I am an information junkie
I enjoy keeping up with the world of technology. I take notes, keep links, and write about the things that interest me. I try to identify the connections with what I do at work, with what excites me.
I like to share. I learn a lot from discussions and alternate points of view. I find it very rewarding to engage in dialogs.
Introduction to the The Hermes Series
Whenever I can, I will spend some time aggregating those news I find interesting from around the Web and write down my thoughts. It’s my way of thinking more about what’s reported in the technology news and correlate it, if possible, with my areas of interest and work. This is the first issue!
It’s all about natural language understanding
The speech apps and platform space is getting crowded and extremely interesting. If you haven’t noticed, Apple is pushing Siri as a differentiator feature for the iPhone. TrueKnowledge (one of my favorite companies) released Evi and, of course, Nuance has been around for a while. It’s no surprise that even more companies are looking to enter this space
- WolframAlpha seems to be appearing in many places. I am a huge fan of their work on curating and managing knowledge. Siri already uses it to drive some of the answers and now a new app, which also uses WolframAlpha, has appeared on Apple’s App Store… Voice Answer. According to its creators “Voice Answer is an assistant“.
- I haven’t tried it but I loved the description of the “Talk to Eve” app: “Eve is not meant to give meaningful advice or provide answers that are factually correct, although she does know a lot of details plus anything you teach her. She is mainly meant for idle conversation.” :-)
- On the platform side, AT&T seems to be making a big investment in this space. They just announced their “Watson” project: “Opening Watson Speech Recognition to Developers With New APIs in June” and “AT&T’s AVP Of Technical Research Explains The New Watson Speech API“. I am a huge believer of this approach. As anything in computing, interesting and unique features ultimately become part of platforms, they become the building blocks for a new generation of applications. I also came across TheVerge’s article on the same subject.
Given my interests, it should be of no surprise that I see this space through the eyes of knowledge representation and reasoning. In order to enable natural language understanding, we need to build knowledge bases and efficient ways of reasoning over those knowledge bases.
Wearable computing – sensors
We are soooo moving into a technology world where every aspect of our lives is going to be recorded. I can’t wait to receive my Basis device (come on… it’s been a while since I pre-ordered it :-) so that I can automatically record and reason over my excitement levels using their galvanic skin response sensor. I recently got to try a more expensive version of the sensor through Microsoft Research.
This is going to be a huge space. I want to ask the question “What was the title of the song that I really liked at my last concert?“. Given that my phone can record my location, I can get a structured data representation of the concerts (e.g eventful), and perhaps get the order of the songs, a platform should be able to determine with a degree of confidence that I was at a Radiohead concert (they were in Seattle two weeks ago and they were awesome!). Now, combine that information with the stream of excitement levels and we could perhaps determine with a certain probability the title of the song that I felt more than the others.
A TechCrunch article on “Report: Wearable Computing Will Soon Intensify The Platform Wars” points to a Forester report about the upcoming explosion of wearable devices. They point out that a platform play is inevitable. I couldn’t agree more.
Going from users’ interests to actions
This space is very much related with the previous topic on wearable computing. There is a lot of information in the data streams that we can collect.
It’s so easy for users to produce content today… updates on Twitter, activity data through Facebook’s OpenGraph, Pinterest, and so on. It’s funny how years ago we were talking about Web 2.0 as the era in which users were equally consumers and producers of information. I don’t think any of us back then realized how user-generated content would be king in such a short period of time :-)
All the major social platforms want to analyze the data they collect and do something about it. Google recently made the news because of the change in their policy on how they use user-related data internally. No surprise really.
Going from data to actions is a natural step. It’s one of the possible value propositions for the companies.
- I love the potential of Pinterest (story about their rise to fame). They are the 3rd most popular social network. WOW! And of course, we are starting to see how new services are starting to leverage the power of Pinterest… Pinerly is a “Pinterest analytics site“.
- Facebook just introduced the “listen” button for band pages. It effectively allows a user to select their favorite application (matching structured data with an action that may be performed against the user’s preferred application).
- The work that Springpad is doing sounds very interesting as well (GigaOM). Lots of good stuff there. I also came across a TechCrunch article on the same topic.
- When talking about the value of user-generated content, one cannot ignore that $1B acquisition of Instagram.
Some random bits
- Just in case there was any doubt that we are moving to a digital world, even for books: “The rise of e-reading“.
- Microsoft’s Metro as a philosophy. Couldn’t agree more. I love simplicity and clean design.
- Erm??? Most of Facebook users are older than me? Seriously? That’s indeed surprising if true. “46% of Facebookers are over 45 & other surprising facts“.
- Wealthier countries are more interested in the future (Nature report as reported by TheVerge).
I was doing something similar to “The Hermes Series” for my team inside Microsoft (in my spare time). Folks asked me about the ways I keep up with technology news and what tools I use. The flow goes something like this…
While I exercise or during my night-reading time, I use my iPad to go through my favorite tech blogs (using the Reeder and Flipboard apps). If I find something that is interesting, I send it to Evernote. If an email contains a link to something that looks interesting, it will also find its way to Evernote. Over the weekend, I take time to read those posts more closely and do some more research on a topic if necessary. Then I just write down my notes/thoughts.
When it comes to blogging, Windows Live Writer absolutely rocks. I still find it as the best blogging tool around. And it’s completely free! I bought the Parallels Virtual Machine for my Mac OS just to run this app :-) (ok… I use Windows on my Mac for many other reasons as well).
Feedback/suggestions are more than welcome!