New Intellectuals: Technology and Its Augean Stables

November 29, 2011

In order to do some work today, I have to run a search. The desktop search systems I use are from Gaviri, a system developed by my friend Dr. Emeka Akezuwa, and software from Sowsoft called Effective File Search. My hunch is that as technology awareness of search seems to expand, knowledge about specific systems like Gaviri and Effective File Search decreases. If I could figure out the “smart” software in Windows Live Writer, I would express this as an equation. But for the life of me, Windows Live Writer has a weird interface, and I just don’t have the energy to try and think like a 20- or 30-something “expert” any longer.

I thought about search and digital information when I read the quite long write up “Humanity Has Always Feared Technology. In the 21st Century, Are We Right to Be Afraid?” Right out of the gate, the headline troubled me. First, there was the categorical affirmative “always.” Okay, every time there is an innovation, “human” behaves exactly the same way—In fear. Wow. Then there was the secondary thought: Are we right to be afraid? Well, if the “always” is operative, then the author definitely wants me to cower, shake, and experience the various manifestations of fear. You will want to read the original post because it contains some narrative woven amongst quotations from experts, mavens, and satraps.

The problem is that I am not “always’ fearful. What frightens me is the type of thinking that I find in many “expert” analyses. The goal is polarization, shock, and agenda pumping.

When one considers technology, I think it is a good idea to have a point of reference. The write up does not offer the type of anchor that even a third tier university lecturer would trot out to a group of students talking in a student center over milk and cookies.

Here are three points which I noted:

First, the write up references a professor and baroness, Susan Greenfield, who is quoted as stating:

“In real life, because actions have consequences, normally there’s a pay-off. If you want to go bungie jumping, which might be very exciting, there’s an element of danger there, and risk. Alternatively, if you want to sit with your friends and play poker or bridge where there’s zero danger it might get a bit boring, but here you have the perfect world of something that’s very exciting for you but at the same time completely safe,” she says.”

Second, the six part article hurtles forward, offering references to addiction. The idea that “doing” online is similar if not congruent to taking hard drugs or gambling compulsively. Does addictive behavior result from online or is addictive behavior evident whether one has an iPad or mobile phone? My view is that addictive behavior has been around for a long time and some folks find addictive behavior satisfying. To eliminate addictive behavior, the solution seems to be to eliminate the apparent cause. So how is that working out in society? I walked through an economically challenged area of London yesterday and noted five gambling facilities, a number of establishments selling various alcoholic beverages, and I watched one drug transaction in front of a take away. Online, therefore, is likely to attract its share of reformers, but if other potential magnets for addiction are operating in a busy metropolitan area, the “intellectuals” may not make the progress desired.

Augean stables. Big job. Maybe impossible?

Addiction is one side of the coin:

Why then is there a tendency for society to view technology addiction as something negative? Part of the answer surely lies in the pejorative nature of the word ‘addiction’ – replace addiction with ‘enthusiasm’ and the emphasis is immediately very different.

Yes, humans are particularly problematic, and it is a matter of time for a new thinker to conclude that technology is neutral, the universal solvent, and all things great and beautiful. I don’t agree, but the thought is one I understand as 20 and 30 somethings try to find the knobs and dials for a Fukushima melt down world. I am not sure “addiction” captures what I see happening. Technology is a way for a person to exert apparent control over certain situations. Online shopping does the immediate gratification thing and online dating delivers a similar kick without the need to dress up and interact in a non virtual social setting. “Date” in the digital realm is in some ways less likely to generate a sharp retort, laughter and pointing, and the physical presence non digital interaction affords some.

Third, the write up mentions the digital divide. In my opinion, the focus is on the obvious digital divide. What is ignored are the people and physical locations where there is no online connectivity. The barrier may be political like some less than upscale towns in Afghanistan or financial like the unemployed, food stamp folks in Louisville, Kentucky. Either way, the always on life style is as out of reach as the vacations of Brad Pitt. Here’s the digital divide characterized in the write up:

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China: Quite a Market Despite a Softening Economy

November 29, 2011

My recollection is that Facebook and Microsoft are working to find a way to tap into the China market. Other outfits—for example, Google—tried to change China’s policies. I wonder how well that is working out. Why the interest in China. The Economist reported that the country’s ecommerce sector seems to be chugging along. I read the dead tree version of the story “The Great Leap Online”, The Economist, November 26, 2011, page 78. The authoritative sounding super capitalistic machine shop asserted:

In a new report, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) calculates that every year for the foreseeable future another 30 million Chinese will go online to shop for the first time. By 2015, they each will be spending $1,000 a year—about what Americans spend now. BCG calculates that ecommerce could rise from 3.3 percent of China’s retail sales today to 7.4 percent by 2015—a jump that took a decade in America.

You may be able to find a free digital version of the information at either www.bcg.com or www.economist.com. Finding a way to work with the political realities of China may be of more utility in the economics sense than trying to get the koala to knock off the nocturnal leaf munching. I can see a zoo keeper lecturing a koala, but the koala may be disinterested.

Stephen E Arnold, November 29, 2011

Sponsored by Pandia.com

Wolfram Alpha Takes to the Skies

November 29, 2011

You are using Wolfram Alpha, right?

Wolfram Alpha has a new feature: “Wolfram Alpha shows flights overhead,” reports Physorg.com. The answer engine will tell you what is flying over your head at any given moment. Will you use it now?

We learned from the article:

Typing ‘flights overhead’ into a Wolfram Alpha query box is rewarded with information about airplanes above, including altitudes, distances, aircraft types, and which airlines are operating them. ‘You’ll get information on aircraft that should be visible to you, assuming a clear sky and unobstructed view,’ Wolfram Alpha said Friday in a blog post at its Web site.

If you do this on your smartphone, the application taps into the phone’s GPS locator. If not, it goes by your browser’s location information. The results can be enlightening.

The Wolfram Alpha engine delivers mathematically derived answers instead of just links, and is really quite nifty. However, its rise since its launch in 2009 has been less than meteoric. However, its popularity might just be picking up, at least among Android users. Perhaps this new feature will help it soar.

Cynthia Murrell, November 29, 2011

Sponsored by Pandia.com

Protected: SharePoint Is a Sellout

November 28, 2011

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Inteltrax: Top Stories, November 21 to November 25

November 28, 2011

Inteltrax, the data fusion and business intelligence information service, captured three key stories germane to search this week, specifically, the highs and lows of recent analytics news.

On the high side, was our story “Speech Analytics Market Approaches Billions” that chronicled the success of applying unstructured big data analytic techniques to recorded speech, such as in call centers.

On the low side, we found “Mobile BI Takes a Surprising Misstep” explores how the once bustling mobile BI market recently took a hit.

And somewhere in the middle, we found “In-Memory Databases Cause a Stir” attempted to draw the line between traditionalist and futurists of analytics.

It’s a wild ride every week in the world of big data analytics. Sure things go bust, underdogs appear from nowhere and divisions are drawn. Stay tuned to see where it all leads.

Follow the Inteltrax news stream by visiting www.inteltrax.com

Patrick Roland, Editor, Inteltrax.

November 28, 2011

Information Volume Can Exceed Capacity to Cope

November 28, 2011

There has been much written about SharePoint 2010’s widespread and rapid adoption, but few people are shedding light on an organization’s ability to cope.  Ed Kelty, CIO of Rio Salado College in Arizona, talks about his college’s journey with SharePoint in “SharePoint adopted faster than any other application I’ve ever seen!”

While Kelty highlights many of the benefits gleaned from their SharePoint installation, he admits there have been struggles and weaknesses in the implementation.

“It’s not so much a weakness, but one of the issues we had with SharePoint is that we didn’t realize the level of flexibility and the power it had to develop different things … and we didn’t initially have a process in place to help govern what went where. And so our SharePoint sites, especially on our Employee Portal went crazy . . . In the last few years, we’ve been more organized about things – navigation and database storage and that sort of thing, but in the beginning, we didn’t have a clue how to best configure the system.”

There are other solutions that work independent of SharePoint, or alongside SharePoint, that might prevent the sort of out-of-control information explosion.  Fabasoft Mindbreeze is one third party solution that we like, especially for the kind of website customization that Kelty mentions above through its Fabasoft Mindbreeze InSite.

“Fabasoft Mindbreeze InSite recognizes correlations and links through semantic and dynamic search processes. This delivers pinpoint accurate and precise ‘finding experiences.’  And this with no installation, configuration or maintenance required. Fabasoft Mindbreeze InSite is the website search that your company needs.”

You can prevent not only the out-of-control growth that Kelty mentions, but also save valuable configuration time, simply by choosing an option that handles this customization for you.  Explore solutions like Fabasoft Mindbreeze to ensure that your organization has an agile answer to its information needs.

Emily Rae Aldridge, November 28, 2011

Sponsored by: Pandia.com

CouchDB Losing Ground

November 28, 2011

We understand that NoSQL, XML databases, and non relational structures are the cat’s pajamas. Oh, that was a 1920s’ reference. Sorry. We are not with it.

Has this once hot NoSQL database lost its luster? My NoSQL asks, “What Happened to CouchDB’s Popularity?

CouchDB from Apache is a document database server which subscribes to the NoSQL principle of schema-free existence. It is query-able and index-able, and is written in Erlang, a concurrency-oriented language.

Why is CouchDB’s acclaim slipping? The article asserts:

Ultimately when you enter the eco system and start digging, it is hard to figure out exactly what ‘CouchDB’ is, where to grab binaries and drivers for your platform. . . .You can figure it all out with some reading and digging, but you have to persist. It’s not like Mongo, you don’t just head to the official site, grab the official binary and install the official driver.

Ease of use  does make a big difference. The blog also suggests there is confusion in the NoSQL community over the name CouchDB  versus Couchbase, as well as CouchDB-related BigCouch and IrisCouch.

Perhaps it’s time for Apache to rearrange the furniture? And what about AtomicPR’s big radioactive plume for XM?. I will sit on the couch and think about fallout.

Cynthia Murrell, November 28, 2011

Sponsored by Pandia.com

Hitachi: Thinking Big. Maybe Too Big?

November 28, 2011

I was puzzled when I read that Fujitsu had licensed search technology from the little-known Perfect Search. I have some passing familiarity with the technology, and once one of the Perfect Search wizards bought me fried tofu. My favorite meal! You can read about the Perfect Search Fujitsu deal in “Fujitsu Launches NuVola Private Cloud Platform Solution Featuring Transformative Appliance-Based Network Software Tools and Utilities.”

However, when I spotted “Hitachi Plans to Sell Systems That Integrate Data from Cities in the Cloud,” I had a new thought. Here’s the key passage:

Hitachi, which manufactures everything from nuclear power plants to mobile phones, said it aims for revenues of US$6.5 billion in the fiscal year through March, 2016 from cloud-related business, a big jump from the US$900 million it generated last fiscal year in the business.

Big money.

We have Fujitsu making big data noises. We have Hitachi making bigger data noises. My thoughts:

  1. The Japanese conglomerates are a bit like sheep. When MITI or another Japanese government agency drops a hint, the companies move.
  2. Whether the prospects realize they need the Japanese solution, the marketers will descend and make logical arguments about the proposed remedy to to computing woes.
  3. The efforts will be what I call a “sort of” success. IBM, Google, and other “big data” next-generation solutions providers will fight back.

Will struggling US cities ship their borrowed money to the Land of the Rising Sun? Long shot. And search? Further commoditization and value degradation ahead. This will be interesting to watch as Japan’s biggest companies attempt a half gainer with a twist.

Stephen E Arnold, November 28, 2011

Sponsored Pandia.com

Turkey Argument: Which Came First iPhone or Android?

November 28, 2011

The competition between Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android apparently wasn’t laid to rest with the death of Steve Jobs. While Jobs heatedly demanded in his biography that the Android was a stolen Apple product, the search giant Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt begs to differ.

In the recent CNET article “Google’s Schmidt: Android ‘Started before the iPhone Effort”  Schmidt was quoted saying:

Steve is a fantastic human being and someone who I miss very dearly. As a general comment, I think most people would agree that Google is a great innovator and I would also point out that the Android effort started before the iPhone effort.

While the Android company was founded in 2003, several years before the launch of the first iPhone, Apple launched the iPhone in 2007 and the first Android was not released until 2008. Also, Schmidt’s service on the Apple board of directors during the iPhone’s development, gives his claim a bit less credibility.

As both company’s products continues to advance, I’m sure that the feud between Apple and Google will not end here. However, why did the turkey cross the road? To get either an iPhone or an Android device?

Jasmine Ashton, November 28, 2011

Sponsored by Pandia.com

SlideShark Seamlessly Brings PowerPoint to the iPad

November 27, 2011

If you  have struggled with moving content to the iPad, you may want to check out SlideShark. Although PowerPoint continues to lose ground to PDFs of presentation, PowerPoints are used by some search wizards. (If you want to search Google for PowerPoints, you may have noticed that there are fewer fresh files than in years past. To locate presentations, you may want to check out SlideShare or similar services.)

BrainShark, a creator of cloud based software for video presentations, has recently released a new iPad app called SlideShark.

A recent KillerStartups post “SlideShark.com – View Presentations on Your iPad” asserted:

SlideShark is an application that lets you watch PowerPoint presentations on your iPad. This app (which you can download for free) lets you do that by uploading the presentations you want to view to your BrainShark account, or to a SlideShark account. That is, you can log in using your already-existing Brainshark username and password, or sign up for a SlideShark account of its own. It’s all the same in the end, as you upload your presentations online for them to be converted into something your iPad can render more than smoothly.

Since many people use their iPad for both business and pleasure, and many businesses use PowerPoint, it seems only natural that a company would come up with an app to make the transition seamless.

The more mobile we get, we’re often times having to give up some of the activities that we have become accustomed to. SlideShark is solving at least one problem in a way that accessible and fun.

Jasmine Ashton, November 27, 2011

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