Failures and breakthroughs – exposed, reflected, considered

Posts Tagged ‘google

apple and judiciary of cool

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It was perceivable that “to Google” became a verb synonymous with “to search;” but it might’ve been difficult to forecast a judiciary ruling on the concept of coolness.

This happened unsurprisingly in a judgment involving Apple, which brought the case alleging Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10 infringed its iPad design. British Judge Birss disagreed saying Apple’s designs weren’t being infringed because Samsung’s product was not as “cool” as the iPad.

This can be watershed in jurisprudence.

Originally, in a 1997 article, Gladwell wrote about the group of people he called coolhunters who scoured American cities to find out what cool kids thought about sneakers.

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Written by Hayk

July 14, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Posted in business, innovation, technology

Tagged with , , ,

gandhi, world blunders and google’s idea of 21st century

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Mohandas Gandhi gave to his grandson Arun Gandhi a piece of paper on their final day together, shortly before his assassination, which had a title “Seven Blunders of the World”:

  1. Wealth without work.
  2. Pleasure without conscience.
  3. Knowledge without character.
  4. Commerce without morality.
  5. Science without humanity.
  6. Worship without sacrifice.
  7. Politics without principle.

Doesn’t sounds like a value-based 21st century vision, does it?

Google search for “21st century vision” gives more than 55 million results. Google Trends would only take “21st century.” The result: Philippines and Tagalog language have more trending of “21st century” than America and English.

Written by Hayk

September 10, 2011 at 7:44 am

(tech) innovation stalls – what’s next?

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There’s growing realization that value-added technology innovation stalls. How did ancients invent/innovate?

New York Times started its own Google-Labs-style innovation-driving initiative called beta620. A response to stalling news industry?

Recently, Google’s CFO acknowledged that every single day 15% of the queries Google handles are completely new/never seen before.

Also, many modern financial tools (cheques, stock-certificates, bills-of-exchange) have ancient roots.

Even Roman dictator’s post was an innovative response to demands/aspirations of the time, namely overcoming inter-fighting of magistrates. List of Roman inventions are must serve as examples for modern leaders aspiring to innovate.

Isn’t it time for 21st-century value-based innovations?

Written by Hayk

September 2, 2011 at 6:57 am

How lack of reading damages modern society

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Never in human history has so much knowledge been available and accessible, and yet so little curiosity or effort been expended to obtain it.

In 2010 Google estimated that there are about 130 million unique books in the world. Google Books launched in 2004 (by now 15 million books), GoodReads in 2007 (5 million members), Copia in 2009, New York Times e-book best-seller lists in 2011.

What are we doing with all this information and opportunity? What is the most accessed item on the internet? Sex.

To Read, or Not to Read,” a report based on research conducted in 2007 by the National Endowment for the Arts found that while young Americans spend almost two hours a day watching television, only seven minutes of their daily leisure time is spent reading. Almost half of 18-24-years-old Americans read no books for pleasure.

Societies have always institutionalized inequalities of one sort or another. In the past, the pursuit of knowledge and culture was very much an elite preoccupation. In the Renaissance, for example, whether it was Leonardo da Vinci (scholar/scientist in pursuit of art/knowledge/etc) or the MEdici (commissioning creation of art/knowledge/etc), the engine of culture that produced advances in science/technology/art/philosophy was driven by a minority. It is thus not counter-intuitive that despite the overall increase in educational attainment, a large segment of society reflects “non-elite” interests. In this view, “high” (i.e. educated/intelligent) culture has always been the prerogative of the few/elites. Modern political/economic/social democratization/development has therefore merely placed majority culture (which was always there but not exposed as much) in full view.

The transmission of knowledge/tradition is one of the most important functions of any society. Usually, this function is fulfilled by the intelligentsia/elite/minority of the society. The problem is not that the elite failed to “bring culture to the masses,” but that the usual mode of cultural transmission has been inverted—the supposed culture of the masses has become the currency of the intellectual elite. As the decline in literary reading amongst the most educated indicates, the pursuit of ignorance has become a cultural imperative.

Paris Hilton’s latest leather bag, Brad Pitt’s latest sunglasses and alike are the buzzword and bread of masses who do not and want not to know anything say for example about global economic crises under way, or climate changes that already affect us.

Firstly, modern intelligentsia is no longer a transmitter and beacon of high culture but more a great zombie that spearheads trashy, hippy and vulgar (from Greek term meaning “popular”). In the past, this transfer was impeded by a myriad of factors including, lack of access to information, unavailability of information, transportation/transfer difficulties, information/knowledge reproduction costs, etc.

Youth who has university degrees – if I were to generalize somewhat – is the staple good of the (“intellectual”) society and which represents a large proportion of its future leaders.

Yet, according to professor Bauerlein’s book (2008) “The Dumbest Generation,” more than half of American school leavers score below basic achievement levels even in American history; 52% think that Germany, Italy and Japan were US allies in the WW2. It is the Digital Age which has, he postulates, stunted and diminished not only the knowledge young people attain, but the very tools they require to attain it. Calculator – adding numbers. Google Translate – translate entire text without review/analysis and thought. Baroness Susan Greenfield uses the term “mind change” to highlight the potential danger to human cognitive development in the unmonitored and unregulated exposure of young minds to digital technology/media.

Second reason, apart from reversal of knowledge transfer from the elite to masses, is the manner in which education is “packaged” and delivered at schools/universities. History books, for example, are narrow in their scope and tend to have biases (for example, history Easter Europe usually doesn’t get much adequate exposure in most modern European historic treatises – a notable exception is Fischer’s history of Europe). Thus, packaging is wanty. Delivery as well became less comprehensive as teachers are less and less educated/prepared for their jobs.

A third important aspect is that history has become more idealized/romanticized. In the pursuit of “real history,” history courses depict an ideological construct that they fabricate largely in the absence of evidence or filling in the “desired” course of actions (depending on history and politics of a country). Many contemporary history courses are actually a-historical, in which the social experience and context of the past float in a timeless and eventless “now” and where all regional/temporal differences are ignored.

Socrates realized that to “know thyself” one has to go through interaction with others. We are social animals, and understanding the “other” is essential to how we live and learn. The process of gaining this knowledge to inner worlds of others is called theory of mind. It’s a developmental process whereby children gradually achieve understanding that their mental view and perception of the world is different from that of others. Older children begin to be able to place themselves in someone else’s position, to understand something from someone else’s point of view.

Reading – check the fabulous introduction to Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin why we need to read – is the ultimate form of exercise of theory of mind. It places us within the consciousness of both the writer and the characters of the book, while also giving us access to the writer’s world/experiences/imagination.

Current trend is that people want to be read, they don’t want to read. They don’t have time, nor feel there is much knowledge (beyond what they already know) that can enrich them – there is always some excuse.

The failure of our social/cultural institutions to counterbalance unwanted consequences of modern socio-technological pressures is what might bring to the point of make-or-break our modern society and its intellectual and economic achievements.

There are specks of hope though. In the spring of 1971, a librarian Marguerite Hart set out to inspire the Troy (America) youngsters to read and love the library. Her letter-writing campaign invited writers, actors, musicians, politicians to share what made reading special for them. She got 97 letters, including notes from Neil Armstrong and Isaac Asimov. The collection became known as Letters to the Children of Troy.

What plagiarism and innovation have in common

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What do plagiarism and innovation have in common? Quite some.

Plagiarism is a copying of another’s IP without acknowledgment; innovation might be a copying of another’s IP, but with a poignant inspiration and tinge of creativity, not unlike a 9-year-old Estonian’s hacking into New York Times Op-Ed and “op-eding” embarrassing facts about Tom Friedman and the newspaper’s revenues.

A 17-year-old Nicholas took Google to task on its own ground and came out of it better off, earning himself the tag “next Mark Zuckerberg.” Innovation, plagiarism, or a bit of both?

Plagiarism, like innovation, can get creative in literature, at least.

Written by Hayk

August 9, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Obama fails – America fails

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A famous story from IBM told of a man who made a $10M error. He was hauled up before the big boss where he expected to be sacked. Pre-empting this, he apologized and offered his resignation. Refusing the resignation, the boss said ‘Goodness, man, we can’t lose you now! We’ve just spent $10M on your education!’

Have you heard? America and EU – the developed, 1st world, civilized West – is on decline.

Let’s focus on America and its incumbent leader, the 1st ever African-American to become a president of the US. Do you remember his promise and inspiration he induced in the entire world? Internet was abuzz with positivity, hope and visions of a truly positive America. That was back in 2008.

We are in the 3rd quarter of 2011. A quick search of term “Obama failures” brings in an excess of 12 million search results on Google. Isn’t this something?

There is “Obama fail blog” which aims to document all Obama blunders and eventually publish a book with all stories.

There is also “Obama lies” which features an impressive list of lies and failures – videos and articles from WSJ, Huffington Post, CNN, and other non-scam or radical/extremist-type media – in addition to a “Submit Editorial” section, which starts off by saying that the online visitor is likely to be on that page “by searching for ‘Obama Lies’. ObamaLies.net is a stage for people upset with the unkept promises of this administration to share their frustrations.” Its “Obama lies directory” section contains a big number of resources, including blogs, video links, and articles. Not forgetting about its own “commercial” side, the site sells branded t-shirts with “Obama Sucks” and alike for $20-30 apiece. This site has been up – if blog archive is any indicator – since March 2008 but contains entries starting June 2008, in itself a telling sign.

Curious about this “blog,” I had a quick look at Alexa.com, the web ranking engine of the Internet.  According to Alexa.com, the audience (with an estimated 86% being in America) of this website comprises mostly of 35-64, predominantly male visitors with some college education who have no children. Doesn’t this sound like a middle class, average-educated, unemployed/freelance divorced/single American?

Is this all? Few blogs and other peripheral hate-mongering – even Mohandas Gandhi and even till now has his haters gather here, or more social ones here.

There are high flyers. Last year, Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post who ranks 28th on “The world’s 100 most powerful women“, gave an interview to the Time magazine about her book “Third World America,” in which, the first 165 pages look like a catalog of horrors describing the decline of America and an undeniable and obvious role of Obama 2008 campaign and its subsequent “execution.”

There are the Republicans. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who currently leads in early polls for the Republican nomination, issued a video of a shuttered steel plant (that closed down in January 2011 after struggling for years) Allentown Metal Works, which Obama visited in 2009, to attack the president.

There are heavyweights. Nouriel Roubini aka Dr. Doom, the influential Italian economist who predicted the current economic recession, was forthcoming when he said, among others, that Obama’s presidency was heading for “fiscal trainwreck,” that his economic proposals “won’t make a difference” and that Obama’s spending freeze is just a “spare change.”

There are creative Wall-Street types too who churn out both wheat and chaff. A recent WSJ article, features “Snapshots from President Obama’s efforts to improve America’s standing in the world, 923 days into his administration” and an alphabetic list – all English letters are present – of info snippets offering statistical details, historic comparisons (not in Obama’s favor), and broken promises. Conspicuous are some comparisons such as the fiscal deficit of 3% in 2008 as opposed to an estimated 11% of GDP in 2011 and the then (November 2008) president-elect Obama’s promised creation of 2.5 million new jobs by 2011, whereas having shed 3.3 million jobs by October 2010.

Let’s be frank. We all commit mistakes, some big, some small; our employers, families and spouses, being considerate, shoulder those mistakes and think of them – best case scenario – as “investments” in our education like in the opening story about IBM or sunk costs/wasted resources – worst case scenario – which entail lay-off/other forms of downgrading.

Obama is no exception. Admittedly, he made and still makes errors, but with the particularly burdensome fiscal debt, the reeling economy, the ever-increasing unemployment and the real scope of the 2008 economic crisis finally unraveling itself, his (under) reactions might eventually have an even more grave consequences for America and the world. As it succinctly points out here, it is not clear

which tragedy is the more troubling: the failure to see the true scope of the disaster when accurate numbers weren’t available, or the failure to see it now that they are.

If Obama only did?

Curiously though, does Obama Google his name from time to time? What would he think/do if he saw what there is to see?

Will Google fail… again?

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If you work just for money, you’ll never make it, but if you love what you’re doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.

Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s said. Google founders loved their search engine. Today Google seems to love money more than anything.

Google Catalogs, Google Answers, Google Wave and even the most recent, hyped up Google Buzz feature on a growing list of Google flops, with, on average, 200 projects that are being worked upon at any time at Google.

A seeming common denominator of all its failed attempts is its chase of existing and successful business models or competitors. Google Wave was to reinvent email; Google Buzz was to be a direct response to Twitter; Google Answers was to counter Yahoo! Answers and so on.

Since 2001, Google embarked on acquisition of middle and small size companies, in its bid to enhance the range of its services both vertically and horizontally. More than 80 acquired companies and 10 years later, yet its strategy, approach and mentality have hardly changed.

In a certain sense, Google stopped innovating. Many of its failures could be somewhat explained away by looking at how it tries to go about chasing others’ success. An enlightening interview with a Google exec revealed some crucial points –  scope of work, team size and usage of infrastructure, etc. – of how Google cannot, for example, build an Instagr.am equivalent.

And now Groupon. Google’s unsuccessful story of trying to buy it for USD 6 billion did not finish there. It now decided to come up with its own answer. A déjà vu?

Of course, Google did and does good things. Adwords, Adsense, Analytics, Android and its transformation of online advertising using acquired DoubleClick technology, have done and will continue bringing value to businesses and end users.

But, is the value offered by Google justified by the growing number and impact of its flops?

It all boils down to a company’s DNA. Google’s DNA is search, and it built around it, growing and becoming successful. Now it tries to “go out” of its DNA and diversify, not an unusual drive for a company of its size and track record. It needs t keep in mind, however, that similar attitude brought down other big and successful companies in the past. Instead, what it could do is to make its own search smarter and richer (in relevancy, targetting and search result contents).

The usual question that Google and other failed/successful entrepreneurs/businesses ask themselves daily is, “Should we Innovate or Copy?” The word “Innovation” became a cliché, despite the fact that innovation wars lead nowhere and hurt everyone.

Perhaps it is time we start to mInnovate.

Written by Hayk

January 22, 2011 at 11:58 am