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New Yahoo CEO

New Yahoo CEO

Innovative and thought provoking! A renewed focus on Product (vs bringing in a media/ad specialist). Yahoo had two great options to chose from for the leadership role….very interesting to watch this unfold.

Sean Gourley on the mathmatics of war

Interesting TED clip on modeling war and insurgency.  Using a sample distribution and public data, his team statistically identified a signal pattern from Number of Attacks x Number Killed. A mathematical distribution with  alpha = organizational structure.

They found this change in state in conflicts around the world as a constant: in Peru, Iraq, Afganhistan, Indonesia, etc.

Quite fascinating to think the Army can either dilute the opposition into fragments or drive the opposition together so they can sit them down at a table for negotiations? Hmmm?

Uncontacted tribe in South America

It always fascinates me when I read about a tribe or group of people who haven’t come into contact with the civilized world. Reuters ran a story this morning on a tribe in South America, located on the border between Brazil and Peru, who were poised to shoot their arrows as the plane flew overhead. The plane snapped a few pictures of their huts. Incredible!

With the demands of logging and the deforestation taking place in this region, one has to guess there will be few of these tribes left in the coming years as the populations and requirements for natural resources carve up what remains of the Amazonian basis and all that inhabit this area.

Survival International suggests there are approximately 100 remaining tribes worldwide that haven’t been contacted by present day society.

Connections in the dark – semantic web, Google and MRIs

I was reading an article by Ars Technica this morning titled “The Semantic web gets a boost from functional MRIs” which continued to elucidate my thinking on the buzz with semantic web, search in general, and the increasing requirement for more relevant discovery based on intent.

No new ground here…but always intriguing for moi as I lucubrate on the subject (he says with a grin), pontificate on the next frontier in this space and ultimately build upon my understanding of how search applies to the consumer markets (media, entertainment, etc).

The article discusses the neural networks using an MRI scan (based on work as mentioned in Science) and a test to determine if there is connectivity, relationship, symbolic “language” and association with specific words (verbs and nouns). The goal was to build a map based on these associations. “These findings tell us that researchers looking for statistical associations between nouns and verbs are probably on the right path to generating contextual meaning for those nouns—even when they are used out of context.”
woman\'s brain

In parallel, I was perusing the official Google blog and read the post by Udi Manber on Google’s search quality. Udi discusses their efforts to improve relevance, results quality, etc. He mentioned their focus on international. “International search has been one of our key focus areas in the past two years. This means all spoken languages, not just the major ones. Last year, for example, we made major improvements in Azerbaijani, a language spoken by about 8 million people. In the past few months, we launched spell checking in Estonian, Catalan, Serbian, Serbo-Croatian, Ukranian, Bosnian, Latvian, Filipino Tagalog, Slovenian and Farsi.”

What happens when you take the neural 25-dimension model as discussed in the Ars article above and overlay it with multi dimension models from google based on how different languages, more specifically, different cultures, search in their native tongues? How does this impact the semantic web? Do different cultures have different associative qualities with their nouns and verbs? Presumably yes…but does this matter, and if so, how does it improve search quality? I would enjoy being a fly on the wall at Google to hear how this data informs their algorithm discussions as they continue to improve the search based on language based results and associated behavior.

As the Ars article stated, “a culture generally has an agreed-upon meaning for a word, it is hard to break that meaning up into symbols that a computer can understand. One way to go about tackling this problem determine what symbols our brain uses to convey that meaning. While we’re still a ways off from decoding the internal symbolic “language” of the mind, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) indicates that meaning seems to be associative.”

How does this play out if we can watch the brain through an MRI as well as watch “behavior” through searches in native tongue?

What other learnings are being teased out in this intersection of physiology and computer science?


Music Video – “Teardrop” by Newton Faulkner

Newton Faulkner Video

While not as solid a performance as Massive Attack‘s 1998 version, this cover by Newton Faulkner is quite amazing. The thumping on the side of the guitar by Newton has a nice hollow echo sound, supporting the acoustics. I highly recommend the album, Hand Built by Robots, where this song appeared.

This song is probably a bit over-played (House’s finale, an episode of Prison Break and Cold Case, and of course the soundtrack in the TV ad for the video game title “Assassins Creed“).

Open Handset Alliance + Android may = my phone platform and offering is no longer boring!

I have been reading about the open handset alliance and collaborative work by 30+ companies using open standards for a new operating system for mobile phones. It caught my attention as I join the chorus and require a company or some entity to spark innovation and accelerate new apps for the phone decks. It’s almost here?

From a “Wireless Week” article, “today’s smartphones run on several different operating systems, most of which are based on proprietary technology even though they may be open to a certain extent to developers. On the opposite side of Android’s world has been Apple’s iPhone, which was completely closed until its recent introduction of a software developer’s kit (SDK).”

I cant believe its 2008 and as consumers, we are still relying on the carriers and their “slow to market” approach with developing new consumer friendly products. I completely understand and appreciate the tradeoffs with opening up a mobile platform. The economics become quite unfavorable to the carriers, not to mention the seemingly insurmountable risks of viruses and other “bad actors” with users ability to build new apps for a former “walled garden”. Not trivial but as we have seen from the past few years with the web, open standards and access for developers to build great products are required for truly great leaps in product. Carriers actually can become less indentured to OEM manufactures and may actually be able to innovate with Android? According to MediaPost’s SearchInsider, “80% of all U.S. mobile Web activity takes place on-deck (inside the carriers’ walled garden of content) whereas internationally 80% of activity occurs off-deck.”

It seems for the mobile platform to take off (video, community, location based apps, etc), we cant rely solely on developments from the carriers, but instead need to also harness some of the mojo from the likes of Facebook/Google/MySpace where users are interacting and building interesting new products. Combine that with some of the mojo from startups like Slide to build fun and zany new products for the mobile screen and the mojo from opening up platforms and allowing creative juices to flow (think of all that longitude/latitude data that is now available)!

The alliance for the open handset includes companies from the mobile operator industry (KDDISprint, T-mobile, etc), companies from the semi-conductor industry (Broadcom, Nvidia, Marvel, etc), handset manufactures which include the likes of (Samsung, LG, Motorola, etc) and from various software companies including (eBay, LiveWire, Google, SkyPop, etc).

Their efforts are to build out Android, a unified set of code built on an open platform (a la Linux Kernal). “Android™ will deliver a complete set of software for mobile devices: an operating system, middleware and key mobile applications. An early look at the Android Software Development Kit (SDK), is available.”

With Google promoting a $10m Android challenge (for new product dev) it is exciting to think about the possibilities. Combine this with T Mobile’s launch of the 3G network starting in NYC….things are about to get crazy! I wonder if there will be collaboration to buy spectrum and create a whole new network?

Finally, we all know what will really drive innovation and new product dev is the dollar. According to Juniper Research, “despite the incredible growth forecasted for mobile ad revenue — over $1 billion in 2008 and $7.6 billion in 2013 — it’s still a drop in the $500 billion global ad bucket.” But, its a chicken and the egg. Make the platform compelling and dollars will come.

Music video – Death Cab for Cutie

Song was recommended to my by a former colleague. The images in the video are particularly of interest as they were shot in Vietnam and Cambodia, amongst other places I have visited in the past few years.

The song’s first 4-5 minutes are made up primarily by bass, drum and piano compilations. The singing at the end almost seem superfluous.

Mobile platform(s) and Android

Just came across this video with Sergey Brin and Steve Horowitz describing the Android mobile platform. I joined the AndroidDevelopers group on Youtube to hear more about what this entails.

From the video, they provided a glimpse of the Android stack, 3G speeds, open GLS API, ability to work with 2D an 3D images, amongst other things. The video also highlights the maps application built into the platform as well as street views for “on the ground” seekers who are curious about an up close and personal review of a place/monument/building, etc.

Sergey finished up with the announcement of a $10m prize for the best app on Android.

Question: does he fear that people will build mostly inane apps such as SkinFlix or Superpoke a la Facebook? Does he care? Or, is he trying to grease the wheels and make this the predominate developers platform and induce innovation before another mobile offering hits and developers need to chose where to spend their time building apps? Follow up question – isnt this all predicated on mobile devices being enabled for app upload?

Visualization and tools for the web

One of my favorite topics when discussing product development and the web is “visualization”. The ability to incorporate a visual element with new product offerings is paramount to its success IMHO. A visual element that increases the product’s functionality and/or enables the user to search/find/interact at deeper levels is a key success metric for me.

Having worked in the online financial news publishing space for some time, visualization of data (structured and unstructured) was of great interest to me. Creating the next version of stock charts and portfolio tools was a notable challenge.

Google Finance made some headway with their charting app and Nasdaq’s intra day charting product based on Adobe AIR shows great promise. AOL’s Money channel and beta version of their portfolio tool (via their purchase of Relegence) also could be a game changer and will hopefully elevate the static nature of the commoditized portfolio and charting apps in the marketplace today.

While reviewing innovative and smart design sites, I came across the site VisualComplexity and was intrigued with the social graphs and software that created visual representations of relationships, whether they be Facebook or MySpace profiles or the Japanese blogosphere (for example). Fascinating use of the design elements while incorporating large data sets and providing a visual cue in which to review relationships and dependencies.

Side note: I just downloaded Screengrab, a Firefox “add on” so I could place a picture or two for this entry. No luck with that specific option!

New Google Reader (beta) for the IPhone

Just added the new beta Google Reader to my IPhone deck.  I added the MSN mobile offering to my IPhone deck last week and was not blown away. The Google Reader icon is “cool” and the product loaded pretty fast, vs other browers that seem to stall out or take a year and a day to load.  Maybe this is the edge network and/or AT&T related dependencies and issues vs the web browser experience?

Will play around with Google’s new reader and see if increases my news consumption. I often find with Reader online that I rarely click on the headlines and actually don’t consume all that much news via this format due to headline overload. Not sure why the usage is different than MyYahoo that I religiously use online and customize and mouse over for expanded views.

Here is the link to the beta if of interest.