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Word crunching

September 13th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Number crunching has been possible for a long time. It predates the invention of zero (at one time folks struggled with how something can also be nothing; go figure). Word crunching is relatively new so we are still working out the kinks. SEO, for example, shows the practical application of word crunching on line.

What’s this post about?

This post is about “word crunching.” Its purpose is to raise awareness of the concept.

You got me. What is word crunching?

It’s just like number crunching, with words instead of numbers.

Wow that helps. Please, say some more?

Word crunching is what happens when you take a pile of words, like the ones you are reading right now, and use computer programs to generate more information based on those same words, like how many times the word “post” is used. It is also what happens when a program creates a visual graph (called a “tag cloud”) that shows words in different ways, like size differences, to show which words are more or less used in a certain circumstance.

Who cares?

We all should. Until recently we had to rely on our own heads to word crunch, or the heads of friends and colleagues who helped generate word crunching opportunities for us. From now on, we can look forward to having computers help us word crunch instead.

What problem does “word crunching” solve?

That depends on your information needs. Generally, word crunching helps us understand things better, helps lead us to the right decisions, and can help us spot the important stuff from the not so important stuff. It can also make trends more clear, and predict things that will happen into the future. There are more things word crunching can do too, that’s a starter list.

Do you have a real world example?

Yes. Google a few years back relied on search requests of people living in a variety of American cities to predict where flu outbreaks were happening at that time. Words like “flu” and “chills” became important to Google’s word crunching effort. Other words like “car” and “juniper” were avoided. Google then shared the word crunching results with the CDC, and the information helped the CDC understand the rates of flu outbreaks at the time around the country. Valuable information for vaccines and other reasons, like which cities to go travel in.

OK. So what else about word crunching?

That’s about it. Just getting the idea out there. The “semantic web” speaks to word crunching, as does “AI,” or artificial intelligence. Even Ray Kurzweil’s “singularity” concept, coming to the nearest computer to you circa 2050, predicts the word crunching ways of our near future.

Are you saying words are better to crunch than numbers?

Yes, pretty much. Words are how we navigate most of what we do; they give us an awareness of how we express how we think and feel verbally to ourselves and others. Words are complex symbols that stand for lots of things. Crunching them helps us make sense of them, and therefore, the worlds we live in.

What can we look forward as word crunching increases?

As computers get better at word crunching, we can expect lots of unexpected benefits and perhaps a few down sides (science fiction writers and Hollywood movie thrillers have been ahead of the downsides of word crunching for some time now). Time will tell.

Any last thoughts?

Sure. Welcome to the word crunching era… ready or not, here it comes.

Categories: Technology Tags:

Crowd Talking: hear it at ATC/RISE Rave 3.0

June 18th, 2010 Kevin No comments

What happens when folks talk a bunch and the talk makes its way into the presentations at a crowd sourcing event? Crowd talking! Come hear how it works. Join us at ATC/RISE Rave 3.0 on June 29, at UT, Austin. “Where is it” info below.

What is ATC/RISE Rave 3.0?

The Rave series began when William Hurley, a.k.a. Whurley (a personality some have dubbed the “evil genius”), pitched the concept to Julie Huls and Brian Wong of Austin Technology Council. Whurley sought to rock Austin’s tech scene by encouraging random folks to hear ideas in an “unconference” sort of way. Two Raves later the organizers have delivered on their promise. Now Rave 3.0 arrives with a new program partner in Rise Austin, lead by Georgia Thomsen, and a new mission: crowd talking!

What is Rave 3.0 about?

Rave 3.0’s conversation is tech talent. Two standout presenters have the floor, Valerie Hausladen and Steven Tomlinson. They speak of passion and fortitude and the courage that finds careers that matter. It’s time for careers that fit our inner and outer fabric. These speakers will share practical stuff about how to get there. The good news, they’ll have 300 experts to help them!

What does Rave stand for?

R-A-V-E is Random – Access :: Various – Experts. Point blank: the event welcomes the audience and its expertise. The Rave design seeks each person’s thoughts: this event is all ears. At the event the audience helps make the night happen with questions and energy that will drive the talks forward.

How is Rave 3.0 different from other speakers’ forums?

From the start the Rave series has courted an irreverence for tradition. Initially, the crowd picked the speakers. Novel. Now, the crowd offers its voice. Really. To do that, version 3.0 brings social media to bare with Twitter, Facebook, email, blogs, “question advocates,” and yours truly, the Knowledge Advocate. All these things, and people, will move the crowd’s insights into the moment, to become part of it. The clear intent: make the voice of the people heard– loud and clear.

All right, what is “crowd talking?”

Crowd talking is what happens when a crowd truly voices its thoughts, feelings, and experiences. If the event increases the odds that the audience gets heard it is a job well done. This event leverages audience ideas with Twitter, Facebook, and old school stuff, for example, assigning folks to roam the room asking for content. Specifically, question advocates will capture the questions and thoughts of the audience. The speakers will then riff off of what gets heard as the talks progress. The crowd’s voice comes alive in real time, real fast.

Ground breaking stuff, this crowd talk?

Will this event be ground breaking? Hard to tell until it happens. One thing is for sure: the challenge of maxing out the crowd’s voice is worth it, whatever crowd you are part of. That’s because of the power of the wisdom of the crowd. Awesome stuff.

So what now?

Stay tuned. As mentioned, the event is June 29, at the AT&T Executive Education Conference Center. Search for “ATC/RISE RAVE” on line or head to Facebook for more information:

Please know there is a call to action for this event;

The organizers need your participation now and at the event;

RSVP on the Facebook page and start talking! Thank you!

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=108588169185734

Categories: Learning, Technology Tags:

Find your “flow state” and get “in the zone” at work

June 3rd, 2010 Kevin No comments

I think I know what “in the zone” means, but what the heck is a “flow state?”

“In the zone” and “flow state” are different ways of saying the same thing. When athletes like Lebron James or artists like Meryl Streep are on top of their field, living in the moment, we know they are “in the zone.” Lebron’s three pointer moves effortlessly from his hands to the hoop… “Swish,” nothing but net. Same with Meryl, she offers the screen everything she’s got, and we, the audience, live with her in the moment she portrays. Powerful acting. When they live in the moment like this, we can say they are in a “flow state.”

How can I get “in the zone,” as you say in a “flow state,” at work?

The formula is pretty simple. To get in a flow state at work balance challenge with safety. To do that, consider the following things and make sure they are present:

The safe side:                                                                                       The challenge side:

Control                                                                                                   Feedback

Clear purpose                                                                                        Movement

Maintain safety                                                                                      Encourage challenge

When we balance safety with challenge at work we find ego fades as we get engrossed in the work. Time passes without notice and it can be hard to recall specifics of what we did. These are all signs we are in the flow state. Very exciting.

Can I help folks get in the flow state, in the zone, at work?

Of course you can! Here’s how:

1) State the purpose of the work you do together very clearly

2) Share mutual control about the expected outcome so you can work on it together

3) Make sure that what ever gets done, gets done fast and with no delays

4) Along the way to getting the work done provide constant feedback

5) Reduce the need to be “right,” or “judge,” or “resist”

6) Preserve a safe sense of things regardless of what else is happening

7) Push for challenge to make sure things are not too easy

This seven step process offers you a chance to get in the zone at work. Good luck!

Categories: Learning, People, Technology Tags:

Google Wave: an introduction

December 15th, 2009 Kevin No comments

I wrote a brief introduction for Google Wave.

Here it is: http://budurl.com/austinwaveguide

The best way to get comfortable with Google Wave is to use it! Just try it out, it can be fun, more so with friends! Ask around, see who is waving, it helps to have others in your waves. There are also public waves.

Search recommendation to start (the search box is at the top of the middle screen, where is says in:inbox):

“with:public Austin [or your city/hobbby/etc.]“

Replace “in:inbox” with your search. Any search “with:public” together with any word imaginable you pick let’s you access waves that are available for everyone to see with that word or phrase in them. Pick one with only a few numbers indicated (numbers under the date or time stamp of the wave show how often people have been active in the wave).

Enjoy the introduction and let me know if you have any comments. Cheers!

Categories: Technology Tags:

Flow charts and all those skinny arrows

December 14th, 2009 Kevin No comments

You know what I am talking about? Those skinny, wee little arrows that populate most flow charts. The arrows point us in the right direction and walk us through a sequence of events from one box to another, or from a box to a circle, triangle or other shape. Do this, then that, then the other thing. All the way to the end, or more common, to do it all over again (like in the infamous feedback loop: rinse, wash, repeat).

Why are the arrows so skinny?

As far as I can tell, our knowledge diet makes those arrows do all the heavy lifting in real life. That is where all the good, rich stuff gets done. The space in between the events, the time and space from the first box to the next one in a flow chart, that is where the magic happens!

So, here’s to robust arrows!

Knowledge is a flow and a place. Let’s honor the flow more. Give those arrows more room, let ‘em roam a bit. They are really important to our bottom line way of getting things done.

If you are into flow charts, that is.

Categories: Consulting, Technology Tags:

How’s your [human] memory system? Got back up?

November 22nd, 2009 Kevin No comments

Ever heard of Vannevar Bush? In 1945 he wrote an article for Atlantic Monthy called “As We May Think.” In it he shared some crazy talk about desktop memory systems and linking information so others could see it. He relied on then-existing technology and envisioned not-yet invented things like, oh well, the Internet, hyperlinks, desktop computers and more.

Enough with the 1940s, how is your memory these days? Could “it ain’t what it used to be” reflect your thoughts best? There is good news! The stuff Mr. Bush cooked up to help remember things is online now and mostly free. Information tools improve how we do three things online:

1) encode;
2) store and consolidate;
3) retrieve.

These three things are fundamental to how we store memories off line (that is, in our brains and with our repeated muscle/movement memory systems).

Wikipedia is a great example: someone starts a topic like “Jelly bean.” That person ENCODED the information. Later, other folks search for “jelly bean.” They find and review the page and can arrange what’s there, adding, subtracting, connecting. This helps STORE and CONSOLIDATE the information.

Things get interesting when RETRIEVAL happens over time. more visitors to the jelly bean page benefit from the content as it improves, and they can also rearrange some more. In this way, the loop of information benefits from more use. By contrast, pages that get little use might as well be forgotten (just like what happens with our own memories: use it or lose it!).

Do you have a back up system for your personal memory? Email is a default for many people. What about images? Flickr. Videos? You Tube. Documents? Microsoft Word or Google Apps. Conversation threads? Twitter, etc. Projects? Basecamp. Work contacts? Salesforce. Social contacts? Facebook or Linkedin. New things arrive daily, like Google Wave, that strive to make backing up your personal memory system online simple and worth it.

Whatever you end up using, make sure it has a wicked smart search engine and a really simple way to drop information in, rearrange it, and call for it when you need it. Ever have something on the tip of your tongue during your own thought process? “Wait wait, don’t tell me!” We hear that all the time. The “search engine” in our own heads helps us find things based on near misses, close calls, and sort-of-likes.

Pay attention to that ease of use. A robust online information resource will do the same thing. It will have a great way to ENCODE stuff fast and easy (that means you can drop in data easy), STORE and CONSOLIDATE it through repeated use, and RETRIEVE it fast and flexibly when needed.

Got back up?

Categories: Brain power, Technology, Thoughts Tags:

Google Wave helps bring how we talk off line on-line

November 19th, 2009 Kevin No comments

I spoke at the Austin Technology Council Rave this week. My topic was Google Wave: introduction and predictions about this game changing product, platform and protocol. I made a hunch: how we talk off line wants to be the same as how we talk on-line. I predicted Google Wave will help do that. The truth of the prediction will depend on Google’s continued support of Google Wave, developers’ decisions to embrace its open source nature, and each of our own choices and decisions to use it, or not.

A couple of interesting things. Is the hunch true whether or not Google is involved? Consider what portions of your offline talks are private and which ones are public. Similar consideration, which on-line conversations are public and which are private? Regardless of your answer, it is how you communicate, and not why or for what reasons, that wants to be the same on-line as off.

Example, a person who interrupts people off line to save time (not a great habit, by the way) would interrupt them on line given the chance. By contrast, offering positive body language and fair timing between thoughts is as pleasant to experience on line as it is off line. In other words, there are courtesies, conventions, and levels of engagement we use off line as we talk that can play a large role in our on line conversations. We want those same real world experiences to govern our on line talks: this is the sum point of the hunch.

Google Wave offers one exciting possibility for how our future conversations will happen on-line. I applaud Google for its support of the project so far and look forward to seeing the protocol grow and blossom into a wonderful environment for conversations that matter.

Categories: Technology Tags:

Manage knowledge as a flow and a place

November 12th, 2009 Kevin No comments

Knowledge management gets a bad rap. This has to do with its development over 20 years ago. While our technology was coming on strong then, it was nowhere near as robust as it is today. The lessons the movement teaches live on. The opportunity exists now to expand beyond the movement’s key point, that there should be a place for your knowledge. Add this: your knowledge should exist as a flow. Great companies have communication systems that flexibly adjust their incoming and outgoing information. It is that flow, that “river of knowledge,” that sustains their market position and their culture.

Categories: Technology Tags: