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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Product Placement and Memory

Can a product placement delete your product from a consumer's memory? Martin Lindstrom video.

Kiss Me in 3D

The huge startup of 3D media has begun. I picked up a strip of free, ill fitting cardboard Intel 3-D glasses at the grocery store today, in front of a beer display. Just because they are Intel does not mean they are high tech. They are the same design I played with as a child. Except now they have a warning to not wear them while operating heavy equipment or use them as sunglasses. Went to a site called Crest White Strips: 'Kiss me in 3D'. There a model, gender of my choice, kissed me a few times, seemingly reaching through the screen. Then pitched me on Whitestrips. Not an overly impressive effect. Then saved the glasses for ads on the Superbowl.

Best Buy's CMO on Social Technology

Best Buy's CMO, Barry Judge, on video about how they plan to use social technologies. Also his personal site. And his Twitter feed.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Upcoming: NeuroConnections in Cracow

Site and blog: Neuro connections.

Next week I am off to the Neuroconnections conference in Cracow, Poland. Will cover aspects of neuromarketing and beyond. I will be heading the Panel/Debate: Hopes & Threats of New Technologies, which will include a number of neuro luminaries (below) . If you have any questions, thoughts, concerns etc. Please leave a comment here, or send me a private email (address in left column).

I will blog aspects of this conference here. Check out the link above if you want me to scout any specifics at the meeting. If you are going to be there let me know and we can chat.

Invited Panel Participants:

Tim Ambler - London Business School, Gemma Calvert - Founder of Neurosense, Flemming Hansen - Copenhagen Business School, Dean DeBiase - CEO of TNS Media, Peter Neijens - University of Amsterdam, Graham Page - Executive Vice-President, Global Solutions at Millward Brown, UK and Raymond Taylor - Villanova School of Business, Gary Singer - CEO of Buyology, USA

Human Side to Software Engineering

A Human side to software engineering?

Easy Word Clouds

Wordle is a free online system by Jonathan Feinberg that lets you generate word clouds from text sources. The cloud above is one generated from recent posts to this blog. The package has lots of interesting generation and design options to play with. This simple application does 75% of what we used to do under the description of 'content analysis' some years ago. Thanks to Wim for pointing me to this.

Serious Games

A toolkit for serious games.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Branding Only Works on Cattle

Have now read Jonathan Salem Baskin's book: Branding Only Works on Cattle: The New Way to Get Known (and drive your competitors crazy). He also has  a supporting blog.

First of all, although I have existed in the midst of the profession for some time, I am not a marketer. I was taught that brand and its equity were the things that advertising spending was always trying to establish and then re-inforce. It was positioned as establishing attention and then maintaining it. Then this would naturally lead to changes in behavior, most especially the buying of your product. Baskin says that the last transition is a big assumption.

Baskin's book is deliciously iconoclastic. He starts by pointing out that little advertisement really works as expected at all ... ad repetition can even decrease the likelihood of the buying behavior we desire. The vaunted 'brand equity', may not be as clear a useful measure as we thought.

I recall many a time in front of the TV, seeing endless repetitions of an ad, or the often bizarre and absurd nature of Superbowl ads and thinking 'Will this cause me to buy this product?'. I found myself saying no. I even started thinking negatively of the brands behind the ads. If I could figure out what they were selling at all. Of course the traditional belief is that ads establish and maintain brand equity, and very well known brands have benefited from this process.

He even briefly covers techniques like brain scanning, where he points out that determining how a brain lights up when exposed to a brand may be about awareness, but this does not mean it is about purchase behavior. Context also matters.

Baskin says he is about fundamentally changing the philosophy of marketing. He is also skeptical about most of what is being done with Web 2.0, since he says it does not contribute to behavior. While conversations with your brand are what are supposed to be happening online, few conversations actually happen. The only extended conversations are arguments. Video mashups are seen by many, but do they drive useful behavior beyond entertainment?

Given how much whole industries are built up to to support the current brand philosophy, and the philosophy behind brand conversations, this will be hard to sell.

Search has become very important, as he says ' ... Loyalty is not only as fleeting as 'what have you done for me lately would suggest, but it is even more tenuously dependent on what my community thinks about it or what it says about what you did for the next customer ... '. He also suggests that " ... the content consumers experience doesn't build brand equity but rather spends it ... '.

He suggests that user generated content is the 'wrong answer to the right question' , and that it leads to wasting the consumers time, rather than engaging them. In another quote " entertaining consumers is just a distraction ...".

Baskin thinks that most game-associated marketing, such as product placement of brands in a game, is wasted. He does praise Alternate Reality Games (ARG) which try to layer multiple kinds of experience and interact directly with the customer. He gives some good examples that are worth reading, pointing to Dave Szulborski's book: "This is not a Game: ..." for background. On my list.

Late in the book in a section he calls 'A Modest Proposal' where he suggests management principles that include methods that use biological and complexity models. Good thought, but the book was unclear about exactly how these simulation-based based methods would be implemented, especially in current marketing cultures. So the proposal is more than modest. He points to Deming's quality work as another possible approach for improving marketing.

Overall I really liked this book. He echoes some suspicions I have had about marketing rigor. It will make me think differently about branding from now on. I think he is right when he says it is all about consumer behavior, not just impressing them with out cleverness. They may play, even engage, but will they buy? It is all about real consumer behavior in the right context.

Jonah Bloom in AdAge says it succinctly:

" A book that not only raises serious questions about many of the methods used by today's marketers, but actually argues that branding as most people think of it is bullshit and that its proponents couldn't get us to tie our shoelaces, much less reprogram our subconscious to buy their stuff. The central argument here is that for all marketers' talk, man-hours and budgets, they waste a lot of time on things that don't change consumer behavior.... "

Solar Goose

Tom Chorman, who was a colleague at Procter & Gamble has a new start-up called Solar Goose. He is developing and marketing a whole group of solar powered rechargeable lighting and charging devices. See the Solar Goose beta site.

Biggest Kludges of Copyright Law

Lots of interesting information like this at the Plagiarism Today blog.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Important Things in Social Media

I see that former (in two enterprises) colleague Krista Neher is now CEO at Marketess Consulting where she just posted an item: “The Most Important Thing that your Company can do on Social Media ... ". Good piece. See also her personal business site.

Mass Customization

Will mass customization work better during financial crises?

Marketing Execs Say Use Fewer Numbers

In Adage, This is a dangerous way to fool yourself. The worst cases I have seen of research misapplied is when researchers find what they are looking for, emotionally tainting results. Also known as confirmation bias. With this executive view they don't even have to fool themselves! Numbers and common sense are both important. Stories are excellent as examples, or as a means to represent results. But how do you know they are not just ... stories?

Message to researchers: Fewer numbers, more stories
Researchers are being told to rely less on number-crunching and more on insights from consumers.... "
Related ... Gut decisions vs Analytics.

Collaborative Analytics

Have never heard this called collaborative analytics, but rather a process to deliver analytical methods. Still a good article on the idea. " ... Collaborative analysis builds upon the analysis process by adding activities to overcome the solitary and linear nature of traditional analysis. Figure 2 illustrates the extensions to move from conventional to collaborative analytics. The shift from solitary and linear to participative and iterative is accomplished with three feedback loops ... "

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Open Source Text Analytics

A look at open source text anaytics by Seth Grimes.

PeaPod joins MyWebGrocer

I am told that that online grocer Peapod has joined online grocer services provider Mywebgrocer. Press release here. Followed Peapod for some time for its potential for experiments in shopping list 'stickiness'. Even followed some of their order fillers around in a store. Peapod still has its niche, checking on what performance stats might exist. Anyone? See also Mywebgrocer's Grocery 2.0 blog.

Private Information on the Web

Much of this is well known, but it is useful to get a reminder of how much information you thought was private is available out there. Be aware.


Completed Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business by Jeff Howe, who is a well known Wired writer.

I did not know that Howe had coined the term crowdsourcing as early as 2006. The book is a good overview, with lots of interesting examples. Based on his own interviews with various practitioners. He emphasises several examples which are notably 'cool', but he repeats some too often. He does not provide quite enough detail about such topics as prediction markets, only hinting at when they will work and when not.

He brings up the almost obligatory mention of Procter's work with Innocentive. Good, but that could have used some more detail about the relationship of open innovation and corporate needs, and how the results will ultimately be included in corporate developments. He uses crowdsourcing as an umbrella term, while I had thinking of it as a method that included stronger interaction among the 'crowd'.

Not much about efforts like Amazon's Mechanical Turk, which seek to source intelligent tasks. Would like to know how successful they have been and the kinds of tasks that need human intelligence.

I like his inclusion of Scott E Page's diversity of innovation results, where he includes good simple examples, though perhaps over positioning the results. Could have used more on the peer-to-patent work, which is just now developing.

Late in the book he discusses how to bring together a crowd for specific projects, which can be very useful. It is managing volunteers, even though the labor is free it has its own difficulties. Good thoughts.

This is again one of those descriptive survey books, which at the beginning of 2009 gives a reasonable journalistic overview of what is underway. A good overview for those interested, but it would be better to follow the changes in online media. Worth reading and having for examples. There is also a useful book's blog.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Artificial Intelligence Comes of Age

Good article in ComputerWorld on the current state of AI (Artificial Intelligence) . This time no mention that we will soon create intelligence as there was in the 80s and 60s. Emphasis on faster computing, more data from sensors, learning algorithms, dealing with uncertainty, agent models and integration of multiple disciplines.

Coverage of examples of both research and applications. All of these applications are what we can describe as 'deeply embedded', not the high level, aggregation of business rules of the expert systems of the 80s. There are still expert systems style methods around, such as LPA, which I have covered here before.

As an Microsoft researcher states, these systems worked in narrow areas and were described as 'fragile' when they got large. We wrote a number of them and they ended up being difficult to build and maintain and would break when the knowledge had to be changed. Still, some were very profitable and lasted twenty years.

The article:
" Future Watch: A.I. comes of age
After decades of limited application, artificial intelligence is everywhere. And it really works this time.... " "

Nielsen Suspends In-Store Metric

Missed the press release on Friday: Nielsen Suspends PRISM Data System, apparently indefinitely, although they blame it on the economy, has to be in part because of Wal-Mart's pullout from participation. Previously in this blog on Prism.

Tesco and Twitter

The article below, and their web site, and on Twitter. Following them at this time, though there is too much buzz for my taste there.

Tesco tunes in to the art of Twitter
Tesco has become one of the first British retailers to begin communicating with its customers through the social messaging service Twitter. The supermarket chain's American convenience store chain Fresh & Easy, which opened on the West Coast in November 2007, is harnessing the text-based messaging service to interact with customers and inform them of new offers and store openings ... "
Correspondent Richard James reports " ... I did a quick Google and confirmed that Tesco is also on Myspace.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Retail Drama

Yesterday I walked Costco with a cart. I take more than a casual interest in these kinds of excursions. I look for assortment, costs, technologies and shelf design. I also view the store from the perspective of a 'foodie'. What got me here? What is keeping me here? At Costco, can I possibly use that Jumbo size before it becomes stale?

I had a handful of mailed Costco coupons. Somehow I did not get them in the mail, but pulled them from a returned cart. I was standing in front of a large display of Cascade dish washing packets (made by, well you-can-guess). I had a coupon for $2.50-off of a 90 count package. I was about to toss a box in my cart, when a woman stepped in front of me. She breathlessly said that a box of Electrasol packets (made by Reckitt Benckiser), 100 count, without a coupon, would cost two dollars less. I was about to make some remark about having special reasons to buy the Cascade brand. But I kept my mouth shut.

I was amazed by her merchandising enthusiasm. Turns out she was a 'demonstrator' at a table nearby and was giving out Electrasol samples. I stopped nearby to watch. I saw her do her act several more times, everyone bought. 100% conversion. I bought the Electrasol. Yes, you can argue quality, but I did not have my lab with me. I had to retreat to the second moment of truth for tests. I had to sheepishly explain the change of brand to my wife as competitive intelligence.

I have seen these human demonstrators working in large supermarkets in China. Dozens of 'demonstrators' standing in front of the shelves to talk up a product. Sometimes so many that it is hard to get to the product. They work. Some manufacturers have tried to stop funding these kinds of efforts there. Sales have dropped. A mixture of cultural shopper expectations and bad publicity.

Great example of in store, shopper marketing. Technology can work, but not as well as a person selling. This is not a pre 1916 Piggly Wiggly. Someone should hire this woman as a consultant. She had the kind of enthusiasm that needs to be translated into shopper marketing to make it work. Sold me.

Update: Not sure who will end up reading this, but just for completeness ... after using the Electrasol product for a few weeks it is clearly inferior. Cascade cleans better and smells better. The merchandising performance was great, but you have to follow with a great product.

Future of Books

The future of books and knowledge, one of my favorite topics. From the NYRB: Google and the Future of Books. See also my recent comments on book scanning progress, also covered in the article, which I continue to be amazed at. Last night I spent hours cradling one of those bound collections of rolled and dried pulp and cotton paste. Will these become extinct?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Horizon Graphs

Stephen Few writes about horizon graphs for time series designed for visualization and comparison: " ... horizon graphs can meaningfully display 50 or so full sets of time-series values on a single screen or page in a way that supports comparisons among them ... " . Had not heard this kind of view described as a 'horizon graph' before. The example above gives a side-by-side example of stock comparisons, one per row. The image is here is too small, you can see it in detail through the link, but the resulting out-of-focus view is revealing as well.

Neuroscience Boot Camp

Get your boots out, you can be fully trained this summer. At University of Pennsylvania, August 2-12, more details here.

Britannica Prepares to Create Community

In a perhaps inevitable move, Britannica is planning a major change to the way it gathers knowledge, making it more wiki-like. Establishing a community of experts, editors and users that will together add and verify information to be added to the encyclopedia.

" ... The main thrust of this initiative is to promote greater participation by both our expert contributors and readers. Both groups will be invited to play a larger role in expanding, improving, and maintaining the information we publish on the Web under the Encyclopedia Britannica name as well as in sharing content they create with other Britannica visitors ... "

" ... All such suggestions will be considered by editors, and if they’re found to have merit they’ll be fact-checked and vetted before they’re published. Anyone whose contributions are accepted for publication will be credited in detailed article-history pages in the encyclopedia... "
An inevitable development for the survival of Britannica. I think that it is too late. The Britannica's brand equity was well known to me as a knowledge-hungry student. I don't think they have that today. I am sure they have done the studies, but I think that their brand equity has eroded considerably. I don't often think of it except in comparisons. How many students today recognize their brand and what it means?

Have also followed their blog for a number of months. Based on their invited writers they are also showing an odd bias on controversial topics by writing opinion type articles rather than those with a neutral point-of-view. This drives home the perception that editors have their own agendas.

Nicholas Carr talks about this development, where he tracks the way that WP articles are continuing to gain dominance in Google searches, which Britannica president Juan Cauz calls a 'symbiotic relationship' between Google and Wikipedia. When I first read this I thought there was some hint of a conspiracy.

He suggests that this marks a failure of the Internet as a flexible information delivery vehicle. The Web is dominating the infrastructure, Google dominates search and the Wikipedia is dominating knowledge storage and delivery. All happening in a few years. He asks if this is a good thing?

By my own reading many people still believe that the Wikipedia does not restrict or edit contributions. That is not true, there is much monitoring and control of contributions. After some recent embarrassing vandalism, the WP has announced additional flagging and editing of some kinds of susceptible content.

Can there be a number of co-existing principle sources for search and knowledge management? Or will the system converge into a single solution? Or as the article suggests, has it already?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Analytics vs Gut Feelings

An Accenture study says that 60% of major decisions are made with analytics and 40% are made with gut judgement. Business leaders think that more attention should be paid to analytics. Plus some other related statistics. I wonder what percentage of executives would admit they use gut feelings alone for a major decision? Even when analytics is used it is often illogically intertwined with the emotional. And how does the new attention to the 'right brain' decision influence this?

This is an area where while working with executives, I have seen lots of changes over the years. Also many personality based opinions. Most common was when an executive wanted to be seen using the latest analytical methods, but felt they knew best, based on their own network. Of course they bore the greatest responsibility for the decision.

And you can't forget the influence of books like Gladwell's Blink, which provide justification for not being analytical.

So how often was a gut decision better than analytics? Hard to measure, but I am tabulating some examples I have.

Link pointer via SASCOM magazine.

Update: To Hell with Guts.

Large Lectures Replaced

In the NYT, an article about how universities like MIT are replacing " .... traditional large introductory lecture with smaller classes that emphasize hands-on, interactive, collaborative learning. Last fall, after years of experimentation and debate and resistance from students, who initially petitioned against it, the department made the change permanent. Already, attendance is up and the failure rate has dropped by more than 50 percent ... "

Enterprises have been doing this to a certain degree for years. Yet there is likely some learning that can be had from the University experiences. Still, in the enterprise there is a social component to classes that can also be powerful.

Google Roundtable Talks

A bit dated to mention this, but there is a talkshow format set of talks about technologies. Includes one on natural language translation that I posted about some time ago. Good to follow.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

IEEE Computing Now: Search Viz

IEEE Computing Now is in Beta. Here is a current article on visualization. Pak Chung Wong of Pacific Northwest Laboratory gives us an overview of their work under way. Specifically about improved visualization in search. We visited them several years ago and they gave us an overview of their capabilities. Very inspirational and led to a number of useful applications.

Crowd-Sourcing the World

This is quite ambitious, I see that Nokia is involved. How do we know this will be used for good rather than evil? Even a bit less than evil?

"Crowd-Sourcing the World
A startup hopes to tap into the expertise of developing nations via cell phones ... Now Nathan Eagle, a research fellow at the Santa Fe Institute, in New Mexico, is launching a project similar to Amazon's Mechanical Turk but that distributes tasks via cell phones. The goal of his project, called txteagle, is to leverage an underused work force in some of the poorest parts of the world ... "
Via Dexin.


Peter and Trudy Johnson-Lenz are consultants who worked with Procter & Gamble while we were working with the Institute for the Future in the 90s. They did an excellent job helping us with topics like story telling. Unfortunately they were beset by difficult medical and financial problems this past year. They have cut costs to the bone and are looking for new engagements. Here is their web site, which covers what they do ... in outline:

- We provide targeted knowledge and research tailored to your needs.
"- We offer foresight and insight into new developments, research, and trends you can use going forward.
- We help you learn how to use new Web tools for collaboration and for interacting more closely with customers and stakeholders.... "
Please pass this on to others that might be interested.

Comparing Google Knol and Wikipedia

Not much competition so far. Also minimal editing in Knol has led to dropping quality. Can it survive? There is still not much critical mass or attempt at basic organization. My own quick look at some topics of interest to me in Knol found that there was quite a bit of 'cut and paste' knowledge being posted without attribution. Most ironically, Knols rarely have the Pageranks to show up near the top of Google searches.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kraft IPhone Application a Success

It appears that the Kraft IFood Application, which I have used and reviewed, is a success, see this AdAge article:

" ... One of the coolest apps on the iPhone isn't Pandora or Facebook: It's recipes and shopping lists for Kraft singles, Jell-O gelatin and Minute Rice. Yes, enough Kraft Food devotees are actually paying to be marketed to on their beloved iPhones that the company's iFood Assistant is now one of the device's 100 most popular paid apps, and No. 2 in the lifestyle category. With its endeavor, Kraft is pulling off a rare trick: getting consumers to pay a one-time 99-cent fee for the app and also sit through ads on it. And in the process, it's collecting useful data for targeting them more closely ... ".

Smarter World

IBM Video: Tale of a Smarter Planet on a smarter world, emphasizing global sensor interconnectivity and analytics to provide intelligence. Well done. Very high level, without covering any negative implications like cost, complexity or privacy. Also 'repairing the economy' mentioned sounds like a means of centralizing control. Why are we not helping private enterprise? The pitch implies that we must sense and connect everything to control it.

Paying the Turk for a Post

In the news this weekend has been the enlistment of fake reviews for the electronics company Belkin. Similar to pay-per-post, but here the going in assumption was that the good reviews were completely made up. Doing this broadly is also called astroturfing, building buzz unsupported by reality.

What was interesting here is that this was done through the Amazon's Mechanical Turk System, a crowdsourcing intelligent human task marketing system that I looked at closely last year. They were offering 65 US cents per post for each review. Machines are cheaper than humans, but only if they can perform a task. General artificial intelligence is not here yet, despite some claims, not even close. So there are many tasks a human can do that a machine cannot. Like interpreting and tagging a complex image. Certainly writing and posting a credible product review of any kind is an 'intelligent task'.

Not much different from the PayPerPost company, which brokers connections between writers and entities that need publicity. Early on Google was said to be removing the page rank of PPP originating posts. Not sure of the status of that 'policing' today, though it raises another meta level of concern: How objective is Google?

A general human dilemma, back to issues of authority and credibility of the agent involved. Belkin pulled its Mechanical Turk offer after much criticism. This kind of negative crowdsourcing is not covered in recent books on the subject.

Civil Nanotechnology

In a post in the Foresight blog: Civil nanotechnology: Open source sensing in Seed magazine. The promotion of nanotech enabled open source sensors in the environment. And some of the privacy concerns that these will create.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Now several times I have had the task of creating a collage of images quickly and easily. Typically I would have perhaps a hundred design images or so in a file and need to arrange and rearrange these in a two dimensional plane ... then edit them later and share, zoom and present them with a group online. I was just introduced to a new beta system called ScrapWalls that does exactly this. Still early Beta. Simple. Recall I previously mentioned MS Seadragon as another application of this type.

McCloud Presentation at TED

Presentation Zen has a good overview of and links to Scott McCloud's presentation at TED: Presenting comics in a new (media) world. I read McCloud's book: Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art some years ago which inspired me to look at other forms of abstract yet logical expression.

I recall recommending the book to someone and they responded that they were not 'into' comics. I reply that this is more about storytelling and expression rather than lite literature. The presentation is a great introduction to McCloud's work. After that, read his book.

Visualizing Earthquakes

I just rediscovered the Wolfram blog. Had not used Mathematica now for several years. I know that their visualization capabilities are excellent, especially combined with their math modeling. Quite Pricey for the individual. Though their focus is for analytics/math experts rather than BI modelers. I had also been following the recent earthquake swarm at the Yellowstone caldera. If this erupted it would be of some (!) concern.

A poster on the blog has shown how he created a visualization of the earthquake swarm. Sample image at the right and link to the animation in the blog post. Nicely done and fairly simple. What is nice is the availability to quickly mash up these ideas for display and analysis. Many BI systems now have the ability to link geographically precise images with lat-long data and them animating the results.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Buyology Thinking

Fairly extensive look in ResearchTalk at the claims behind Buyology: Buyology: Sound Science or Wishful Thinking?. the final claim comes down to the well exercised correlation vs causation argument. Also the context of each of the studies that Lindstrom covers in the book. Thoughtful and worth reading. This shows that these approaches have to be engineered carefully for claims about how predictive they will be for new studies.

What Would Google Do?

Steve Baker, author of The Numerati, which I reviewed takes a look at an upcoming book by Jeff Jarvis called What Would Google Do?

A View of Twitter vs Linkedin

Always astute Jerry Michalski sends along a link to a very nice description of why Twitter is useful. Although I am still learning about this tool, I am becoming a convert to its ability to help me connect. It still has rough edges when used alone in not being able to control the amount of information you get, but I am also experimenting with utilities like Tweetdeck to help with that. Also a comparison to a competitive client Twhirl.

Biggest negative is that many professional contacts are still not onboard, limiting its connectivity. These people are on Linkedin, which also has a 'what are you doing now' function, but it is little used, and it is not the main focus of Linkedin. Meanwhile, Twitter does not have the infrastructure for professional information that Linkedin has.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

In Car Spamming?

Via correspondent Richard James. We have long been promised the idea of networked automobiles, now this seems to be imminent. Though along with the concept may come the rest of the baggage that this implies. In Slashdot and in USAToday:

"...Lexus has announced plans to send targeted messages to buyers of its cars based on the buyer's zip code and vehicle type. Unlike regular spam, these messages will be delivered directly to the buyer's vehicle, and will play to the vehicle's occupants as audio. Lexus has promised to make the messages relevant to the car buyers..."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Selling vs Order Taking

Correspondent Herb Sorensen of TNS-Sorensen has a great piece in his Views series about Selling vs Order Taking which links to the history of retail itself and its architecture. I wrote about this previously, pointing to the history of the US Piggly-Wiggly Chain, which claims to have invented the self-service store in 1916. Also a great store interior image above. He also mentions MediaCart, Modiv Shopper and Infosys as new ways to sell in the aisle.

" ... The sales person facilitates the thought process that leads to closing the sale - "close early and close often" - while the order taker plays a more passive role.

In understanding what needs to happen in shopping, and is happening, among retailers and brand suppliers that want to sell, it is helpful to review how the industry at large became so passive (order-taking) in managing the sales process. What is common on the selling room floor today (passivity,) was not always this way... "

Enterprise Use of Social Networks

IBM provides some interesting work in this area. I spoke to some of their people involved in this work last year and was impressed how they were leveraging all forms of social network services. Via an IBMResearch Twit.

Irrational Product Placement

I am a late student to product placement. Around since 1896 when Sunlight Soap was featured in a number of Lumiere silent movies. A frame at the right. Here is one blatant example. More on YouTube. I had always thought that these were subtle, creating only a natural placement of a product where it would be anyway. Better than say, have a generic product label. I was wrong, a car blogger points out some very unnatural automobile placements in older and even movies still showing today. Revealing.

Update: Richard James points me to excellent WP piece on early product placement ... and of course Soap Operas, created by my former employer. They even attempted early online serials, which were not generally successful.

IBM Leads Patents

IBM Leads US patent count 16th year in a row, openly publishes patent innovations, seeking to "...balance open and proprietary innovation ... " .

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Smarter Planet Blog

I just discovered IBM's Building a Smarter Planet Blog: Instrumented, Interconnected, Intelligent. Which was started up last November. Following.

Hidden Data

An example of Steganography, which hides data. While encryption " ... obscures the meaning of a message, but it does not conceal the fact that there is a message ... ". This application can hide a file of data in a picture.

Predictive Analytics

I have played in the space of analytic modeling for thirty years. It surprised me about five years ago when I was approached by people saying that they planned to start doing predictive analytics. I was confused. From my perspective, all analytics are predictive ... it is just a matter of how accurate the prediction might be. On one end of the scale, a model is descriptive ... at the other end it attempts to become very precise ... it can be called forecasting.

If you can be accurate depends on many factors. What data exists, how clean the data is, are there existing models that work, how stable is the context of the use of the model, what decisions will be influenced and who will be using the model.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lindstrom, Buyology Inc and Brand-Image

I attended Martin Lindstrom's talk at Brand-Image in Cincinnati today. This was the third time I had been in on Lindstrom presentations. He pointed out that much of his work is still research, but very useful in better understanding the consumer, even in its early development. Today you can go to his site and download his slides using the password 'fabulous'. I also reviewed and recommend his book, which has lots more.

Lindstrom gave a good overview of some parts of his book, outlining how in particular rituals in retail can be both positive and negative to the retailer and manufacturer. He covered briefly his controversial findings about branding and religion. He also emphasized the uniqueness of the 2000 scan data base that has provided many opportunities for pattern mining.

Next Gary Singer, CEO of the newly established Buyology Inc spoke about how his company will be implementing some of Lindstrom's work. In particular they have developed what they call 'Neurotypes', which allow a customer to readily understand how their customers brands link to the patterns derived from Lindstrom's brain scan database. These classifications can then be used to market to consumers and even optimize the kinds of media to be used. He also made it clear that Buyology Inc was not tied to any specific biometric technology such as fMRI and was linking to a number of key analysis vendors.

Julie Anixter CMO of Brand Image gave a talk on a collaborative investigative project with Buyology Inc. Specifically to evaluate packaging using some of Buyology Inc's non-conscious classification methods. They are looking for participants at relatively low cost. You can be part of a powerful new methodology. Contact Julie for more information at: janixter@brand-image.com

Overall a good talk that led from Lindstrom's inspiration via his experiments and book to the establishment of a company to deliver results and then the launch of a specific project to test the idea.

The Numerati

Just got to Stephen Baker's 2008 book: The Numerati. Several people had pointed me to it. It is an overview of the advance of numerical methods since WWII. How improvements in the availability of data, power of computers and new methods have led to remarkable results. Key too are the number of sensors that have revealed data from people. The Web is the prime example. These results have also led to some scary and wrong results. For example, one person interviewed had been a major modeler for Enron and could not predict it's fall. Today he is head of a modeling group for IBM.

I was educated in this field and a practitioner during the latter half of this progression, so the stories told of its history were well known. Baker does not provide much detail and does not know the math, data and computing issues behind the problems. Sometimes the difficulties involved are understated. So there is little hard substance in the book. Yet as the people interviewed discussed their current work I was reminded of similar efforts in my own firm. So I enjoyed the book and I think any practitioner in this area will as well.

I was once told that for every equation you include in a book you will lose 20% of your audience. This book will lose none of its audience that way. Still it is a good view of the progress and the dangers of having models that predict things. And especially when we attempt to predict what people can or will do.

He ends the book being cautious and describing the complexity of the world and how there are aspects of that complexity we have not figured out how to model. That is an appropriate place to leave a book like this. We have made much progress, it has value, but it does not mean we are or ever can be done. There is danger in thinking we can do more than we are ready to.

See also the book's blog.

Update: Baker has given a talk on the book that has been shown a number of times on Book-TV/Cspan2, which I saw today (1/26). Good overview of the book, covering much of the same landscape. He emphasizes his lack of modeling knowledge up front. He makes fun of a person he interviewed from the NSA when that person said that more data is always better. In fact that is the case, the key design issue is what you include or do not include in a model. You may exclude data and factors from a model, but not even knowing about external factors at all is dangerous. In that sense the NSA answer is correct.

Applying the well known 'searching for your keys under the streetlamp' story that he mentions in the book and in the talk. Having more data is like extending the extent of the streetlamp, increasing the liklihood that you will find your keys. Keeping it narrow means that you may find something that just looks like your keys, but will not serve for starting your car.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Surroundings Matter

In the Neuromarketing blog, a post on the meaning of context of surroundings with regards to behavior. Obvious in the sense of chaos resulting in more chaos in the form of vandalism and shoplifting, but it also implies more subtle results. This was one of the prime aspects of initially building innovation centers that provided immersive contexts. More about that here. For years companies had conference rooms that were simply fitted with shelves until it found that realism helped make sense of the space for research in the same way that a comfortable environment made the shopper stay and buy.

Watermarking Tools

In Plagiarism Today, a site I just discovered that covers online content, plagiarism and copyright issues, a detailed report on online watermarking tools. In a recent project I worked with a company that was attempting to aid photographers in selling and controlling their creative content.

Places of the Future

Fraunhofer Institute has put together some research in constructing a hotel room of the future. Marriott tried to do something that included lots of easy interconnectivity in a hotel room, so you could create your own heaven ... or depending on view perhaps it was the other place? I was part of an innovation group that worked with Hilton to do something similar, though all the resources we had were some flip charts.

I now have been involved with and seen a number of examples of 'of the future' concepts, including homes, stores, hotels and decision centers. I have never seen anything close to any one implemented completely. Yet they are great places to test how a new idea can be presented to a consumer and react to the values it claims to provide. Another example recently brought to my attention is the Brussels House of the Future.

The Fraunhofer hotel example looks well thought out, though again much about information technology rather than architecture or direct comfort. Includes mention of scent delivery. One architecture example, curved walls, are known to produce a calming effect, but are very expensive to deliver. Includes a video.

Wikinomics Blog

I see that the Wikinomics blog is up and running, with some interesting posts that expand their exploration of mass collaboration.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ten Blogs for Bloggers

Ten blogs every Blogger should read in from Zero to SEO.

Internet and the Press

How does the internet weaken the press? By an existence proof, the local paper delivered to my door is getting thinner by the day.

Smart Phone Watches

Apparently there are a number of watch format devices that aim to replace smartphones. But as long as we use our fingers I wonder about their practicality. Above, the LG Watch phone, being shown at CES 2008.

Roland Piquepaille Passes

UK correspondent Richard James informs me of the passing of emerging tech blogger Roland Piquepaille. I read much of what he wrote and he was an inspiration for tracking new technologies via a blog.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Produce Interface

This post on a Danish interface for produce does not say a great deal, but I am glad that others are paying attention to retail interfaces around the world. Produce, because of its considerable variability, can be difficult to deal with unless you are very familiar with it. Consider IBM's Veggie Vision, which we saw at the Metro Future store.

Bullet Graphs

A Perceptual Edge post about bullet graphs, which I have never used. Apparently these were designed to replace circular gauge type displays. In their simplest form they use a single measure and indicate where its value falls among a number of discrete ranges like: 'Poor', 'Acceptable', 'Excellent'. This design specification gives more details and examples. Not bad, but the meaning did not jump out at me at first glance.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Google Expands Semantics in Search

I recall doing several searches where the results indicated a detailed semantic net was being used on their side. Here is more evidence that they are doing this and have expanded its breadth. Makes sense. Comments are also worth reading.

Frequency of Impulse Purchases

Wharton Prof David R. Bell, in a detailed article, says that there is less general impulse purchasing than we had thought. " ... "The message ... is that the amount of unplanned buying that takes place is more about person-to-person variance than about the store environment itself," Bell says. "Can you really jack up unplanned buying with stimuli, when the greatest amount of variance is in people?" ... '. Some intriguing results.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Tom Peters on Boomer Markets

Tom Peters comments on the Boomer market and links to some new Forrester work in this area.

CES Overview

Have not been to one of these in years, but worth a look: The Consumer Electronics Show. And more.

Microsoft Tag Released

It is unfair to compare this to the CueCat, since that fabled failed project attempted to include a unitasking piece of hardware, while this application works with popular existing smartphones. Critically also, phones that the consumer are getting used to downloading applications for. Worth looking at.

From ReadWriteWweb

Microsoft today released Microsoft Tag, its own barcode technology for mobile phones. For this, Microsoft developed its own High Capacity Color Barcodes which can store a lot more information than the QRCode or Datamatrix barcodes we have become familiar with. Microsoft is specifically targeting mobile users with these tags and has released scanning applications for most types of mobile phones, including the iPhone, as well as Windows Mobile phones, Blackberries, and Symbian S6phones ... "
A topic covered here a number of times.
We tested this concept in several formats, and I wrote about that here. This embodies the notion of 'extended packaging', as written about by the standards group GS1. And as I have mentioned many times, this is all about standards. The MS codes, samples above, are appealing, unique in that they are based on colored triangles, but are they standard? The broad variety of phones this works on is a plus. Testing this now and will write about the results.

Update: I downloaded the application to an IPhone and tried it on a few sample codes. Worked first time, was fairly quick, took only a few seconds to respond.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Open Source Victories

Open Source victories of 2008. For those interested in the topic of open source this is interesting. After my leaving the big firm, now that I have to make my own infrastructure choices, this has become more important.

CYC is Posting Snippets of Knowledge

I see that the CYC company is now twittering. CYC was started in 1984 by Douglas Lenat. Their site has some demos. Have followed its progress since then and even visited them in Austin several times to see what value they might provide our enterprise.

Originally their goal was to create a complete knowledge database that could act as an encyclopedia (thus 'cyc') that could be used by any application as a domain knowledge repository. For example, you might include pieces of knowledge about manufacturing specifications in a knowledge base, then later use it to understand how new products might be created. Has some similarities to the ultimate goals of the Semantic Web. Some examples of the kinds of work they do in the CYC blog. Such as advanced query systems in specific domains that can reason in complex ways.

Now they have a Twitter post you can follow where some system is posting a 'nugget' of generated knowledge about every 15 minutes. These appear to be in the domain of foreign policy. Imagine the number of these statements that you would need to build a complete knowledge base in this domain. Then you would have to update it constantly. It is unclear where this experiment is going, but they say to stand by for more details.

R Computing for Data Mining

The NYTimes has an overview article on the open source R Computing Language. Emphasizing its use for data mining applications. Not a bad article, but they start out implying that it is meant to be a general purpose language, as opposed to a statistical and data modeling approach, which is misleading. Still a good read. I think the WP article on R is good as well. Update: Anne Milley of SAS comments on the R article.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Search Engine Optimization Blogs

eCairn has published a list of the top 150 blogs that cover Search Engine optimization and Search Engine Marketing (SEO/SEM).

Targeting Shoppers with Loyalty Data

Short NYT article that shows how dunnhumby uses loyalty data to target consumers for retail clients. After many years of using loyalty data, retailers are finally able to effectively use the idea to engage the consumer.

Huberman on Twitter

Bernardo A. Huberman an HP researcher, who we met in the late 90s when he was doing analysis of the growth of the web, has a new paper out Twitter: Social Networks that Matter: Twitter under the microscope. Have not read yet, but is commented on here.

Examining Pay-per-Post

Pay per post is the method by which bloggers, especially those with large readership are paid in influence, money or goods, to blog about a particular product or service. It can be something as simple as a free book to review. I admit to have taken a free book a handful of times.

It is a very cheap way for a company to get mention, especially effective with bloggers that have big readership. Of course it can cloud the objectivity, or at least the reason why a blogger has chosen a given topic. Even if they do not need the money, bloggers are always looking for things do write about. The e-Commerce times article linked to above gives some examples.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Open Engineering Design Course

Friend and colleague Professor Farrokh Mistree at Ga Tech is teaching a course ... ME6102 Designing Open Engineering Systems.... At Ga Tech and Washington State. He is seeking examples, case studies, ideas and support. Leave your thoughts in the comments here, or send them to me for forwarding, my email address is in the left column. Thanks for any help!

Goal and Questions for the Semester
The overarching goal for this semester is for you to learn how to create value via IT-enabled strategic engineering.

This is a pilot endeavor supported by P&G, MSC Software and HP. More on this later. Students are enrolled at Georgia Tech in ME6102 Designing Open Engineering Systems and at Washington State University in ME575 Geometric Modeling. More on this later.

The question for the semester for ME6102 is
“Imagine that you are operating a product creation enterprise in the era of Globalization 3.0 where individuals are empowered to participate in the global value network. Your brief is to identify the characteristics of the IT infrastructure to support technical collaboration that furthers open innovation.”

The question for the semester for ME575 is
ME575: Washington State University: “Imagine that you are operating a product creation enterprise in the era of Globalization 3.0 where individuals are empowered to participate in the global value network. How should geometric modeling be carried out in a mass collaborative product realization environment?” ... "

Procter Approach to Global Product Management

A CG article on the topic with good detail. Includes a link to the Web seminar recording.

" ... P&G recently established a Corporate Standards System (CSS) to streamline its PLM operations into one global work process ... Specs are approved three times faster than before, giving innovators more time to spend on innovating; 95 percent of the specs are right the first time, saving time wasted on re-work; plant/administrative resources save data re-entry efforts; regulatory compliance is reached with less effort; suppliers and contract manufacturers are on the same page, resulting in quality incident reduction; and supply chain transparency results in direct material savings.... ".

Washing Machine Twits When Done

Home washing machines were major parts of our future homes. So when I saw this achievement I had to chuckle. Includes video. The communications idea is not new, but it is new regarding the use of Twitter. So not much new here. In the past we saw this implemented with email or messaging. It is likely the latter would be most directly useful unless I will have many folks following my machine. Still it did prompt me to think about this idea of home appliances communicating again.

Scan IT! at Stop & Shop

In aisle scanning continues, competing with automated checkouts. The claim is that 40% of people now use some form of automated checkouts. Here is another update from Stop & Shop where they continue to test hand scanners. I participated in some of the innovation center design analysis of this system when it was developed by Symbol. We asked many consumers about their reaction to the service and many liked it, though they had concerns about dealing with another 'system they had to learn. Motorola acquired Symbol and Modiv Media now makes the software.

The article makes the point that the idea may attract customers through convenience, but it is ultimately a labor eliminating play for the retailer.

It seems that there is less activity with shopping cart attached displays, which in some cases also include scanners. Another concept we tested. Most notable is Mediacart which saw much press in 08 in conjunction with a partnering with Microsoft. In January 08 I saw that they were linking with a small chain called Wakefern for a test. A quick search shows nothing new about them since last January.

A more passive related idea that does not scan, is the cart-handle based Modcart from Modstream.

Update: More on this, includes a photo of the engagement display for the scanners.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Business Intelligence Blog

Newly discovered: Business Intelligence Blog, by Doug Lautzenheiser. Well done.

Buyology Presentation in Cincinnati

If you are in the Cincinnati area join us. I will be there.

We are delighted to invite you to attend an exclusive presentation by Martin Lindstrom on his bestselling book, Buyology – Truth and Lies about Why People Buy, and Gary Singer, CEO of Buyology Inc., on real world neuromarketing research case studies for advertising, concept/product development, packaging and media optimization. We look forward to a lively dialogue about the implications for consumer insight, design, innovation and brand strategy.

When: 9:30-11:30 a.m., January 14
Where: Brandimage - Desgrippes & Laga, 644 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati, Garden Level
RSVP: jbutton@brand-image.com
Parking: Available on street and under building
For more info: Contact Julie Anixter at janixter@brand-image.com

BRANDIMAGE, Desgrippes & Laga has a unique strategic alliance with global brand futurist and author Martin Lindstrom, and with Buyology Inc., that will benefit our clients ...

Insights into why people buy from Buyology, the book
Buyology: Truth and Lies about Why People Buy by Martin Lindstrom, answers one of the most provocative questions of our time: Why do people buy what they buy? The book is already well on its way to being the definitive thought leadership on how neuroscience will impact business as the science and research technologies evolve. How can we more effectively understand and honor customers' unmet needs and preferences, and create products and brands that will satisfy those preferences and influence purchase? What does this mean for our current economic climate? ...

Mind Reading and Marketing on 60 Minutes

From the Neuromarketing blog, I see that there was a piece on brain scanning and its applications on 60 Minutes. Includes a link to the program itself. More about the lie detection angle than neuromarketing. The level of bias and superficiality to be expected from 60 M.

Book Scanning Continues

Good article in the NYTimes on Google book search. The value of building a complete digital library. A settlement in October with authors and publishers has cleared the way for continuation of the project. Press release. Microsoft has left the large scale book scanning business, leaving Google as the lone participant. The article makes the case that the goal is to provide full access to books and periodicals that have been long inaccessible to the average person. A powerful idea. The system has sold relatively few books that are still in print today. The economic model is on page advertising. More.

Update: See also their magazine scanning effort.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Neuroscience of the Self

In Edge, an interesting essay:
Self Awareness: The Last Frontier By neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran. This is about how any thinking system ultimately considers its self and environment.

Discussion of the participation of so-called mirror neurons which " ... also fire when you merely watch another person perform a similar act. It's as if the neuron (more strictly the network of which the neuron is part) was using the visual input to do a sort of "virtual reality simulation" of the other persons actions—allowing you to empathize with her and view the world from her point of view ... ".

Could these neurons, or systems of them, be what model our self? Or ultimately robotic systems may model themselves? Must AI include a model of self? A number of examples of human behavior are covered as models of self awareness. Neuroscience technical.

Logic Programming

I was just connected to a UK company called Logic Programming Associates Ltd. Which has a number of products including WIN-Prolog and VisiRule. The latter has a visual interface which allows you to construct interfaces for decision tree problems.

Reminds me of work we did in the late 80s, developing a system we called Decision 1-2-3, constructed with Teknowledge's M1 system. (M1 no longer exists) It was designed so that any clever employee could build their own expert systems based on their own or an experts knowledge. A user could construct a decision tree, or use a list of cases to generate a tree. Dozens of applications were built with the system, though it never became as widely used as we hoped. Ultimately the AI hype receded and our AI team disbanded.

These kinds of expertise problems still exist and this package is worth looking at to solve decision tree style problems. I know because as an internal consultant they frequently came up. I am investigating some possible applications now. I would appreciate any comments on applying LPA.

TouchGraph Revisited

I looked at TouchGraph some time ago. Has a demo of visualizing searches and determining the connections between search results. Many new features in this new version. When you search on a URL or some text you will get a connected graph that you can then drag around, select items to expand or edit and explore connections.

I remember using an earlier version to do some competitive intelligence. Although most of the connections were obvious I did find some links that were surprising. My experience with these kinds of visualizations is that they don't provide a way that you may want the structure of the data arranged, but the new look can lead to things you may have not known. Well worth a look.

Above is a visualization of the term 'neuromarketing'. In the application each of the nodes can then be clicked on to expand the space. Areas of no interest can be pruned away.

TouchGraph also has other data visualization products and services I have not yet explored .... but will.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Affluent E-Commerce Sales

From Evan Schuman, an analysis of E-Commerce sales by the affluent this holiday season.

Math on the Web

I was just reminded of Wolfram's MathWorld ... The Web's most extensive math resource ... " . Consider for example their coverage of the Pythagorean Theorem, and the famous misstatement of it by the scarecrow in the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie: "The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side." (wrong)

It is notable that this is also covered by the Wikipedia article on the PT, with some additional examples of the PT as a cultural meme.

In general I have found the WP accurate for general overviews of math topics, though the way each topic is covered varies considerably. In some cases it assumes much, in some cases not. One of the early uses I found for the Web was using resources that SAS provided in the form of short, easy to digest, executive friendly descriptions of statistical topics. I used the availability of these resources as an argument for bringing Web access in house in the mid 90s. For a while, Web access had required VP approval.

Exploration inspired by Matthew Hurst in Data Mining.

Vinyl Record Sales Double

Sometimes technologies that seem to have gone away can come back.

Project Information Literacy

Via Eileen Clegg of Visual Insight:

" ... a new study by Alison J. Head about how undergraduates conduct research in the digital age.

Alison is PI of Project Information Literacy, based at University of Washington's Information School. She has been documenting discussion groups on seven different campuses this fall, from Harvard to West Valley Community College in Saratoga.

Here’s a brief video overview. Alison also may be known to many of you as one of the subjects of our IFTF “Innovation System” report in 2000 -- she launched the first NYT Co. newspaper web portal. She also is an Engelbart scholar who was one of the advisors to us on the book with Doug ... "