Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for March 2011

Cricket Diplomacy And Loose Egyptian Snakes

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First things first.

India and Pakistan are currently in the midst of a semi-final match in the Cricket World Cup 2011 (not to mention a little cricket diplomacy.)

I’m pretty sure life as we know it in the sub-continent has come to a screeching halt.  Just in case you’re wondering.

You can follow the match on The Guardian.  I’d try to explain to you what the score is, but I’m entirely fearful I’d make a cultural blunder from which I might spend years trying to recover with my friends in the region.

I do know the match just went into an innings break.  In case that’s useful information.  I suspect that, not unlike commercial breaks during our Super Bowl, a few hundred million toilets were just flushed at close to the same time.

In any case, that’s not the only news of the day, although it is arguably the most important.

I also just heard a bombshell in the social media milieu, that Salesforce.com just acquired social media monitoring firm Radian6 for a cool $276M U.S. in cash and $50M in stock.

This from coverage on TechCrunch. (Read this post to learn more about IBM’s own recent announcement in the social media monitoring and measurement realm with its IBM Coremetrics Social announcement.)

To which I say, let the consolidation begin!  A garden variety of social media firms, particularly those that operate in the world of the enterprise (as opposed to the pure consumer-facing plays), are becoming rich targets for purchase.

Enterprise analytics for social media activity are a particularly fertile sector as companies around the globe attempt to try and understand and discern consumer behavior online.

It’s important for said companies to learn from Twitterers and Facebookers everywhere.

Even the Bronx Zoos Cobra!

If you haven’t followed this latest Twitter phenomenon, you’re missing out on one of the latest wonders of the Web and the greatest Twitterer since the fake BP PR account.

The backstory: An Egyptian cobra recently disappeared from the Bronx Zoo, only to reappear in the guise of “@BronxZoosCobra” on Twitter.

His Tweets are sharp and clever.  A most recent example? “At the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Temple of Dendur really kicks some asp. #snakeonthetown

Funny! And me likey the hashtag.

No word yet on whether the Egyptian snake is rooting for India or Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup.

Which is all the more reason to add @BronxZoosCobra ID to your Twitter follow list.

Singin’ In The Amazon Cloud

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If the sun doesn’t come back out in Austin soon, I’m going to have to move closer to the equator.

But for some, cloudy skies are just what the doctor ordered.

Amazon’s new Cloud Drive, Cloud Player for Web, and Cloud Player for Android was announced overnight and tees up some big guns pointed directly at Google and Apple in the online music marketplace.

According to the Amazon press release, “these services enable customers to securely store music in the cloud and play it on any Android phone, Android tablet, Mac or PC, wherever they are.

“Customers can easily upload their music library to Amazon Cloud Drive and can save any new Amazon MP3 purchases directly to their Amazon Cloud drive for free.”

Music in the clouds?  Or in too many Amazon executive’s heads?

Only time, and perhaps a few gazillion Amazonian music streams, will tell the tale.

The good news is, the streaming service from the Amazon cloud is free.

The bad news is, how do I get all those countless hours of my life back that I spent burning CDs into iTunes?

What do you mean, there’s no rebate for that??

Don’t pay any attention to me, I’m obviously biased (although I’ve never been a big fan of iTunes, either.  Come to think of it, I really just don’t like DRM!)

Engadget deconstructs the new service and explains that it works something like this: Existing Amazon customers in the US can upload their MP3 purchases from Amazon to their own 5GB cloud space (I’ve always wanted to have my own place in the clouds!).

This is then upgradable to a one-year 20GB plan for free upon purchasing an MP3 album, with additional plans then starting at $20 a year.

My two cents: It’s one heckuva lot easier to just subscribe to Slacker or Pandora for a year.

But maybe that’s just me: I gave up moving all those digital files around about the moment I figured out how I was spending way much more time moving music files around that I was actually listening to music.

But, I’m a forever Amazon customer, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and see how this plays out.

Pun intended.

Written by turbotodd

March 29, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Deep Q&A: An Interview With IBM’s Dr. David Ferrucci On Watson Beyond Jeopardy!

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During the recent SXSW Interactive fest here in Austin, developerWorks’ Scott Laningham and I had the opportunity to sit down and do an interview with the principal investigator behind the Watson Deep QA technology, Dr. David Ferrucci.

You may recognize Ferrucci from some of his recent TV appearances (or the IBM smarter planet TV spots addressing the power and opportunity the Watson technology presents).

Me, I was just glad to have the opportunity, along with Scott, to ask some specific questions that had been on my mind about Watson. And also to point out to Dr. Ferrucci that I had the last name Watson before our supercomputer did!

It was a fun and fascinating 13 minutes, and, for my money, one of the highlight interviews Scott and I have conducted in recent times.

Continued kudos to Ferrucci and his entire IBM team for such a great success with Watson.  Clearly, the Jeopardy! victory is just a launching point for the exciting new places where this new technology is likely to take us from here.

IBM Introduces New Social Media Metrics And Tracking Tools

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If you interact with the social media world at all, you know what an immense opportunity there is to gather, analyze, and act on all the great data floating around.

But, as is the case with so many organizations, there’s an increasing challenge to make sense out of all that information, particularly in real-time.

IBM just announced a solution intended to assist on this front, new cloud-based software that is designed to help marketers gain real-time, actionable insight from data available across social media channels.

This new software builds on IBM’s business analytics capabilities by helping organizations to develop faster, more precise social media marketing programs that support their brand’s total online presence through a cloud-based delivery model.

IBM Coremetrics Social

IBM Coremetrics Social helps companies analyze the business impact of their social marketing initiatives.  It does so by helping them  measure the effectiveness and return on investment (ROI) of their social marketing initiatives by gaining insight from data that’s publicly available on social media websites.

“IBM’s approach to social media analytics is based on the understanding that people interact with an organization’s brand in a number of ways — including email, social networking sites and company Web sites — and the true measure of business impact demands a fully integrated view of the interaction with these resources,” said John Squire, chief strategy officer, IBM Coremetrics, about the announcement.

“The new social media analytics software unveiled today will help marketers develop more targeted, highly-measurable, and effective social media marketing campaigns.”

This follows IBM’s recent announcement of new software and the creation of a new consulting practice dedicated to the emerging category of “Smarter Commerce,” which is focused on helping companies swiftly adapt to rising customer demands in today’s digitally transformed marketplace.

Smarter Commerce includes new cloud analytics software that enables companies to monitor their brand’s presence in real-time through social media channels to better assess the effectiveness of new services and product offerings, fine tune marketing campaigns, and create sales initiatives in real-time.

IBM also announced IBM Unica Pivotal Veracity Email Optimization Suite, which analyzes email links that are shared across social network platforms, enabling marketers to better capitalize on opportunities across channels.

It has become routine for social networks to be used as a resource to broadly share links to special offers made available by companies via email. Well-known brands can expect to see as much as 38 percent of their special offer email links shared across social networks. An average of 28 percent of these links is then ‘liked’ or commented on.

The new IBM Unica Pivotal Veracity Email Optimization suite tracks and analyzes email links that are shared across social network platforms, delivering actionable insights which marketers can turn into recognizable profit.  Unlike other technologies, this new offering opens the doors for marketers to identify, track, and improve the perception of their brands across channels.

The Social Email Analytics software tracks all links associated with a marketer’s brand and email, not just the intended links a marketer shares.

This approach better encompasses and reflects the emerging complexities and ramifications of consumer interactions with brands, starting with email and ending up in the social realm. With this new software, marketers can also hone Web pages for social networks and better identify opportunities across channels.

Written by turbotodd

March 25, 2011 at 2:55 pm

IBM Helps Texas Medical Group Better Serve Patients

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It’s always nice to see an IBM customer win close to home.

Right here, in the heart of Texas, IBM today announced that Southeast Texas Medical Associates (SETMA) is using IBM business analytics software to gain greater insight into hospital readmissions and data that will help identify causes and design interventions.  This to prevent patients from having to return to the hospital soon after their discharge.

Not being a big fan of hospitals myself, that’s always a good thing.

Watch this video to learn how IBM’s partnership is helping Beaumont, Texas-based healthcare group SETMA streamline their administrative efforts even as they better serve patients through analytic-driven, outcome-based metrics.

SETMA, a primary healthcare group based in Beaumont, Texas (where my cousin and her family live) has seen significant results working with IBM. In just the first six months of the practice, SETMA has been able to cut the number of  patient hospital readmissions by twenty-two percent by helping doctors identify trends. They’ve also been able to assess treatment protocols to support the creation of more comprehensive post-hospital treatment care programs.

Additionally, SETMA physicians have been able to reduce time taken to evaluate patients data prior to treatment from a hours to a second.

According to an October 2010 study titled “Hospital Readmission: Influencing Factors Identified” at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), unplanned hospital readmission within 30 days — occurs in nearly one in five Medicare patients in the US.

These readmissions are not only extremely costly, but it can put the patient at higher risk of increased illness, and in some cases death.

Using Outcome-Based Business Analytics To Improve Healthcare

SETMA is utilizing IBM analytics software to identify the treatment interruptions and causes that lead a patient back into the hospital after discharge.

Physicians are collecting data on specific patient characteristics that did not require re-admission, beyond traditional information to include ethnicity, socioeconomic groups, the follow-up care received, and how much and how quickly they were able to receive that care, against those who were re-admitted for hospital treatment.

Dr. James Holly and the 29 physicians of the SETMA practice have also implemented preventative care programs by analyzing key data of their more than 7,500 patients, including comprehensive background information, demographics, types of treatments, history of prescription care, risk factors and outcomes.

IBM business analytics software enables the doctors to better assess trends in their patients, so they may quickly adjust medications or treatments.

Physicians Evaluating Cardiovascular Risk in One Second vs. an Hour

Prior to implementing its analytics solution, SETMA’s doctors would typically spend upwards of an hour evaluating data on individual patients.

Today, they are evaluating data points of patients with similar conditions across the entire practice, allowing them to evaluate trends and gain valuable insight around more effective ways to manage illness.

SETMA doctors are also calculating cardiovascular risk measures at each and every office visit, something that was typically unheard of before.

What used to take a physician over an hour to sit and calculate just one patient’s score by hand; can now be done in less than a second. With a simple click of the mouse, key data points are instantaneously captured into one report.

For example, a doctor can now point out key risk factors around relative heart age scores, so if the patient is 65 years of age, but is showing a relative heart age of 75 years, it allows the physician to discuss ways in which they can work together to adjust lifestyle choices to regulate those numbers.

In addition, patients are able to view, track and compare their own progress against other patients with similar conditions by providing patients access to data related to their own personal health goals, helping the physician offer a more personalized care environment.

In short, IBM is creating a smarter, more connected healthcare system that delivers better care with fewer mistakes, predicts and prevents diseases, and which empowers people to make better choices.

You can learn more about IBM smarter systems here.

Written by turbotodd

March 23, 2011 at 5:43 pm

My Emerging New York Times Paywall Neurosis

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So, here’s the deal.

I’m having major agita over this whole New York Times paywall thing.  And I know I shouldn’t be.

Let me just say, I love The New York Times. The gray lady has been a big part of my life since I first went to NYU as a wee college lad.

I used to zoom around the streets of Manhattan, working as a bike messenger and taking my life into my own hands (not to mention that of all the bus and taxi drivers), and whenever I took a break I’d sit down with a copy of the Times and play catch up with the world.

This was WAY before anything digital.  But in 1995, or somewhere thereabouts, the Times moved online and trained me not to worry about the cost of the newspaper by underwriting their stories via advertising.

So, I went along for the ride.

Now, I’m near a crossroads.  Though I highly value their content, and am willing to give them some money, I have to wonder how much is the right price.  Currently, I’m hearing at least $15/month.  I could probably buy into that.

But then, I see that they’re going to penalize me just because I have an iPad AND an iPhone (and want to be able to use it via the Web site).  Gray lady, it’s NOT the devices that’s interesting to me.  It’s allowing me to get the information via whatever digital channel happens to be the most convenient to me at the time.

Don’t you get that???  I know you have some really smart people working up there (I know some of them), but when I first saw this plan, I had to shake my head.

You trained me not to pay for your product, and now you’re training me to pay more than I probably should just because I pick up the virtual newspaper at more than one newstand???

Here’s the best part.  I found I could subscribe to the Weekend edition, complete with home delivery of an actual printed newspaper, for about the same amount I would pay for one of the middling digital editions…and I’d still get access to the New York Times Web site and digital editions gratis.

Could that be correct?

So, Mr. Sulzberger and Mr. Keller, know that I’m ready and willing to hand the gray lady some money every year, but please, simplify simplify simplify.

When you continue to give stories away for free via social media and search referrals, and yet *I* as a longtime loyal reader have to pay more to get access on these digital platforms (which, I would have thought, ultimately save some money since you didn’t HAVE to deliver a physical newspaper to my doorstep), there’s something wrong with this picture.

I’ve got my credit card out.  But I’m still waiting for a plan from you that makes sense and doesn’t force me to go out and sell newspapers subscriptions door by door just so I can pay for the privilege!

Written by turbotodd

March 21, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Smart Grids In The UK

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Well that was a bombshell that AT&T done dropped on the American telco landscape over the weekend.

It was almost as upsetting as Arizona’s last second comeback over my Texas Longhorns in the NCAA.  At this point, my brackets are a complete mess.

If you missed the headline, AT&T announced its intent to acquire T-Mobile USA, Inc. for a cool $39B.  The blogosphere lit up at the news, but GigaOM’s Om Malik ain’t havin’ any of it, saying that everybody loses in this deal.

But that wasn’t the only news in the telco space.  Just this morning, IBM and Cable & Wireless Worldwide announced their collaboration to develop a new intelligent data and communications solution, UK Smart Energy Cloud.

This effort will support the UK’s Smart Meter Implementation Program, which aims to roll out more than 50 million smart meters in the UK.

This cloud will help provide a complete overview of energy usage across the country and pave way for easier implementation of a smart grid (Though there were no confirmed reports that the stadium lights at Stamford Bridge were flickering after Chelsea’s 2-0 victory over Manchester City yesterday PM. Viva Brasil’s David Luiz, even at 21M British pounds!)

The UK Smart Energy Cloud solution will utilize the extensive experience IBM has gained from leading and implementing smart grid programs around the world and its proven enabling software and middleware. And the solution will be supported by C&W Worldwide’s extensive, secure next-generation network and communications integration capability.

IBM has a long history of expertise in smart grid projects, which range from innovative research projects to full scale deployments. In the UK IBM is currently advising three of the six largest energy retailers on transforming their business in preparation for smart metering.

Globally IBM has been involved in more than 150 smart grid programs in mature and emerging markets. Current global projects include working in Malta to create the first nation-wide smart grid and a pilot project with DONG Energy in Denmark to install remote monitoring and control devices to gain information about the state of the grid.

For more information visit the IBM energy Web site.

SXSW Interactive 2011: Russia Online

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One of the great opportunities that SXSW affords those attending is a powerful networking nexus from people around the globe.

At this year’s event, I serendipitously met a new friend from Moscow, Julia Neznanova, a client services director with the Moscow-based DigitalZm agency.

After Julia and I got to chatting, I realized our conversation was a podcast waiting to happen, so Scott Laningham and I arranged to capture her insights about the Russian Internet landscape on disk.

The resulting interview can be found here, and I think it would surprise many who aren’t familiar with the Russian online landscape just how vibrant the digital scene is in Moscow and beyond.

Thanks again to Julia for her insight.  Scott and I very much enjoyed and learned a lot from our conversation, and I hope you will, too.

Written by turbotodd

March 17, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Viva IT Mexico!

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Some exciting news today from just south of the Texas border.

Today, IBM announced its first ever Innovation Center in Mexico, where local start-ups, VCs, developers and academics can come together to build new skills and drive innovation across a wide range of industries.

This new center in Mexico joins a global network of 39 Innovation Centers in 32 countries (others include Brazil, Vietnam, Philippines, South Africa, among others).

The new center is the first to open in 2011 as IBM marks its Centennial anniversary and 84-year presence in Mexico.  Starting today, IBM will offer Mexican start-up companies no charge access to IBM Software, researchers, technical and business experts to help develop and launch new business ideas through the IBM Global Entrepreneur initiative.

“Mexico is experiencing significant growth in IT opportunities,” said Hugo Santana, General Manager, IBM Mexico, about the announcement. “With access to the right skills and resources, we can build a stronger Mexican IT community that is prepared to compete on the global IT innovation stage.”

Industry analyst firm BMI predicts IT spending in Mexico will continue to increase 11 percent in 2011 to US$13.6 billion.

This IT growth is fueled by new government services and support infrastructure projects and growing interest in cloud computing across many industries. While the Mexican software opportunity is projected to grow in 2011, an estimated 80 percent of the US$2.5 billion spent on software will be imported.

In support of the growing IT opportunity, the new Mexico City IBM Innovation Center will provide local entrepreneurs, IBM business partners and academics with access to training workshops, consulting services, a broad technical infrastructure, and hands-on assistance to help bring new technologies to market.

Last year, IBM Innovation Centers assisted more than 24,000 business partners with workshops, seminars, and consultations to help build their skills and develop solutions using open standards and IBM technologies. The centers offer training and access to open standards-based and emerging technologies such as cloud computing, mobile computing, business analytics, and industry-focused solutions.

Visit here to learn more about the Mexico IBM Innovation Center.

Written by turbotodd

March 16, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Long Live SXSW Interactive 2011…Now Get Back To Work!

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BLOGGER’S NOTE: Did you miss SXSW Interactive in Austin?  Or did you go and just couldn’t get enough?You can find here several of the on-the-ground podcasts from developerWorks’ Scott Laningham and myself, and, soon, we’ll have a video interview we conducted with Dave Ferucci, the lead researcher for the recent IBM Watson initiative.  And no, sorry, I didn’t play Watson (although Watson v. Watson does have a nice ring to it, and I did joke with Ferucci that I had the name before the Jeopardy-playing computer.)

Okay, it’s official.

I’m South By Southwested out. It was great seeing all you digerati in the great state of Texas and the great city of Austin, but it’s time for you to gather up your iPhones, iPads (V. 1s and 2s), and MacBook Pros and go back to wherever the heck it was you came from.

I had a lot of fun, but the sleep neglect, lack of exercise, and constant digital brain food is more than one mere mortal should have to take. Especially when you consider I’m now considered one of the “old guys” (as people who were over 40 seemed to be constantly referred to throughout the event).

Don’t get me wrong, it was fun. But this year’s event was a little overwhelming in some ways, and a little underwhelming in others. Overwhelming in that there were way too many of us for that one little spot in and around downtown Austin. I don’t think I’ve ever had to fight so much to get into some of the sessions, never mind the fire drill that occurred during the PM major keynotes.

It was also overwhelming the amount of content and variety at this year’s event, and that’s a good thing. I know a lot of my out-of-town digerati friends weren’t so impressed, but I found that if you stuck out the sessions, or were willing to do a little on the fly migration, you could generally find some good stuff.

By the same token, there was some underwhelmingess as well. I find more and more that the panel sessions are a disappointment, primarily due to lack of prep and coordination among the moderators and the panelists.

No, in this crowdsourced, collabration-driven world of social media we live in, it was the individual presenters or two people Q&A who stood out, partially because they’re typically media-trained speakers, but also because they actually went out and did some homework and prep! C’mon, people, it’s not third grade show and tell…put some muscle into them.

I presented at SXSW last year on a Future 15 panel, and only had about 15 minutes to prepare. But I spent hours on the presentation: building, rehearsing, and making sure I could make my 15 minutes. I’m happy to say my session was standing room only on the last day of the event, when people are usually fleeing in droves. But I’d also like to think people stuck around ’cause I had something to say they wanted to hear and I worked hard at saying it well.

Putting all that aside, what did I learn this year, what are the big themes and memes coming out of the event?

Going Tikki “MoSoLo”

Well, there’s the obvious, including the confluence of mobile, social and local (I’m hereby coining a new acronym or catchphrase for this space, “MoSoLo”). This convergence is going to increasingly dominate the digital landscape, with everything from augmented reality to location-based services to on-the-fly ratings and reviews.

But that’s just about finding you, tracking you, and giving you something valuable (A new experience? A 20% off coupon? etc.) in the context of when and where you are. What happens when these devices and systems can start to make predictions based on implicit and explicit data.

Why shouldn’t my calendar talk to FourSquare and Gowalla and make sure I don’t miss that Silicon Valley Networking Meetup the next time I happen to be on a business trip?

Why can’t my own virtual agent go out and Tweet when I arrive in New York and find all my friends hanging near the Lower East Side for a quick catch-up cocktail?

And so on.

The Human Connection

This year’s conference also saw a move away from focusing primarily on the tools and technologies to centering more on the human interaction, experience, and connection. I mentioned this in one of our podcast recaps halfway through the event, and that theme continued throughout.

For so much of the past 10-15 years, we’ve been so enamored with the technology itself. But more recently, we’ve begun to take much more notice of what the technology can do to empower humanity and human relationships, in often profound and game-changing ways: The Green revolution in Iran, the Haiti earthquake, the Chilean mine, the recent quake/tsunami in Japan…I could go on.

Directly tied to this is the need for organizational transformation. Many organizations just aren’t simply organized in a way to take full advantage of networked communications. Most are organized in a command-and-control hierarchy, the effectiveness of which is dissipating day-by-day like a thousand Chinese cuts, and as we saw in north Africa earlier this year, that command-and-control hierarchy is often quickly outfoxed by the networked henhouse.

Yet as none other than NYU ITP professor and social transformation author Clay Shirky reminded us at SXSW in his keynote, it’s still not just the technology, stupid. Meaning, the network is more than just the infrastructure: It’s the people, the relationships, many of which predated the unrest in Tahir Square by years. The unrest in the square was simply the nodal culmination of YEARS of relationships and influence amongst frustrated Egyptian who shared a common goal: Ridding the country of Mubharak.

So, putting aside the once again disappearing oxygen in what appears to be another bubble, we can rest comfortable in the notion that change continues to be a constant, that relationships online and off continue to matter most, that the technology will continue to disrupt all aspects of business, government, society and our lives in general.

And I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Written by turbotodd

March 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Posted in conference, sxsw

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