Archive for December, 2011


Smarter Cities Challenge Syracuse Interviews

December 12, 2011

This time we have not just one interviewee, but several.  The interviews have full audio and video.  They were not conducted by Lav and me, but by the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, and feature Lav as one of the interviewees.

Two blog posts about the challenge that also embed these interviews are here and here.


An Operations Research Tragedy

December 9, 2011

Hallo Señor Royal-Dominique Fennell.  Take a look at this film composed of several concepts in operations research and the management sciences, cross-posted from Palam to Idlewild:

The concepts we included were supply chain management, queuing theory, marketing, and risk analysis.  One other segment could have been on scheduling in which the hero is not able to have a job interview due to scheduling issues.  Also, we could have done health care analytics as a follow-on segment in which the hero recovers and gets back on top. 

YouTube is one of the tools of social business, especially for marketing.  Producing content specifically for YouTube and the web as opposed to just uploading existing physical-world content makes a difference in popularity:

Khan said that his videos and those on OCW have fundamentally different approaches, which may explain Khan Academy’s popularity. OCW lectures by MIT professors can be over an hour long and hit on many different topics. Khan’s videos are short — 10 to 15 minutes — and focus on very particular concepts.

“I think having that 10 minute video of someone walking through [a concept] conversationally, and they know you’re viewing this on the internet, I think those things could be pretty powerful,” said Khan.

You’ll notice that he highlighted the conversational aspect of his videos.  Although an old-school piece of web content, the Britney Spears Guide to Semiconductor Physics, wasn’t necessarily conversational, it did have something to distinguish it from regular non-web content.  Do you think clay animation + true accurate descriptions of technical concepts could be useful to people and become popular?



December 7, 2011

Sat sri akal Señor Fauja Singh. Sorry about lacking on the return dialogue for the last few months.  A one-way dialogue is not a conversation by any stretch of the imagination and it doesn’t help with shaping our sciences.

“Science,” the physicist Werner Heisenberg once wrote, “is rooted in conversations.” As he saw it, scientists are rarely solitary thinkers but people who constantly talk: about ideas, findings, research techniques, and unresolved problems.  Some of these conversations last for a few minutes or hours.  But others continue for years or decades, shaping careers, disciplines, and even institutions.

The Google Scholar effect you have pointed out is very interesting and a real manifestation of how technology changes the way we as humans work.  There’s something else you’re well-aware of that hasn’t happened as much yet in universities and other academic institutions, but is reshaping the industrial/corporate world: the virtual office, where everyone works remotely and communicates via telephone, email, instant messaging, video chat, etc.  Some people think that this will increase productivity (however one wants to define productivity), but I am not sure.  While all the tools of social business are great, I don’t think they’re an adequate substitute for conversations of “random, serendipitous encounters that always seem to happen” (if I may borrow the phrase you wrote in describing the 2006 LIDS Student Conference). 

The part that is missing is the randomness and serendipity.  If you use Google Scholar, you won’t randomly read the paper printed before or after the one you’re looking for.  If you use social business tools exclusively, you won’t randomly run into a colleague in the hallway.  (Expertise recommendation only works when you are looking for specific expertise.)  I know you are interested in studying how new, creative science is done — I wonder if there is an analogy to evolution.  For evolution to be successful, you need both the random mutation and the natural selection; you can’t have just one or the other.

Let’s see how my view on social business evolves during Lotusphere next month after random, serendipitous encounters that always seem to happen at conferences.