June 11, 2009
Human Resources is a tricky business. There are two goals involved:
1) Expansion of business capabilities (two coders produce more code than one)
2) Cheaper completion of goals (a cheaper coder who does the same work saves money)
Finding a person who fits these requires time and effort. If a person doesn't work out, the effort is lost. The effort is usually an initial training period. Because of the specialization of tasks, a person with very deep knowledge about a few things is actually less useful than a person with broad knowledge and a keen sense for problem solving. Problem solving is usually thought of as a game skill, however in business, problem solving is essential to both businessperson and engineer. The businessperson needs problemsolving to ensure that business goals are met using all the non-technical methods available to him/her. The engineer on the other hand needs problemsolving to solve individual tasks as efficiently as possible. An engineer that wastes time when s/he is unable to finish a specific task is worse than an engineer that wastes other people's time asking questions to solve a difficult problem. Thus, social skills are also necessary for all but the best engineer. An engineer who has perfect problemsolving skills doesn't need any social skills, but engineering tasks are often so difficult that it practically requires more than one person to solve. However, an engineer that continually asks questions and wastes others time is not an engineer at all. You see in the equation below, the HR benefit of an engineer who has someone do all his/her work is below zero.Read more »
May 13, 2009
Why is Twitter useful? Twitter is a service that encourages people to post messages to those people who value their contributions. Who values your contributions? Your family and friends. If you are celebrity, you have a number of fans that you don't know who value your contribution. Each person on Twitter has an incentive to post useful information in a usable way. If they do not post useful information, people will stop valuing their contributions. So we get a system of people providing useful information free of charge to anyone who follows them. Bam, instantly millions of people are talking publicly.
This is quite similar to MySpace or Facebook (except that facebook is completely private and myspace is partially private and a few other things). The issues with Facebook and MySpace is that it's design is different. Status messages on these services are practically useless and are not properly broadcast to people who care. Facebook has put a lot of work into changing that but instead they made it complex enough and the UI is poor enough to dissuade people from posting stuff like what they are doing after work. You don't want to discuss stuff with facebook's UI. Twitter is capable of merging the UI of an instant message client into a website that acts like a thousand chatrooms. But the awesome difference is that instead of ignoring all the idiots in a chatroom, you get to pick and choose who you actually want to listen to at your prerogative.Read more »
May 12, 2009
The Twitter Language AI is ready to be used! How do you use it? Type a word into the input box, then click "Search". This will search Twitter for that word. It will return the last 15 results and histogram all the words it finds. This is very simple functionality, right? Why would someone want a histogram of words spoken on a topic? For one, market research. If you know the word that people associate with your brand or topic, you can market it using their words. Yowch, that's almost like advertising, isn't it? Yup. The actual original purpose for this was to learn foreign languages by translating the most common words first (similar to my Japanese Language AI). The second interesting thing to do with the Twitter Language AI is to click the "Graph" button. This will take the data in the left and graph it on the right as shown in the image. This is really interesting and useful for scientists who don't want to import the data into a spreadsheet just to graph it. It uses the Google Visualization API and sends no data to Google (just your IP address and HTTP headers) to draw this, which is pretty cool.
Click the image above to use the Twitter Language AI.
May 10, 2009
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