Data is Money. Not like money, or as good as money. It is money.

(reminder and disclaimer – I work for IBM, but these are personal comments)

Almost three years ago, in Febraury 2010 (yeah, I know – three years!) the Economist ran a supplement called “The Data Deluge“, about Big Data and how it was transforming businesses all over the world.  In the middle of the supplement was an article called ‘Clicking for Gold‘, in which there’s a quote from Tim O’Reilly, who says that companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook ‘…are uncomfortable bringing so much attention to this because it is at the heart of their competitive advantage. Data are the coin of the realm. They have a big lead over other companies that do not ‘get’ this.’  For the intervening time, I’ve been quoting this to telcos all over the world, and they nod their heads, and – for the most part – don’t do much about it.

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IBM Selectric – a fond remembrance

selectric stamp July 31st was the 50th birthday of the IBM Selectric,  which may have been the most popular typewriter ever sold [link]. The swappable typeball was revolutionary for its time, and to quote Wikipedia.

The possibility to intersperse text in Latin letters with Greek letters and mathematical symbols made the machine especially useful for scientists writing manuscripts that included mathematical formulas. Proper mathematical typesetting was very laborious before the advent of TeX and done only for much-sold textbooks and very prestigious scientific journals.

In 1997, it was time to publish my PhD. thesis (100 plus pages and well over 100 formulas), I found a typist in NYC who would charge $1.00 per page plus $1.00 per formula. Even though the symbol  typeball made formulas possible, it still took her longer to do a single equation than a whole page of text. My how technology has changed but I think having gradually absorbed new technology I still underestimate its impact.

Then yesterday, I came across this wonderful post [link] on a group of college journalist who tried to publish a newspaper using technology from just twenty years ago (but there is no 1 key !!!, use the lowercase L instead). Besides their experiences, there are a couple  of memorable quotes that I found quite profound.

While archeologists try to recreate what life was like 10,000 years ago, and historians try to recreate what life was like 1,000 years ago, journalists can’t even recreate how they published a newspaper 20 years ago. No one documented the details or saved the old equipment. (I had to buy some of it from creepy old men through Craigslist.)

We are losing touch with old technology and while we are relatively good at saving content, the processes are being lost at an alarming rate. The second quote was from one of the student journalists.

Technology hasn’t made us lazier, but it has made it possible to be lazier while still producing the same amount of quality work. Now that I’ve realized this, I know I’ll definitely be working faster to produce more quality news. And unlike the ancient civilizations of the 20th century, I’ve got the technology to do it.

that is something to think about.

I am not quite into you

A great short funny 4 minute video from TED. In a short, less than four minute, video, Renny Gleeson talks about the new “culture of availability” and its consequence the “expectation of availability” and how society is struggling to come up with acceptable behaviour.  He also makes the point that for many “the present reality is not as interesting as the story I will tell about it later”. In other words, there is not only your own individuality but also the identity you are projecting to the outside world (are there any realistic avatars in second life?) and that reconciling these two identities is still being worked out. In order for this new shared experience to work, he makes a final plea to the audience to make technology that makes people more human not less.

We have all been frustrated (and frustrated others) by the incoming call/text/e-mail in the middle of a conversation. Sadly it says, in a not so subtle way, that you are not as important as whatever the  interuption was. That is one reason, I like Skype video (and its equivalents) – you feel you have the undivided attention of the recipient as opposed to sharing it with the web or their e-mail list. Maybe the picture-phone will make a comeback.

As I was watching some of the examples, I was struck how this “two or more things at once“  is not a new phenomenon – I still remember my surprise when watching “Klute“  over 30 years ago and seeing Jane Fonda checking her watch in the middle of the sex scene. Check out Renny Gleeson’s video, it is very good.