Monday, January 28, 2008

Searching Between the Lines

So despite pretending to be busy, I still seem to have time to reflect on life, love, work, and all the rest. I guess a part of me is always going to be stuck in my own head doing that...

So today I finally got Semantic Search. Not that I didn't understand its usefulness before, but today I actually had a value add experience on Amazon (technically their behavioral search, but they use behaviors to build a semantic model). Went looking for a particular soundtrack and sure enough I found an even better CD by the same artists thanks to some serious product synergy between the usual amazon store and it's music store. Sure I could have dug around eventually, and I did afterwards, but the first recommendation was precisely what I wanted.

Maybe music and movies are a particular easy thing to model, but so far search has only been textual extraction and some clever natural language tricks. Maybe I'm just a dreamer who one day hopes to live the sci-fi dream of just talking to a computer to extract information. However, given the nature of a lot of web innovation, it would appear that it will be more like "Computer, find me an entertaining YouTube video." (Absolutely awesome iPhone/party application no?)

Meta search may have been a joke in the past, but the fact is niche search (if it ever gets to he level of music taste matching) is going to flourish with semantic web stuff and nobody likes having to check more than the One search engine (antiphrasis?) for their information. Suddenly we're back to NLP, only this time not about information retrieval, but disambiguation and query classification.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Is being busy progress?

I actually planned out two months of my life and so far things are going pretty well. Never mind the fact that I have absolutely nothing planned after Mar. 1st nor do I plan to, but I've somehow started to become a 'busy' person. Not to say I am any more productive, but I am definitely doing things. Heck I even got around to finding myself a new apartment.

However, the apartment is probably the one thing I actually went a little cheap on. Not to say it's not nice, but it's simply not as expensive. I'm in the red for this month. A new suit, plane tickets, combined with the usual spending and a new found taste for nicer (pricier) clothes can rack up quite the bill. Not that I don't have plenty but I barely broke even last month, and I'm definitely going to be in the red because of vacation coming up in February. (Costa Rica here I come, woot woot)

My `rents are also coming by right before my vacation too. I'll be in the new apartment then and should have enough room for them, but 100 sq. ft. less is a drop I don't think I've quite wrapped my head around. They fly in on a Wednesday night, and my original plan was to work Thursday, take Friday off, and then also have Saturday to take off with them. However, I have to fly out Saturday now (due to the seemingly random airline ticket prices) and hence need to burn another vacation day. Poof goes my vacation.

This of course wouldn't be a problem except that my post-vacation self is supposed to be exploring job opportunities and makes any fly-outs a little more difficult to manage.... Yes that. Come February 17th(technically Feb 16th ~ 10pm) I'll have spent an entire year in Dallas. All the BS that's going on in my current company aside, it's just smart for a 'young professional' to check out what opportunities are available.

So switching topics....
I've started reading again (yay). Non-fiction (collective boo). I'm apparently one of those people who can't turn off the work part of their brain as my current read is "The Future of Management". Ordered it on a whim from a suggestion by one of the usual blogs I read. It reminds me a lot of the books I read in my last semester of college such as "The Mythical Man Month" and "Crossing the Chasm". It contains many 'common-sense' yet zen like quotes that are one thing to be read but another to be followed.

The premise of this book is that in a world where change is an ever-accelerating force, companies can only survive if they develop the ability to adapt and innovate. The biggest barriers to adaptability and innovation being management. And so the book is all about how management practices need to change.

A few gems: (Yes I've been taking notes)
  • "I dream of companies that actually deserve the passion and creativity of the folks who work there and naturally elicit the very best that people have to give."
  • "Expecting [large organizations] to be strategically nimble, restlessly innovative, or highly engaging places to work--or anything else than merely efficient--is like expecting a dog to do the tango."
  • "Toyota's success is based on a wholly different set of principles--about the capabilities of its employees and the responsibilities of its leaders."
  • "[U.S. car makers] have paid dearly for a management system that was rooted in intellectual feudalism."
  • "In most companies, managers are selected, trained, and rewarded for their capacity to deliver more of the same, more efficiently."
  • "I once heard former U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz draw a distinction between 'problems you can solve' and 'problems you can only work at'."
  • " .. to build an adaptable company, mangers need to worry less about weeding out low-probability ideas and more about building a diverse portfolio of non-incremental strategic options."
  • "'You're either creative or you're not' Now if this were true, art institutes, design schools, and architectural programs wouldn't exist and courses in creative writing would be pointless."
  • ".. if you wring out all the slack out of a company, you'll wring out all the innovation as well."
  • "As human beings, we are amazingly adaptable and creative, yet most of us work for companies that are not."
Only a third of the way through and I'm already itching to revolutionize my work place (hah).