Ethics and Writing

A particularly prominent technology blogger ( see http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/michael_arrington_the_kingmaker_who_would_be_king.php )has now formalized his status as an investor (which he did even before) while relinquishing his editorial duties (which were not much given the blog’s acquisition by AOL and its own formidable line of writers, each one of whom is quite influential). Without going into either sermon mode (thou shall not have conflict of interests) or adulatory mode (wow he sold the blog for 30 mill and now he gets another 20 mill for his funds)- I shall try and present the case for ethics and ethical lapses while as a writer.

Continue reading “Ethics and Writing”

Interview Beth Schultz Editor AllAnalytics.com

Here is an interview with Beth Scultz Editor in Chief, AllAnalytics.com .

Allanalytics.com http://www.allanalytics.com/ is the new online community on Predictive Analytics, and its a bit different in emphasizing quality more than just quantity. Beth is veteran in tech journalism and communities.

Ajay-Describe your journey in technology journalism and communication. What are the other online communities that you have been involved with?

Beth- I’m a longtime IT journalist, having begun my career covering the telecommunications industry at the brink of AT&T’s divestiture — many eons ago. Over the years, I’ve covered the rise of internal corporate networking; the advent of the Internet and creation of the Web for business purposes; the evolution of Web technology for use in building intranets, extranets, and e-commerce sites; the move toward a highly dynamic next-generation IT infrastructure that we now call cloud computing; and development of myriad enterprise applications, including business intelligence and the analytics surrounding them. I have been involved in developing online B2B communities primarily around next-generation enterprise IT infrastructure and applications. In addition, Shawn Hessinger, our community editor, has been involved in myriad Web sites aimed at creating community for small business owners.

 Ajay- Technology geeks get all the money while journalists get a story. Comments please

Beth- Great technology geeks — those being the ones with technology smarts as well as business savvy — do stand to make a lot of money. And some pursue that to all ends (with many entrepreneurs gunning for the acquisition) while others more or less fall into it. Few journalists, at least few tech journalists, have big dollars in mind. The gratification for journalists comes in being able to meet these folks, hear and deliver their stories — as appropriate — and help explain what makes this particular technology geek developing this certain type of product or service worth paying attention to.

 Ajay- Describe what you are trying to achieve with the All Analytics community and how it seeks to differentiate itself with other players in this space.

 Beth- With AllAnaltyics.com, we’re concentrating on creating the go-to site for CXOs, IT professionals, line-of-business managers, and other professionals to share best practices, concrete experiences, and research about data analytics, business intelligence, information optimization, and risk management, among many other topics. We differentiate ourself by featuring excellent editorial content from a top-notch group of bloggers, access to industry experts through weekly chats, ongoing lively and engaging message board discussions, and biweekly debates.

We’re a new property, and clearly in rapid building mode. However, we’ve already secured some of the industry’s most respected BI/analytics experts to participate as bloggers. For example, a small sampling of our current lineup includes the always-intrigueing John Barnes, a science fiction novelist and statistics guru; Sandra Gittlen, a longtime IT journalist with an affinity for BI coverage; Olivia Parr-Rud, an internationally recognized expert in BI and organizational alignment; Tom Redman, a well-known data-quality expert; and Steve Williams, a leading BI strategy consultant. I blog daily as well, and in particular love to share firsthand experiences of how organizations are benefiting from the use of BI, analytics, data warehousing, etc. We’ve featured inside looks at analytics initiatives at companies such as 1-800-Flowers.com, Oberweis Dairy, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, and Thomson Reuters, for example.

In addition, we’ve hosted instant e-chats with Web and social media experts Joe Stanganelli and Pierre DeBois, and this Friday, Aug. 26, at 3 p.m. ET we’ll be hosting an e-chat with Marshall Sponder, Web metrics guru and author of the newly published book, Social Media Analytics: Effective Tools for Building, Interpreting, and Using Metrics. (Readers interested in participating in the chat do need to fill out a quick registration form, available here http://www.allanalytics.com/register.asp . The chat is available here http://www.allanalytics.com/messages.asp?piddl_msgthreadid=241039&piddl_msgid=439898#msg_439898 .

Experts participating in our biweekly debate series, called Point/Counterpoint, have broached topics such as BI in the cloud, mobile BI and whether an analytics culture is truly possible to build.

Ajay-  What are some tips you would like to share about writing tech stories to aspiring bloggers.

Beth- I suppose my best advice is this: Don’t write about technology for technology’s sake. Always strive to tell the audience why they should care about a particular technology, product, or service. How might a reader use it to his or her company’s advantage, and what are the potential benefits? Improved productivity, increased revenue, better customer service? Providing anecdotal evidence goes a long way toward delivering that message, as well.

Ajay- What are the other IT world websites that have made a mark on the internet.

Beth- I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to UBM TechWeb sites, including InformationWeek, which has long charted the use of IT within the enterprise; Dark Reading, a great source for folks interested in securing an enterprise’s information assets; and Light Reading, which takes the pulse of the telecom industry.

 Biography- 

Beth Schultz has more than two decades of experience as an IT writer and editor. Most recently, she brought her expertise to bear writing thought-provoking editorial and marketing materials on a variety of technology topics for leading IT publications and industry players. Previously, she oversaw multimedia content development, writing and editing for special feature packages at Network World. Beth has a keen ability to identify business and technology trends, developing expertise through in-depth analysis and early-adopter case studies. Over the years, she has earned more than a dozen national and regional editorial excellence awards for special issues from American Business Media, American Society of Business Press Editors, Folio.net, and others.

 

Credit Downgrade of USA and Triple A Whining

As a person trained , deployed and often asked to comment on macroeconomic shenanigans- I have the following observations to make on the downgrade of US Debt by S&P

1) Credit rating is both a mathematical exercise of debt versus net worth as well as intention to repay. Given the recent deadlock in United States legislature on debt ceiling, it is natural and correct to assume that holding US debt is slightly more risky in 2011 as compared to 2001. That means if the US debt was AAA in 2001 it sure is slightly more risky in 2011.

2) Politicians are criticized the world over in democracies including India, UK and US. This is natural , healthy and enforced by checks and balances by constitution of each country. At the time of writing this, there are protests in India on corruption, in UK on economic disparities, in US on debt vs tax vs spending, Israel on inflation. It is the maturity of the media as well as average educational level of citizenry that amplifies and inflames or dampens sentiment regarding policy and business.

3) Conspicuous consumption has failed both at an environmental and economic level. Cheap debt to buy things you do not need may have made good macro economic sense as long as the things were made by people locally but that is no longer the case. Outsourcing is not all evil, but it sure is not a perfect solution to economics and competitiveness. Outsourcing is good or outsourcing is bad- well it depends.

4) In 1944 , the US took debt to fight Nazism, build atomic power and generally wage a lot of war and lots of dual use inventions. In 2004-2010 the US took debt to fight wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and bail out banks and automobile companies. Some erosion in the values represented by a free democracy has taken place, much to the delight of authoritarian regimes (who have managed to survive Google and Facebook).

5) A Double A rating is still quite a good rating. Noone is moving out of the US Treasuries- I mean seriously what are your alternative financial resources to park your government or central bank assets, euro, gold, oil, rare earth futures, metals or yen??

6) Income disparity as a trigger for social unrest in UK, France and other parts is an ominous looming threat that may lead to more action than the poor maths of S &P. It has been some time since riots occured in the United States and I believe in time series and cycles especially given the rising Gini coefficients .

Gini indices for the United States at various times, according to the US Census Bureau:[8][9][10]

  • 1929: 45.0 (estimated)
  • 1947: 37.6 (estimated)
  • 1967: 39.7 (first year reported)
  • 1968: 38.6 (lowest index reported)
  • 1970: 39.4
  • 1980: 40.3
  • 1990: 42.8
    • (Recalculations made in 1992 added a significant upward shift for later values)
  • 2000: 46.2
  • 2005: 46.9
  • 2006: 47.0 (highest index reported)
  • 2007: 46.3
  • 2008: 46.69
  • 2009: 46.8

7) Again I am slightly suspicious of an American Corporation downgrading the American Governmental debt when it failed to reconcile numbers by 2 trillion and famously managed to avoid downgrading Lehman Brothers.  What are the political affiliations of the S &P board. What are their backgrounds. Check the facts, Watson.

The Chinese government should be concerned if it is holding >1000 tonnes of Gold and >1 trillion plus of US treasuries lest we have a third opium war (as either Gold or US Treasuries will burst)

. Opium in 1850 like the US Treasuries in 2010 have no inherent value except for those addicted to them.

8   ) Ron Paul and Paul Krugman are the two extremes of economic ideology in the US.

Reminds me of the old saying- Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Both the Pauls seem equally unhappy and biased.

I have to read both WSJ and NYT to make sense of what actually is happening in the US as opinionated journalism has managed to elbow out fact based journalism. Do we need analytics in journalism education/ reporting?

9) Panic buying and selling would lead to short term arbitrage positions. People like W Buffet made more money in the crash of 2008 than people did in the boom years of 2006-7

If stocks are cheap- buy. on the dips. Acquire companies before they go for IPOs. Go buy your own stock if you are sitting on  a pile of cash. Buy some technology patents in cloud , mobile, tablet and statistical computing if you have a lot of cash and need to buy some long term assets.

10) Follow all advice above at own risk and no liability to this author 😉

 

Why open source companies dont dance?

I have been pondering on this seemingly logical paradox for some time now-

1) Why are open source solutions considered technically better but not customer friendly.

2) Why do startups and app creators in social media or mobile get much more press coverage than

profitable startups in enterprise software.

3) How does tech journalism differ in covering open source projects in enterprise versus retail software.

4) What are the hidden rules of the game of enterprise software.

Some observations-

1) Open source companies often focus much more on technical community management and crowd sourcing code. Traditional software companies focus much more on managing the marketing community of customers and influencers. Accordingly the balance of power is skewed in favor of techies and R and D in open source companies, and in favor of marketing and analyst relations in traditional software companies.

Traditional companies also spend much more on hiring top notch press release/public relationship agencies, while open source companies are both financially and sometimes ideologically opposed to older methods of marketing software. The reverse of this is you are much more likely to see Videos and Tutorials by an open source company than a traditional company. You can compare the websites of ClouderaDataStax, Hadapt ,Appistry and Mapr and contrast that with Teradata or Oracle (which has a much bigger and much more different marketing strategy.

Social media for marketing is also more efficiently utilized by smaller companies (open source) while bigger companies continue to pay influential analysts for expensive white papers that help present the brand.

Lack of budgets is a major factor that limits access to influential marketing for open source companies particularly in enterprise software.

2 and 3) Retail software is priced at 2-100$ and sells by volume. Accordingly technology coverage of these software is based on volume.

Enterprise software is much more expensively priced and has much more discreet volume or sales points. Accordingly the technology coverage of enterprise software is more discreet, in terms of a white paper coming every quarter, a webinar every month and a press release every week. Retail software is covered non stop , but these journalists typically do not charge for “briefings”.

Journalists covering retail software generally earn money by ads or hosting conferences. So they have an interest in covering new stuff or interesting disruptive stuff. Journalists or analysts covering enterprise software generally earn money by white papers, webinars, attending than hosting conferences, writing books. They thus have a much stronger economic incentive to cover existing landscape and technologies than smaller startups.

4) What are the hidden rules of the game of enterprise software.

  • It is mostly a white man’s world. this can be proved by statistical demographic analysis
  • There is incestuous intermingling between influencers, marketers, and PR people. This can be proved by simple social network analysis of who talks to who and how much. A simple time series between sponsorship and analysts coverage also will prove this (I am working on quantifying this ).
  • There are much larger switching costs to enterprise software than retail software. This leads to legacy shoddy software getting much chances than would have been allowed in an efficient marketplace.
  • Enterprise software is a less efficient marketplace than retail software in all definitions of the term “efficient markets”
  • Cloud computing, and SaaS and Open source threatens to disrupt the jobs and careers of a large number of people. In the long term, they will create many more jobs, but in the short term, people used to comfortable living of enterprise software (making,selling,or writing) will actively and passively resist these changes to the  paradigms in the current software status quo.
  • Open source companies dont dance and dont play ball. They prefer to hire 4 more college grads than commission 2 more white papers.

and the following with slight changes from a comment I made on a fellow blog-

  • While the paradigm on how to create new software has evolved from primarily silo-driven R and D departments to a broader collaborative effort, the biggest drawback is software marketing has not evolved.
  • If you want your own version of the open source community editions to be more popular, some standardization is necessary for the corporate decision makers, and we need better marketing paradigms.
  • While code creation is crowdsourced, solution implementation cannot be crowdsourced. Customers want solutions to a problem not code.
  • Just as open source as a production and licensing paradigm threatens to disrupt enterprise software, it will lead to newer ways to marketing software given the hostility of existing status quo.

 

 

Why search optimization can make you like Rebecca Black

Felicia Day, actress and web content producer.
Image via Wikipedia

A highly optimized blog post or web content can get you a lot of attention just like Rebecca Black’s video (provided it passes through the new quality metrics \change*/ in the Search Engine)

But if the underlying content is weak, or based on a shoddy understanding of the content-it can drive lots of horrid comments as well as ensuring that bad word of mouth is spread about the content or you/despite your hard work.

An example of this is copy and paste journalism especially in technology circles, where even a bigger Page Ranked website /blog can get away with scraping or stealing content from a lower page ranked website (or many websites)  after adding a cursory “expert comment”. This is also true when someone who is basically a corporate communication specialist (or PR -public relations) person is given a techinical text and encourage to write about it without completely understanding it.

A mild technical defect in the search engine algorithm is that it does not seem to pay attention to when the content was published, so the copying website or blog actually can get by as fresher content even if it is practically has 90% of the same words). The second flaw is over punishment or manual punishment of excessive linking – this can encourage search optimization minded people to hoard links or discourage trackbacks.

A free internet is one which promotes free sharing of content and does not encourage stealing or un-authorized scraping or content copying. Unfortunately current search engine optimization can encourage scraping and content copying without paying too much attention to origin of the words.

In addition the analytical rigor by which search algorithms search your inboxes (as in search all emails for a keyword) or media rich sites (like Youtube) are quite on a different level of quality altogether. The chances of garbage results are much more while searching for media content and/or emails.

Statistical Analysis with R- by John M Quick

I was asked to be a techie reviewe for John M Quick’s new R book “Statistical Analysis with R” from Packt Publishing some months ago-(very much to my surprise I confess)-

I agreed- and technical reviewer work does take time- its like being a mid wife and there is whole team trying to get the book to birth.

Statistical Analysis with R- is a Beginner’s Guide so has nice screenshots, simple case studies, and quizzes to check recall of student/ reader. I remember struggling with the official “beginner’s guide to R” so this one is different in that it presents a story of a Chinese Army and how to use R to plan resources to fight the battle. It’s recommended especially for undergraduate courses- R need not be an elitist language- and given my experience with Asian programming acumen – I am sure it is a matter of time before high schools in India teach basic R in final years ( I learnt quite a shit load of quantum physics as compulsory topics in Indian high schools- but I guess we didnt have Jersey Shore things to do)

Congrats to author Mr John M Quick- he is doing his educational Phd from ASU- and I am sure both he and his approach to making education simple informative and fun will go places.

Only bad thing- The Name Statistical Analysis with R has atleast three other books , but I guess Google will catch up to it.

This book is here-https://www.packtpub.com/statistical-analysis-with-r-beginners-guide/book

Mergers and Acqusitions: Analyzing them

Valuation of future cash flows is an inexact science- too often it relies either on flat historical numbers (we grew by 5% last year so next year we will grow by 10%)

To add to the fun is the agency conflict, manager’s priorities (in terms of stock options encashment) is different from owner’s priorities.

These are some ways you can track companies for analysis-

1) Make a Google Alert on Company Name

2) Track if there is sudden and sustained spike in activity – it may be that company may be on road show seeking like minded partners, investors or mergers.

3) Watch for sudden drop in news alerts- it may mean radio silence or company may be in negotiations

4) Watch how company starts behaving with traditional antagonists…….

The easiest word thrown in the melee is ethics, copyright violations or payments delayed.

I am pasting an extract by a noted and renowned analyst in the business intelligence field-

Curt Monash

His Professional opinion on SAP

SAP’s NetWeaver Business Warehouse software will soon run natively on Teradata’s database for high-end data warehousing and BI (business intelligence), the vendors announced Monday.

SAP and its BusinessObjects BI subsidiary already had partnerships and product integrations with Teradata. But the vendors’ many joint customers have been clamoring for more, and native Business Warehouse support is the answer, said Tim Lang, vice president of product management for Business Objects.

SAP expects the new capability to enter beta testing in the fourth quarter of this year, with general availability in the first quarter of 2010, according to a spokesman.

Under the partnership, SAP will be handling first-line support, according to Lang. Pricing was not available.

The announcement drew a skeptical response from analyst Curt Monash of Monash Research, who questioned how deeply SAP will be committed to selling its customers on Teradata versus rival platforms.

“Business Objects has long been an extremely important partner for Teradata. But SAP’s most important DBMS partner is and will long be IBM, simply because [IBM] DB2 is not Oracle,” Monash said.”

Credit-

http://www.infoworld.com/d/data-management/sap-and-teradata-deepen-data-warehousing-ties-088

and here are some words from Curt Monash’s personal views on SAP

Typical nonsense from SAP

Below, essentially in its entirety, is an e-mail I just received from SAP, today, January 3. (Emphasis mine.)

Thank you for attending SAPs 4th Annual Analyst Summit in Las Vegas. We hope you found the time to be valuable. To ensure that we continue meeting your informational needs, please take a few moments to complete our online survey by using the link below. We ask that you please complete the survey before December 20. We look forward to receiving your feedback.

What makes this typical piece of SAP over-organization particularly amusing is that I didnt actually attend the event. I was planning to, but after considerable effort I think I finally made it clear to VP of Analyst Relations Don Bulmer that I was fed up with being lied to* by him and his colleagues. In connection with that, we came to a mutual agreement, as it were, that I wouldnt go.

*and lied about

Obviously, administrative ineptitude and dishonesty are two very different matters, united only by the fact that they both are characteristics of SAP, particularly its analyst relations group. Having said that, I should hasten to add that there are plenty of people at SAP I still trust. If Peter Zencke or Lothar Schubert tells me something, I expect it to be true. And its not just Germans; I feel the same way about Dan Rosenberg or Andrew Cabanski-Dunning, to name just a couple non-German SAP guys.

But I have to say this both SAPs ethics and its internal business processes are sufficiently screwed up as to cast doubt on SAPs qualifications to run the worlds best-run businesses.

Source:

http://www.monashreport.com/2007/01/03/sap-nonsense-ethics/

Journalism ethics off course makes sure that journalists don’t get renumerance or have to compulsorily declare benefits openly.This is not true for online journalism as it is still evolving.

Curt Monash is the grand daddy of all Business Intelligence Journalists- he has been doing this and seen it all since 1981 ( I was 4 years old then).

Almost incorruptible and therefore much respected his Monash report remains closely watched.

Some techniques to thwart Business Intelligence journalists is off course tactics of

1) Fear

2) Uncertainity

3) Doubt

by planting false leaks, or favoring more pliable journalists than the ones who ask difficult questions.

Another way is to use Search Engine Optimization so the Google search is rendered ineffective for diificult journalists for people to read them.

Why did I start this thread?

Well it seems the Business Intelligence world is coming to a round of consolidations and mergers. So will the trend of mega vendors first mentioned by M Fauschette here lead to a trend of mega journalist agencies as well- like a Fox News for all business intelligence journalists to report and get a share of the booty.

The Business Intelligence companies have long viewed analyst relationships as an unnecessary and uncontrollable marketing channel which they would like to see evolve.

Television Ratings can be manipulated for advertising similarly can you manipulate views, page views, clicks on a website for website advertisement.The catch is Google Trends may just give you the actual picture, but you can lie low by choosing not to submit or ping google during initial days and then we the website is big enough in terms of viewers or contributing bloggers can then safely ping Google as the momentum would be inertial in terms of getting bigger and bigger.

http://www.mfauscette.com/software_technology_partn/2009/05/the-emergence-of-the-mega-tech-vendor-economy.html

Here are some facts as per companies-

1) For SAS Institute

a) WPS is launching its Desktop software which enables SAS language users to migrate seamlessly at 1/10 th of the cost of SAS Base and SAS Stat. It will include Proc Reg and Proc Logistic in this and have a huge documentation.

b) R – open source software is increasingly powerful to manipulate data. SAS/IML tried offering a peace hand but they would need to reconcile with the GPL conditions for R- so if it is a plugin the source code is open and so on

c) Inference of R may be acquired by SAS to get a limited liability stake in a R based user platform.

d) Traditional Rival SPSS ( the two have dunked it out in analytics since 40 years) has a much better GUI and launched a revamped brand PASW. They are no longer distracted with a lawsuit which curiously accused them of stock manipulation and were found innocent.

e) Jim Goodnight has been dominating the industry since 1975 and has managed to stay private despite three recessions and huge inducements ( a wise miove given the mess in the markets in 2008). After Jim who will lead SAS with as much wisdom is an open question. Jim has refused Microsoft some years back, and is still very much in command despite being isolated in terms of industry alliances he remains respected. Pressure on him to rush into a merger would may just backfire.

f) The politics of envy- SAS is hated by many analytics people just as in some corners people hate America- it is because it is number 1, and been there too long.Did you mention anti-trust investigations . Well WPS is based out of UK and the European Union takes competition much more seriously.

g) Long time grudges – SAS is disliked despite its substantial R and D investments, the care it takes of its employees, and local community. Naturally people who are excluded or were excluded at some point of time have resentments.

h) SAS ambitions in Business Intelligence where curiously it is not that expensive and is actually more efficient than other players. The recent salvo fired by Jim Davis declaring business analytics as better than business intelligence- a remark much resented by cricket loving British journalist, Peter J Thomas

http://peterthomas.wordpress.com/category/business-intelligence/sas-bi-ba-controversy/

Intellectuals can carry huge grudges for decades ( Newton and Liebnitz) or Me with people who delay my interviews.

Teradata

1) Teradata has been a big partner with both SAS and SAP. It has also been losing ground recently in the same scenario SAS will shortly face.

It was also spun off in 2007-8 by the parent company NCR

http://it.toolbox.com/blogs/infosphere/against-the-flow-ncr-unacquires-teradata-13842

So will SAS buy Teradata

Will SAP Buy Teradata

Will SAS merge with Teradata and acquired by SAP while reaching a compromise with both WPS and R Project.

Will SAS call the bluff, make sincere efforts with the GPL and academic community to reconcile, give away multiple SAS Base and SAS Stat licenses in colleges and universities (like Asia, India, China) by expanding their academic program globally, start offering more coverage to JMP at a reduced price, make a trust for succession.

I dont know. All I know is I like writing code and poetry. Any code that gets the job done.

Any poem that I want to write ( see scribd books on the right)