Hmmm.. Will Apple approve Opera’s browser for the iPhone? If yes, then it is duplicating functionality. If not, Opera may well tip off the EU Competition Commissioner. This will be interesting…
- Visuals: Assault on my eyes
- Plot: Assault on my intelligence
- Price: Assault on my wallet (just pleased I didn’t waste more money on IMAX)
Stylish. Plot twists galore. Totally engrossing. Truly unsettling.
• Empire: Shutter Island review
• Total Film: Shutter Island review
When I talk to people about how I think that data analysis is going to be a big business opportunity in the future, I sometimes get funny or bemused looks. It can be hard to get over the point that this will be one of the best skill sets to develop over the next five years. It’s not quite what they expect me to come out with. Now I have somewhere to point them. The Economist recently published a special report on managing information titled “Data, data everywhere”, and I think that it covers a lot of the bases in a clear, easy to understand way. This will become a significant piece, and it is good to see “big data” dealt with in this depth and pitched at a relevant, intelligent audience.
Data … are widely available; what is scarce is the ability to extract wisdom from them.
The report is broad in its scope. The main points it makes are that data is being produced in greater amounts than ever before, and the rate of growth is getting faster. An organisation’s data is (or will become) one of its most valuable resources, to be mined to gain insights – increasingly in real time – and make big leaps forward. Other areas looked are data visualisation, the impact that wider access to data could have for a population’s relationship with its government, and the growing importance of metadata – information about information. Also examined are the companies that currently make use of the data they collect – no surprise that Google features heavily.
It is also good on the problems that will have to be overcome before the real benefit can be obtained – the quality of the data, the ability to access the information, the different types of data to be analysed. Privacy concerns and regulation will be massive issues to tackle. Using machines will be the only way to make sense of it all, and then a lot of the communication will occur solely between machines without human interaction, so the question of agency arises – where does the responsibility lie if things do not work as planned?
The data-centred economy is just nascent. You can see the outlines of it but the technical, infrastructural and even business-model implications are not understood right now.
I’m still figuring this stuff out. It is time to start going beyond the big ideas and getting stuck in. Even so, I’m sure that I’ll be returning to this report again.
• The Economist: Data, data everywhere
Wired magazine (the US version) recently had an article on Google’s algorithm and what makes it so special. The importance of the data it collects is highlighted:
The data people generate when they search — what results they click on, what words they replace in the query when they’re unsatisfied, how their queries match with their physical locations — turns out to be an invaluable resource in discovering new signals and improving the relevance of results… Google has used its huge mass of collected data to bolster its algorithm with an amazingly deep knowledge base that helps interpret the complex intent of cryptic queries.
The importance of wisely using the data that is collected – and so doing quickly – has come up recently in a couple of really interesting posts:
The reason we instrument the world is to generate and collect data. The reason we collect data is to analyze it. The reason to analyze data is to understand better the world around us. And the reason to understand the world around us better is to make decisions that improve that world.
The losers will be those organizations still coping with information overload, unable to make heads or tails of what they know (Enterprise Amnesia). They will miss the obvious. Their costs will soar, their customer satisfaction will drop and confidence in their brand will erode. You will get duplicate mailings from them. They will try to sell you something you already bought from them weeks ago.
The winners will be those organizations that make better decisions, faster. How fast? Fast enough to do something smart as the transaction is happening, not minutes, hours, or days later.
The closer to real-time an organization can operate, the more competitive it will be (Enterprise Intelligence). They will be more efficient in how they deliver their products or services, their customers will be happier, and they will be able to stop many more bad things (e.g., fraud) from happening before they happen.
Tim O’Reilly recently gave a talk about the importance of data. I know that the slides are available and you can get some meaning from those, but the whole talk isn’t online yet. When it is, I’ll comment on it further… but this definitely looks to be a theme to follow closely.
Interesting Wired article on leveraging PayPal and other systems to make payments. Looks like the credit card industry will have to watch its back. Will there be lots of questions about regulation and safeguards being raised by the incumbent banks and other companies? Whatever people think of it, it is happening. It’s so exciting that these changes can promise so much – what is needed now is greater general publicity for the services and (harder, but not impossible) broad customer acceptance. Watch this space…
• Wired: The Future of Money
• O’Reilly at OSBC: The future’s in the data (maybe more to come on this in future posts…)
I don’t mean to keep picking IBM stuff, but they do tend to make good, short introductions such as this…
I’ve just heard a very interesting seminar from Jon Tetzchner, one of the founders of the Opera browser. After talking about the desktop browser, the focus was very much on the mobile version of the application. The company is very focused on speed and the ability to run on older phones – they seem to understand the reality of worldwide internet access and the limitations that can bring for the majority of web users.
Seeing the range of devices that the browser works on is impressive. The idea of “One web, everywhere” seems to run in their veins – they see it as the only way of easily producing content that will run on a variety of platforms. Another facet of their thinking is that once our current fascination with all things centralised in the Cloud has peaked, things will return to the more traditional peer-to-peer infrastructure that the internet itself is based on – and this is the idea behind the Opera Unite features.
I’ve used Opera in the past on the Mac when I needed a browser to go full screen. It doesn’t sound like much but it is the only browser that does it. On a PC, the latest version of Opera is very fast, and feels polished and solid. Despite my usual preference for Firefox, Opera will now be set as my default browser to give it a good run. The company deserves the support. Their clear thinking and obvious belief in what they are doing is very refreshing.
When it comes to Len Deighton books, I have read a fair few. That means that every time I read one, there is one less to go before I have gone through them all. Mercifully I know that the day that happens is still a good while off, but it will come, and it will be a sad day.
I’ve learned that – as with any author – there are the classic books or trilogies and there are the lesser works. I don’t have enough time as I would like these days to read novels, and so when the opportunity arose, I cracked open one of the supposed vintage ones, and this spy story did not disappoint.
Despite being nearly thirty years old the story hasn’t aged as it is specifically set in the year 1979. The basic premise is that some files detailing a secret wartime meeting held between Winston Churchill and Hitler (discussing terms to end the war that would essentially hand victory to the Germans) have come to light, having been stolen at the end of World War 2 by some American soldiers. Given the sensitive subject matter, the British, American and Russian secret services are all eager to get their hands on them. Most of the people that learn of the files end up meeting a grisly end.
Deighton’s talent for writing fantastic dialogue between characters is much in evidence here, and you can easily find that a good fifty pages have gone by when you only meant to pick the book up for a short break. Everything is exquisitely planned (in particular the intricate maneuvering between the different intelligence agencies) , and although the author does not really go in for last minute twists, you do get the trademark build up of tension. In this case it takes some unexpected turns, but the plot leaves you suspecting some outcomes. The thrill is being kept expertly in suspense, longing to have your suspicions validated or dashed. As in the best Deighton books – for me the first two Bernard Samson trilogies – the final 100 pages truly flow, in a way that is almost cinematic. It is hard to take your eyes away from the page.
This would make an excellent introduction to Len Deighton, and I’m sure would lead the reader to venture further into the murky world of espionage that is only really mastered by a few writers.