Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year! С Новым Годом! あけましておめでとう。

May the new year bring you love, peace, and happiness!

Snow Fight. Lumiere 101, 1895-1897.

Lunch Talk: Inventing the next amazing thing.

Woody Norris shows off two of his inventions that treat sound in new ways, and talks about his untraditional approach to inventing and education. As he puts it: "Almost nothing has been invented yet." So -- what's next?

Direct link.

tags: lunchtalk, invention, mousetrap

2011 --> 2012

Happy New Year to all readers of this blog! I wish you a lot of success and happiness in 2012.

This year, all of a sudden, many people got interested in my notes. Let's stay in touch in 2012 - I hope not to disappoint you.

And here's how I will remember 2011.

Person of the Year: Steve Jobs.

Company of the Year: Facebook.

Startup of the Year: MonkeyContact.

Country of the Year: Germany.

News Source of the Year
: VentureBeat.

Most Useful Device of the Year: iPhone 4.

Book of the Year: The Problems of Philosophy, by Bertrand Russell.

Talk of the Year
: David Kahneman. Thinking Fast and Slow.

Song of the Year: Edith Piaf - Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.

Movie of the Year
: Moneyball.

Food of the Year: Grilled Filet Mignon.

Wine of the Year: Pinot Noir.

Personal Accomplishment of the Year: Facilitated creation and contributed to over 200 inventions.

Personal Research Breakthrough of the Year: Figured out how to match 5-element system analysis, IP, and business models.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

The second+ dimension of the Internet infinity.

Here's another piece of data confirming the trend that the web (as envisioned by Tim Berners-Lee in the early 1980s) is going away.
December 29, 2011. VBeat - Most interestingly, however, is the switch from browsing to application usage. In the three months prior to this current study, 42.1 percent more people used their browsers to get information, compared to the 41.6 percent that used apps. Now, however, applications have taken the lead by .5 percent. The percentage is small, but shows a significant shift in how people consume information on their mobile devices.
The new devices (touchscreen mobiles and tablets) provide  a richer set of options for user interaction than the good old web browser on PC. The old web is infinite, but linear. That is, you can jump from link to link in one dimension only. [The original web was unidirectional, but Google made tons of money by discovering a way to go back and forth between links.]

On the other hand, applications that take advantage of the touchscreen interface provide a way to explore the depth of information, i.e. zoom in and out of streams of data. It will take time to create high-performance zoomable streams, but the transition is already under way.

tags: system, evoloution, tool, s-curve, trend, mobile, cloud 

Invention of the Day: Exoskeleton for the disabled.

Ekso Bionics develops and markets a device that helps paralyzed people walk. Original research to create the exoskeleton was done at UC Berkeley.

Here's how it works in the field (direct link)

I believe the breakthrough he mentions in the video relates to the use of smart walking sticks.

tags: invention, health

Snack Talk: Masters and Disasters of Relationship.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Dr. John Gottman that can predict relationship disaster and even physical illness and disease are: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, & Stonewalling. Dr. Gottman offers ways of healing intense conflict.

Direct link.

tags: lunchtalk, psychology, interaction

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Invention of a new type of electric battery will be the most important technology development of the next decade. For the electric car to become practical, we need a 10X drop in price per kilowatt-hour of energy storage.

Dec 29, 2011. MTR - ... even under optimistic assumptions, lithium-ion batteries are likely to cost around $360 per kilowatt-hour in 2030.
The U.S. Department of Energy, however, has far more ambitious goals for electric-vehicle batteries, aiming to bring the cost down to $125 per kilowatt-hour by 2020. For that, radical new technologies will probably be necessary. As part of its effort to encourage battery innovation, the DOE's ARPA-E program has funded 10 projects, most of them involving startup companies, to find "game-changing technologies" that will deliver an electric car with a range of 300 to 500 miles.
At the same time, driverless cars will also become much better. As the result, by mid 2020s we can get to the beginning of a totally new transportation infrastructure. In part, it will be driven by the dominant role of internet commerce, which implies home delivery of goods. Companies, like UPS, FedEx, and others will have huge incentives to reduce fuel costs. By mid-2030, we should expect robotic electric cars dropping off holiday presents just in time for the celebration.

tags: transportation, control, 10x, distribution, energy

Patent battles: how media makes us clueless.

The media does a major disservice to the public when they describe current patent disputes between various parties in the mobile industry. For example, the headline in Wired reads: Google Thumps Oracle In Heavyweight Bout Over Android. What's behind the headline? A minor change in the number of patents asserted against Google.
Dec 29, 2011. Wired -- Just before the Christmas holiday, as reported by Groklaw, the US patent office effectively invalidated one of the seven patents Oracle asserted against Android in a suit filed in August 2010.
Instead of 7 patents we've got 6 patents active in the lawsuit - big deal. And what if Oracle prevails, which is a highly like outcome? Wired claims "the case could have a very real effect on the mobile phone and tablet market." What's the impact?
The two sides would enter a “hypothetical negotiation,” Dergosits says, where each hires economists to estimate Google’s revenue from the product and what it’s paying other licence holders. The jury would then award damages based on these estimates.
Based on industry discussions, top estimates for licensing fees for Java are about $5 per unit. If Google wanted, they could've negotiated a volume discount, similar to the deal Microsoft made with Samsung. But Google provides Android for free and makes money on search and other services, which default to Google properties on Android phones. This way Google can claim losses on Android and try reject demands for licensing fees, which are customarily calculated as a percentage of revenue. Usually, the seller of software operating system includes the fees into the price. But ... Android is "free." Tricky, tricky, tricky.

It's funny though, that a dispute about a method of calculating licensing fees is presented in the media as a battle for or against innovation. 

tags: business, strategy, mobile, google, patents

Lunch Talk: Neuroscience of Personality

UCLA professor and author, Dario Nardi, has discovered that people of different personality types don't merely rely on different brain regions -- they use their brains in fundamentally different ways.

tags: lunchtalk, psychology

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why patent trolls sue and win with weak patents.

Joshua Walker, the CEO of Lex Machina will be one of the guest speakers at The Patent Paradox, a course John Kelley and I will teach this quarter (Winter '12) at Stanford University Continuing Studies program. The 2010 NBER paper Joshua co-authored with John R. Allison (University of Texas, Austin) and Mark A. Lemley (Stanford University) analyses the quality of highly litigated patents. The authors discover a strange phenomenon:
But what we found was dramatic and unexpected: the patents and patentees that occupy the most time and attention in court and in public policy debates—the very patents that economists consider the most valuable—are astonishingly weak. Nonpracticing entities and software patentees almost never win their cases.
That is, patent trolls sue with very weak patents. Most, if not all of the patents, get invalidated in the process. Why do they do that? The authors of the paper are buffled:
Finally, our results are a bit of a puzzle for the most common law and economics models of litigation. ... they do beg the question of what is motivating the parties in these cases.
I think the answer to this puzzle can be found in Daniel Kahneman's book "Thinking Fast and Slow." In the Fourfold Pattern chapter he describes risk-related behavior with low-probability loss outcome.

The key to understanding is not the troll's, but the defendant's behavior. The defendant in a patent suit faces a very low probability of losing against a weak patent portfolio. Since the defendant, usually a large corporation, is loss averse and the probability of loss is non-zero, he is willing to settle under unfavorable conditions (lower-right corner.) On the other hand, the troll with a weak portfolio is facing a high probability of loss; therefore, he is risk seeking (upper-right corner.)
The most likely outcome of this confrontation is an out of court settlement which favors the troll.

Patent Quality and Settlement Among Repeat Patent Litigants. 2010, John R. Allison, Mark A. Lemley & Joshua Walker.
Thinking Fast and Slow. 2011. David Kahneman. 

tags: patents, control, game, business, model, strategy

Holiday shopping, 21st century style.

Sears and KMart are closing stores, while e-commerce is booming. According to the latest numbers from Comscore (via Cnet), US online holiday spending is up 15%, reaching $35.3B.

I find particularly interesting that
Digital content accounted for more than 20 percent of all online sales on Christmas, compared with just 2.8 percent on an average day during the holiday season.
Social networking in combination with mobile devices are going to accelerate this trend (mostly due ubiquitous ads and instant gratification.)  Shopping with a tablet and even a smartphone is better than with a PC. Moreover, making a last minute digital content purchase is way faster than running to a physical store. You get the best of both worlds: a faster/cheaper purchase and greater selection.

tags: commerce, information, business, social, networking

Reading electronic books - my personal experience.

Just wanted to share some notes on e-book reading. Over the last year and a half I've used 6 devices to work with books and articles.

iPhone 4
Macbook Pro 15
Amazon Kindle  2
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
HP 15' Laptop

Books and articles come in three main formats: epub, pdf, awz (Amazon proprietary). Displays differ in sizes and, more importantly, in pixel density (PPI.)

The best device for epub reading is iPhone with iBooks. The key here is pixel density (PPI) - the number of pixels per inch of screen. For iPhone 4 PPI is 326, which is as good as paper. All other devices have lower PPIs. Surprisingly, iPhone's small screen in portrait mode improves reading speed because it limits saccading (involuntary horizontal scanning of the page by your eyes.) iBooks software allows for easy highlighting, note taking, font scaling, etc.

If you want to use a tablet, Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a better choice than iPad 2 because of the higher PPI - 149 vs 132. Also, the default reader that comes with Android (eBook) has a decent text to speech converter, which helps continue reading when your eyes are tired or busy with something else, e.g. doing chores.

The e-Ink version of Kindle has a reasonable PPI = 167, but highlighting and making notes with their keyboard is pain. The device is best for reading fiction on the beach.

Regular computer displays are the worst, except when you have to read and make notes in pdfs. Unfortunately, all science and technology papers come in pdf format, which makes them hard to work with on electronic devices. So far, Mac has the best viewer software, but the overall experience is not great.

To summarize, my personal preferences for working with electronic texts based on PPI and reader software are as follows:

iPhone 4 (PPI = 326,  epub with iBooks)
Galaxy Tab 10.1 (PPI =149, epub with eBook with text to speech. pdf - ok)
MacBook 15 (PPI = 128, pdf with note taking) 
Kindle 2 (PPI 167. leisure reading. limited text to speech capabilities)

tags: tool, information, payload

Lunch Talk: Printing a Human Kidney.

Surgeon Anthony Atala demonstrates an early-stage experiment that could someday solve the organ-donor problem: a 3D printer that uses living cells to output a transplantable kidney. Using similar technology, Dr. Atala's young patient Luke Massella received an engineered bladder 10 years ago; we meet him onstage.

tags: lunchtalk, biology, health

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Invention of the Day: Charge Coupled Device (CCD)

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith "for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit – the CCD sensor". [ Today, CCD is the dominant sensor used in digital cameras.]

According to Smith's Nobel Prize lecture, the driving force behind the invention was an inter-departmental competition for resources inside Bell Labs (a purely bureaucratic affair.)

Bill Boyle was Executive Director of the semiconductor part and I was a Department Head under him. Jack Morton was anxious to speed up the development of magnetic bubbles as a major memory technology, and there was talk of transferring resources from Bill’s division to the other where the bubble work was being done. For this not to happen, Morton demanded that Bill’s division come up with a semiconductor device to compete with bubbles. To address this demand, on October 17, 1969, Bill and I got together in his office. In a discussion lasting not much more than an hour, the basic structure of the CCD was sketched out on the blackboard, the principles of operation defined, and some preliminary ideas concerning applications were developed.
Remarkably, ATT didn't benefit commercially from this and many other inventions developed at Bell Labs.

The figure from US Patent 3,792,322 (below) shows an improved version of the sensor: Buried Channel CCD.

Here's how Smith describes the train of thought they used to come up with the invention:

Google vs Travel agencies.

Surprise, surprise! Google search results benefit its own business more than competition.

Dec 27, 2011. WSJ -- Starting in December, Google began placing its new flight-search service atop general search results so that its own results appear prominently above links to major middlemen such as Expedia Inc., Orbitz Worldwide Inc. and Inc.

Last year, Google faced antitrust scrutiny from the Justice Department over its plans to acquire ITA Software Inc., the flight-data company that powers Google's new tool and some of its competitors, including Orbitz and Kayak Interactive Corp. Those sites opposed the Google-ITA transaction.

Just how Google ranks and displays searches has become a key question for modern commerce, where Google stands as a gatekeeper for buying decisions.

Google's flight search is a boon to airlines that have long struggled to draw traffic away from online travel agencies, which charge airlines for bookings.

It costs airlines more than $11 to process a booking made via online travel agencies, compared to less than $1 for one made on their own websites, said Henry Harteveldt, analyst at Atmosphere Research.

To me, the most surprising piece of the news is the >10X difference in processing costs when you buy directly from an airline vs travel agency ($1 vs $11 respectively). A part of it is probably advertisement costs on Google searches. 

tags: information, control, business, model

Lunch Talk: (TED) Leading like a great conductor.

An orchestra conductor faces the ultimate leadership challenge: creating perfect harmony without saying a word. In this charming talk, Itay Talgam demonstrates the unique styles of six great 20th-century conductors, illustrating crucial lessons for all leaders.

tags: lunchtalk, art, control

Monday, December 26, 2011

Высоко сижу, далеко гляжу.

Years after becoming the dominant web search engine, Google remained extremely paranoid about Microsoft:
In 2004, prior to the IPO, the company was still hiding its success. “Google didn’t want Microsoft to know how big search was,” says Sacca. “And if you knew how many computers Google was running, you could do some back-of-the-envelope math and see how big an opportunity this was.” ( Steven Levy. 2011. In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives.)
This also helps appreciate how well Google is positioned relative to its business competitors. E.g. the company can easily detect a new hot startup through increased search queries. It allows them to evaluate and buy potentially competitors before anybody else have a shot at them - another information asymmetry provided by a dominant position within a large economic system.

tags: detection, business, model

Brainteaser of the Day: name this bear.

Here's your holiday puzzle:

An explorer hiked 10 miles north; then 10 miles east; then 10 miles south. After that, he found himself exactly where he started and met a bear.


1) What color was the bear? 2) What were the longitude and latitude  of the explorer's starting point.

A hint and the answers below.

Lunch Talk: Talent Hunting

Why are some people so much better than everyone else at spotting future stars? How do the best talent pickers in any field recognize future greatness-the subtle and reliable tells that indicate the potential for top performance?

George Anders set out to find the best talent hunters in the worlds of business, sports, pop music, movies, venture capital, academia, medical research, and the military. As radically different as these fields may seem, all share an intense belief in the importance of finding high achievers.

tags: lunchtalk, detection

Formula for marital stability

According to Robyn Dawes*, as cited in Daniel Kahneman's book Thinking Fast and Slow,
marital stability = frequency of lovemaking - frequency of quarrels

* Source: Dawes, R. 1979. The robust beauty of improper linear models. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Enabling constraint: single width axle (China 3rd cent BCE).

Standardization of transportation was one of the long-lasting legacies of the Qin dynasty in ancient China. Ideology-wise, standardization had roots in legalism, a doctrine of universal application of clear laws; the doctrine developed in the 4th century BCE by Shang Yang, the prime minister of Qin. After Qin defeated the majority of other Chinese kingdoms and established a unified empire, they undertook enormous efforts to transform the state, including building advanced road infrastructure.
A 4,700 mile network of roads was developed to ease travel in the empire and to the frontiers. Regular staging posts allowed horses to be changed frequently and provided places to sleep at night. The single width of cart axles encouraged trade as there was no delay in moving goods through the provinces. All carts would travel in the same wheel ruts and there would be no need to change to a cart with a different axle width in different provinces.

Standard roads and single width axles were enabling constraints because the helped develop commerce. On the other hand, standardization of thought imposed by Qin turned ugly. They ordered and enforced destruction of all books that were in conflict with their ideology. Moreover, because at the time thought was largely transferred through oral teachings, Qin buried alive hundreds of Confucian scholars, who disagreed with Legalism.

Contrast this with Facebook, which established a standard way of communicating between people (social utility as Zuckeberg calls it) but allowed for free expression on top of the utility.

tags: constraint, payload, distribution, facebook, social, network, infrastructure

Lunch Talk: When ideas have sex (Matt Ridley @TED)

author Matt Ridley shows how, throughout history, the engine of human progress has been the meeting and mating of ideas to make new ideas. It's not important how clever individuals are, he says; what really matters is how smart the collective brain is.

tags: lunchtalk, scale, creativity

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Trade-off of the Day: Moneyball.

A great scene from Moneyball (Ratings: 7.9/10 on imdb):
- Okay, good. What's the problem?

- Look, Billy, we all understand what the problem is. We have to...

- Okay, good. What's the problem?

- We have to replace three key players in our lineup.

- Nope. What's the problem?

- We gotta replace these guys with what we have...

- No. What's the problem, Barry?

- We need 38 home runs, 120 RBI's and 47 doubles to replace.

- No. The problem we're trying to solve is that there are rich teams and there are poor teams, then there's 50 feet of crap, and then there's us. It's an unfair game. And now we've been gutted. We're like organ donors for the rich. Boston's taken our kidneys, Yankees have taken our heart. And you guys sit around talking the same old "good body" nonsense like we're selling jeans.

If you are a problem solver, you recognize the situation immediately. Most of the time people can't solve the problem because they don't know the problem they are trying to solve.

The situation everybody seems to accept is that you can't put together a high-performing baseball team on a low budget. That is, the scouting staff takes for granted the trade-off between team quality and money you have to spend buying the players. The smaller the budget, the worse the team. Having an ok team is the best they can do under the circumstances.

Desperate for success, Billy looks for and finds a way to break the trade-off.

Lunch talk: The opportunity of adversity.

The thesaurus might equate "disabled" with synonyms like "useless" and "mutilated," but ground-breaking runner Aimee Mullins is out to redefine the word. Defying these associations, she hows how adversity -- in her case, being born without shinbones -- actually opens the door for human potential.

tags: emotion, lunchtalk

Friday, December 23, 2011

Formula for success

success = talent + luck
great success = a little more talent + a lot of luck

David Kahneman. Thinking Fast and Slow, 2011. 

 tags: quote, psychology

Tomorrow is the fifth Russian revolution.

December 24, 2011 is the day of public protests against rigged parliamentary elections in Russia. Geographically, this is the widest peaceful protest in world's history ever.

View 24.12 Против итогов выборов in a larger map

Invention of the Day: Dishwasher.

On December 28, 1886, Josephine Garis Cochran patented a Dish Washing Machine (US Patent 355,139). She wrote in her patent specification,
My invention relates to an improvement in machines for washing dishes, in which a continuous stream of either soap-suds or clear hot water is supplied to a crate holding the racks or cages containing the dishes while the crate is rotated so as to bring the greater portion thereof under the action of the water.
In Cochran's design water is sprayed on rotating dishes. In 1924, William H. Livens of London, UK patented the modern dishwasher where a rotating sprayer delivers water to stationary dishes.

According to this invention I provide a container having a rotating sprayer or sprayers with means for delivering water of the correct temperature for washing the plates by connecting the sprayers to the ordinary hot or cold water system of the establishement in conjunction with a separate boiler, so that water from the ordinary system can be supplied to the sprayers mixed with water from the boiler and/or at first for a certain period water from the ordinary system may be supplied alone.

As a standard household appliance, the dishwasher became commercially successful in the 1950s.

tags: invention, innovation, patent

Lunch Talk: Jim Gosling at Stanford University

There's a lot more innovation than just having good ideas. Timing, audience, energy, politics, and many more factors all influence the outcome. James Gosling discusses how innovation works and how it is affecting the area of computer science today.

tags: innovation, lunchtalk, invention

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The more people live in a city, the faster they walk.

The chart is from "Growth, innovation, scaling, and the pace of life in cities," Luís M. A. Bettencourt, et al. 2006.

Along the same lines, Facebook is working to increase the pace of interaction through apps and gaming,

December 22, 2011. VB -- [Facebook] made changes to the platform based on tests that showed it could drive re-engagement and discovery higher. The changes are part of constant tinkering that the company does to prompt users to do certain things like return to their games or click on new titles. If they work, they could generate more usage and profits for game companies.

Paradoxically, the pace is slower at large companies when compared to startups. I wonder why cities scale, while corporations don't.

tags: innovation, scale, 10X

What's good for the Internet is good for spies.

These days, keeping a secret is almost impossible; almost being the key word here. And some people are willing to spend good money on playing the spy game on the Internet.
Dec. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Business is booming, with annual revenue of $3 billion to $5 billion growing as much as 20 percent a year, ISS organizer Jerry Lucas estimates. 

Back at the hotel, the night is young and the paranoia is deep.

Unlike typical trade shows, this one has no social events. No corporate-sponsored cocktail parties. No hospitality suites. Clients and suppliers don’t want to be seen with each other in public, and some countries bar their agents from mingling at the event because it’s a recruiting ground for spies seeking sources, organizer Lucas says.
Quantum computing, if it ever comes to a reasonable implementation, is going to be a game changer in this market. Maybe it already is.

Lunch Talk: Experience vs Memory ( @TED)

Using examples from vacations to colonoscopies, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman reveals how our "experiencing selves" and our "remembering selves" perceive happiness differently. This new insight has profound implications for economics, public policy -- and our own self-awareness.

Social networking: Facebook vs everybody

VBeat has the latest numbers on social networking activity across top 10 most popular services. I put together a little chart to visualize the difference. Facebook is the tall red column on the left; the rest of the field is the tiny slivers on the right. The picture reminds me of a redwood and some underbrush underneath it.

Here's the raw data from Experian Hitwise (via VBeat)

tags: social, networking, information, internet

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Will tablets help creativity?

Slow, deliberate problem solving is hard because our working memory is severely limited. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman describes how the brain deals with the overload,
We normally avoid mental overload by dividing our tasks into multiple easy steps, committing intermediate results to long-term memory or to paper rather than to an easily overloaded working memory. (Thinking fast and slow. 2011.)
Sketches and simple diagrams also help capture intermediate results. Unlike PCs, tablets are better suited for hand drawings. I'd say they are even better than paper because you can use practically unlimited number of pages and colors. It's quite possible that children who grow up with tablets rather than PCs will be able to escape mental overload during problem solving sessions.

I wish blogspot had doodling tools...

tags: creativity, tool, process, control, separation

Intel's new Atom: a shakeup in the mobile market?

Intel wants a piece of this action:

Note how processor design that was key to Intel's dominance in the PC and server space turned out to be a major long-term disadvantage in the mobile segment.
Dec 21, 2011. MTR - Previous Atom designs spread the work of a processor across two or three chips, a relatively power-intensive scheme that originated many years ago in Intel's PC chips. But now Intel has finally combined the core functions of its processor designs into one chunk of silicon.

tags: innovation, constraint, mobile

Lunch Talk: The secret power of time.

Professor Philip Zimbardo conveys how our individual perspectives of time affect our work, health and well-being. Time influences who we are as a person, how we view relationships and how we act in the world.

The full version of Zimbardo's talk.

Patent system: a perfect experiment.

The question whether the US patent system helps or hurts innovation can now be resolved experimentally. So far, all decisions on patent infringement, e.g. today's Microsoft vs Motorola, involved the US Trade Commission, which rules on "importation into the United States." That is, the infringing mobile phones and tablets cannot be imported into the United States, but can be sold freely in other geographies, e.g. China, India, Japan, Russia, etc. Therefore, if patents hurt innovation, over the next 5-10 years we should see major differences in the pace of smartphone/tablet innovation between the US and the rest of the world. Right?

I very much doubt this is going to be the case.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Patent battles. Microsoft vs Motorola - 1:0

Microsoft owns a fairly broad patent on email-based meeting scheduler for mobile devices. Windows CE wasn't great as an operating system, but at least it resulted in some quality IP. After the dust settles, Motorola and Microsoft will probably make a licensing deal similar to the one Microsoft and Samsung made earlier this year.

Dec 20, 2011. PCWorld - A U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) judge on Tuesday ruled that Motorola Mobility infringed a Microsoft patent in making its Android handsets but did not violate six other patents for which Microsoft had made claims against Motorola.

 9. A method of operating a mobile device, comprising:

providing a first object store on the mobile device;

providing a first application program on the mobile device;

maintaining objects in the first object store with the first application program;

intermittently synchronizing the objects in the first object store with objects in a remote object store;

receiving user input information indicative of a meeting request;

generating a meeting object with the first application program such that at least some of the user input information defines properties in the meeting object;

generating an electronic mail meeting request object based on the information in the meeting object; and

storing the meeting object and the electronic mail scheduling request object in the first object store for transmission.

VC and startup news

Research shows that 2011 put startups back on the map.
Dec 20, 2011. CNet - If the final quarter shapes up as it looks like it will, venture capital deals will total $30 billion for the year, a 25-percent jump from 2010, according to Anand Sanwal, whose firm, CB Insights, tracks investment activity among VCs and some big angel investors. 

Sean Parker warns of an angel investor bubble:
Q: But the public markets aren't the only option. Google bought 27 companies just in the last quarter.
Parker: Google bought 27 companies last quarter and a lot of them are talent acquisitions, in some cases paying $1 million an engineer. That can't last forever. There's way more startups getting founded now than there are companies than Google and Facebook want to buy. 
In the meantime, fed up with immigration restrictions, Blueseed envisions an offshore startup incubator close to the Silicon Valley and just outside of California waters (Dec 14, 2011. NYT.)

Soon, we'll be offering startup cruises with all season swimming and skiing.

tags: innovation, problem, solution, startup,

Lunch Talk: Adventures in Numberland

Alex Bellos studied mathematics and philosophy at uni, but started his career as a reporter - eventually moving to Rio de Janeiro as The Guardian's South American correspondant. He's since presented a five-part series on Brazil for the BBC - called Inside Out Brazil - and his short films about the Amazon have been broadcast on the BBC, More 4 and Al Jazeera International. He's written Futebol, The Brazillian Way of Life; ghostwritten Pelé, The Autobiography.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Invention of the Day: Systematic Doubt.

Descartes (1596-1650), the founder of modern philosophy, invented a method which may still be used with profit—the method of systematic doubt. He determined that he would believe nothing which he did not see quite clearly and distinctly to be true.
Whatever he could bring himself to doubt, he would doubt, until he saw reason for not doubting it. By applying this method he gradually became convinced that the only existence of which he could be quite certain was his own.
He imagined a deceitful demon, who presented unreal things to his senses in a perpetual phantasmagoria; it might be very improbable that such a demon existed, but still it was possible, and therefore doubt concerning things perceived by the senses was possible. (Bertrand Russell. Problems of Philosophy.)

There seems to be a natural tension between systematic doubt, or reductionism, invented by Rene Descartes and "reality distortion field" perfected by Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs. Both approaches require different kinds of creativity.

doubt <--------------------------------o------------------------------>faith

As a side note, I can see how Descartes personalizes an abstract problem, presenting it as a deceitful demon. Similarly, Maxwell personalized his theory of thermodynamics with another demon. Einstein came up with his theory of relativity by imagining somebody sitting on a particle moving with the speed of light. Schrodinger had his cat, Altshuller - tiny mighty men, Kahneman - Systems 1 and 2.

Among all of them, Kahneman, the psychologist, used this approach consciously and deliberately. In the talk I posted in this journal last month he explained that people intuitively understand agents and spaces, but have trouble relating to abstract distributed processes. Therefore, it is useful to invent a personalized agent to explain and understand a difficult concept.
Do you see his point? Paradoxically, we have to distort the reality in order to better understand it. But after that we need somebody like Descartes to apply systematic doubt and destroy this useful, but false understanding.

tags: creativity, invention, philosophy, tools, method

Education breakthrough: high quality AND low cost.

A combination of certified online courses from top universities and social networking tools will eventually create the best of both worlds - excellent off-campus education AND social connections. All of that will be available for a fraction of the usual university costs.
Dec 19, 2011. Cnet. -- The university [MIT] today launched MITx, an initiative to provide students with a certification for taking MIT-taught classes online through a software platform MIT plans to make open-source.

Anyone with an Internet connection can take classes through the software system, which is expected to be released in the spring of 2012. Students who are able to "demonstrate mastery of the material" through online tests can get credentials for what MIT called a "modest fee.

tags: trade-off, education, problem, solution

Lunch Talk: Software Patents - a debate at the Computer Museum

tags: lunchtalk, patents

Sunday, December 18, 2011

British Telecom sues Google for patent infringement
Dec 18, 2011. PCWorld -  Google Music and Android were cited by BT as examples of Google's violation of U.S. Patent No. 6,151,309 for service provision system for communication networks, also referred to in the suit as the Busuioc patent. This patent is "directed to systems and methods for accessing content in a mobile environment where network constraints vary across networks".

Fundamentally, the Open Innovation (OI) approach adopted by Google for its Android OS does not have a matching IP model. The company and its customers are going to pay through the nose for the "free" software.

tags: strategy, patents, control

Zone of Proximal Development.

A good graphic explaining Zone of Proximal Development (Зона Ближайшего Развития), a theory of learning developed by Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky.

I use elements of ZPD in my work with inventors, especially, when we need to put together a comprehensive invention disclosure. It helps navigate between technology and its applications (user scenarios.)

tags: psychology, patents, system

Why patents don't protect.

Some rough notes on why patents don't protect and why the "pickets and fence" approach doesn't work ( in prep for the Patent Paradox, BUS 111.)
- Breach of a civil obligation is called a "tort", which is a French word meaning "wrong."
- Breach of a property right is called "trespass."

- Property rights focus on a static condition or status. The primary question is whether the complaining party owns land, a copyright, a patent etc.

- Once the property owner has proved the status of ownership, he or she has a nearly automatic remedy for even trivial interferences with the right. The property owner can win a case without having to prove fault or negligence on the part of the defendant. (Idea Rights, by H. Anawalt.)
Since patent is a property right, it is easy to think that it provides protection similar to rights on physical property, e.g. real estate. In reality, the same technology is covered by many patents and, as a result, nobody has the exclusive right to the property. Further, in most patent cases, it is unknown how many patents apply to the technology in question. Therefore, you never know who is going to show up and claim the "territory."

In Consumer Electronics and W3C the issue is resolved through a slow process of standardization, where multiple parties have sufficient time to discover, submit, and arbitrate their claims.

In IT capturing market share as soon as possible seems to be more important. Companies rush their solutions to the market without going through the slow and relatively expensive process of discovering patent rights. It's a good strategy, because if the product doesn't "stick," it doesn't make sense to make an upfront investment in legal resources. If the product is successful, its producer gets "surprised" with patent claims from others, which is a direct result of the initial business strategy.

tags: patents, course, control, theory

Daily commute: timing is everything.

Another interesting infographic (a fragment) from Good Magazine. It looks like the best time to leave home for work is between 9 and 9:30am.

To see complete distribution go to their web page.

2011 Map of Innovation

An infographic from Good Magazine shows world innovation rankings complied by Thomson Reuters.

It's important to note that their methodology goes beyond patent count, which is a typical flaw in innovation rankings.

If you like infographics like I do, Good Magazine is a great source of visual information on a huge range of topics, from innovation to marijuana use around the world.

tags: innovation, invention, graph

Lunchtalk: Connections with James Burke. Episode 2.

Closer to the holidays, I've decided to go with the good old Connections, a series about inventions and inventors. Let's start with Episode 2, "What's in the name."

Other parts of the show are here: 2, 3,4, 5, 6.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The latest numbers in the browser war of attrition.

Dec 16, 2011. CNet - ... numbers still show all versions of IE taking a total of 40.09 percent of the market, vs. 26.31 percent for all versions of Chrome. Firefox is at 25.07 percent, Apple's Safari is at 5.86 percent, and Opera gets 1.91 percent.

Today, browsers not only generate searches for Google and Microsoft, but, more importantly, track user online behavior.  We trust them with our passwords, messages, information habits, and much more. This intimate knowledge of users makes the internet giants fight the war of attrition over who is going to provide you with free software. It's scary even to think about how much the browser knows about you.

tags: security, privacy, battle

3D bio-engineering with magnetic fields.

Problem: growing 3D biological tissues on 2D surfaces flattens the tissues and harms their natural properties.
Solution: float the growing tissues in a magnetic field.

Dec 14, 2011. MTR - Now a new technology, pioneered by Houston-based n3D Biosciences, promises to float cells in a 3-D matrix made of nothing but magnetism.

The secret ingredient is a proprietary mix of nanoparticles the company calls Nanoshuttle. The addition of these particles to a dish of living cells allows them to move in response to magnetic fields that can be varied in three dimensions and across time.

Injection of magnetic particles to improve control over a clump of matter was one of G.Altshuller's favorite problem-solving techniques. There's a whole set of recommended solutions based on this principle in Substance-Field "standards." (in Russian)

tags: triz, biology, problem, solution

Lunchtalk: The secret history of Silicon Valley (Google Talks)

Steve Blank spent nearly 30 years as founder and executive of high tech companies in Silicon Valley, most recently the enterprise software firm E.piphany. He has been involved in or co-founded eight Silicon Valley startups, ranging from semiconductors to video games, and personal computers to supercomputers. He teaches entrepreneurship at U.C. Berkeley's Haas School of Business, Columbia University and Stanford's Graduate School of Engineering.

tags: lunchtalk, military

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mobile phone is not a phone.

The new data is in and it confirms the prediction (iPhone is not a phone) I made two and a half years ago. Mobile devices we buy and use today are computers that live on data. Voice is but one application that runs on them.
Dec 15, 2011. VBeat usage is up 256 percent from last year with the average 13- to 17-year-old teen now consuming 320 MB of data per month. Should the trend continue — and we think it will — teens will easily get up to 1 GB of data usage a month by next year.

The cell phone’s primary purpose (i.e. to make calls), according to the data, is quickly becoming lost on teens. Voice usage dropped from 685 to 572 minutes in one year.
 Mobile communications infrastructure will have to be rebuilt with new technologies to accommodate the emerging usage patterns. 

tags: mobile, communications, infrastructure, information, apple

The downside of sweet life.

A common expression "healthy look" may have a solid scientific backing.  It appears that people with high blood glucose level, which is often linked to sugar/fructose [over-]consumption, look older to those around them.
(Dec 15, 2011. NS) - A team led by Diana van Heemst at Leiden University in the Netherlands divided 569 healthy volunteers into three groups according to whether they had low, medium or high concentrations of blood glucose after a meal. They also studied 33 people with diabetes who had even higher blood glucose levels.
Sixty independent assessors were then asked to view pictures of the volunteers and rate how old each looked. The results show that high blood sugar levels made people look older, even when other factors affecting appearance were accounted for, such as actual age, smoking and a history of sunbathing.
On a related note, the US government no longer promotes the health pyramid. Now, it's your food plate, with certain types of food allocated in proportion to each other.

reference: Noordam R, et al. (2011) High serum glucose levels are associated with a higher perceived age.
 tags: health, care, control, biology

Lunchtalk: Stanford's Entrepreneurship Corner.

STVP Executive Director Tina Seelig discusses how reframing problems can open new approaches to finding solutions. Narrow definition of problems is a danger, says Seelig, and reframing can be a valuable tool in the process of creative thinking. In this clip, Seelig encourages the audience to come up with a new type of nametag, but by reframing the problem to address the real underlying need.

tags: lunchtalk, creativity, magicians

Russian Revolution: Facebook vs Google+

Google+ is doomed. All prep work for the next week's mass protest in Moscow, Russia is done through Facebook.

tags: facebook, social, networking, google, 4q diagram, mousetrap

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Drivers go home!

CNet reports about the latest Google patent that covers driverless car.
In its patent, Google engineers detail the method for how sensors would find a marker to switch to autonomous mode and receive instructions from an Internet address over a wireless network. It also describes the design of an onboard computing device capable of handling the information needed for autonomous operation.

If we really want to make a serious investment in infrastructure, equipping roads and cars to help automatic driving would be one of the best long-term options. For example, I can see toll roads with automatically managed traffic, where a variable number of lanes is allocated to a certain direction during the day, depending on traffic patterns. Let's say, if the road has 10 lanes, in the morning it can give 8 lanes to "work"-bound commuters, then switch to 5+5 configuration during the day, then provide 8 lanes to "home"-bound cars in the evening. Of course, a dedicated narrow-profile commute vehicle can be developed to increase the number of lanes on existing freeways. Etc. etc. etc.

tags: transportation, system, control, payload, patent

Stealth drones: no longer invisible.

Communications security remains the weakest link in the new world of information gathering. 

(December 15, 2011. VBeat) - The US drone, which veered off course and landed in Iran, is said to have be hacked using a GPS spoofing attack.

Compromising the GPS system allowed the drone to “land on its own where we wanted it to, without having to crack the remote-control signals and communications,” the Iranian engineer told the Christian Science Monitor. This hid the operation from US engineers controlling the drone. At first, the unplanned landing was said to be the drone simply “veering off course” and flying into Iran

According to the engineer, the GPS system is one of the easiest to manipulate, making it a huge vulnerability that the United States was already aware of.

As I wrote before, avoiding radars with stealth technology is an old battle. The new battle is making communications secure and/or undetectable to the enemy.

tag: drone, control, security, military

Snack Talk: A 3-minute TED talk about goals

Derek Sivers says it's better to keep goals secret. He presents research stretching as far back as the 1920s to show why people who talk about their ambitions may be less likely to achieve them. 

tags: lunchtalk, creativity, control, psychology

End-to-End Analysis of the Spam Value Chain

A fascinating paper analyzing spam as a business model. Here's a picture showing how a typical Viagra spam transaction works:

With all its complexity, the spam business has a choke point: bank transactions. According to the study, only three banks clear the vast majority of high-risk transfers. is the banking component of the spam value chain that is both the least studied and, we believe, the most critical. Without an effective mechanism to transfer consumer payments, it would be difficult to finance the rest of the spam ecosystem. Moreover, there are only two networks—Visa and Mastercard—that have the consumer footprint in Western countries to reach spam’s principal customers. While there are thousands of banks, the number who are willing to knowingly process what the industry calls “high-risk” transactions is far smaller. This situation is dramatically reflected in Figure 5, which shows that just three banks provide the payment servicing for over 95% of the spam-advertised goods in our study.

via MTR

Source: Levchenko, K., et. al. "Click Trajectories: End-to-End Analysis of the Spam Value Chain," Security and Privacy (SP), 2011 IEEE Symposium on , vol., no., pp.431-446, 22-25 May 2011

tags: business, model, deontic, information, commerce

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The dark side of innovation - 2.

Economist Joseph Stiglitz sees fundamental parallels between today's state of the economy and the Great Depression
(January, 2012. Vanity Fair) - Back then we were moving from agriculture to manufacturing. Today we are moving from manufacturing to a service economy. The decline in manufacturing jobs has been dramatic—from about a third of the workforce 60 years ago to less than a tenth of it today.

There are two reasons for the decline. One is greater productivity—the same dynamic that revolutionized agriculture and forced a majority of American farmers to look for work elsewhere. The other is globalization, which has sent millions of jobs overseas, to low-wage countries or those that have been investing more in infrastructure or technology.

His solution is massive public investment in education, technology, and infrastructure. I wish we had the money and the institutions to handle the task. As I wrote earlier, innovation by itself will not solve the problem.

tags: economics, trends, education, system, model, battle

Hacking your way to prosperity.

While we worry about patent protection and legal barriers to innovation, China, according to Bloomberg, has gained access to technology and business secrets inside at least 760 foreign companies:

(Dec 14, 2011. Bloomberg) - “They are stealing everything that isn’t bolted down, and it’s getting exponentially worse,” said Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who is chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

China has made industrial espionage an integral part of its economic policy.

“What has been happening over the course of the last five years is that China -- let’s call it for what it is -- has been hacking its way into every corporation it can find listed in Dun & Bradstreet,” said Richard Clarke, former special adviser on cybersecurity to U.S. President George W. Bush, at an October conference on network security. “Every corporation in the U.S., every corporation in Asia, every corporation in Germany. And using a vacuum cleaner to suck data out in terabytes and petabytes. I don’t think you can overstate the damage to this country that has already been done.” 
If keeping secrets is impossible, then a higher-level strategy has to be applied to control the flow of know-how. In this environment the only way you can compete is by using the legal system to attack counterfeit products and services.

tags: control, information, technology, business, model, china, patent

Lunch Talk: Yale Lectures by Rober J. Schiller

Professor Rober J. Schiller talks about the field of economics he helped create - Behavioral Finance.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The quirky philosophy of social media.

Bertrand Russel writes about Idealism,
The first serious attempt to establish idealism .... was that of Bishop Berkeley.
He fully admits that the tree must continue to exist even when we shut our eyes or when no human being is near it. But this continued existence, he says, is due to the fact that God continues to perceive it; the 'real' tree, which corresponds to what we called the physical object, consists of ideas in the mind of God, ideas more or less like those we have when we see the tree, but differing in the fact that they are permanent in God's mind so long as the tree continues to exist. All our perceptions, according to him, consist in a partial participation in God's perceptions, and it is because of this participation that different people see more or less the same tree.
All our perceptions, according to him, consist in a partial participation in God's perceptions, and it is because of this participation that different people see more or less the same tree.
Let's run a thought experiment and think about Berekeley's 'tree' as 'customized webpage.' On Facebook all pages are built on demand. They are assembled on-the-fly from bits and pieces for a particular individual. Therefore, a customized webpage only exists when the individual invokes and perceives it. Once the individual turns off her demand for the page, it disappears. In this case, Facebook infrastructure plays the role of God's mind, ensuring that the page will be available when the individual invokes it next time.

When Facebook goes bankrupt or runs out of power, the world of social media disappears. All 'trees' of our perceptions are gone, just as Bishop Berkeley had predicted.

Maybe, people keep coming back to their Facebook pages all the time because they are subconsciously afraid that their world is going to vanish without them.

Facebook, the engine of human misery?

Facebook seems to inflict suffering not only on the tyrants of Middle East and Russia, but also on us, the regular biz-tech-folk. A provocative piece in Harvard Business Review claims that "Facebook Is Making Us Miserable" in three important ways,
First, it's creating a den of comparison. Since our Facebook profiles are self-curated, users have a strong bias toward sharing positive milestones and avoid mentioning the more humdrum, negative parts of their lives. Comparing ourselves to others is a key driver of unhappiness.

Second, it's fragmenting our time. Not surprisingly, Facebook's "horizontal" strategy encourages users to log in more frequently from different devices.
Famed author Dr. Srikumar Rao attributes mindfulness over multitasking as one of his ten steps to happiness at work. He argues that constant distractions lead to late and poor-quality output, negatively impacting our sense of self-worth.

Last, there's a decline of close relationships. One participant summed it up simply: "We Facebook chat instead of meeting up. It's easier."

Of course, it's a sign of an incredibly attractive product or service when people continue using it despite all its horrendous drawbacks. Facebook is a part of the overall information overload problem we are experiencing today. To deal with it, you have to create a new kind of commitment device. Otherwise, your brain will turn into jelly that wobbles at every shake.

Should be a good problem for the class to solve during the Summer '12 quarter.

tags: control, information, 10x, social, networking, problem

Mobile ads: Apple vs Google

Using IDC data, WSJ shows (12/13/11) that Apple is losing to Google in the mobile ads market.

Last year, Apple shared the top spot in the mobile display ad market with Google, with each company capturing 19%, according to research firm IDC. This year, Apple fell to the No. 3 spot, behind Google and independent mobile ad firm Millennial Media, capturing 15%, or $95 million, of the $630 million market, IDC says.

Hordes of developers have activated iAd, but they say that Apple hasn't sold enough to make any meaningful revenue for them. David Barnard, founder of mobile app company App Cubby, says he earned $320 from iAd in the past 30 days and that the service is only filling roughly 13% of his apps requests.
As I wrote recently, Apple is not an ad company. In this market they are going to lose to Google  because, among other things, Google has a much better targeting and delivery platform. The ad-based business model fits Google setup like a glove. On the other hand, Steve Jobs always hated ads and as the result, in Apple's kingdom content is the king and ads are an afterthought.

Further, I would venture to say that when (not if) Google and Apple come out with their digital TV products, the overall business outcome will be the same: Apple = content; Google = ads.

tags: content, information, technology, business, model, apple, google, control, deontic

Lunch Talk: UCB Sociology lectures - Social Status.

Social Psychology: Self and Society. Professor Robb Willer.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Schools vs Creativity

A good post on marginalrevolution about creativity:
From Creativity: Asset or Burden in the Classroom?, a good review paper. What the paper shows is that the characteristics that teachers use to describe their favorite student correlate negatively with the characteristics associated with creativity. In addition, although teachers say that they like creative students, teachers also say creative students are “sincere, responsible, good-natured and reliable.” In other words, the teachers don’t know what creative students are actually like.
Here's a creative summary of creativity killing process in education

Schools are created for puzzle-solving, i.e. learning pre-defined answers to known questions. Real-life creativity is about problem-solving, i.e. discovering new (mostly wrong) answers and new questions. 

tags: education, creativity, process, problem, puzzle