InnovationLog: A Few Articles Worth Reading

I post some of these links as Tweets. However, a blog gives you a bit more space to explain why these posts/articles are worth a read.

The first is an article from Harvard Business Review about innovations at Microsoft Research India.

Technology for Emerging Markets seeks to address the socio-economic needs and aspirations of people in emerging-market countries like India, where the majority of the population still lacks affordable access to computing technologies. TEM’s work is closely aligned with Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential Group, which I have written about in the past.

The second article comes from one of my favorite sources – Stanford Social Innovation Review. I am not sure why it appeared in my inbox today.

In developing this policy environment, the federal government needs to play a defined and limited role, without creating a new bureaucracy that runs counter to the culture of social innovation and entrepreneurship. It should remain flexible in its approach, using both policy tools that can adapt to changing circumstances and new evidence about what works.

LinkLog: Basic Research

Some good reasons for doing basic research even in hard economic times from Micorosft Research:

Many people across industry, and even some in academia, misunderstand the reasons for investing in long-term basic research.  Too often people equate basic research with its outcomes, especially the new technologies and products it creates.  They then try to manage basic research like they would product development or a business, often with disastrous consequences.

Government has a key role to play in advancing the boundaries of science and technology.  If you look back to the writings of American scientist Vannevar Bush, as he described what would eventually become the National Science Foundation and the U.S. federal research infrastructure, Bush said, “You invest in basic research and long-term research precisely because you don’t know what the future will hold. You don’t know whether there will be a war, a disease outbreak, a famine, a new competitor, or an economic dislocation of some kind.”

InfoStream: Multi-core

  1. How SonicWall Scaled Multicore Barriers How SonicWall Scaled Multicore Barriers How multicore processors can provide a big win
  2. Parallel Processing and Computer-Aided Manufacturing Parallel Processing and Computer-Aided Manufacturing Software that helps engineers in the manufacturing or prototyping of product components
  3. OpenMP Workshop Presentations Online OpenMP Workshop Presentations Online 5th International Workshop on OpenMP, IWOMP 2009, took place in Dresden (Germany) – a dynamic city with lovely surroundings – from 3rd June until 5th June 2009. The IWOMP 2009 is an annual series of international workshops dedicated to the promotion and advancement of all aspects …
  4. ARM to help make televisions smarter ARM to help make televisions smarter ARM has announced a new processor licensing deal with television manufacturer LG, which will see the company’s sets deliver a range of internet services. LG will use the British chip designer’s ARM11 MPCore multicore processor and Mali GPU family in its next-generation sets. ARM …
  5. PGI 9.0 Compilers Simplify x64+GPU ProgrammingPGI 9.0 Compilers Simplify x64+GPU Programming The Portland Group today announced the general availability of the PGI Release 9.0 line of high-performance parallelizing compilers and development tools for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows.
  6. Sun Announces Major Update to Sun Studio Compilers and Tools Software Sun Announces Major Update to Sun Studio Compilers and Tools Software Sun Microsystemshas announced that Sun(TM) Studio 12 Update 1, a major upgrade to its software compiler and tools technology, is freely available for download at http://developers.sun.com/sunstudio. Sun Studio software provides an advanced suite of tools for the Solaris(TM) 10 …

LinkLog: Seven Principles of Knowledge

From Cognitive Edge:

  • Knowledge can only be volunteered it cannot be conscripted.
  • We only know what we know when we need to know it.
  • In the context of real need few people will withhold their knowledge.
  • Everything is fragmented.
  • Tolerated failure imprints learning better than success.
  • The way we know things is not the way we report we know things.
  • We always know more than we can say, and we will always say more than we can write down.

LinkLog: Connective Intelligence

I need to thank Bill Daul for bringing this story to our attention. It is about an amazing “visual meditation” about Iran Election. This beautiful article interleaves the science of social networks and the power of visualization with a very human story.

At this very moment, millions are uniting with their brothers and sisters in the streets of Iran. From thousands of miles away, the Internet brings information immediately between continents and countries as if from the same local community, unencumbered by spatial constraints and political borders.

Taking us on a gripping journey Bonnie DeVarco explores the evolution of  “Small World Network” and “Six Degrees of Connective Intelligence”

  1. Human stories become real time conversations documented on the social web
  2. that link humans into complex conversational and activist networks
  3. that leave information trails and data tracks we can turn into maps, artworks and visualizations
  4. that we can draw from to synthesize new information
  5. to tell ourselves richer, more comprehensive narratives and stories
  6. to gain and share a higher level of collective wisdom

Twitter Usage Patterns: A Different one from Iran

Trying to keep up with #iranelection on Twitter, is like trying to drink from a firehose. Twitter,  Facebook, twitpics, flickr and youtube have become the new citizen media to get information from a region that is not easily accessible to the main stream media.

Notice  the way Twitter is used to share knowledge on  how to handle various situations. Here are just a few sample snippets.

  • … show a newspaper from today in films & pictures to verify the date VERY IMPORTANT FOR CNN etc.
  • Break all the Security cameras in streets as police are using those to monitor movements
  • Those who know how to survive without electricity, food, meds, etc.. Pls. Tweet anything you know with #Survival
  • Remove house numbers and street signs so Basij cant find people they’re looking for. Worked in Czech
    run wire across streets to knock basij off motorcycles

Each one of these tell you lot more than what the basic message itself conveys. One of the most re-tweeted entries was the invitation to take the wounded to European embassies for treatment.

Twitter is a simple tool. The true genius of Twitter is the way people figure out how to use it.

People in Iran are not only turning a new page in their nations chapter, but also inventing new applications of one of the most fascinating internet technologies.

Internet of Things

About 3 or 4 years ago, I cam across an Intel presentation on the web,  which predicted the spread of internet of things. Today,  I came across a fascinating  document that describes an European Initiative for Internet of Things.

One major next step in this development is to progressively evolve from a network of interconnected computers to a network of interconnected objects, from books to cars, from electrical appliances to food, and thus create an ‘Internet of things’ (IoT). These objects will sometimes have their own Internet Protocol addresses, be embedded in complex systems and use sensors to obtain information from their environment (e.g. food products that record the temperature along the supply chain) and/or use actuators to interact with it (e.g. air conditioning valves that react to the presence of people).

The scope of IoT applications is expected to greatly contribute to addressing today’s societal challenges: health monitoring systems will help meet the challenges of an ageing society connected trees will help fight deforestation; connected cars will help reduce traffic congestion and improve their recyclability, thus reducing their carbon footprint. This interconnection of physical objects is expected to amplify the profound effects that large-scale networked communications are having on our society, gradually resulting in a genuine paradigm shift.

Nice to see technology evolving to meet societal challenges. This is an exciting time to be in technology.

Oh Mighty Search Engines, Please Let Me Tell You What I Want

I have been watching Bing, Wolfram Alpha and Google’s Snippets. All of these (and some others) advance search and provide lots of cool features. Their job is challenging since they are trying to guess what I want when I just type one keyword or phrase or a search expression.

What do I want from a search? It varies. Some times I want to find a website. Some times I want to find an address or document. There are times I want a person or discussion or a “how to”.

I am wondering why search engines don’t ask you what you want to find and make their job simpler?  Instead of assuming what you want, why not take that additional input from the user?

To be fair, they all do it to an extent. Google has keywords like filetype to specify the type of document you are trying to retrieve. Bing lists some of the categories as a set of options in the search result. Wolfram Alpha amazes me some times but I am never sure what I am going to get back.

Here is my suggestion. Why not let the user specify a keyword/value pair as part of search? For example

cisco type:address

will give me address of Cisco the company. Type can be abbreviated to # (since hashtags are becoming popular) if needed.

cisco #adress (could have synonyms like location etc.)

Or even extend this to retrieving multiple properties

cisco #address #stockinfo

The default will be #all

cisco

which defaults to the current mode of dumping all the stuff at you.

A feature like this would reduce the clutter (too many results), increase relevancy. There will be many challenges like coming up with a finite set of hashtags or hashtag synonyms.  If the search engine does not recognize a hashtag, let it default to #all and do what it is doing now. The search engine can learn from such input  about what people want.

I am little tired of getting lots of useless information from the search engine and wading through it all to find the one little nugget of information I really need. I don’t need a million results or decision engine or computational knowledge engine.  So, Might Search Engines, please let me tell you what I want. I may be stupid and this feature may already exist. In that case, you reader can educate me a bit. I know there are a few of others like me.

SLA2009: The Expected and the UnExpected

When I attend a conference, I look forward to three things:

  1. To learn from peers and experts
  2. To network with people who share similar interests
  3. To meet new people, hear about new products and have some pleasant surprises

I just came back from SLA2009 in Washinton DC and here are some pleasant surprises:

  1. The keynote. I have heard a lot of great key notes. When I heard Colin Powell was delivering the keynote, I was not sure what to expect. This one was such a fantastic experience and I cover it a bit here.
  2. The amazingly interactive breakfast session on the future of KM. People discussed what worked, what did not, challenges in bringing KM into an enterprise.
  3. Conversations in the exhibit hall are some of the most informal learning experiences in any conference. I met some really cool and helpful people and had some great conversations.
  4. One of the biggest surprises was a little unnoticed unconference track running in parallel. I really enjoyed participating and interacting with a small group of very open minded forward thinkers.
  5. Lunch time conversations were another big bonus. I was lucky to bump into a software developer from New York Times at my lunch table. NYT does some cool work on data visualization. So we both spent some time talking tech.

Even though I attended only a part of the conference, it exceeded my expectations. I was glad to be part of this historical event (Centennial celebration of SLA).

To Conference or Unconference?

In our first unconference session at  SLA2009, we talked about a lot of things. But most of the discussion centered around conferences vs unconferences. Meg Smith did a wonderful job of moderating it. She took lots of notes and promised to put them up on the SLA Wiki.

So what is an unconference?  The Wikipedia Unconference page describes it in detail.  Here is another link – OpenSpace and TLTF.

For me, an unconference is simply a very interactive gathering with a larger theme but no detailed agenda. The agenda is collaboratively assembled in a wiki or made up during the conference. It is a collaborative process and blurs the lines between the speakers and audience.

While there may be a few presenters to bootstrap the event, any one can present. You can simply announce your topic, give a one minute pitch and get audience to your little gathering. The first one I did was on “Improving Search” and to my surprise there were three people from Google there.

Unconferences are dynamic, interactive, engaging and fun. There are three reasons I normally go to a conference. To learn, to interact with my peers and network. You can get all these in an unconference.

I see an increasing trend towards incorporating unconferences as part of regular conferences. Here are some options:

  1. Have a parallel unconference track along with the main conference. The advantage of this method is that people who are bored with their sessions or curious about unconferences will walk in. If they find these sessions useful, they will come back and also spread the word.
  2. Devote a whole session (all tracks)  for unconference. This will increae awareness and if people like it, this can be made a regular feature.
  3. Run the whole conference in an unconference style. This is what is done with mashupcamp, several foocamps, barcamps and devcamps. It is so prevalent, pbwiki even has a community for organizing such an event.

I never miss a chance to participate in an unconference in my area of interest. I encourage you to try it out.

Thanks to Meg and Kendra for taking the initiative and starting a few sessions during SLA2009. I hope they will spread. In the one I attended yesterday there were several great ideas, questions and discussions. Looking forward to seeing them on the wiki.

If you are conference organizer of any sort, please make an attempt to experiment with an unconference style event.  You will be amazed at the results.

Here are some links to the various unconference events I blogged about.