Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Open source and the next technology cycle 

Tim O'Reilly
Both open source AND proprietary software work at a given moment in time. What I've observed (and wrote about in The Open Source Paradigm Shift) is that openness begets innovation, which leads to commercialization, which leads to companies seeking a proprietary edge, until they go too far, close down innovation, and the cycle restarts.

. . .

There's a repeating cycle of open and proprietary, innovation and exploitation, driven by greed and ignorance overriding joyful exploration. But that exploration can't be denied, and breaks out anew elsewhere once one domain get too fenced in.

The necessary, pragmatic science is to discover the optimum balance between the value we create, and the value we capture. As long as companies create more value than they capture, they create a vibrant ecosystem around them. As soon as they capture more value than they create, they stagnate, however big the bank balance they build up before that becomes apparent.

Topics: We2.0 | Evolution

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Parallel LINQ: add automatic multithreading to LINQ queries 

Jonathan Allen
With multi-core CPUs finding their way into server farms and the desktop not far behind, new techniques to take advantage of them are desperately needed. Microsoft is seeking to address these with Parallel LINQ, a research project to add automatic multithreading to LINQ queries.

Topics: LINQ

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

How valid is the very concept of an organism in isolation? 

Nature:Nigel Goldenfeld and Carl Woese
It is becoming clear that microorganisms have a remarkable ability to reconstruct their genomes in the face of dire environmental stresses, and that in some cases their collective interactions with viruses may be crucial to this. In such a situation, how valid is the very concept of an organism in isolation? It seems that there is a continuity of energy flux and informational transfer from the genome up through cells, community, virosphere and environment. We would go so far as to suggest that a defining characteristic of life is the strong dependency on flux from the environment — be it of energy, chemicals, metabolites or genes.

Nowhere are the implications of collective phenomena, mediated by HGT, so pervasive and important as in evolution. A computer scientist might term the cell's translational apparatus (used to convert genetic information to proteins) an 'operating system', by which all innovation is communicated and realized. The fundamental role of translation, represented in particular by the genetic code, is shown by the clearly documented optimization of the code. Its special role in any form of life leads to the striking prediction that early life evolved in a lamarckian way, with vertical descent marginalized by the more powerful early forms of HGT.

Refinement through the horizontal sharing of genetic innovations would have triggered an explosion of genetic novelty, until the level of complexity required a transition to the current era of vertical evolution. Thus, we regard as regrettable the conventional concatenation of Darwin's name with evolution, because other modalities must also be considered.

This is an extraordinary time for biology, because the perspective we have indicated places biology within a context that must necessarily engage other disciplines more strongly aware of the importance of collective phenomena. Questions suggested by the generic energy, information and gene flows to which we have alluded will probably require resolution in the spirit of statistical mechanics and dynamical systems theory. In time, the current approach of post-hoc modelling will be replaced by interplay between quantitative prediction and experimental test, nowadays more characteristic of the physical sciences.

Sometimes, language expresses ignorance rather than knowledge, as in the case of the word 'prokaryote', now superseded by the terms archaea and bacteria. We foresee that in biology, new concepts will require a new language, grounded in mathematics and the discoveries emerging from the data we have highlighted. During an earlier revolution, Antoine Lavoisier observed that scientific progress, like evolution, must overcome a challenge of communication: "We cannot improve the language of any science without at the same time improving the science itself; neither can we, on the other hand, improve a science without improving the language or nomenclature which belongs to it." Biology is about to meet this challenge.

Topics: Meaning | Biology | Evolution | Science

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

The problem with RDF -- Can I get an Amen 

Stefano Mazzocchi
The semantic web is really just data integration at a global scale. Some of this data might end up being consistent, detailed and small enough to perform symbolic reasoning on, but even if this is the case, that would be such a small, expensive and fragile island of knowledge that it would have the same impact on the world as calculus had on deciding to invade Iraq.

The biggest problem we face right now is a way to 'link' information that comes from different sources that can scale to hundreds of millions of statements (and hundreds of thousands of equivalences). Equivalences and subclasses are the only things that we have ever needed of OWL and RDFS, we want to 'connect' dots that otherwise would be unconnected. We want to suggest people to use whatever ontology pleases them and then think of just mapping it against existing ones later. This is easier to bootstrap than to force them to agree on a conceptualization before they even know how to start!

Personally, I'm betting hard on this "data first, mapping later" vs. "ontology first" approach, so this means that we must have software systems that are capable of coping with the computational complexities that this approach entails. It's in this spirit that I welcome Prof. Handel's blog (and paper).

Topics: RDF | /Data2.0

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Truth and Space-Time 

buko obele
It really irritates me when people attribute spatial characteristics (large, small, hidden, above, inside) to truth. It's not an object that actually exists in space [time]. That's part of the problem.

Topics: Meaning | Representation

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Why Sales isn't process driven 

Steve Jones
I'd say that for most Services the concept of "Goals" will be more useful than the concept of "Process".

. . .

Now I'm not going to say that there is no such thing within an organisation as a sales process, of course there is, but what I'm saying is that this isn't actually the important factor when looking at the success or failure of a sales organisation. Having a process that says "Stage 3 - Agreed issue with client" and "Stage 9 - Contract Signed" isn't the thing that actually drives successful sales.

No its sales people, sales targets, bonuses and most importantly goal driven behaviour that is the important factor in sales. Understanding what the goals are is much more important that understanding what the process is, different people will have massively different approaches to the selling process and while they will move from one step to another and this will give you the ability to measure and audit their performance it will not give you the ability to help focus or improve it.

Topics: Meaning | Design | Architecture

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Wisdom/Dumbness of Crowds 

Kathy Sierra
Art isn't made by committee.

Great design isn't made by consensus.

True wisdom isn't captured from a crowd.

At least not when the crowd is acting as a single entity. Clearly there IS wisdom in the many as long as you don't "poison" the crowd by forcing them to agree (voting doesn't mean agreeing). According to Surowiecki, even just sharing too much of your own specialized knowledge with others in the group is enough to taint the wisdom and dumb-down the group.

It's the sharp edges, gaps, and differences in individual knowledge that make the wisdom of crowds work, yet the trendy (and misinterpreted) vision of Web 2.0 is just the opposite--get us all collborating and communicating and conversing all together as one big happy collborating, communicating, conversing thing until our individual differences become superficial.

From East of Eden by John Steinbeck (ch.13)

At such a time it seems natural and good to me to ask these questions. What do I believe in? What must I fight for and what must I fight against?

Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.

And now the forces marshaled around the concept of the group have declared a war of extermination on that preciousness, the mind of man. By disparagement, by starvation, by repercussions, forced direction, and the stunning hammerblows of conditioning, the free, roving mind is being pursued, roped, blunted, drugged. It is a sad suicidal course our species seems to have taken.

And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about. I understand why a system built on a pattern must try to destroy the free mind, for that is one thing which can by inspection destroy such a system. Surely I can understand this, and I hate it and I will fight against it to preserve the one thing that separates us from the uncreative beasts. If the glory can be killed, we are lost.

Topics: Collaboration | Design

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Back to the Future: How the Brain "Sees" the Future 

Scientific American
Neuroscientists for the first time have identified regions of the brain involved in envisioning future events. Using brain imaging, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that the human mind taps into the same parts of the brain while imagining the future as it does when recollecting the past. This means that the brain apparently predicts the course of future events by imagining them taking place much like similar past ones.

Topics: brain | meaning | representation

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