Thursday, August 20, 2015

Learning computer science - a new priority and a new problem

According to a new Gallup-Google poll,

Nine in 10 parents say offering opportunities to learn computer science is a good use of resources at their child's school, and about as many (91%) want their child to learn more computer science in the future.
Most parents say computer science learning is at least as important to a student's future success as required courses such as math, science, history and English.

The figure above shows an "implementation gap" between parents and school superintendents. Somehow, superintendents need to fit a new subject into an existing school curriculum, hire teachers, and provide accreditation. Since school budgets are practically fixed, computer science would have to replace another important subject - a typical trade-off situation, which will not lead to a breakthrough. Unfortunately, Gallup didn't ask parents which subject they want their children to stop learning.

An alternative solution would be to introduce an entirely new curriculum based on the online education model. The 21% of the parents is a good initial market. In the future, we should see an emergence of private high schools with emphasis on online STEM + CS.

tags: education, computer, science, trade-off, problem

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Facebook is taking over Google in sourcing the flow of news

Fortune runs an article showing Facebook's influence growing in the news segment:’s clear that search has hit a kind of plateau and isn’t really growing any more as a referral source for media. Meanwhile, Facebook’s influence has “shown it’s on a continued growth trajectory."

Source: (click images to enlarge)

The competition for advertisers' money between Facebook and Google is heating up. We should expect that Facebook will make further inroads into information segments other than news. Although it's too early to pronounce Search dead, its dominance on the web no longer translates directly into the mobile space, especially, when users spend more and more time on social. (Based on system analysis, we anticipated this trend in Scalable Innovation, Chapters 20-22).

It is also somewhat surprising that Twitter is such a non-factor in the race. Despite the "freshness" of their links, they don't have enough users to play the game. Furthermore, unlike the Facebook's, Twitter connections don't have the strength of social relations.
tags: mobile, information, control, google, facebook, twitter, system

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Lunch Talk: Getting stuck in the negatives (and how to get unstuck) | Alison Ledgerwood

Alison Ledgerwood joined the Department of Psychology at UC Davis in 2008 after completing her PhD in social psychology at New York University. She is interested in understanding how people think, and how they can think better. Her research, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, investigates how certain ways of thinking about an issue tend to stick in people's heads. Her classes on social psychology focus on understanding the way people think and behave in social situations, and how to harness that knowledge to potentially improve the social world in which we all live.

tags: lunchtalk, psychology, problem

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Lunch Talk: Why Information and Diversity Grows (Cesar Hidalgo at TED)

MIT professor Cesar Hidalgo considers how to deal with diversity and complexity.

tags: lunchtalk, control, system, science, math, economics

Thursday, August 13, 2015

True Detective S2 vs S1 - an inventor perspective

True Detective, Season 2 turned out to be a bit of a disappointment and I wanted to understand why. Reading TV critics and blogs didn't give me much insight beyond the typical "oh, the story was not good" or "oh, the director was not good" or "oh, the pace of the action was too slow", etc. Therefore, I decided to put my inventor hat on and compare the two Seasons as Systems. I applied to both TV series the same system analysis techniques I always use in my invention workshops.

I started the analysis by laying out each story as a system of perspectives. That is, each layer of narration in the series represents a Source of information for the viewers (Scalable Innovation, Section 1). Each Source covers the reality of events on the ground. Paradoxically, it turned out that despite Season 2 has more main characters than Season 1, it also has fewer unique Sources of representation.
In Season 1 we had four key perspectives (2 "real" and 2 "virtual"):
1. Detective Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey);
2. Detective Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson);
3. The Official Investigation - a narrative presented by the official police investigation;
4. The Narrator - a director narrative presented by the chronology of events described in an "objective" manner by the video camera and background characters.

The nature of perspectives was also different. All of them were extremely smart but with different flavors. Rust Cohle could be characterized as "weird smart". Marty Hart - "down-to-earth smart". The Investigation - "bureaucracy smart". The Narrator - "visual and story smart". Furthermore, we had variations of each perspective shifted in time and space. In addition to the mystery of the crime, we, as viewers, had to reconcile and process the mysteries of all these Sources that gave us complimentary and conflicting information. The structure of the system provided us with a intricate, intriguing pattern.

Importantly, the system of different perspectives felt natural due to the fact that detectives Cohle and Hart managed to solve their case _because_ they had different perspectives. They also had conflicts _because_ they had different perspectives. Since they broke multiple official rules — and The Narrator shows us how and why — the official investigation perspective provided us with an explanation why a standard bureaucratic police approach to detective work would not solve the mystery. As a result, we had a system of contrasting and explaining Sources that formed a complex but consistent, natural whole.

Finally, the perspectives were not just narrated from a character's point of view. They were SHOWN from that point of view. In short, Season 1 did an excellent job executing the rule "Show, don't tell".

Season 2 had more main characters, but fewer perspectives. Essentially, there was just one perspective - the Narrator, who guided us and the camera through the story. Basically, we had one Source which kept switching microphones and cameras for every character to tell his or her line.
Although the story itself was, arguably, more complicated and somewhat more mysterious, the system of perspectives was no different than in a regular criminal TV piece. As a system, Season 1 turned out to be flat.

Overall, the actors in both Seasons played great, stories were interesting, suspension was adequate for a crime drama, and camera work excellent, especially, the LA aerial shots in Season 2. Unfortunately for Season 2, the script didn't provide a system structure that could support a real thriller of the Season 1 caliber.

tags: system, source, control, entertainment, method

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Lunch Talk: Conducting Effective Negotiations (Stanford GSB)

Negotiation is an inevitable aspect of starting a business. Joel Peterson talks about how to conduct a successful negotiation.

lunchtalk, business

Monday, August 10, 2015

Lunch Talk: Dorie Clark: "Stand Out" | Talks at Google

Dorie Clark visited Google's office in Cambridge, MA to discuss her book "Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It".

In the book, she explains how to identify the ideas that set you apart and promote them successfully. The key is to recognize your own value, cultivate your expertise, and put yourself out there.

Featuring vivid examples and drawing on interviews with thought leaders, Clark aims to teach readers how to develop a big idea, leverage existing affiliations, and build a community of followers.

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategy consultant, professional speaker, and frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, TIME, Entrepreneur, and the World Economic Forum blog. She is a corporate consultant and an adjunct professor of business administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and a Visiting Professor for IE Business School in Madrid, Spain.

tags: lunchtalk, market, advertisment

Profits and Patents at Tesla Motors

According to news reports (Reuters via VentureBeat):
The Silicon Valley automaker [Tesla Motors] is losing more than $4,000 on every Model S electric sedan it sells, using its reckoning of operating losses, and it burned $359 million in cash last quarter in a bull market for luxury vehicles. The company on Wednesday cut its production targets for this year and next.

Model S is widely considered to be the best electric car on the market. Moreover, Tesla Motors produces the car on one of the most efficient car factories in the world. And they still can't make money on it. This sends a strong signal to the competition that the electric vehicle market is not worth entering yet. Since competition doesn't attack Tesla's market position, the company's electric car patent portfolio is worse than worthless, its real value is negative. That is, the patents are not needed to protect profits against the competition and the portfolio requires significant maintenance resources. No wonder, Elon Musk decided last year not to assert Tesla Motor's EV patents.

Compare this situation to Steve Jobs' introduction of the iPod and, especially, the iPhone few years ago. Both products became extremely successful and, more importantly, _profitable_ in the market. As the result, competition immediately started copying Apple's design and technology solutions. To defend its margins, Apple used its patent portfolio to fend off the copycats. Unlike the Tesla's, Apple's patent portfolio had huge value for the company and Steve Jobs was not going to give it away.

My earlier hypothesis that Musk's big promise last year not “initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology” was of no real consequence, except for some publicity value for the company.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Is Apple in long-term trouble?

A survey of software developers shows a sharp drop in Objective-C popularity, Objective-C being the main programming language for Apple's iOS.

Fewer developers means fewer apps for consumers and businesses. One could argue that with hundreds of thousands of apps already available in the AppStore Apple should not worry about the trend. Furthermore, Apple's move into its own services, including media streaming, may also decrease the need for independent developers. In general, the mobile apps space has matured well beyond its heydays.

Nevertheless, it's hard to imagine a popular software development platform that is of limited interest to developers. We might be seeing the beginning of the end of Apple's rapid expansion.

tags: technology, apple, software, services, dominant design