Harvard Professors Brawl of Words over Disruptive Innovation

July 21, 2014

The article titled Clayton Christensen Responds to New Yorker Takedown of ‘Disruptive Innovation’ on Businessweek consists of an interview with Christensen and his thoughts on Jill Lepore’s article. Two Harvard faculty members squabbling is, of course, fascinating, and Christensen defends himself well in this article with his endless optimism and insistence on calling Lepore “Jill.” The article describes disruptive innovation and Jill Lepore’s major problems with it as follows,

“The theory holds that established companies, acting rationally and carefully to stay on top, leave themselves vulnerable to upstarts who find ways to do things more cheaply, often with a new technology….Disruption, as Lepore notes, has since become an all-purpose rallying cry, not only in Silicon Valley—though especially there—but in boardrooms everywhere. “It’s a theory of history founded on a profound anxiety about financial collapse, an apocalyptic fear of global devastation, and shaky evidence,” she writes.”

Christensen refers Lepore to his book, in which he claims to answer all of her refutations to his theory. He, in his turn, takes issue with her poor scholarship, and considers her as trying to discredit him rather than work together to improve the theory through conversation and constructive criticism. In the end of the article he basically dares Lepore to come have a productive meeting with him. Things might get awkward at the Harvard cafeteria if these two cross paths.

Chelsea Kerwin, July 21, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Patent Excitement: Smart Software for Those Who Want to Invent Photography

May 11, 2014

I recall that Amazon or a similar firm patented photography. I have been struggling with how to capture my Eureka moments. A solution is at hand, and I think it will apply to many sophisticated tasks including search and retrieval.

Navigate to “Transform Any Text into a Patent Application.” Either download the open source files or just read the article. You are on your way.

A sample is provided:

“An apparatus and device for staring into vacancy” (The Hunger Artist by Kafka)

Whipping up some systems and methods for struggling search and content processing companies to file is getting easier. Making up baloney for marketing pitches is, alas, still easier. But where there is a will, there may be a way. Now how can these financially challenged Big Data, metatagging, social search companies produce revenues? I have no clue.

Stephen E Arnold, May 11, 2014

 

New York Public Library Posts Maps

April 5, 2014

The New York Public Library has a massive collection of beautiful maps, but instead of keeping them locked in an archive Motherboard reports, “The New York Public Library Releases 20,000 Beautiful High Resolution Maps.”

All of the 20,000 maps are available via open access. What is even more amazing is that the NYPL decided to release the maps under the Creative Commons CCO 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. If you are unfamiliar with a Creative Commons license, it means that users are free to download content and do whatever they want with it.

“Combined with its existing historical GIS program, the NYPL wants its users to engage with the maps, and allows them to warp (fitting together based on corresponding anchor points) and overlay the historic maps with modern geoweb services like Google and Open Street Map. Users can export WMS, KML files, and high-quality TIFFs. The historic map appears side by side with the modern maps, and users are invited to mark corresponding points on each, so you can overlay the historic map over the current day’s.”

Google Maps using old maps to explore the world of the past. It is yet another amazing use of modern technology and makes one wonder what people of yesterday would have thought about exploring their world via a small box.

Whitney Grace, April 5, 2014

How Google Innovates: According to Google and MIT

March 18, 2014

Navigate to “Why Google Doesn’t Have a Research Lab.” You will read how Google does research without a Bell Labs’ type operation. According to the write up:

“There doesn’t need to be a protective shell around our researchers where they think great thoughts,” says Spector. “It’s a collaborative activity across the organization; talent is distributed everywhere.” He says this approach allows Google make fundamental advances quickly—since its researchers are close to piles of data and opportunities to experiment—and then rapidly turn those advances into products.

If you are not familiar with Dr. Spector, you can get the Google biography at http://bit.ly/1fVC4qM.

With regard to Glass, the article states:

Spector even claims that his company’s secretive Google X division, home of Google Glass and the company’s self-driving car project (see “Glass, Darkly” and “Google’s Robot Cars Are Safer Drivers Than You or I”), is a product development shop rather than a research lab, saying that every project there is focused on a marketable end result. “They have pursued an approach like the rest of Google, a mixture of engineering and research [and] putting these things together into prototypes and products,” he says.

I find this interesting. My exposure to synthetic biology suggests that something more than a group of cubicles and some lab equipment is likely to be needed. For example, the machines required to engineer nanodevices require robots. Perhaps Google’s interest in robots is more than high tech gadget collecting?

When fooling around with protein manipulation, some basic requirements are not likely to be found in a Silicon Valley slap up building.

Important? Probably not. Dr. Babak Amirparviz can probably work out of his tiny garage. No official Google bio is available for this innovator. You may find his inventions with Dr. Whitesides’ interesting (US 8,574,924) or Dr. Amirparviz’ patent document Assay Device and Method (US 20100279310). I suppose these systems and methods can work in a Google snack area next to the microwave and coffee machine.

Red herrings probably thrive in Google’s “projects” set up.

At least, MIT finds this plausible.

Stephen E Arnold, March 18, 2014

Ads Gone Wrong

February 2, 2014

I came across an outfit called Tribune Online. The company offers a news aggregation service. You can examine the different content slices at http://www.frenchtribune.com. There are several interesting characteristics of the site.

First, the company offers country specific “Tribunes online.” One example is http://austriantribune.com/klasse/legen/united-states. Try to navigate to this country specific listing of articles from a range of sources. The information is in English and provides a country-specific “brand” for content available from the main Web page. The company lists some of the country-specific “brands”, but I could not locate a comprehensive list.

Second, the advertisements are flagged. What is intriguing about the paid articles is that they are scattered across different business sectors. I am not sure how many people will related to technology for indexing spun out of SAIC, a new diet for chubbies, and a listicle of metal detectors. I am finding less and less relevance in the online ads displayed to me. I thought technology like Bing’s, Google’s, and other ad services was to deliver relevant advertising.

image

Third, the name of the company is listed as Tribune Online. The principal office appears to be in France. I could not determine if the US news and information company using the word “Tribune” in its name was involved. Running a query on a public Web index company is interesting. Confusion between US Tribune publications’ online presence and “Tribune Online” was interesting.

If you are a Euro news maven and want to get non-European Commission sponsored aggregation of articles, check out some of the Tribune Online’s services. I liked this one: http://frenchtribune.com/categorie/emplacements/spain.

I did not spot a search function. Have we entered the post-search era?

Stephen E Arnold, February 2, 2014

Google is Innovating While Other Companies Rest on Laurels

January 2, 2014

An article on SVBTLE Magazine by David Litwak titled Google is the new Bell Labs makes the startling and insightful announcement that Google is an unusual business. The Bell Labs the article refers to is the research sector of AT&T and Western Electric Research Laboratories, which takes credit for 7 Nobel Prizes and the invention of (to name a few items off the list) the laser, transistor and UNIX.

The article explains the connection between the two companies:

“Google is acting in the same spirit as Alexander Bell, using their incredibly lucrative money-maker (Google Adwords) to finance moonshots and ambitious side projects. Both GMail and Google Maps are great examples, and they are ahead of the game with a truly integrated travel search engine in Google Travel (2-3 years in my estimate), Google Glass/wearable computing (at least 5 years before its time), autonomous cars (maybe 10 years) and household/military robotics (15 years?).”

Comparing this with the work of Microsoft, Apple or Amazon seems almost unfair, or at least a faulty comparison. (Apples and oranges?) The article does credit Apple with the creation of the smartphone industry, but points out that since then they have not really branched out the way Google cannot seem to help doing. Google is in the business of innovation and industry making. Good thing someone is around to remind everyone.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 02, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Ex Endeca Execs: Giving New Life to Route 128?

October 6, 2013

I read “Cambridge Firm Is Fertile Ground for Entrepreneurs.” The Massachusetts in crowd should be thrilled with the Boston Globe’s story. In addition to a graphic which puts Endeca at the center of a universe of start ups, the story draws an interesting parallel for me:

Like its much bigger predecessors, Digital Equipment Corp. and Lotus Development Corp., two seminal Boston companies acquired by competitors, Endeca is emerging as a fount of new business activity, churning out the next generation of entrepreneurs and helping to expand the region’s technology economy.

The write up then references the influence tendrils of what I assume is “fertile ground” to Xerox, Digital Equipment, and Lotus.

The article included this passage as well:

But the $1 billion paid by Oracle made some Endeca employees wealthy, which certainly made it easier for them to decide to start companies. And more may follow. Venture capitalists report they are in contact with other Endecans who are contemplating leaving Oracle. Oracle declined to comment for this story. And the Diaspora might have been bigger had Endeca been on the West Coast, where the cycle of people leaving companies for start-ups happens much faster than in Massachusetts. One reason is that many large Boston companies have employees sign noncompete agreements, which can limit their ability to spin off a start-up. Noncompete agreements are not enforced in California. Endeca employees signed noncompetes, but so far those who have started companies are not direct competitors. The new businesses range from social media to medical records companies.

Then this quote to note: “We did a good job of training people how to be entrepreneurs,” said Papa, so that they are not all trying to just “build the next Endeca.” Steve Papa was one of the founders of Endeca.

My thoughts turned to other search companies that sold out. Has there been a similar surge of innovation from:

  • Autonomy founders
  • Exalead founders
  • ISYS Search Software founders
  • Verity founders
  • Vivisimo founders

I don’t recall a similar explosion of innovation from any of these firms nor a glittering write up in a major, “real” newspaper. There are, I believe, some questions which beg to be answered:

  1. What makes Endeca different?
  2. Why haven’t other search vendors’ founders gone the start up route?
  3. What is the survivability of start ups created by founders of iPhrase (acquired by IBM), Inxight (acquired by Business Objects), and other long-ago winners in the buy out game?

I don’t have any answers, and I am personally delighted that there will not be another Endeca coming down the pike. The notion of blending a Yahoo style directory with key word indexing and then layering on eCommerce, publishing, business intelligence, and other functions is a path well worn by Convera, Delphes, Entopia, and some of IBM’s search efforts.

Endeca, based on my notes, was heavy on MBA think and less into Google-style technology. The list of Endeca spawned start ups includes Salsify, Thank Media, and Toast among others. Each has a hefty dose of “management.” Perhaps MBAs are the answer to market traction?

Stephen E Arnold, October 6, 2013

Open Source and Innovation Go Hand in Hand

August 16, 2013

Open source, in all of its iterations, drives innovation and efficiency. More than ever, information technology circles are buzzing with news about how open source software (and an emerging open source hardware market) ensures that organizations of every shape and size can get their specific needs met by open source solutions. Tom Trainer covers this very topic in his article for Network Computing, “Open Source Poised for Innovation Explosion.”

Trainer begins:

“Open source software is now a common component in most organizations’ IT infrastructure, particularly at the server OS layer where Linux has made significant inroads. Now open source software is becoming more common in other data center realms such as storage, and is poised for significant growth.”

Trainer goes on to say that open source will continue to dominate the market for many reasons, but chief among them will be cost effectiveness. Even though the economy is on the rebound, efficiencies are still being demanded as the recession proved that companies really could do more with less. However, security and customer support are still concerns. For organizations with those concerns, a value-added open source solution is often a good fit. For instance, LucidWorks offers solutions for the enterprise including Big Data, with cloud and hybrid deployments. And while the solutions are award winning, the customer service and training offered by LucidWorks is unbeatable.

Emily Rae Aldridge, August 16, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Beyond Search

Call for Experts: Search Experts Need Not Apply

March 27, 2013

A reader sent me a link to a call for experts issued by one of the European Commission’s entities. The program is called horizon 2020 and a countdown timer on the Web site reports how many days until Horizon 2020 launches. The program is a “framework” for research and innovation. The Europa.eu Web site says:

The European Commission is widening its search for experts from all fields to participate in shaping the agenda of Horizon 2020, the European Union’s future funding programme for research and innovation. The experts of the advisory groups will provide high quality and timely advice for the preparation of the Horizon 2020 calls for project proposals. The Commission services plan to set up a certain number of Advisory Groups covering the Societal Challenges and other specific objectives of Horizon 2020.  To reach the broadest range of individuals and actors with profiles suited to contribute to the European Union’s vision and objectives for Horizon 2020, including striving for a large proportion of newcomers, and to gain consistent and consolidated advice of high quality, the Commission is calling for expressions of interest with the aim of creating lists of high level experts that will participate in each of these groups.

The list of expertise required is wide ranging. What is fascinating is that in the lengthy list of what’s needed there is no call for search, big data, content processing, or analytics. The EC has funded Promise (more accurately PPromise) which has a focus on search from what strikes me as a somewhat traditional approach combined with a quest for “good enough” solutions. I suppose innovation can result from the pursuit of “good enough.” I wonder if the exclusion of search and its related disciplines form this call for experts is a reflection on the role of information retrieval or one the results which have flowed from previous EC support of findability projects. On the other hand, perhaps the assumption is that search is a slam dunk. If so, then those engaged in search and content processing have to do a better job of communicating the dismal state of search and its related disciplines.

Much work remains to be done, and calls for expertise which omit specific remarks about information retrieval trouble me. Maybe the “good enough” notion is more pervasive than I understood.

Stephen E Arnold, March 27, 2013

On Innovation: Dreaming or Planning?

January 28, 2013

Can the importance of innovation be overstated? Perhaps, if your source is heavily invested in the concept. Innovation Excellence asks (and answers), “What is the Missing Cost of Not Innovating?” We thought that doing a good job with what you have was important, too. Can everyone or every company be an innovator? We don’t think so.

The crux of the article lies in justifying innovation costs when the benefits can seem nebulous. At times, writer Paul Hobcraft can sound downright defensive:

“Often the person asking the ‘what is the ROI on innovation’ has never been involved in creating, designing or managing innovation. They can often be the ‘bean counter’, the hard-nosed CFO out to drive up the short-term performance, imposing short-term deadlines on getting the innovation launched within a given calendar year to meet much of his performance measures. They also often do not really appreciate that there are real disparities on time, investments and resources for managing an incremental project against one that leads to discovery or disruptive innovation and why these are dramatically different.”

He does have one point. It is important to keep the long term in sight, even if details are a little vague, while struggling with the short-term needs that concern those “bean counters.” Being able to clearly communicate such needs to the higher-ups is important for those charged with forging a path to future success; see the article for Hobcraft’s tips in this area.

However, it is also important to maintain a realistic perspective when dreaming of the future. It is tough to arrive at the next best thing if you’re struggling to make payroll each month. In the end, it is a matter of balance.

Cynthia Murrell, January 28, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext