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Your lemmings piece was okay: US education is not well designed and wastes a LOT of time, money, effort, and opportunity. Parents and students have been confident that the program provided by the US educational system is good, and the result of following this program is too often falling off a cliff into disaster. That allegory is correct. It appears that you are connected with Memphis and Indiana: I grew up in Memphis, went to East, graduated from Rhodes, was a grad student in math at IU, started violin, met my wife from 15 miles south of Warsaw. Went back to help start FedEx and did two things for the company with math. We got our Ph.D. degrees from Johns Hopkins, hers in mathematical sociology and mine in mathematical engineering. Your efforts seem to suggest that the US should do better in education, especially grades 9-12. Okay. Parents, students, teachers should be more serious and work harder. Okay. But, now what? What to teach? That's a very big, challenging question. So far from your work I have seen no hint of an answer. Believe me, it's quite possible just to waste time studying. Spending a lot of time and effort stuffing library contents between the ears can be wasteful nonsense. Yes, in college, graduate school, and academic research in the US in math, physical science, and engineering, mostly the values and work are quite separated from jobs, the economy, or anything practical. Overwhelmingly applications outside of academics and, indeed, the whole non-academic world are viewed with contempt. So, education is not well connected with business. For nearly all of academic work, each piece of work is entirely within a narrow 'silo'. That silo is a leaf in a tree of nested silos. At the root of the tree is all of academics, one more silo. In math, physical science, and engineering in academics, nearly everyone with results has a very narrow solution still looking for a real problem; there is nearly no one around with a real problem looking for a solution. So the silos become more and more narrow and irrelevant. Occasionally some E = mc^2 result pops out, but otherwise there is a lot of missed opportunity. The NSF tries to push 'cross-cutting' research, but the fundamental point is that academics, especially via its leaders, has 'physics envy', really only likes more cases of E = mc^2, and has profound contempt for the non-academic world. For these academic problems, it is not the least bit clear that India or China has better solutions. Net, they can't avoid the problems: What to teach? How to connect with the real world? How to get high quality research done, much of which does connect with practice? How does the world of practice evaluate the practical potential of highly technical work? It is also very true that nearly no one in US business is able to look at advanced technical material in math, physical science, or engineering and evaluate its business potential. Here's the easiest solution: The US needs more math, physical science, and engineering Ph.D. entrepreneurs with 200' yachts -- and this is mostly not a joke. That is, to take Ph.D. work and workers seriously, business needs more examples where such work led to significant business success. Instead, what we have is, Bill Gates dropped out of college, Warren Buffett does his own thing not emphasized even in business school, Steve Jobs creates products from his unique mind, Jim Simons has claimed that his business does not depend on math, etc. Exceptions might be A. Viterbi and R. Bixby, but very few people in business have heard of either of these two. Actually in the US, a key part of the successful computer industry was the hard push in the 1960s and 1970s of US national security aerospace projects that needed much, much more in digital electronics. Soon we got microprocessors, and then software techniques already running on mainframes, especially Multics, suddenly got cheap processors. Microsoft and Apple became great successes quickly. To connect the computers, the DoD work in TCP/IP made Cisco a great success. What to do for a second act? Tough question. My suggestion of the key would be much closer connections between academics and practice. E.g., schools of engineering should be research-teaching hospitals with clinics for engineering problems from real businesses. Most if not all professors should be practicing their profession. Part of the education should be working on engineering problems in the clinics. Research work should often be motivated by problems in the clinics that currently have no good solutions. As it is, for a professor in math, physical science, or engineering to have a career, they need to avoid any contact outside of academics and pursue some grand result such as E = mc^2. So, the goal for everyone is to be Einstein and otherwise they have nothing important to do. In particular they can't make contact with real problems from outside academics. So, inside academics, there is no connection with real problems, and outside academics people laugh at academics. Discovering the next E = mc^2 is excellent, but so is much other work. Actually there is work in math, physical science, and engineering that can be the basis of 'secret sauce' for an entrepreneur, but essentially no one in US venture capital is able to evaluate such work. The situation in US biomedical venture capital is much better -- there venture partners can have MD and/or biomedical Ph.D. degrees and be able to understand and evaluate core technical details. In information technology venture capital, the venture partners evaluate the technical work by looking at only the user interface and ignore everything else; nearly no venture partners know enough to get deeper than the user interface or even know how to direct a 'peer review' that could get deeper. Looking only at the user interface is such a superficial review that the venture people are shooting in the dark and, thus, guaranteeing low average return on investment. In particular, your point about ad targeting is correct: Venture people cannot evaluate the core math for better ad targeting and, thus, won't see the value much before the accountants do. Similarly for Internet search, monitoring computers and networks, etc. Your claim that Microsoft can't fill 5000 technical jobs with US citizens is nonsense: The US is just awash in people much more qualified then nearly anyone at Microsoft that Microsoft just refuses to hire. The situation is similar at Intel, Google, etc. The issue is absolutely NOT qualifications or ability. Wall Street just killed much of the world economy with some really stupid work in 'risk management' but for decades just refused to hire people with solid qualifications in stochastic processes. There is a pattern: US business does NOT want high technical qualifications. Why? The old pattern of the industrial revolution is still in place: The supervisor is supposed to know more about the work than the subordinate. So, highly qualified people can't be hired as subordinates. Moreover, in large organizations, nearly never does the CEO have a technical background. The movie 'Stand and Deliver' was awful: Actually, the student and her family who wanted her to learn to run the family Mexican restaurant business was fully correct: Learning to run the business was MUCH more valuable than anything closely connected with calculus. Actually, all across the US, a Ph.D. in electrical engineering will usually be better off with an electrician's license. Often he can do better with a $30,000 truck and a $6000 lawn mower and mowing grass than with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. Net, the US economy does NOT know how to use Ph.D. educations in math, physical science, and engineering.
Vincent, One of the keys to the rise of new media in the long tail is the great progress of the last decade toward really cheap disk space. You mentioned 15,000 gigabytes (GB) of disk space. Well, can buy SATA hard disk drives for less than $100 each that have 200 GB of space each and put, say, three, in addition to a boot drive, in one thin flat 1 RU PC. Assuming 28 such PCs in a rack and we have 3 * 200 * 28 = 16,800 GB in one such rack. Such a rack is about 2' x 2' or 4 square feet. You mentioned space of 20 square meters, so let's convert 4 square feet to square meters: 1 inch = 2.54 cm 1 foot = 12 * 2.54 cm 1 foot = 12 * 2.54 * (1/100) m 1 square foot = (12 * 2.54 * (1/100))**2 square meters 4 square feet = 4 * (12 * 2.54 * (1/100))**2 = 0.372 m**2 So, we have about 1/3rd of a square meter and not 20 square meters, unless we also include space for electric power, air conditioning, security guards, bridge, systems management personnel, executive suites, executive wash room, executive dining room, CEO's nap room, executive gourmet kitchen, quarters for executive gourmet chef and staff, executive wine cellar, etc., all desirable, I admit, but not really from the video clips! You also mentioned 15,000 gigabytes (GB) of disk space for 10,000 instances of video. So, that's 1.5 GB per video clip. That's enough for a 90 minute old movie. So far commonly video clips are taking only about 10% of that much space. E.g., I have a MOV file of a clip of a F. Wilczek lecture at Harvard on S. Coleman's work in quantum field theory that is 48 minutes long; the file is 124 MB, less than 10% of your 1.5 GB. For something still more common, the chad_vader.mp4 at http://www.channel101.com/shows/show.php?show_id=201 is 14.2 million bytes (MB), just under 1% of your 1.5 GB. At 15 MB per clip, 10,000 clips would be 150 GB and could be stored on one hard disk of 200 GB available for less than $100. The little PC in front of me I built last year has an IDE drive with 250 GB and two SATA drives with 200 GB each. I still have plenty of space for 10,000 video clips of 15 MB each. That PC is in a mini tower case and nowhere near 20 square meters. For more, Seagate is talking single drives with 750 GB, 750 hours of ordinary video, 125 hours of HD video, and 10 video streams at once. So, 10,000 HD video clips of 90 minutes each would be 10000 * 90 * (1/60) * (1/125) = 120 drives. That would be maybe 12 JBOD boxes with 10 disks each and, still, one or two racks of 4 square feet each and, maybe 1200 video streams at once. For RAID, add one drive per array and use hot plugging. We're still a long way from 20 square meters.
Toggle Commented Aug 2, 2006 on How long is the Long Tail? at BeyondVC
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Muskie, Ed wrote "As for the Long Tail, the only question one can ask is when will it happen vs. if it makes sense or not." So he is questioning WHEN the long tail will happen. By "happen" he may mostly mean when some information technology company selling products in the long tail will be a good venture capital investment. You mentioned that YouTube has a lot of junk. Here you are adding importance to the problem I tried to identify: For a person to find instances of new media, including videos, that they would value highly is too difficult. Better means are needed. Not everything on YouTube is junk: E.g., as of July 29th, 2006 at http://news.com.com/2300-1026_3-6095928.html?tag=ne.gall.rbcs was a CNET article on 10 video clips on YouTube that CNET found likely of broad interest. Some of the clips were good. That article also illustrates my point: Of the 10 videos, I really liked just two: One was a play on some a recent description of the Internet by Senator Stevens of Alaska. The other was on some results of computational fluid dynamics and computer graphics by a professor at Stanford. The first illustrated again how astoundingly little some of our national leaders understand about the Internet. I found the second impressive since earlier in my career I worked with the Navier-Stokes equations at Carderock. So, I liked two of the 10, 20%. So, again, finding instances of new media that a person would value highly for one of their interests is not easy and needs help. Not all the video on YouTube has to be junk, and not all the video has to be on YouTube: People can put nearly anything on YouTube or the similar video hosting services of Google, etc. Or, people can get other hosting. E.g., can notice the current WSJ piece: Moguls of New Media "The MySpace member with a million 'friends.' The receptionist with a production deal. Some of the Web's amateur entertainers are becoming powerful players." By JOHN JURGENSEN July 29, 2006; Page P1 with links to videos at various sites. Just at YouTube, currently their home page is showing as a "Featured Video" Day of the Longtail "Movie Trailer: In celebration of the publication of Chris Anderson's book, 'The Long Tail,' The old world of media faces an invasion from another planet. The horror. The horror. (By Michael Markman, Peter Hirshberg, Bob Kalsey)" It's a riot, and apropos! There are some good technical videos on the Internet: I mentioned some I found on sports car engineering via the Factory Five Racing (FFR) Web site. I'm still trying to figure out how an FFR Cobra with a cast iron Ford small block can weigh 2100 pounds while a 2006 Corvette Z06 with a Chevy small block with aluminum block and heads, aluminum frame, and some carbon fiber body panels has to weigh 3200 pounds! In physics, I have some videos I found good by F. Wilczek at MIT and on S. Coleman's work at Harvard. I am sure that there is much more on the Internet than I have seen and that I would value highly for some of my interests. E.g., as I mentioned, I only stumbled onto the Factory Five Racing and their information. For this "more", too often I have to stumble onto the instances and need some much better means. YouTube, etc., now shows convincingly that millions of individuals can easily do home movie videos, alas, including many in bad taste. So, bad taste or not, we have to conclude that quite broadly across society people can do videos on nearly any subject in the long tail: There can be university course lectures, research seminars, research conference lectures, technical sales presentations, and much, much more -- nearly everything in the long tail, and that is enormous. The main point in my post was to respond to Ed's doubts about the opportunities in the long tail and say that it is important in various respects now and that there should be an opportunity now for an information technology start-up making money from the long tail -- help people find what they want in the long tail and get paid for narrowly targeted ads. Again, this thread illustrates that (1) there are some good instances of new media on the Internet, (2) finding instances a person would value highly for one of their interests is not easy, (3) better means of finding such instances are needed. For 'the vision thing', again I believe that instances of new media distributed via the Internet will help break the media tyranny of the least common denominator, "the great wasteland", etc. and be part of a revolution in civilization. Not small stuff. Some careful consideration is needed, but Ed is selling the long tail short too soon.
Toggle Commented Aug 2, 2006 on How long is the Long Tail? at BeyondVC
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Ed, It may be that part of the 'long tail' you have wanted to find is not very visible yet, but a lot of the long tail is visible today, some of it right in front of you. Yes, cherry makes gorgeous furniture so that someone wandering in a lush forest of pine converting to oak and hickory and seeing no cherry may conclude that there are no trees? You mentioned Amazon: E.g., I've bought books from Amazon, but nearly all of them have been from way, way out in the long tail. E.g., I believe that my most recent book from them was Albert N. Shiryaev, 'Essentials of Stochastic Finance: Facts, Models, Theory', ISBN 981-02-3605-0, World Scientific Publishing, New Jersey, 2003. Nice book but not a big seller! For some of why, one prerequisite is, say, Ioannis Karatzas and Steven E. Shreve, 'Brownian Motion and Stochastic Calculus, Second Edition', ISBN 0-387-97655-8, Springer-Verlag, New York, 1994. for which a prerequisite is, say, the first half of Walter Rudin, 'Real and Complex Analysis', ISBN 07-054232-5, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1966. for which good prior reading includes, say, all but the multi-linear algebra of Paul R. Halmos, 'Finite-Dimensional Vector Spaces, Second Edition', D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., Princeton, New Jersey, 1958. and all but the E. Cartan exterior algebra of Wendell H. Fleming, 'Functions of Several Variables', Addison-Wesley, Reading, Massachusetts, 1965. Uh, people interested in the fancy approach to general relativity should read all of these last two books! In mathematical finance, possibly of interest in parts of SW Connecticut and Long Island, in some of the US vernacular, Shiryaev (a Kolmogorov student!) and also known for R. S. Lipster and A. N. Shiryayev, 'Statistics of Random Processes I: General Theory', ISBN 0-387-90226-0, Springer-Verlag, New York, 1977. R. S. Lipster and A. N. Shiryayev, 'Statistics of Random Processes II: Applications', ISBN 0-387-90236-0, Springer-Verlag, New York, 1978. is 'the man', but the prerequisites will discourage some people. For me, this situation of the long tail is general: My personal library of books and music (recordings, scores) takes up most of the storage space in four rooms, and nearly every item is from way out in the long tail. E.g., when I listen to my CD of Heifetz playing the Sibelius concerto, I get to follow along with the score and get to see just how much Heifetz did that is not explicit in the score! When I play some of the passages on my violin, what he did gets more amazing! 'Pop culture'? Will have a tough time selling me ANY of it. I had MORE than enough from my time in Memphis. E.g., not interested in self-mutilation, via body piercing, tattoos, or otherwise. E.g., from a few random glances of a few seconds each on TV, it looks like Britney Spears was a pretty teenage girl, but I have never heard any of her singing. E.g., programs have come on prime time TV, been very popular for years, returned as reruns for years, more than once, without my ever watching a single episode! Ah, the burden of those prerequisites! So, for the long tail and the 'head', some people have relatively little interest in the head. For you, some of the long tail is right in front of you: There are maybe a few tens of thousands of people in the US with a serious interest in all three of 'information technology' (IT), starting businesses in IT, and venture capital. So, for the 'media', this interest is definitely out in the long tail. Since your blog is an example of this interest, it, too, is in the long tail. You are looking right at part of the long tail -- your blog. The long tail has many tiny niches. Here is such a niche with some lessons about the long tail: Some years ago, a friend and I considered starting a company to make relatively simple high performance sports cars. I got to be a Full Member of the SAE (due mostly to my background with airplanes -- right, Memphis) and did some first-cut engineering and business planning. We got a tour of the company that made the composite bodies for the original Corvette; the person leading the tour was one of the main engineers on that work; clearly they could make nice body parts for us! For that project, in the end I noticed the need for a lot of each of engineering and testing, manufacturing space and tools, supplies and inventory, work with steel, aluminum, composites, etc., legal efforts, marketing and service efforts, and beating competition and concluded that the project was a close call, an okay but not big financial opportunity. Also stood to go through quite a lot of time, money, and effort before getting much revenue. My partner offered to take the first car we built. When I told him that he was being VERY generous, he was shocked at my view of the first car! But I had read F. Brooks where he said, "Plan to throw one away -- you will anyhow." Well, at times had to wish that Brooks had thrown away IBM's JCL! My friend went on to another project, an aluminum yacht nicely over 50 feet. In the end he was surprised to discover that Brooks had been correct. Since I already had a background in IT, I just returned to IT! Occasionally I did more with that car project: Once I wrote some software to simulate acceleration by a fairly careful solution to Newton's second law F = ma with fairly careful automotive details. So, given engine torque, gear ratios, vehicle weight, etc., can calculate acceleration times. Works nicely for anything that has much chance of being driven on the street. Once I guessed that could find the stiffness of space frames by using the implicit function theorem and multidimensional Newton iteration, so typed the mathematics into TeX, typed the software into PL/I (terrific for that problem!), tried it, and saw that it worked nicely! So, can use this software to calculate the stiffness of automotive space frames. Maybe I'll do something similar for suspension geometry, stiffness of solid objects, and aerodynamic stability. So far didn't "throw away" either software effort or a sports car or a yacht! Yesterday I happened to see a link to Factory Five Racing. They are apparently a NICE example of being successful with what my friend and I had in mind! Maybe I was too pessimistic? Apparently they have done quite well with a Ford Cobra and now have moved on to a mid-engine car. Their key techniques: Use a fairly simple welded tube steel space frame (I was thinking aluminum, but steel is good enough). For the interior panels, use just flat sheets of aluminum (I was thinking sandwiches of balsa, but just sheets are good enough). For the exterior surfaces, use hand laid composite just bolted to the frame (what we saw on the tour). Keep the car light, dry weight about 2100 pounds. Mechanically, keep the car dirt simple (start by thinking high end go kart but with a V8 engine, a body, and street legal lights, brakes, etc.) which is a BIG help in keeping the car light, fast, and cheap. In that narrow market niche, fast and cheap sell and also trump concerns about simple. Use a Detroit V8 engine with high but not wildly high performance. Can do well with just a cast iron small block; don't have to use an all aluminum block over 500 cubic inches with turbo-charging and inter-cooling (which can need more fuel than the usual injectors can supply and which makes transmission selection more difficult). For nearly all the other parts, use just common off the shelf (e.g., since the car is so light, don't need high end brakes). In particular, for a Cobra, for most of the parts, get, say, two wrecked late model Ford Mustangs (one wrecked in the front, one in the back!). The really high performance comes from the simplicity and the resulting light weight. E.g., a 2200 pound car with 300 rear wheel horsepower can have better 0-60 MPH and 1/4 times than famous cars costing $500,000. For marketing, start with the car magazines and then have a 'car club' where people can meet similar people! From two hours on the Internet yesterday, some nice lessons! There are two examples of the long tail here: First, I just stumbled onto Factor Five Racing. I should have known about them a long time ago. They are out in the long tail of the US economy. Second, they have some nice information on their engineering -- including some nice video clips -- which is out in the long tail of engineering and the media. Yes, in business, it is crucial to concentrate on revenue. So, one view of the long tail is that there will be more revenue in the least popular 90% of the instances than in the most popular 10%. It seems that this situation has not happened widely yet and that, as a result, you are concluding that the business opportunities of the long tail are still in the future. I beg to differ; let's continue: Okay, there is a question here: How would I have known about Factory Five Racing, not just as a company selling products but also as a subject in, say, my interests in automotive engineering and business? How? Hmm .... For more, in violin, how the heck would I finger some of those passages in the Sibelius concerto? Is there a video of Heifetz playing that concerto? When I worked through the Bach E major Prelude, I did the bariolage passages with fingers 1 and 2 and no actual 'shifts' of the hand. When I played for my teacher, he asked, "How much do I owe you for that fingering?". How would others find that fingering? In this way we can formulate a general question: Given a person and one of their interests, possibly out in the long tail of the media, the economy, technology, the arts, etc., how can that person find instances they would value highly? How? Hmm .... Let's see what people are doing now: The really good video clips on YouTube, etc. are not so easy to find. Some of the clips are so good and so difficult to find that old media is now commonly running 'stories' of the form, "Look at this great YouTube video clip on ....". Here old media is guessing that they have found a clip of broad interest. Okay, but, especially in the long tail, there is also the serious matter of more focused personal interests. E.g., for all of the power of Google, if a person is interested in all of IT, business start-ups in IT, and venture capital for such start-ups, then one source of links to instances that might be valued highly is just the right margin of the home page of your blog. No doubt you put these links on your home page because such links are not so easy to find. You are correct; the links are not so easy to find. People used to do such things before Google. Now, Google is not doing well letting people find what they would value highly out in the long tail, especially in new media, and people are putting up lists of favorite links again. Maybe a music school professor has a video clip, in slow motion, of some of the fingering for some of the more challenging passages in the Sibelius concerto? A video of Perlman playing the illustrative passages in Galamian's book? Maybe a professor of mechanical engineering has a video of a great lecture on the finite element method in automotive frame design or on automotive aerodynamic stability? Maybe an engineer at a tire company has a terrific video clip, with information TOUGH to get elsewhere, on sports car suspension design and tire selection. Maybe a computer science professor has a video clip of a nice lecture on monotone locking protocols or ways to do 'behavioral monitoring' of computer servers and digital communications networks with known adjustable rates of false positives and some good asymptotic results on rates of false negatives? Broadly, then, instances of new media out in the long tail that a person would value highly for one of their interests are not easy to find. In this way, we have identified a problem in the long tail; let's formulate it: People need a good way to help them find those instances they would value highly as they pursue their personal interests -- e.g., long tail topics in business, engineering, the arts. Such a Web site should generate a lot of traffic. There should be opportunities for focused advertising. So, maybe the professor who did the video clip on playing the Sibelius concerto didn't get much revenue, but maybe the Web site that let someone find that clip got some revenue from an ad by someone selling tickets to Tanglewood or repairing violins. In all of this, the person's interests are crucial. There are some severe challenges here: E.g., in the arts, how to find instances the person would value highly? Google has been a revolution in civilization. So, revolutions really are possible. But much more is needed. I submit that the long tail is important now, is rising in importance quickly, and will be of overwhelming importance quite broadly, that the long tail will liberate us from the tyranny of the least common denominator, "great wasteland", and finding needles we want in huge haystacks and be a revolution in information and progress in the economy and civilization. But all along, right on the boundary of what is feasible, we will have to look carefully to see the opportunities. We may have to take advantage of the oak or hickory when what we really had in mind was cherry.
Toggle Commented Jul 27, 2006 on How long is the Long Tail? at BeyondVC
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Microsoft has done brilliantly well. They have an excellent business. Brilliance is not always easy to understand, and how Microsoft has been so successful is an example. There are many gaps between what Microsoft does and what one might assume that they do. That Microsoft now would "reinvent" themselves is also not so easy to see. In the great flow of software, computing, and information technology, SaaS is perhaps as much as a flea riding on the back of a hood ornament of one of the cars in the few billion cars part of the great flow. The financial community, in its struggles to understand the future of computing, would be well advised to look for more substantive influences than SaaS.
Toggle Commented Apr 30, 2006 on Can Microsoft reinvent itself? at BeyondVC
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Well, it is easy enough to list many ways in which the Web is important. And, there is a lot of evidence that the current importance was not easy to see five, 10, 15, or 20 years ago, or back L. Kleinrock's work. Still, can't just jump and say that the Web, RSS, Wiki, AJAX, etc. should be important for 'enterprises'. Sure, it's difficult to say they are not important, but for progress, at least for one step, need to have in mind ideas for the usual suspects: (A) What problem is being solved? (B) Who has the problem? (C) Why should they be willing to pay for the solution? (D) How many such target customers paying how much, when? The way my parents, professors, etc. taught me, finding the problem -- where it hurts -- is the easy part. Finding the solution is harder. Finding a pair -- problem and good solution for it -- that can make money is harder, still, but nearly essential to making money in a new business. So, for a good pair, should we start with the problem or the solution? E.g., should we start with Web, RSS, Wiki, AJAX and then say, "This should solve some big problems for enterprises, too!". Well, my reaction is: There is a famous recipe for rabbit stew that starts out, "First catch a rabbit." Then, my recipe for an application of technology would start out, "First find an application.". Or, as people in research know, one of the most important steps to good new results is to pick a good problem. The solution remains the more difficult part, but a good problem is important, nearly essential. Actually, my view is that in nearly any large organization moving quickly and spending a lot of money, if can be a fly on the wall during meetings for a few days, then can find many cases of 'pain' (candidate rabbits). Get a long list, the longer and more detailed, the better. Sure, will only attempt to solve one of these problems, but for good problem selection, a good 'rabbit', likely need a LONG list. Then, climb down off the wall and head for a research library and look for what might be promising to help solve one of these problems. Sure, will likely need some software, but, naw, don't expect to get a valuable pair where the solution is just routine software -- want something more valuable than routine software, and can be sure that few software people will head for the research library and, if they do, will mostly just stay in the computer science collection which has nearly none of the best material in 'information technology'! Likely won't find the exact solution needed on the library shelves, but likely for at least one of the problems can find some "shoulders of giants" to stand on. How this could be so is curious, but it's so! Then, maybe put feet up, pop open a cold can of diet soda, think about the list of problems, think about the contents of the shelves, and maybe have a new idea that does really well on one of the problems. Since we will likely be exploiting Moore's law, the TCP/IP stack, RDBMS, etc., keep this in mind. Then, get a list of these pairs -- problems and solutions. Do some first-cut investigations until the most promising pair seems clear. If this is a really promising pair -- helps to have a good problem, some tall giants, and some bright new ideas -- then proceed with prototype software, etc. But, in this, what is the promise of the Web, RSS, Wiki, AJAX? I'd say, "Beyond what is routine and well understood, not much." Sure, I very much like the Web. Then, if something changes at a Web site, maybe I'd like to know about it. One way to know is to keep checking the Web site -- in parts of computing this approach has been called 'polling' and is inefficient. The solution to the inefficiency of polling is 'notification' -- RSS! Nice enough. Notification is fundamental -- there should be many uses. Okay. But, that's still not a rabbit. Some progress over RSS is the recent R. Ozzie work on SSE. Still, SSE can look like a solution looking for a problem, but Ozzie DID start with a problem and THEN outlined a solution and THEN, for some of the more important low level plumbing, did SSE. I don't really like SSE -- believe it is too close to some old ideas from Notes and, those, from 'transaction processing' where we have to be really really careful never to lose anything ever (the Web is different). SSE should have some value in the application (a kind of distributed calendar maintenance) Ozzie has in mind, and it should pop up elsewhere. SSE is not a rabbit; still need a RABBIT, a real live rabbit. Uh, so far, to use SSE for Ozzie's calendars, need some 'sharing with security' -- AGAIN! Would be too bad if the calendar application had to do its own! So, would want to 'factor' out the 'sharing with security' and make it a general purpose facility. Uh, 'sharing with security' very much does promise to be a common need in 'networked' and 'distributed' applications and work. So, get to write another draft standard? Or, maybe get a patent? So, looking for a rabbit, without being a fly on the wall in the meeting rooms for a few days, what pain might an enterprise have? Broadly the category that occurs first to me is advertising. Or, there is a remark that "The Web is the Internet hijacked by the advertising industry."! Apparently so far, Google is mostly making their money just from advertising. Okay, try to imagine walking in the shoes of someone in an enterprise trying to do some advertising. Job with a lot of pain! Do some big fancy ad (spend a lot of time and money), run it on major TV channels (spend more time and much more money), try to get some decently accurate measurements of what 'impact' the ad had (lots of luck), remember that 50% of the ad dollars are wasted but don't know which 50%, realize that likely under 1% of the viewers who watch the ad are in any sense candidate customers, and start to wonder how the world got into such a mess. So, realize that in sowing expensive seed, 99 44/100% of it falls on stony ground. Bummer. Instead, then, a candidate 'problem' is how to aim the seed at the fertile soil! So, want 'targeted' ads! How 'targeted'? Sure, right down to the guy ready to buy. Then remember that the enterprise doesn't really want 'ads' at all; instead, mostly what they want are just sales. Ads have just been the way to use newspapers, magazines, billboards, radio, TV, sky writing, and Google ad words to stimulate the sales. But, with Moore's law, TCP/IP, broadband Internet, the Web, etc. -- which are a long way from newspapers, etc. -- are ads now the best way to stimulate sales or could there be other ways? Ads have a problem that is fundamental in nearly everything else in life -- a lot of talking and no listening at all! So, one way to improve might be to get the targeted customer talking. Or, start to build a 'dialog', 'conversation', 'relationship' with the customer. Even if the enterprise end is plainly nearly all automated via software, still might be effective. So, if selling highly customizable products, then might want a customer dialog. Even if selling commodity products, might want to find out what uses the customer has and help them do better with those uses. There is a danger that nearly all of current advertising will go away. So, instead of the enterprise interrupting people -- even well targeted customers -- at unpredictable times and places and poking them in various ways to get them to respond, it may be that mostly customers, when they want to buy something, will go to Froogle, get a list of candidate vendors, shop at the vendors' Web sites, and then make a selection. Then we are left with a situation: Customers might actually LIKE to receive some notifications, even at random times, for new products in certain categories. Okay, set up a company to 'broker' such 'flows' between the enterprises and the customers. The 'broker' would get all the customers because they had all the enterprises and would get all the enterprises because they had all the customers, would please the customers by giving them only well filtered high quality material and would please the enterprises by giving them a lot of information to help targeting. Would want some applied mathematics in there, mathematics able to match customers and 'ads' where the list of 'characteristics' of both are quite general. Hmm .... Interesting enough?
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