Monthly Archives: October 2011

Overestimating The Power of Big Data

I like this article because it points out what I have been hypothesizing for a long time: the tech scene is overestimating the power of big data.

I think we are a long way from knowing what each person wants exactly. In fact, there’s nothing that’s even close to that. Amazon’s recommendation, in my opinion, is the best one, but it’s very limited and narrow. There are plenty of big data promises that have not materialized: Color, Twitter, bit.ly etc.

I think big data will be very useful in a narrow application, such as Siri, Google, or Amazon’s recommendation. All three of these amaze me sometimes.

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Platform…

I thought this rant was a very informative read. It really reinforces my belief in building a platform.

What this guy is saying is pretty simple. One probably cannot predict with great accuracy what the users want. The process to figure it out is muddling and tinkering, and this is better be done with other people’s time and resources.

A platform needs to provide many capabilities and an economic incentive system.

What I’d like to learn more are the technical nuances of building a platform instead of a product.

Update: I came across this interview with Amazon’s CTO. He talked about how and why Amazon moved to service-oriented architecture and infrastructure. I couldn’t believe that this is not what all of them are doing. This just makes so much sense.

I wonder how Google App Engine is different or similar from this concept.

Is Steve Jobs a Product of Randomness?

I always wonder how certain people–I can think of two, Buffett and Jobs–seem to have such conviction about the future and then be right about it. Steve Jobs has made gargantuan bets on the future of technology consumption that he must have had insane conviction to go through. We are talking about making devices that have buying music as a prerequisite, in a time where piracy is at the peak. How about making a phone that shakes up business models in telecom, advertising, technology, publishing, music, and movie industry? How about making a tablet that everyone thinks is going to fail, only to change the computer industry (and a bunch of others) forever?

Are Jobs and Buffett a product of randomness? As in, there are many with bold prediction and conviction that one or two are bound to be right? Some Nobel Prize winners seem to think so, as one debated Buffet about how much of his success was based on luck.

Personally, I strongly believe that Jobs’ and Buffet’s abilities are not due to randomness but a deep understanding of the systems that they operate in. If one understands his industry in a systematic standpoint, it’s not hard then to predict the future. Scientists have too long been too narrowly focus on the data they collected and the correlations they find that they forgo looking at the underlying world. Starting from the quantum revolution, Einstein had already complained about the lack of meaning or reality in quantum mechanics, while supporter of quantum theories respond that the reality isn’t of critical importance if their equations hold. That is until they don’t hold anymore.

I am a big believer in the underlying reality of the world. And because of that, I believe Jobs’ genius is genuine and would still have lasted had he been able to continue on.

Steve Jobs…

What a great article by Eric Schmidt on Steve Jobs.

What catches my attention is this bit:

I should tell you this story. We’re in a meeting at NeXT, before Steve went back to Apple. I’ve got my chief scientist. After the meeting, we leave and try to unravel the argument to figure out where Steve was wrong—because he was obviously wrong. And we couldn’t do it. We’re standing in the parking lot. He sees us from his office, and he comes back out to argue with us some more. It was over a technical issue involving Objective C, a computer language. Why he would care about this was beyond me. I’ve never seen that kind of passion.

At NeXT he built this platform—a powerful workstation platform for the kind of computing that I was doing, enterprise computing. When he came back to Apple, he was able to take the technology he invented at NeXT and sort of slide it underneath the Mac platform. So today, if I dig deep inside my Mac, I can find all of that NeXT technology. Now, this may not be of interest to users, but without the ability to do that the Mac would have died. I was surprised that he was able to do that. But he did it.

Most people tend to look at Jobs as a designer. He’s more than that. He’s an engineer/scientist. He has deep understanding of technology, and his design achieves scientific beauty to me. The greatest scientists are ones who are able to comprehend complexity and reduce it to elegant and simple equations. Perhaps, that’s how our world is–superficially complex but elegant and simplistic underneath. Jobs’ products, to me, are like beautiful equations that create an elegant balance among technology, user experience, and aesthetics.

The more I learn about Steve Jobs, the more I admire him. I am aware of human frailties, and I won’t put Jobs on a pedestal as an angelic being. Many have fallen into this foolish trap, only to be disappointed later on (think Tiger Woods). I think that type of admiration and glorification is false and fake. We have no need for that, as we can perfectly admire a man for being a good man, though flawed. For a human being, Steve Jobs has shown wonderful characters–passion, grit, love, intelligence, curiosity–and his impact on all of us–users and makers alike–is profound.