In the Future Marketing May Be Responsible for IT

September 30, 2012

The general consensus is that IT jobs are booming and it is a profitable field to specialize in, but according to ZDNet in the article, “Research: The Devalued Future of IT in a Marketing World.”  You really need to see the data visuals to understand what the article is discussing, but basically the models show a startling decrease in IT budgets circa 2009 but the growth has picked up in recent years.  IT departments have been strapped, using more with less and are seen as a tool to increase productivity and efficiency.  They are no longer the  default go to place for new ideas and innovation in businesses.

Marketing appears to be where the money is headed and they want to create their own technology achievements, but there are always ways to counter these starting trends.  If you are a CIO, you can take measures to ensure your IT department has a good working relationship with marketing.  The article offers some tips to establish a relationship with the marketing department.
Most of the tips are general knowledge, but this one makes the most sense:

“Execute with excellence: deliver your projects on time and within budget. When IT fails to deliver the basics, it loses credibility and undermines attempts to raise the bar in other areas. Make sure that IT supplies basic infrastructure, security, and reliability without a lot of fanfare. At the most basic level, IT should disappear because things just work.”

But IT should not disappear within the company.  It needs to establish itself as a valuable commodity. If your company is searching for extra profit, initiate a big data plan.  Try handing that over to marketing.

Whitney Grace, September 30, 2012

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Sparse Data Gathering Abundant Attention

September 30, 2012

Sparse data has been gaining some attention lately, according to the article titled, “It’s Called ‘Sparse Data,’ and It Could Be a Big Deal” on Government Computer News. Sparse data is information that comes from sensors or other non-IT devices, such as temperature or how often something is used. Although this may not seem very important in the grand scheme of things, experts are taking another look at the usefulness and potential impact of sparse data. It could make an organization more efficient, according to Jerry Gentry, the vice president of IT program management at Nemertes Research.

We learn about his vision for the future of sparse data in the article:

“Government agencies, like other operations, could use this kind of data to more efficiently manage buildings, but compiling sparse data is already being used in other ways, such as monitoring traffic on bridges and roadways, or in a variety of weather monitors or tsunami prediction systems. Sensors are increasingly being deployed by agencies, which means sparse data likely will become a term you’ll hear more often.”

Although the term isn’t as big yet as, well, Big Data, it still warrants some attention. The potential to stream this data into manageable, useful information is there. Experts need to plan how to adequately harness this sparse data before it becomes unmanageable.

Andrea Hayden, September 30, 2012

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

The Metaprocess Puzzle

September 29, 2012

BeyeNetwork suggests one reason metadata is not implemented comprehensively or well: “Lack of Metaprocess Information Impedes Ability to Collect Metadata.” Writer and database management expert Bill Inmon pins the lack of enterprise-wide metadata primarily on a lack of metaprocess information. Metaprocess covers high-level descriptive details about a process, like its name, the technology that houses it, its input and output, and algorithmic variables. It is pointless, Inmon insists, to attempt to understand a large organization’s information flow without this information.

Why is metaprocess information so hard to come by? The article explains:

“It resides in the old legacy code. In COBOL. In assembler. In AS/400 modules. In PL/1. In technology that has not seen the light of day in decades. Once there were technicians that could be hired to read and go through the old code. Today those technicians have retired or have been promoted to management positions. In another generation, it won’t even be possible to find anyone who understands these older technologies. And by that time, SQL and C++ will be the old legacy technologies of the day.”

How does one solve a metaprocess problem? What is the meta-metaprocess? Inmon doesn’t really have an answer to that. He does suggest that, since legacy code is a form of text, someone may someday find a way to coax this information from a text editor. Anyone up for the challenge?

Cynthia Murrell, September 29, 2012

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Qihoo360 Emerges as Baidu Rival

September 29, 2012

It looks like Baidu may soon lose its crown as the uncontested Chinese search engine leader. Lately, its nemesis Qihoo360 has been gaining ground with their new engine. TechNewsWorld hosts a podcast that examines the rivalry, “Combatants Getting Down and Dirty in Chinese Search Wars.” In it, ECT News reporter David Vranicar interviews Tech In Asia editor Charlie Custer. You can listen to the twenty minute recording or read the transcript at the above link.

The pair begin by recounting the Chinese search engine market, then discuss the success of Qihoo360’s search since it launched a month ago. The new tool immediately captured 10 percent of the market, while Baidu’s business dropped by about 10 percent. Custer emphasizes that the coup is most likely due to the inclusion of search functionality in Qihoo360’s browser, much like the default search in Chrome’s address bar sends us to Google.

Some users have noted a remarkable similarity to Baidu’s results, but Custer doesn’t think it is because Qihoo360 has stolen Baidu’s algorithm; it is simply that quality searches will return similar results. However, he believes he knows why people wondered. He states:

“But the reason that people are suspicious about it is that Qihoo has a reputation as just scummy. . . . And part of that is their CEO. He has a big mouth, he likes to get in fights with people in social media and the press, just talking s*** about other companies and other products.

“And Qihoo is also always getting caught doing sketchy things. A lot of people think their antivirus software is basically a virus, and that’s because [the antivirus software] blocked QQ, this big instant messenger that everybody uses but it is offered by a competing company.”

Analogies to Google’s EU problems, anyone? I suppose favoring one’s own properties is different from outright blocking a competitor, but only by so much. Will Qihoo360 continue to gain ground? We shall see.

Cynthia Murrell, September 29, 2012

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Predictive Search: Are You Ready?

September 28, 2012

We read “A New Google App gives You Local Information—Before You Ask for It.” The idea is that smart software knows where you are and what you probably will want to know. Years ago I heard Scott McNealy, the former Sun Microsystems CEO, describe a system in an automobile which would display the location of filling stations and highlight the gas pump with the best price. The Google app seems to be a step in this direction. According to the write up:

Google, along with other companies and researchers, dreams of so-called ubiquitous computing or ambient intelligence — computers woven into the texture of life as opposed to being separate machines. Eventually, the theory goes, computers will be part of the environment, know where people are and anticipate what they want to know. The Field Trip app is a small step in that direction, and an example of what Google is capable of doing.

The good news is that Google is making the predictive system available as an app, not a default setting in a mobile device’s browser. That step would not be one I would welcome. For those who are keen to have smart software think for them, the Field Trip app will be extended to meet market demand.

My personal view is that “smart” software is, like semantic technology, most helpful if it is kept behind the scenes. We are moving to an information access model in which run-and-gun decision making is the norm. The time and effort required to formulate a query, analyze the results, and then check the provenance of the information is becoming irrelevant for some people.

Progress in search marches on. I just worry that those who define progress are the handful of math wizards who decide which algorithms to use and what threshold settings to implement. Smart software in my experience can make some pretty dumb decisions.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2012

Sponsored by Augmentext

Quick Tips for Boosting Web Site Search Rankings

September 28, 2012

With the growing number of active Web sites, getting noticed online can be a challenge for small businesses. TheStar.com shares some insight on the topic and provides tips for improving a site’s search rankings. Jeff Quipp’s article, “Seven Tips to Improve Website Search Rankings,” starts off the list of tips with adding secure links to your site, updating content regularly, and adding variety to the content.

The author has this to say about social media integration:

Ensure the site is “social media optimized” – With the growing influence that social media has on a company’s relationship with potential and existing customers, it’s vital to ensure all website pages have the company’s social profile icons (i.e., Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest). These icons encourage and make it easy to share the information and increase the chance of it being found in a search.

Quipp also points out that keywords should be used in page titles and offering valuable and unique content that is user-friendly will help boost search rankings. Part of making a site user-friendly is a comprehensive search feature. Fabasoft Mindbreeze offers InSite, a Cloud based service that allows you to generate search tabs on your site to customize the searching experience for your visitors. With semantic and faceted search, site visitors can quickly and easily locate your content.

Philip West, September 28, 2012

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext.

The Facebook Voter Experiment

September 28, 2012

Discover Magazine hosts in interesting read on the impact of information within social networks. The Not Exactly Rocket Science Blog post is titled “A 61-Million-Person Experiment on Facebook Shows How Ads and Friends Affect Our Voting Behaviour.” Blogger Ed Yong describes the huge experiment in which, on congressional election day 2010, Facebook worked with researcher James Fowler from the University of California, San Diego.

Fowler’s team wanted to see if they could influence Facebook users to vote by applying social (media) pressure. Almost everyone who visited the site on that day saw a special Election Day message which displayed an “I Voted” link, a link to find their polling place, and a counter with a running total of users who (claimed they) had voted by that point. The vast majority also saw the profile pictures of any of their friends who had already voted. One control group saw the election messaging minus the pictures of their friends. Another control group missed out on the special message altogether.

See the article for specifics, but the upshot is this: users who saw that their friends had cast a vote seem to have been prodded to head to the polls themselves. Mobilizing voters is indeed a noteworthy thing, and this was a clever experiment. I’m most interested, though, in the following glimpse of the future:

“The internet, and social networks like Facebook, could [allow] scientists to carry out research on an unprecedented scale. It’s cheap and the results have ‘external validity’, meaning that they’re relevant to what people actually do in life, rather than in a stark controlled laboratory.

“‘It’s a brand new world!’ says Fowler. He thinks that such experiments could help psychologists to do detailed studies on very specific groups of people. ‘[That] is the first step in understanding not just average human behaviour, but the behaviour of specific types of individuals in specific types of environments,’ he says. ‘There are many human psychologies, not just one.'”

Advancing psychological understanding is a worthy goal. But how do we all feel about being unwittingly, if anonymously, enrolled in such experiments? We had better figure that out, because I see many more coming our way. Figuratively, of course; we won’t know such projects exist until (and unless) they are trumpeted in the news.

Cynthia Murrell, September 28, 2012

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Communicating the Value of Big Data

September 28, 2012

The IT world has successfully communicated the message that Big Data is valuable. It has been less successful in explaining how, exactly. Following its recent BI & Analytics Perspectives Conference, Computerworld realizes that “Finding the Business Value in Big Data is a Big Problem.” The IT pros gathered at the conference seem to agree that the current problem with the data analytics phenomenon is figuring out just what to do with all that information. The article explains:

“Technology vendors and industry analysts tout the enormous business benefits that enterprises can gain from mashing up traditional structured data with unstructured data from the cloud, mobile devices, social media channels and other sources. But business executives have little idea of how to take advantage of Big Data or how to articulate their requirements to IT, according to several executives at the show.

“Business leaders often ‘don’t know what they don’t know,’ said one frustrated IT manager, and therefore they are incapable of explaining to IT shops what to do with all this data that’s being accumulated.”

A similar problem crops up with most new technologies. People have to break out of decades-old thought patterns to even see the possibilities—an overwhelming task for most humans. Some companies are creating “innovation labs” with the sole purpose of getting the best ROI from their Big Data investments.

That’s probably a good thing, but I think vendors must take responsibility for explaining the value in their products. Collecting and peering at data is only valuable as a means to some profitable end. Those who supply Big Data solutions must find ways to illustrate the worth of their products with clear examples, suggestions, and starting points for potential clients. If they cannot, their businesses may not outlast what could become known as the Big Data Fad of the early 21st Century.

Cynthia Murrell, September 28, 2012

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Data Analytics in Genetic Research

September 28, 2012

We’re pleased to see this excellent example of the use of analytics. ScienceDaily reveals, “Information Theory Helps Unravel DNA’s Genetic Code.” Specifically, scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi were working on one of today’s biggest biology challenges—predicting the distribution of coding and noncoding regions (exons and introns, respectively) in a previously unannotated genome. The researchers were able to speed the process using information theory techniques. The brief write up explains:

“The researchers were able to achieve this breakthrough in speed by looking at how electrical charges are distributed in the DNA nucleotide bases. This distribution, known as the dipole moment, affects the stability, solubility, melting point, and other physio-chemical properties of DNA that have been used in the past to distinguish exons and introns.

“The research team computed the ‘superinformation,’ or a measure of the randomness of the randomness, for the angles of the dipole moments in a sequence of nucleotides. For both double- and single-strand forms of DNA, the superinformation of the introns was significantly higher than for the exons.”

Studying DNA regions helps scientists better understand diseases and develop more effective treatments. Just one of the many ways data analytics can be used for something other than boosting a corporations’ bottom line.

Cynthia Murrell, September 28, 2012

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

IBM Content Navigator Demonstration

September 27, 2012

Short honk: Thanks to the reader who alerted us to a demonstration of IBM Content Navigator. The demo runs about six minutes and provides glimpses of “findability.” If you are an IBM follower, you might want to check out http://goo.gl/6i7hT.

Stephen E Arnold, September 27, 2012

Sponsored by Augmentext

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