Designing Innovation Networks on Life’s Origins and Evolution

Highly innovative organizations face a constant challenge to process a flood of good ideas, both generated by employees and submitted from outside. In the wake of Google’s Tenth Birthday Competition, this talk describes how innovation networks apply principles found in life’s origins and evolution to “processing innovation.” Debates about how novelty emerged in the origin of life and its evolution toward complexity demand revising assumptions that we’ve taken for granted. Steven Jay Gould said that “Darwinism” misrepresents Darwin.

A more complete interpretation of Darwin’s theory of evolution could inspire new problem-solving methods with a range of practical applications, from multi-agent systems able to learn and improve their performance to cross-disciplinary decision support systems designed to address environmental sustainability challenges. Objective. To discuss nine principles of innovation networks and the problem-solving method they support.

A very interesting talk! It also reminded loosely about some of the ideas discussed in Swarm Creativity.

A possible future of Software Development

This talk begins with an overview of software development at Adobe and a look at industry trends towards systems built around object oriented frameworks; why they “work”, and why they ultimately fail to deliver quality, scalable, software. We’ll look at a possible alternative to this future, combining generic programming with declarative programming to build high quality, scalable systems.

… a very interesting talk, that raises some important questions, about the very nature of software development.

Is the Patriot Act haunting Google Service’s?

Read an interesting article on the Globe and Mail entitled “Patriot Act Haunts Google Service“. According to the article many people are suddenly deciding to spurn Google’s services and applications because it opens up potential avenues of surveillance by the US Government:

The U.S. Patriot Act, passed in the weeks after the September, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, gives authorities the means to secretly view personal data held by U.S. organizations…


…organizations are banning Google’s innovative tools outright to avoid the prospect of U.S. spooks combing through their data. Security experts say many firms are only just starting to realize the risks they assume by embracing Web-based collaborative tools hosted by a U.S. company, a problem even more acute in Canada where federal privacy rules are at odds with U.S. security measures

It’s an interesting piece. The cynic in me wants to argue that privacy is really just an illusion anyway? Let’s face it there has been a war over privacy in the U.S. and it’s been fought over last eight years, following 9/11. Under the guise of misguided laws like the Patriot Act civil liberties have been eroded and consequently it’s the average person that suffers: in the current climate, where Governments can exercise the Patriot Act then nothing is really secure. If a users personal information is no out of reach of any government agency that decides it wants it, and there are no legal protections, then how can we say that data is private?

Google has in the past tried to protect its customers data, and has had numerous run in’s with the U.S. Justice Department over it’s stance, but rather revealingly, the company has always refused to state how often government agencies demand to see it’s data or whether there have been any reviews under the Patriot Act. This really shouldn’t viewed as a dig at Google, you could replace the name Google with the name of any US based company, and the same would hold true.

It never ceases to amaze me how politicians always play the national security card along with the patriotism card; they want to convince people that if they don’t support laws like the Patriot Act, and allow some their civil liberties and rights to be eroded, and in some cases completely discarded then not only are you unpatriotic, you’re also helping the terrorists. If your not with us, then your with them … Oscar Wilde really was right …

patriotism is the virtue of the vicious

Adaptive Algorithms for Online Optimisation

ABSTRACT

The online learning framework captures a wide variety of learning problems. The setting is as follows – in each round, we have to choose a point from some fixed convex domain. Then, we are presented a convex loss function, according to which we incur a loss. The loss over T rounds is simply the sum of all the losses. The aim of most online learning algorithm is to minimize *regret* : the difference of the algorithm’s loss and the loss of the best fixed decision in hindsight. Unfortunately, in situations where the loss function may vary a lot, the regret is not a good measure of performance. We define *adaptive regret*, a notion that is a much better measure of how well our algorithm is adapting to the changing loss functions. We provide a procedure that converts any standard low-regret algorithm to one that provides low adaptive regret. We use an interesting mix of techniques, and use streaming ideas to make our algorithm efficient. This technique can be applied in many scenarios, such as portfolio management, online shortest paths, and the tree update problem, to name a few.

Pretty interesting tech talk, I found the notion of minimising regret quite interesting, but only really because I have heard of this before, but never experienced a real world implementation of this. I first heard of the significance of regret in learning from Alan who captured this vividly in an essay he wrote called The Adaptive Significance of Regret which he wrote back in 2005. In fact he even showed me some PHP code he wrote that modelled regret, which at the time I remember finding somewhat amusing … but right now it it feels far more significant.

Nobel Prize Winner – Muhammed Yunus talks about micro-credit

Muhammad Yunus gave this talk as part of the authors@google series, it’s a fascinating insight into both the man and his quest to eradicate poverty, which the Nobel Committee commented on by stating:

Lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights

Google doesn’t seem to like the idea of Microsoft merging with Yahoo!

Unless you’ve been hiding beneath a rock then you are probably aware of the news that Microsoft has offered $46 Billion to buy Yahoo! When I first heard this news I thought I couldn’t help but feel that in many ways it was an admission that as things stand it really cant compete with Google. Yahoo has certainly been struggling lately and current trends seem to suggest that this situation doesn’t look like it’s going to improve any time soon, particularly since Yahoo! revenue, like Google, is advertising driven and it’s pretty obvious who is winning that contest.

Since the announcement of the offer was made on the 1st of February many people have been waiting to see how Google would react. Well today David Drummond, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer responded on the Official Google Blog, in a post interestingly entitled “Yahoo! and the future of the internet“. The post is full of some unusually aggressive statements (by Google’ standards) about this potential acquisition:

…This is about more than simply a financial transaction, one company taking over another … It’s about preserving the underlying principles of the Internet: openness and innovation. Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC? While the Internet rewards competitive innovation, Microsoft has frequently sought to establish proprietary monopolies — and then leverage its dominance into new, adjacent markets…Microsoft plus Yahoo! equals an overwhelming share of instant messaging and web email accounts. And between them, the two companies operate the two most heavily trafficked portals on the Internet. Could a combination of the two take advantage of a PC software monopoly to unfairly limit the ability of consumers to freely access competitors’ email, IM, and web-based services?

Sounds like interesting times ahead. I personally struggle with the notion of Yahoo! selling up to Microsoft. Yahoo! has far more in common with Google than it does with Microsoft. On the internet Microsoft has never really succeeded even after acquiring successful properties like hotmail, because they could never really figure out what to do with them. I think it’s partly because Microsoft doesn’t really come across as a consumer oriented entity, it’s more of an enterprise oriented company. I still think they are very much entrenched in the “how much can I charge you for a license to use X” world and never really sought to look beyond that for other options until it was too late and the barbarian( Google) wasn’t just at the gate it had plowed right through it.

I personally dread to think of what might happen if Microsoft got their hands on a service like flickr and here’s why …

I remember when Yahoo! first acquired flickr 2005, the user base complained fearing Yahoo! would somehow destroy their beloved flickr. We know that didn’t happen and Yahoo! invested in not only improving the service but also succeeded in growing it into one of the most popular social sites on the internet. So if that worked out ok why wouldn’t the same thing happen again if Microsoft was at the helms. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest it’s because Yahoo! gets the internet. If there’s one thing Microsoft has proven over the last few years it’s that it definitely doesn’t get the internet. Or another way of looking at it is this … if Microsoft bought Yahoo! would it allow flickr to continue to run under the same ethos and principles it was founded on?

Maybe Drummond is right? maybe this isn’t just about a transaction, maybe it is about preserving the underlying principles of the Internet: openness and innovation.

But then again how truly open is Google?

Google takes on Wikipedia

Google has announced that it has begun testing a new tool called ‘Knol’ that allows users to write authoritative online articles. You can view a screenshot of the tool here. Credibility and authority have long been a stumbling block preventing the adoption of Wikipedia in education or as a credible source for citations etc.

Knol will still allow anyone to add entries, just like Wikipedia, but it’ll allow people to have bylines and author profiles so you know precisely who has penned and reviewed the entry. Which would you trust more an entry by a hobbyist or a published Professor in the relevant subject matter.

I haven’t made up my mind as to whether I like this initiative or not the cynic in me feels that Google, which is funded through revenue generated from adverts, has entered into this arena because so much traffic is directed to Wikipedia which is Ad-free.

Interesting times ahead …

Microsoft brings Windows Live services out of beta

Microsoft has finally released out of beta it’s suite of Windows Live Services, offering users half a dozen downloads and web apps.Among the offerings are IMAP-enabled Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Writer (one of my favourite tools!) for offline editing and uploading blogs, A Picture Gallery application and a parental controls application for web browsing.

This offering by Microsoft does echo Google’s Google Pack, which was also an online/offline software bundle. The difference between the two is that Google’s offering includes products from other vendors whilst Microsoft’s offering does attempt to tie you more to Microsoft’s own Platform.

I’m not complaining though I like variety …

Google revamp SearchMash with Flash

I’ve been using Google’s SearchMash for a while now. However it hasn’t been updated in a while … that is until now. A new Flash based version of SearchMash is now available for people to experiment with. I’m really enjoying using the new version, when you single click on a search result you get a preview pane with a thumbnail of the site along with other information. Whilst it might be argued that the Flash version is slower than the original AJAX based version, the new version is a big leap forward in terms of it’s aesthetics. I am curious as to whether releasing a Flash version of SearchMash was a tit-for-tat response to Microsoft’s SilverLight based Tafiti. I guess the difference between the two is that whilst the new Flash based version of SearchMash is more aesthetically pleasing than the original, it’s still very usable. The problem with Tafiti is that whilst it is gorgeous, I find myself falling back to Google or SearchMash because the results are presented more clearly and simply.

Try it out for yourself: http://www.searchmash.com/flash/search/

It requires Flash version 9.