Saturday, February 14, 2009

Leveraging crowds for innovation

I came across a very nice article on about this guy Luis von Ahn who has figured out a very clever way for harvesting community efforts. Luis was instrumental in creating the Captcha, the system that throws out an image of a word the letters of which that one has to read and type it in to prove "humanness" at websites. The system is based on Luis' thesis and is very efficient in keeping out bots from logging into websites or spambots from posting spam on online forums. Major websites including yahoo and google use this system to keep out bots.

Apparently, Luis figured that as so many internet users were interpreting images of words and transcribing them it could be employed to convert digital scans into text. What a wonderful mechanism to harvest users for innovation. I remember playing image identification games sponsored by Google when their image search facility was being launched. Clearly, this is good news for people thinking on innovative ways of tapping into the crowds!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Google turns another corner

Barely a fortnight ago Google pulled out of the business of placing ads in newspapers, a very under the radar announcement on which I blogged here.  Today, Google announced that it was pulling out of the radio business as well.

Whether this is good or bad news only time will tell.  One could argue that Google needs to focus on its core competency of placing ads on websites and continue to aggressively pursue its dominance in that market.  However, what is troubling is that Google has not been able to monetize any of its other offerings successfully. The much hyped Youtube acquisition is yet to turn profitable and websites like Hulu that came up later have shown by staying away from user-generated content you could attract advertisers and make money.

It is too early to give up hope on Google.  They have the talent and the resources to keep it going until they figure it out.  I hope it is no the beginnign of the end of their growth period.

Open Source Nationalism

All that a country like Cuba needs is its own operating system! Open source as they say gives freedom of choice and I guess Cuba did the right thing by challenging the notion that the world begins and ends with Microsoft.  If there is one reason that I like the Cuban Nationalism for then this should be it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A fair denial

I was watching an episode on Nova on UNC TV that showed the details of the court battle concerning intelligent design. The more I think about it the more it seems fair to me that people who deny science to accept religion as their savior should be denied the bnefits of science in their everyday life. The intelligent design folks should be asked to go their creator for a cure to cancer or to AIDS. On a similar note, the republicans shoudl be denied the benefits of the bailout package as they opposed it - an idea touted by Stephen Colbert as well!

Why should such people who deny or oppose certain ideas be given the benefits of the ideas themselves. The extreme free market funamentalists who believe government can only play a negative role should be allowed to fend for themselves in the absence of a market structure that the government helps support. So and so forth .. deny the benefits to those who make those arguments based on the very benefits they receive.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Kindle user and the early loser

Amazon announced today that it was launching the second version of its reading device - Kindle.  I knew this was coming and that I might end up being the loser !
 I got the first version of the Kindle back in August 2008 and fell in love with it.  Being an avid reader, I just loved Kindle's one important capability - access to Amazon wirelessly.  I could browse books and download them from Amazon's website very efficiently.  Additionally, the availbility of magazines such as Forbes, Fortune, Time and Newsweek really upped the ante.

However, I had to tradeoff being an early adopter of the first generation device or buy it once it gets better in the second or the third generation. For once, I chose to be the first, and although I feel like a loser, I am still happy I am the first loser!