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Showing posts from August, 2009

The power of the exponential....

A few weeks ago, Ray Kurzweil was at Google.
I caught the screening of the documentary about him: The Transcendent Man and then stayed for a Q&A with Ray and the director.
It was fascinating to say the least! I'm not even going to try and summarize his life and theories (that's what the Internet is for.:)), but what stayed with me most is a line from the documentary: "Ray's tool is the Exponential"
Its easy to forget the power of exponential growth and accelerating returns, which mean technology grows at rates we simply don't take into account or easily accept because the implications seem so bizzare. Summary below:
"An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense "intuitive linear" view. So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century -- it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate). The "returns," such as chip speed and c…

Funny: all five times.:)

So, Seth McFarlane really wants that Emmy huh? :) (Videos embedded below)



Hmm... as a sidenote Wikipedia suggest that McFarlane worked on a cartoon I particularly enjoyed while growing up: Johnny Bravo, and mentally surfing through my Cartoon Network memories reminded me just how much I loved the SWAT Kats, though I'm not sure how much of that was just because of the music. Intro below.:)







Quick review: Persepolis

I finally finished a book!Ignore the fact that is was a graphic novel.:)
Persepolis is an autobiography, and the story of a girl growing up during a very turbulent time in Iran's history. Wikipedia helpfully tells me its not just a memoir, but a Bildungsroman.
Its a powerful book and I know a litte bit more about Iranian history and culture now. You can't help being touched by the story and identifying with many of the characters. In general, across human experiences we uniformly find people that are weak, noble, stupid, capable to great love and fighting to protect their children. It reminded me a little bit of Art Spiegelman's Maus which was a lot more powerful and affected me much more deeply when I read it.
In other reading news, I'm now mid-way through 3 booksagain. I'm going to try to get my act together and finish off a couple of them over the next 2 weeks. :)

How do you know a great manager?

I was having a conversation with a colleague this week, and we ended up talking about what were the qualities of a great manager. We ended up talking about a lot of things: how much the person cares about her/his reports, leadership, inspiration, IQ points, ability to be strategic, integrity, etc. etc.
I realized the answers varied for each person, but suddenly remembered the very simple litmus test.
If your manager left to go do something else, would you want to follow her/him?

Kevin Kelly's Technium blog: new addition my reader queue.

Through a thread at work, I was introduced to Kevin Kelly's site, and his Technium blog
There's an incredible post about Moore's law that I just finished and highly recommend.
I'm looking forward to finding the time to dig a little bit more into the site.

Reminder: managing how people around you can change you

I did something super-uncharacteristic in a meeting today, and felt both bad and stupid right after.
It felt very unlike me to do it, but I knew exactly why.....Some people are more easily influenced by styles/personalities/mannerisms of others. I've suspected for quite a while that I'm one of those people. :) I tend to pick up good habits/mannerisms/styles from people, but I realize the flip is true as well.
So what's a person to do? Here's what I think: Step 1: awareness is key: watch out always, always, always for what you're doing. Examine your life and actions continuously. I've been able to do this once-in-a-while, but have never been able to keep this "always-on"Step 2: have a strong sense of the kind of person you want to be: in your personal and professional life. An easy way to get there is to have role-models; multiple role-models or even more granular (e.g. a programming role-model, analysis role-model, meeting role-model, a presentation rol…

Huh, so facebook acquired Friendfeed...

One product et company that I liked and use less of lately, got acquired by the company that builds another that I like and use a lot of.
Detailed analysis and speculation will abound over the next day/week, but I think is a pretty slick move on the part of Facebook for many, many reasons.
They pick up great talent, an infrastructure that would plug in really well with, and add a lot to the Facebook statuses, and (hopefully) a team that will bring in some instincts for openness and support for the Open Web. Though how much Facebook should care about the last piece is open for debate, especially since this takes their market-share even higher (assuming there is a defined "market" for status updates and sharing social activity :))
Facebook statuses have borrowed a lot of from (oh, sorry been inspired by) Friendfeed over the last year and in the case of users like me this has led to a lot of duplication in my status messages. At the very least hopefully this will help clean some …

Funny, but this is why web and video search is still an unsolved problem...

I stumbled on to this great rhyme set of the Sound of Music classic "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" First couple of stanzas below
How do you solve a problem like Korea? How do you run Dear Leader out of town? How do you find a way to stop Korea? A chummy discussion? A punch in the nose? A frown?
Many a bomb you'd like them to dismantle, Many a threat you'd like them to suspend, But why waste your time in talk? They bluster and then they walk, When will they hear the message that you send?
Oh, how do you solve a problem like Korea? How do you make a lunatic your friend? But that got me on to my search problems:

I tried to find a clip of the song, but kept getting stuck with clips from the BBC America show instead. People uploading both hadn't created the metadata to differentiate the two and recency and volume meant the clips from the show were the only thing to find.

Tweaking the words "how do you solve a problem like maria sound of music orginal" triggere…

Defeating the politics by being apolitical

About a year ago, a senior manager at Google told me when I asked about how to deal with what seemed like a political situation I saw, by saying "Do what you always do. Be apolitical, make good decisions that work for everyone, and you'll find that it works out."
A few things at work, and the section on judgement in the Netflix preso I mentioned below, got me thinking about that again.
I realize that applies not just to political behavior, but a bunch of other bad habits that creep into large companies (e.g. not sharing info deliberately, gossiping etc. etc.) I believe that staying above the rat-race rather than joining it, is in fact that smartest option in the long-run.
On the other hand, this kinda thinking smacks of UChicago efficient market kinda thinking; and we know how that's viewed right now.:)
Personally, I'll stick with this, with the only caveat that acting "good" doesn't mean being unaware of the "evil."
Try, and try hard, to under…

Keeping 2 things fixed...

We had a pretty great training on estimation and planning of engineering projects the other day.I got a lot out of it as did everyone else; I expect it will significantly affect the way we work over the next few months. But anyway, this little nugget the instructor threw in somewhere in the middle seemed post-it worthy for some reason.

Netflix: a great preso on culture

Below is a brilliant internal presentation from, by and for the folks at Netflix.There's so, so much good stuff on employee rentention and empowerment, managing people, and corporate culture and processes that I just don't want to pick anything out. Culture
Read it when you have the chance.
Personally, there's a lot I think that Google does right, and a lot that we could do better. More than that, as Google grows I think there's a lot for us (and any company that is growing rapidly) to chew on and make sure we don't get wrong.

Yet another Twitter/Google analogy...

I had a hallway conversation last week that triggered yet another Twitter/Google analogy for me.
Google is like a library, Twitter is like a bar.
Searching for something on Twitter e.g. "Michael Jackson dies" results in a lot of very immediate, very shallow, perhaps even inaccurate results but its interesting, has attribution, and satisfies a voyeuristic tendency we all have. The same applies for Facebook status messages.
Google is much more like a library: better quality, better sources, but a little more delayed and "stiff"
Even controlling for their other uses, libraries tend to be less popular than bars, so that's something I'm sure worries some folks at Google. Possible solution for Google: Library Bar?:)