one solution that came up in an innovation center session.

" ... Imagine a screen so thin, light and flexible that it can be rolled up and carried in your pocket, while consuming almost zero power.

That technology could become reality in two to three years, thanks to U.S. Army-backed research being done at Arizona State University's Flexible Display Center. According to Army researchers, the displays could be in field trials with soldiers as early as 2010 or 2011 ... "

Evolving Brands

Ted Sorensen of TNS-Sorensen posts about Evolving Brands and Retailers.

Google and P&G Share Staff

Access to full article requires WSJ Subscription. I agree about the vastly different cultures.

Google, P&G hope worker swap will boost creativity
Over the past several weeks, about two-dozen workers from Google and Procter & Gamble have gone to each other's business-plan meetings and staff-training programs. The goal is to spur innovation and create closer ties between two giants with vastly different cultures. Wall Street Journal ... via GMA Smartbrief"
More about this here, but contrary to the title, there is no indication that this was prompted by 'hard times'.

Google Mobile Application

I downloaded the free Google voice search application for the IPhone this evening. Spent some time experimenting. Its voice recognition is good, but has some of the typical failings of such systems, missing some of the interpretations. I like the way it is designed so that whenever you put the phone up to your ear it goes into voice mode, once I understood that it was very convenient. Screen rotation is automatically turned off, but if you turn it on you no longer get the phone-to-ear voice search activation.

It asks to use your location ( I do not have GPS ) and says it will use that data, but it showed me no local restaurants when I searched for them. Would also be nice if gave access to data like my contact list, but it does not. The mobile app also allows you access to what seems like most of the other Google applications as well, which is convenient. Overall good, a bit easier than using the keyboard which I still have some trouble with, providing it understands your voice. Have not tried in a noisy environment yet. To my knowledge only available now for the IPhone. Worth trying for the price.

Update: Later I was able to get the local search to work, since I have no GPS, it uses proximity to my 5-digit zip, which is correct. When it did or did not show local search seemed a bit haphazard .. I also discovered that there are some words that the app will just not interpret, even after many tries, undermining its convenience. A mobile link to the Google (Beta) cloud. Plus more about their speech recognition method.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Game Progression in Enterprise

Thought this gaming post was interesting and obvious. When someone plays a game one progresses, first in their physical interaction with a game ... a syntactic progression ... and secondly in a progression in their character ... a semantic-and-beyond progression. As I was reading this I was thinking, isn't this how someone trains in a new role. First understanding where things are, rules, the motions, what works. Next they learn how these motions interact with the world being manipulated. Yes, when we move to a new role we bring with us aspects of experience in a domain. Yet still the kinds of things we still need to succeed. Could be a template for success in a role, or even a way to intermix games with the real world we need to deal with, filling in what we need to know.

Social Network Marketing

P&G Digital Guru Not Sure Marketers Belong on Facebook

Advertisers Shouldn't 'Hijack' Conversations, but Applications Hold Promise ...

In a talk to the Digital Non-Conference, a program by Cincinnati's Digital Hub Initiative presented by the Ad Club of Cincinnati and attended by about 190 people, Mr. McConnell pointed to the drumbeat of complaints about social networks being unable to monetize their sites.

"I have a reaction to that as a consumer advocate and an advertiser," he said. "What in heaven's name made you think you could monetize the real estate in which somebody is breaking up with their girlfriend?" ... "

Preserving Digital Data

On the topic of how we can seek to preserve digital data. I have lived through the paper tape and the punch card eras. Early on we were told that CDs would last forever, later it turned out that was not the case. Conservatively 30 years? Of course you have to have the media and the readers. Card readers still exist for hire. So what do we do next?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Working from Home

Steve King overviews a recent survey on working from home. He also has a post on the SBA (Small Business Administration) updated site.

Addressable TV Ads

New developments in addressable TV Ads, long a desire of advertisers. This permits the selling of ads to individual households by demographics and location. Also opens the door to gathering rich data about the subsequent behavior of those consumers.

Why do We Forget Things?

The SciAm looks at Why Do We Forget Things?
" The brain can store a vast number of memories, so why can't we find these memories when we need to? A new study provides insights into this question ... "

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Kindle Economics Explored

Nice ZDNet piece on the economics of the Kindle, which you will recall is the Amazon book reading device. I saw it demonstrated at a meeting and was impressed, though I do not have one. The article addresses the question: " ... At what point, however, do consumers start ditching their dead-tree books for e-books? And how many books do you actually have to read per year in order for the convenience factor of the Kindle — its light weight, its ability to store hundreds of books in its memory, and the instant gratification of being able to download books via the Amazon Whispernet EVDO Sprint network — to outweigh its costs? ... ".

Fractal Dimensions

Tierney Lab writes. Fractals do have modeling uses, the program linked to has some excellent examples.

" ... It’s hard enough to make modern mathematics comprehensible in print, so I’m especially impressed to see anyone try to do it on television. ... Nova is presenting “Hunting the Hidden Dimension,” an hour-long documentary on what it calls a “compelling mathematical
detective story,” the discovery of fractal geometry and its resulting applications. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that there are lots of beautiful examples of fractals the natural world — and the unnatural worlds of “Star Trek” and “Star Wars.” ... ".
Nova programs are frequently repeated, and it can be viewed online here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Multi-Tasking Gift Cards

Target is giving out a small digital camera that doubles as a gift card and can be re-loaded with value. Here is a video first impression. Related, Best Buy has a gift card that doubles as a speaker.

Voice Search

A free voice search that will include relevant information about the location of the speaker will soon be available on the IPhone. The NYT article contains some interesting information about its development and place in Google's application space.


Steganography is a means of obscuring a message by hiding it, say within a much larger set of data. Cryptography does not hide a message, but obscures it by manipulating the message, usually with a well known mathematical method. Hidden watermarks in images or documents are a common form of steganography. Always thought there was more opportunity for steganographic methods. Now two scientists, one from Google, have come up with an information-theoretic means to calculate the capacity of channels used for steganography. Technical abstract.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Working Wikis in the Enterprise

The Wikipedia has been wildly successful. Millions of articles, fed and edited by an army of enthusiasts. True that some of these participants are more enthusiastic than truthful or competent. Still, you cannot deny that the WP has become a marvelous source of instantly available information, warts and all.

Yet despite this model, it does not seem to be working for enterprise knowledge management. I have now been involved in four experiments using wikis to deliver knowledge in groups. From the size of a few dozen people to that of an entire enterprise. All sort of problems emerge: Relatively few enthusiasts, worry about who can contribute, copyright compliance, lack and changing of underlying organization, desire for absolute answers, lack of interest in maintaining existing knowledge and removing out of date information. I can point to none of the experiments that were truly successful. I remain a proponent of their value, their simplicity, linked with enterprise search, is a big positive.

It was good to see this set of mini case studies that show enterprises in which they have been successful.

More Consumers Shop Online

BrandWeek quotes a Nielsen report about increasing online shopping.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Neuromarketing Watchdog

A watchdog group, Commercialalert, that covers neuromarketing, among other things.


A colleague points out the site FlowingData to me.

" ... FlowingData explores how designers, statisticians, and computer scientists are using data to understand ourselves better - mainly through data visualization. Money spent, reps at the gym, time you waste, and personal information you enter online are all forms of data. How can we understand these data flows? Data visualization lets non-experts make sense of it all ... "

The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see.
John W. Tukey. Exploratory Data Analysis. 1977.

Best Buy's API Strategy

From StoreFrontBackTalk, see the complete post:

" ... Best Buy is pushing an aggressive plan—based partly on open APIs—to sell to customers wherever on the Web they’re hanging out, rather than trying to get them to virtually travel to the retailer’s online storefront ... "

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hand Scanning at Giant

An article on the use of shopper in-aisle scanners at Giant stores. Like the previous tests at Stop&Shop. this is a convenience play. A shopper can be almost entirely checked-out by the time they reach the front of the store. It's potential use for in-aisle promotion is only briefly mentioned. It says that each new or refurbished Giant in the area will include them as a shopper option. Widespread use still unclear.

Switching to the Cloud

Nicholas Carr on the switch to Cloud Computing.

Design and Science: The Allosphere

Another way of displaying data and constructing alternative environments, the allosphere.

" ... The Allosphere Research Facility is a 3-story high spherical space in which fully immersive, interactive, stereoscopic/pluriphonic virtual environments can be experienced. Housed in the California Nanosystems Institute at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the Allosphere enables works in which art and science contribute equally and serves as an advanced research instrument in two overlapping senses.

Scientifically, it is an instrument for gaining insight and developing bodily intuition about environments into which the body cannot venture: abstract, higher-dimensional information spaces, the worlds of the very small or very large, the very fast or very slow, from nanotechnology to theoretical physics, from proteomics to cosmology, from neurophysiology to the spaces of consciousness, from new materials to new media ... "

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Monitoring Symptom Search Trends

Google has a site that captures information about how people search for flu information. It claims to be able to predict the spread of flu up to two weeks faster than traditional means. I worked on a system with similar aims. It analyzed point-of-sale data from stores for over-the-counter remedy sales. The aim was to predict the spread of certain kinds of symptoms that people might self-medicate for. It has been suggested for detecting some slow-moving bio terror attacks. More on Google's work in the NYT. Lawyers consider the privacy implications.

Survey of LinkedIn

AdAge has an interesting survey of members of the professional social networking site LinkedIn. I am a member and have found it useful to set up and maintain linkages to people and groups.

Neuro Connections Site and Blog

A new site and blog: Neuro connections. I will be following their posts. Supported by LAB, Buyology Inc and Starcom. They are also advertising their conference to be held in Cracow, Poland on February 5-7, 2009. I plan to be there. See their site for more information.

"... In February 2009 Poland will become the centre of neuromarketing world! 30 speakers and up to 300 participants will gather in Cracow, in the beautiful Manggha Center, to take part in the conference where an impressive number of experts from all over the business world will discuss the most intriguing issues in the field of marketing, focusing on the newest technologies in advertising research ..."

Twitter as a Business Tool

Short article on using Twitter as a business tool. Not a big user myself, but I have now seen several interesting cases for using it as a consumer behavior community.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Probabilistic Learning Programs

An intriguing piece in the Google Research Blog. They are supporting some work in probabilistic learning programs. An important additional pointer to some of their AI directions. Most everyone would agree that learning is an important portion of any intelligence. When we were implementing enterprise AI in the late 80s, we carefully included learning modules in our knowledge templates that could build decision trees from tables of examples. That is a much simpler form of learning than Google is exploring. Links to the open cognition project. This is technical stuff, but directionally revealing.

Innovating How They Innovate

From BusinessWeek, a video interview:

P&G's AG Lafley on Innovation - How innovation is at the heart of P&G
In an in-depth interview, Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley outlines how innovation is at the heart of the consumer goods giant. Its challenge is to, he says, "innovate how we innovate.":

Survey of New Product Innovation

An good overview of a new survey of Consumer Product Goods Innovation.

Synthetic Biology

Provocatively and optimistically named synthetic biology is the study of creating engineering-style models of living systems. It can utilize such methods as simulation or optimization to create predictive models, or the simplest descriptive methods to sketch out the interaction of biological systems. The basic idea has been around for many years, but it has been evolving steadily as engineering and biology start to share methods, from the MIT Tech Review, a good example:

Students use synthetic biology to boost health benefits of bacteria
Students taking part in the International Genetically Engineered Machines competition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are using synthetic biology techniques to improve the health benefits of edible microbes. One project aims to genetically engineer bacteria found in yogurt to combat cavities. Another focuses on gut microbes that could provide a more lasting solution to lactose intolerance.
Just mentioned Bitebot is another example.

Bitebot: An Artificial Mouth

From Wired and New Scientist. Here is the original article. Seems fairly simplistic, but it points to the problem of how we might virtualize taste. Closely related smell has been attempted by various tries at an 'artificial nose', none of them completely successful as yet. This appears to be largely a way to create a mechanical schematic of taste.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Something's Tugging

Something is pulling at our Universe, and we are moving towards it at 3.2 million km/hr. ... Global pulling?

Qwaq Virtual Operations Centers

I have always been a big proponent of doing business virtually. Just never thought that popular Second Life did a very good job of supporting business collaboration. It has the social frills, but not what it takes to get a real job done. It is designed from the wrong point of view. Qwaq, which I have covered here before, does do a good job of supporting collaborative interactions, with people and with real spaces. They have recently been describing what they call a virtual operations center, which serves to connect complex interactions in real spaces. Can reduce travel, enhances the sharing of key expertise, integration of sensor data and collaborative decision making. There are lots of problems like this in the enterprise today. See also their collaborative work with Intel. Worth a look.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Blogs in their Midlife

Carr reports on the midlife crisis of blogging, quoting and pointing to a recent Economist article on the topic. True there are many cases of blogs trying to become online magazines. There are also lots of blogs that remain to form in attempting to deliver knowledge. This blog, a device for tracking my own explorations and marketing, has worked well for those purposes, though it would not make much money on ads.

How the Brain Sees in 3-D

From Roland Piquepaille's blog. How does this relate to my previous post on Wattenberg's 'Fleshmap' work?

" ... Neuroscientists at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) have discovered how we see objects in depth. Even if computers are better than humans in chess games, they can't beat us in the field of object recognition. This JHU research work 'suggests that higher-level visual regions of the brain represent objects as spatial configurations of surface fragments, something like a structural drawing.' This project could lead to for better treatments for patients with perceptual disorders. More surprisingly, this approach could be used in museums to allow visitors to 'view a series of computer-generated 3-D shapes and rate them aesthetically.'

Friday, November 07, 2008

Social Marketing Blogs

A list of social marketing blogs.

Consumer Insights

Sammy Haroon on consumer insights. I see his blog is evolving nicely.

Quant Methods in Industry

Short Bnet piece on quant optimization practices in business. Notable also is their previous article which has considerable detail about the use of such methods at Procter & Gamble, where I practiced for years.

Planet Google

Randall Stross's book: Planet Google: One Company's Audacious Plan to Organize Everything We Know. Was written, it says, with unprecedented access to Google. The book is organized by well-known Google tech areas, as opposed to a time line.

I particularly liked the section on Google's plan to digitize complete university libraries and their struggle with publishers. It turns out to be very expensive to digitize old books, since it is in part a manual process. As a bibliophile I had followed this for years, but the book did a nice job of summarizing progress. Check out the Google Book Search site, which now has excellent coverage.

A good non-technical description of cloud computing and Google's involvement. Gmail's evolution is described but nothing about how it has been invaded by spammers, causing it to be blocked by some anti-spam engines. And a good overview of how satellite images and Street View led to a reexamination of privacy through ease of access. Not much on AdSense and how their economic models have evolved and have been challenged.

Largely a positive view of Google's move towards controlling so much data. Only some hints at the implications about being able to cross index data and how than can lead to privacy invasion. Stross makes the case that they have yet to be tested by adversity or strong competition. He also interviews several Google execs about how long it will take to organize all of the world's information. 300 years is the going answer. They have made considerable progress in the last ten, yet are now coming up against some deep intelligence challenges.

By its nature immediately out of date, but an excellent overviews of current topics.

Stross's site.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Conditioning your Writing Production

If you write and need to churn out a certain proportion of work during a time period a very simple application that may help you is Write or Die. It is not a download, you run it directly from the link above. Based on the psych concept of 'operant conditioning'.

It nags you, at choosable levels of severity, to keep up your production, based on words typed. The most severe level punishes you by starting to un-write what you have written so far! May work for some that need prompting and still remain at the computer. Quality always an issue. True procrastinators will still prevail.

Search and Circulation

Paul Gillin posts about Search being the new Circulation." ... With the accelerating collapse of the newspaper industry fresh in my mind, I was particularly interested to understand their [PR majors in Boston-area colleges] news reading habits. “How many of you have read a daily newspaper either in print or online within the past day?” I asked. Nearly every one of the 45 hands in the two classes went up. “How many of you subscribe to a daily newspaper?” I followed up. Only one student raised her hand ... ". Read the rest.

ShopRite Does Widgets

Widgets are files that can be embedded into a website and provide automatic content updates. The ShopRite widget allows online users to see what products are on sale and connect to the store’s Web page. The widget is available through a partnership with MyWebGrocer, Colchester, Vt., an e-commerce company.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Laptop at 40

Wired interviews Alan Kay about his Dynabook concept, now forty years old, the first plan for a laptop and asks if have we have achieved that vision. We have come far, but still have not arrived at a single, universal device that is mostly trouble-free.

Ultrasonic Waves Create Objects in Space

On the face of it this a first move in creating and controlling the sense of touch. Obvious applications to games. Also potentially to other aspects of virtually interacting with a virtual world. Remains to see how realistic it is, and how it can be linked with other sensory experiences. The focusing of energy, in the form of sound, reminds me of experiments with sound focusing in retail environments. Might they be combined?

"The power of ultrasonic waves has been harnessed to produce "virtual" objects in mid-air.
The field of haptics - integrating computing and the sense of touch - has been around for some time but has required gloves or mechanical devices to impart a sense of feeling. Now, a team of Japanese researchers has developed a system that uses focused ultrasound to do the job. Its inventors may soon commercialise the approach ... "
Also in Engadget. Searching for some of the original papers in English.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Thinking by Design

In Brandweek, a good article about how companies are using design methods to solve problems. I see no problem with including 'right-brain', design aspects to help with problem solving but have also seen the sexiness of the design approaches cause people to downplay and even ignore analytical methods. There is also a tendency for marketing practitioners, often less math adept, to naturally move to the softer solution side. The pendulum will swing, but let's keep a balance. At the right, a radiator design from Designboom, right or left brain?

Buyology Press

A short roundup of press for Martin Lindstrom's Buyology book, positive and negative comments.

Top Marketers

In Promo Magazine: P&G and Wal-Mart are Still Top Marketers, based on a survey.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Will Print Survive?

AdAge asks if Print Media will survive 5 Years?


It has been a while since I have looked at visual guru Martin Wattenberg's site. Well known for Name Voyager, Market Map and Many Eyes. All worth looking at closely. He is part of IBM's Visual Communications Lab. His most recent project according to the site, Fleshmap:

" ... an inquiry into human desire, its collective shape and individual expressions. In a series of artistic studies, Fernanda ViƩgas and I explore the relationship between the body and its visual and verbal representation ... "
Also interesting that they use Amazon's Mechanical Turk and crowd sourcing company Dolores Labs to gather human perception data. Advertising and marketing applications?

Pervasive Business Intelligence Webcast

Free Webcast: Achieving Pervasive BI in the Enterprise
Speakers:Dan Vesset, Vice President, IDC
Tim Wormus, Analytics Evangelist, TIBCO Spotfire
Date:Wednesday, November 12th, 2008
Time:11 AM, ET; 8 AM PT, 4 PM GMT

" ... An increasing number of organizations are making BI functionality more pervasively available to all decision makers, be they executives or staff employees, managers or suppliers. For the first time, market researchers have identified the indicators of pervasive BI and the five key factors that lead to pervasive BI. In this webcast, Dan Vesset of IDC will review the results the recent IDC Pervasive BI study, and TIBCO Spotfire's Tim Wormus will use data from the study to demonstrate how visual BI platforms like Spotfire can enable pervasive BI in the enterprise ... "
Register here. and Wormus' blog.

Street Visualization and More

Visual Complexity posts about Ben Fry's work on visualizing all streets in the US. Curious views, not manipulable by what is provided, which I would have appreciated.

Fry is the author of the O'Reilly book: Visualizing Data, which I have perused and is worth a look. He is from the Aesthetics + Computation Group at the MIT Media Laboratory. Has some interesting projects underway that are described at his site and blog.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Wal-Mart on the IPhone

I discovered that Wal-Mart has a beta for the IPhone, just point your Safari browser to Wal-Mart's site on an IPhone and you will get an simplified, optimized site. Not an application, which would have given them some additional promotion. Works fine, but appears to be a true beta, there is only a small amount of purchasable content at this time. Store finder gives too many choices by my estimation. Design is simple, fairly good. An example screen with only some options is at the right.

Ghosts and EMF

An interesting item in SCIAM about how the indisputably persistent over-the-ages sightings of 'ghosts' could be caused by EMF spikes and infra sound. Since the brain operates via electrical signals, it makes sense that external electrical context could influence the brain's perceptions.

Big Moo

Julie Anixter sends along a note that the Big Moo folks have updated their Think Remarkable blog recently with an update on just departed Studs Terkel, have read several of his works.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Aisleness of Stores

Herb Sorensen of TNS-Sorensen, posts an article: The Aisleness of Stores, part of his series Views: on the World of Shoppers, Retailers and Brands. Always provocative, Herb is a pioneer in the understanding of consumers in retail spaces. It also a reason for the use of contextual innovation centers to understand how consumers actually behave in the retail world.