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August 2003 Archives

August 21, 2003

All Vacations End

There is a nice quote from somewhere that says... "the future can no longer be taken for granted..... it just needs to be rescued."

I saw different views on my vacation over the last 3+ weeks through England and France. Plenty of observations too around internet connectivity or the lack of it.  Generally connections were just simply too hard... from French phone plugs to cottages without land lines. At first I was frustrated.  By the time I found a free Internet connection near Alnwick in a pub courtesy of the Newcastle city council I'd put all e-mail on the back burner and just enjoyed it.  Yes it was a good time and I didn't blog at all. Next time I'm not lugging my laptop at all.

Now I must get back to work.  Despite everything the future has never been brighter.  I might just be able to rescue some reflective thoughts later.  Right now I hope this post simply fixes the fact that my index page looks blank.  Look forward to picking up the conversations again.  My newsreader is going to be busy! 

August 22, 2003

Augmenting Search and Scenarios

A belated post from WFS.  John Petersen is a highly respected futurist. He runs The Arlington Institute and I'm sure many of you know about the value of his bi-weekly newsletter.

John presented LISA: A breakthrough Technology for Anticipating the Future. The LISA tool provide an "information and knowledge engine" that can globally track emerging ideas around any selected topic from thousands of sources. For fellow bloggers... This is about augmenting search capabilities.  It is worth a broader dialogue and you may have to click the links below to get a feel for what's being done. Plus, if you think the collective noosphere and smarts of bloggers will beat the government then we better learn from this!

John is in the business of trying to think about big global futures. He too uses Scenarios. This however is more than a scenario it is being put into practice with millions (i'd guess) spent already. 

This tool is being created for the Singapore Government. They are hoping it will prevent being caught out by SARS like surprises in the future. That's probably just the public side of what's envisaged. It's a systematic tool. (I'm hoping I can capture it here in words.) John is reinforcing that it is being put together with off the shelf tested technologies and that is what's interesting about it.  It's an excellent synthesis or prevailing technologies. There are a few Google listings around it.  The components are listed below. 

Part of the challenge is to design a process that can find, picture, realize, foresee, model and decide (using humans - who do a great job of dealing with complexity) in easy to use interfaces. These components make up LISA's augmented search capability. 

  1. First we are looking at search that uses Convera. So match Google with Convera and you can start searching in multi-languages.  "Convera's unstructured information search across more than 200 forms of text, video, image and audio information, in more than 45 languages. Ie get a planetary view.
  2. Semantix: provides cross-lingual search capability in an off-the-shelf solution that allows users to enter a search request in one language and receive relevant result documents in several different languages
  3. Kapow Technologies has developed an intelligent platform that extracts information from HTML data sources, and converts this into more structured data forms, such as XML and relational databases,
  4. Streamlogic Inc: "Instead of archiving data and running search queries through it, we archive search queries and run data through it," Streamlogic Inc. "It's a search engine on its head." "The advantage of an inverted search engine, is that it's 6,000 times more efficient than the conventional approach. It can handle huge volumes of data that would be expensive or impossible to process using the standard method of loading data into an archive, indexing it and then retroactively querying it."
  5. DSO:  ??? Not sure what this links to. Can't remember. 

You might wonder who would want this apart from scenarist...  Even multinationals will want it.  It's the next level in power searches.  No one will launch a product anywhere without it being recorded or tested in a global context. So once one has the seach function in question up and running how do you use it?  What interface is required? What kind of interfaces will humans use? 

The examples show the latest in displays are being used. 

Starting with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory: Starlight: is a forerunner of an emerging new class of information system, one that couples advanced information modeling and management functionality with a visualization-oriented user interface. This approach makes relationships that exist among the items in the system visible, enabling exciting and powerful new forms of information access, exploitation, and control. Further, Starlight visualization tools employ a common XML-based information model capable of effectively capturing multiple types of relationships that may exist among information of disparate kinds.

Saffron? Add in for additiona concept mapping --- hard to get everything! and apply - Think Tools for developing scenarios and scenario strategies. So imagine a solution that visualizes and leverages vital quantitative input and merges it with qualitative data. Thus ideas, experience, interpretations - even 'gut feel' - become measurable and indispensable - and transparent. Part of the overall analysis.  

So a little repetitively, some of the claims I was hearing this bundling could make... (paraphasing some again...)

Looking at the visualization technology "Starlight" (very cool!) provides visualization of temporal mapping. This provides the capability to look acrosss planetary idea space... then with comparisons you can look at the evolution of ideas... do they become clusters of their own ... how do they migrate.... 

Saffron is a powerful adaptive learning agent based on a dynamic agent so they can predict complex relationships in real time. Saffron observes users online selctions and uses that information to guild future searches. Once it starts to learn basic relationships it gets smarter and smarter... XML documents to Saffron's xml processor transforms information into entities which are then put into the network. Each one with 100k links that can be tied to the network. So then you have a network of the network of all these relationships. Apparently they can do this in compressed form in a real-time manner once you have figured out broadly the kinds of things you are interested in.

For example you can then look for SARs in the last 24 hours.... By using Kapow to provide armies of robots to do the searching the robots will go as often as you want and thus there is no need to retain all the data.  Having set it up you can do it in multiple languages.  

Then extract out of the system where the key nodes are..... with a cluster you can see which are most influencial. Those are the ones that are the most interesting.... This can shift using scenarios. SCAN data, FIND patterns, PICTURE mental models, VISUALIZE, Generalize, Guide behavior adjust by bulding a three screen cockpit.  Anticipate surprises using this technology.

1 Build surprise scenarios. If you don't think about these things before hand it doesn't do any good. 

2. Identify prerequisite events. There have always been recursor indicators we just don't know we should be looking or where.

3. Monitor the recursor indicators proposing to make scenarios a real discipline. Take it down one level... build a scenario database... events bounce off the past; bounce it against the future see the scenarios it is related to then bouce it against the present ..... So surround the event ... with everything you know.

For me... this made being at the WFS session worthwhile. 


August 25, 2003

Wi-Fi Hospitality

Headline reads "WI-FI Hits the Spot" again quoting Gartner Dataquest who estimates there will be 22.6 million users logging on to 53,300 spots in the US by 2008.  Then IDC says 28 million will be using Wi-Fi by the end of 2003.  Hard to understand how these firms survive.  Who buys these perspectives? Consumer or business numbers? Is that really something like 20 people per spot / hour? Is that current maths? What about all those homes installing Wi-Fi?

At least the Chronicle article picks up on small business owners who are giving it away - free (please buy another coffee).  It's the way forward.  Rule of thumb number.  $50/mth DSL line plus the modem plus the Wi-Fi Router and installation.  Less than $1000 all up per annum.  Number of coffees at $2.50 40%GP (it's much better almost double -- than this!!!) = 1000 coffees extra.... that equals..... about 4 per day or maybe one every two hours.  I'm willing to bet that Wi-Fi coffee lounges get more people hanging around pretty quickly on a daily basis --- this hospitality will pay out. 

So lets think laterally and exponentially rather than the straight-line straight-jacket forecasting that appears to be going on in the article.  What's happening in the Palm PDA market?  What's happening in homes everywhere?  What are kids doing?

Well last Christmas PDA's were becoming a gift item for Soccer Mums --- the $99 Palm.  (Was that really just last Christmas?) More recently PDA's are morphing with phones and ..... some are adding Wi-Fi.  My head is still rules my heart --- the HP 5455 still looks real nice and remains expensive.  Still Wi-FI cards are becoming cheap.  If you are a student.... on an enabled campus... could this replace your cellphone?  Could a $300 Wi-Fi PDA be the next gift instead of moving your student from desktop to laptop? Yes laptops are gettting cheaper and PDA's are cheaper still. PDA's have one over phones when connected to IM.

On the flips side I'm visiting friends and colleagues recently and Wi-Fi at their houses is no problem.  One buddy pulled out his new Palm last week and just connected to AIM and an IRC chat off the PDA all with a gadget the size of a billfold. For those with Broadband already... little more than $30 will provide a connection for your guests. Run a B&B?  Get Wi-Fi. Etc.  Etc.

When students or Soccer Mums want to network then the always on IM buddylist connection is unbeatable.  It may result in a message "can u talk now?" (and thus may go VOIP or to the phone) the fact is accelerating Wi-Fi and IM adoption may go hand in hand.  Campuses are converting now. Schools will go Wi-Fi or the neighbors near schools may just provide it; Safeway supermarkets too.  With Wi-Fi PDAs loyalty programs will finally begin to make sense.  Shopping lists, and promos all in one. Yes I know it is not tomorrow.... Still these early indicators may point in new and unforeseen directions. 

So here's the start of a scenario has to impact on the numbers above.  Let's call it "Wi-Fi Hospitality".  If you have broadband... it's simply impolite not to provide Wi-Fi in your home or business.  If you keep me waiting in a waiting room at the doctors office.... let me at least have my link.  As for Starbucks --- pity their deal with T-Mobile.  Nothing like a hospitality brand that is no longer a good host! I want and expect free access.

There was once a time when visiting where we asked politely to use someones phone. Now the script is written --- please excuse me a minute... I must go and make a call (cellphone).  There is no returning  our guests to the "polite" ---- do you have Wi-Fi?  Do you mind? It may be as offputting as asking --- "Can I use your computer?" --- there is a level of privacy and lack of indepence involved in that request. 

So to be THE HOSPITABLE HOST hook up Wi-Fi so the next time a friend enters your house and their PDA smiles... WiFi inside you get to hear the "Cool Dude - I'm connected! Thanks!" You may just expand your network and in the short term impress your friends! 

All in all this has very little to do with linking Wi-Fi and blogging.  I just feel that how we connect affects how we blog. 

To close. If you are an enterprise using the Gartner / IDC numbers for planning I'd think carefully about what they are telling you.  Make sure you ask the the question; "How could we be wrong?"  

August 29, 2003

Rest in Peace

Today after 4.75 years my trusty IBM 600E retires to other pastures and users. I'm not sure how you write an eulogy for a PC, other than to blog that this one served me well.  

It's also a way to celebrate the pleasure of replacement for the new one is still black, looks the same and no-one will ever notice. For me the biggest benefit of all is starting with a clean slate! Like finding a new office... currently there is nothing loaded. 

IBM 600e

From day one I enjoyed the 600E's portability, great screen and almost perfect reliablity.  With once exception it never failed me.  (I had to replace the screen which died at 37 months one month beyond the guarantee (purchased a replacement screen on eBay for $100 and one week later it was going again).  It's gone from Win 98 to XP and Wi-Fi cards.  It memory is maxed out... and hard drive full.  It has had its day. 

From my perspective this is a great brand story.  Yes I've always felt good enough carrying it around.  Like an old Mercedes... Hard to tell which year and model you may be driving.  Even as others got faster notebooks mine keep on going.  Products like these deserve some timeless respect. 

Then I bet there is that feature it has that some hate and other love.  The little trackpoint in the middle of the keyboard.  Yep it's on a few other laptops.  Other than...general performance it was the item that was most important in choosing a replacement.

No surprise - I bought another IBM.  T40 this time, on the outside... hard to tell, on the inside... well there's a lot more inside. The only feature I wanted but couldn't get was a DVD R burner on it.  Available on a Sony.  Still not sure Sony really provides appropriate next day sales and support service.  Oh yes I looked at Dell --- but who wants to drive a Chevy. 

So I'm pleased... I know my T40 will ride better, drive, cruise and surf faster and actually run when the lights go out.  Still it is disappointing to realize that little real progress has been made in five years.  IBM, Intel, and Microsoft may disagree, yet I can think of nothing that I will be able to do with it... that will radically improve the way I work, communicate and have fun.  No wonder this market is full of commodity product.  Time manufacturers did some real innovative research. Nice if we could get some elegant design too!

About August 2003

This page contains all entries posted to Unbound Spiral in August 2003. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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