Tag Archives: Google

The IoT Ecosystem – A Beginner’s Guide for Benefiting from It

17 Dec

Last month I was at a panel discussion. The Topic was – “The Internet of Things; Leveraging Technologies in Business”. As I was thinking about what I would say to a room full of entrepreneurs, I came across a startling statistic – 87% of people in this world have not heard of the IoT!!! There bursts our collective IT/ Valley type bubble, which gets so wound up in the latest tech thing that it forgets to demystify even really applicable stuff to the real beneficiary!

I decided therefore to begin my talk with a very simple eco system clarification graphic – one that would explain to each of us our place in the Internet of Everything / Internet of Nouns whatever you want to call it. Here it is:

IoT Ecosystem


What it means is basically, that as Consumers, of course, our lives will be made easier due to the Internet of Things. But that happens in essentially 3 ways:

a) The environment becoming more efficient/ optimised/ user friendly and hopefully cheaper. Think smart cities; urban lighting i.e. street lights auto switch off; transport management including traffic congestion easing and smart parking; smart energy grids; city and waste management; agriculture produce optimisation…..in effect, the Gotham city of the future without Batman! 🙂


b) Better Health and Welfare – All the fitness meters and wearables will enable better quality healthcare for most of us; things like remote tracking for senior citizens; and better compliance and adherence in treatment administration. Not only that, security for kids/ adults/ everyone in fact will be much better with tracking devices and sensors.

c) Customization – What the plethora of things stuck on any and every monitor-able membrane will do, is enable micro modules of data – every action, behaviour, and even possibly thoughts and emotions will be tracked for everyone. This will enable better mapping of individuals (not just segments or clusters), thus making daily lives more efficient and easier. This is where the standard use cases of the thermostat enabled warm home before you enter from office (Google’s Nest acquisition); the pre-ordering fridge when eggs stock gets depleted (Whirlpool, Electrolux); the erstwhile Google Glass, and the pre determined shopping selections at retail play. This is also where much of the glamour and hype around the IoT exists – after all, the early adopters consumers will really be looking at these ‘cool/ quirky” gadgets to show their “with-it-ness”.


But when it comes to businesses, the interplay changes a bit.

Most of the thought leadership coming currently on this space is from businesses participating directly in the Internet of Things – these are (largely) technology or data type firms – and they could be either manufacturing devices (the last mile therefore); or operating in the standards and protocols arena – therefore providing the platforms for all to operate; or working on applications on and around the IoT; or be working with the data arising out of the petabytes of data (erstwhile BI/ Big Data processors).

In all these avatars, the companies are providing products and services directed related to creating, harnessing and delivering the Internet of Things – whether to other businesses, or to end consumers. Also, as in most modern technological playing grounds, everyone is collaborating with everyone else (or, well, should be!). There are large interdependencies, and companies have realized that it is better to work on their chunk of the whole. Cisco, IBM, Intel, Google, Facebook, Salesforce, Amazon, Samsung and GE with their Industrial Internet are the primary large names that pop up when this category is discussed.

The balance of the businesses, will essentially participate in the Internet of Things to harness and derive the benefits it delivers. Hence, this is about exponentially bettered customer centricity – about really hyper personalized, context driven products and solutions. The insights gleaned from processing the oodles of data generated by all the sensors will enable one to one customer dialogue in a multi channel environment, and therefore real time, event based marketing and service to customers.

But also overall, the Internet of Things will create a smarter, more efficient Enterprise Eco System (that both kinds of businesses will benefit from).

Think more predictable weather conditions bettering disaster prevention; better Industrial Automation, Logistics, shop floor management and supply chains (including traffic/ fleet management); better utilities; better buying procedures; better infrastructure at lower costs!

What this really implies is that, beyond the hype, there is something in the IoT for everyone, the only thing to do is to figure out your place in that sun, and to be able to monetize it (if you are a business), or use it (as a consumer).

Viva IoT!

The Sudden Rise of Social Conscience; OR; How incentives work

30 Mar


– Yesterday, a neighbour came to me and asked – do you remember the name of the lady who was running a “clean up your neighborhood” drive? My daughter has to do some community service for her higher studies so we are actively looking for causes.

– Our community is involved in a lot of good causes in the surroundings – schools, pet shelters, adult vocational training, health, hygiene and life skills for the under privileged, scholarships for bright students — many many such causes. It has even given birth to a trust, which was created to manage the funds generated due to an annual run/ walkathon. A lot of middle and high school kids help out in many ways – some by tutoring the domestic helpers’ kids; some by teaching govt. school kids to dance and sing and thus prepare them for various functions like Independence day etc…The organisers, ALWAYS,at the end give away certificates of participation, and one mentioned to me that they may not have had so many kids participating if it wasn’t for the community service “credits” they notch up


– My daughter, who is part of a band, recently performed at a fund raiser – this was organised by a 10th std. girl – at a 5-star hotel. She did it because her “education counselling services” mentor advised her to organise a fund raiser to support some charity in the “health” arena. It was really well done – nice location, great performances by middle and high school kids, and the beneficiary kids, a DJ playing dance beats later. (But, as the founder of the beneficiary organisation observed, the “rich” kids, (including mine), didn’t really even talk to the kids of the beneficiary NGO!

– March marks the end of the financial year in India – most companies are scrambling to meet quotas – revenue/ profitability/ spend budgeted. Many companies are therefore desperately looking for projects to fund – specially with respect to the 2% of their profits on CSR that the new companies act has mandated.

In general, atleast in urban India nowadays, there is a much higher emphasis on CSR and community service, than there used to be when we were growing up. This rise of “share of voice” and mind towards Social causes, I suspect has been primarily led by powerful mandates – in the case of children seeking admissions in university, by the universities mandating comm-service credits; in the case of corporates abroad e.g. in the US, by higher weightage in deals etc to companies showing comm-service, and now in India , by the much talked about but little understood by now famous Companies Act of 2013.

Essentially, what it means, that a lot of things in life boil down to incentives – pets are trained using incentives, babies are raised using incentives, organisational goals are realised using incentives, and now, Social good is done using incentives!

In today’s world, where there is a great degree of buzz about Customer Centricity, and how the customer should really be at the centre of business (obvious no brainer, one wd say, but in actual fact it doesnt happen!), the reason why this generally agreed upon tenet is not really implemented is because there aren’t enough organisational incentives to change the whole culture around! We all know how Jeff Bezos keeps an empty seat representing the customer at his board meetings – and gives incentives for customer centricity. Just like Google and 3M made such names for themselves for innovation, basically because they have incentive structures designed accordingly!

We need incentives for every little thing – my games of tetris and farm heroes progress at the rapid pace that they do, basically because of incentives – dont need to be material, or public…just higher levels achieved is by itself an incentive! In this context, do read my previous post on goal setting and gamification which is basically incentives in a different form

Another previous post on carrot vs. stick, and the power of positive incentives vs. penalty is also an interesting thought.

Incentive design itself, however, is a complex phenomenon. In some cases, a NEGATIVE incentive works – (parents of teenagers will agree) – so, I only have to say “I dislike something”, for my daughter to LOVE it!

Having said all of this, to me, its great that incentives for social cause do exist, because without it, we wouldn’t see our born-with-silver-spoons-in-their-mouth children be as sensitive to environment around them and people who dont have the priveleges that they have.

Similarly, nearly $1.5 billion wouldn’t flow into the NGO world, if Sachin Pilot hadn’t created the clause. Interestingly, it wasn’t so much the money – as the uptick in visibility and consciousness that it promoted, that was the great impact!

Long live incentives for social cause!

Build a Toilet Project

Not Musk, Bezos, Zuckerberg, Page & Brin, But Nora Roberts! (Or, the state of the Internet Of Things)

21 Jan


I lead a very “must not do” lifestyle – I am retired from active corporate life; I snack on unhealthy junk almost everyday; I drink gallons of fattening beer every weekend; I don’t sleep all that much; and, most importantly, I read almost NO elevating/ informative/ educative stuff – all I read is some news on the web on technology, and LOTS of trashy fiction – specifically, romance and who-dun-it novels.

My current favorite author is Nora Roberts, maybe because she combines the above two genres really well! In reading avidly her futuristic cop thriller series, written under the pseudonym J.D. Robbs, I begin to see a strange similarity between her world of the 2050s and 60s; and what is going on in the Internet of Things/ Connected Device world.

Quick summary: the Internet of Things is essentially nothing but a world in which all devices are connected, and many of them are wearable on the human body, to enable use of the data generated in one place in order to predict actions in another! This means a world of tiny embedded “sensors” all over – on highways, in thermostat boxes, glasses, bras, beds, wind mills….you name it….that then allow seamless living!

Look at how some parallels exist between Robb’s world and the current endeavour of most of the technology world, with leaders being Zuckerberg, Bezos, Benioff, Musk and many many many other smaller/ niche players:

Virtual RealityCredit

1. Virtual Reality:
Arguably, one of the stars at this month’s CES was the Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype with Spatial Audio feature. It seems to have excited people, specially VR enthusiasts all around, with the advancements it shows over previous versions. A look at some applications – driving simulations and Gaming excites even boring ole’ non-gamer me!

But hey, in the JD Robb world, VR and Holo videos are very much par for the course! Not only can you program VR headsets in the gym to give you the real experience of whichever setting you want, HoloRooms are like Star Trek Holo Decks and owned by the wealthy, and can be programmed for interactive vacations at the beach, street scenes for training in fighting techniques, or rescue missions, or jogging along a path, or dining in a mountain chalet, etc. HoloGlasses provide 3-D life-like scenarios, similar to the HoloRooms, but worn on the head. And, to me, the extreme use was very very evil! In the book I last read, “Fantasy in Death”, a gamer whizkid actually injected reality into virtual reality – and as a by product killed a couple people!

“Roarke took another sip of coffee – “Let me understand you. You are suggesting that a holographic image, which is essentially light and shadow, attempted murder and committed it…Neuro and nano-tech have advanced, and the images produced in holo programs act and react, according to that program. They appear 3D, appear to have substance. The player’s senses are involved and engaged……found a way to enhance wave front, increase the power stream of the light….to create a kind of current that is an electronic replication of the substance….that could, cut, slash, sever….or could replicate an impact where the currents could inflict the same damage as they have been programmed to inflict”

2. Customized Talking Billboards:

Talking billboards are now old hat. Even a lot of the motion/ temperature triggered ones. But, essentially in that they use sensors to activate a series of actions that could be customised depending on you/ your location/ your preferences, they are very I0T!

Then, ofcourse, google glass is (was) the ultimate in customized billboards in a way – plus much much more. Despite its lukewarm performance in this round, Google is sure to get it back with a bigger bang …soon!

And, in a J D Robb parallel, Eve Dallas, the main protagonist, is forever catching customised billboards looking down at her on her drives/ airlifts through crowded noisy New York streets:

When she caught a familiar face burst across one of the animated screens…over the street at thirty fourth….she..whirled…jiggled, spun, in a few sassy and amusingly placed scraps of electric blue. With each revolution, her hair changed from red to gold to blinding green…her oldest friend…

3. Robotics/ Artificial Intelligence:

From Super Mario’s latest AI induced self aware tricks, to Facebook’s intense use of AI, the world of AI is definitely here. (After all, what was Siri, but an early version of AI). In fact, this is becoming a controversial area, with recently, Tesla’s Elon Musk coming out in strong opposition of the potential evil fallouts of AI!

amazon drones Credit

Then there are drones, which have been used for military purposes (e.g. in Israel and Afghanistan) for a while, and infact are now being advanced, e.g. with mind controlling technologies. Amazon also created news a couple of years ago with their pilot of deliveries using drones (Amazon Prime Air).

In J.D. Robbs’ world, there are “Droids with human characteristics that can be programmed to cook, clean, man office desks, physically fight and wrestle, watch over children and the elderly, teach, bartend, waiters and waitresses and even be programmed for sex. There are also droid animals – dogs, cats and birds.”

“The droids were well represented as well- mechanical looking household and yard droids, cheap mini droids, and a number of the human replicas lined up like suspects….”This model’s top of the line. She’s designed to exactly replicate the character physically, and she has top-flight programming capabilities””

“They were droids..you couldn’t even smell them…she swung back, slamming her knees into the droid behind her…catching him by the ankles as he deployed the weapon….he didn’t buckle as a man would, but teetered back, arms pinwheeling for balance.”

Then there are AutoVehicles that can fly and zip around, but also be driven like normal cars and buses.

“Three cars ahead of her, two rapid cabs shot into vertical lift at the same time…airlifts hovered above, shooting out their streams of light…..”

nest-labs-google Credit

4. Home Automation

With Apple’s Smart Home project, Google’s Nest and the earlier versions of the IoT which almost always had a pre programmed refrigerator ordering eggs when you ran out, Home Automation was one of the earliest applications of the IoT. And, lets face it, its also the sexiest/ most widely adoptable one; hence catching consumer eye balls far more than windmills, gas meters and smart highways! (Marc Benioff had addresses the Dreamforce 2013 attendees with a case on his Philips toothbrush!) It is also the app where a lot of work is being done without suffering reverses (like the glass). Companies like Philips, Logitech, Nokia and many more are working flat out to address and dominate their respective inches of the home automation turf. This article is a nice look at the news on home automation.

At the centre of everything – most things consumer IoT atleast, is the ubiquitous smartphone – that device that most other devices link to, that very soon 1 in every 4 earthling will possess, that works as your personal friend, philosopher guide, but also has millions of app developers working day and night on, that you use to talk/ email/ measure sleep patterns/ order cabs/ check restaurants/ listen to music and watch movies…in short, everything…And now, the smart watch


Cut to Robbs. She has the AutoChefs that can deliver home-cooked meals and coffee.

“He walked to a large Autochef “What is it then – Pizza or Burger”….Took a large bubbling Pizza out…headed to the AutoChef, programmed coffee….He’d already programmed their meal in the recesed Autochef – I thought we’d have ham and eggs today”

The Drying Tube that senses your temperature requirements and then dries you up.
“…Like the warm, clean scented swirl of air in the drying tube…”

The biometric scanning device, that tells you where anybody in the house is (Roarke has programmed all answers to Eve such that it always starts with “Darling Eve!”, a fact that really irritates the heroine!

“Where is Roarke”?.. Welcome home, darling Eve!..As usual the recorded voice using that particular endearment had slivers of embarrassment pricking up her spine”

Links that are a modernized video cell phone that can hold and transfer data besides making calls – both audio and video; Memo Cubes that are modern, electronic Post-Its, without the sticky paper, Wrist Units that combine most functions!

“Nice wrist unit…“Serviceable.” Eve turned her wrist to admire the simple band, the flat, silver-toned face….“It‟s got a couple of nice features,” she added as she fiddled with it. “It‟s nice,” Peabody said again, then drew her beeping communicator out of her pocket. “Give me a sec, I . . . hey, it‟s you.” Mouth dropping, Peabody jerked her head up. “It‟s got a micro-com in it? That‟s pretty mag. Usually they‟re all fuzzy, but this is really clean.” “Nano-com. You know how the vehicle he rigged up for me looks ordinary?” “Ordinary leaning toward ugly,” Peabody corrected. “But nobody gives it a second look or knows that it‟s loaded, so . . . same deal?” Automatically Peabody dug out her ‟link when it signaled, then paused. “Is that you? It‟s got full communication capability? In a wrist unit that size?” “Not only that, it‟s got navigation, full data capabilities. Total data and communications—he programmed it with all my stuff. If I had to, I could access my files on it. Waterproof, shatterproof, voice-command capabilities. Gives me the ambient temp. Plus it tells time.”

IoT Security
5. Security:

This is clearly the foremost concern in the IoT! The WEF has gotten a report together recently advising caution! Top executives similarly feel that the biggest risk of the IoT is security!

But, this article shows that despite security concerns, IoT is definitely growing.

J.D. Robb has her own version of the security issues – all data devices are controlled by the federal mother computer – the CompuGuard. This is very big brother-ish, and supposedly can track everything going on in any computing device. (Ofcourse, Mr. Know-it-all, ex criminal, richest man in the world Roarke can get past the Compuguard – and often does, thus, often aiding Ms. Dallas in her investigations, much to her irritation!)

“Compuguard monitored all e-transmissions and programming on planet and off….I’m obliged to caution you that this transmission is being traced through CompuGuard, and it’s being recorded.”

J.D. Robb has a few other interesting gadgets strewn about her books – Skids are high-tech sneakers that can float above ground and there are skateboards that hover a few inches above ground instead of on wheels; Glide carts are moving food carts on the street; Credits, which are tokens used instead of coins…

At the end, a lot of it is illusory and advanced stuff – both in the IoT world, and the JDRobb one. As an example, the much touted wearables have abysmal penetration and even worse usage figures for consumer devices (at an average, all wearables get discarded after 6 months). This article is interesting too.

Having said that, there is no doubt that some if all all of this, is coming, and coming sooner than later! Most pundits say the world should focus on “real” applications with substantial impact – healthcare/ infrastructure/ utilities, rather than consumer products – but, if consumers didn’t show an interest, a lot of the glitter and shine wouldn’t be there!

In my opinion, the question is no longer – “will it come” but ‘when will it come”….Maybe, some of the companies in the arena should consider hiring Ms. Roberts as strategic advisor.

In the meanwhile, interested in reading some of the JDRobb books? Here’s where you can download some free – enjoy!

Creative/ Innovative Business Processes – Oxymorons?

2 Apr

bruce n spider

Every day of the week – I hear my kids grumbling. Basically they don’t want to go to whichever class it is that they are taking these days – tennis/ music/ swimming/ dance/ drama. They don’t like it/ they are not good at it/ the coach is too strict/ they don’t like the people – grumble grumble grumble…My take on this is – that they in most cases they haven’t acquired enough expertise at that skill to really enjoy it. And my earnest blandishment to them is always – come on, unless you practice again and again, you will not acquire that threshold level of ability, and will never ever have fun doing it – its a hump, u just need to “try try again” but once you get it, voila!

Indian dishwash process

I experience a similar feeling but a bit in reverse while executing household chores – now that my girl Friday Tulasi is no longer with me, I have to wash dishes, sweep and swab the house and cook a lot more than I ever did before. But, since I perform these jobs infrequently, I am sure I don’t really employ the most efficient way of doing them – in every subset of the task actually – whether it is the washing, the stacking, the drying or the storing! I do it well, but if I did it everyday – I wd do it so much better.

And this is actually what makes the process industry. As we know, processes are made up of steps and sub steps that can be repeated endlessly – this is the reason they can be documented, then taught and then performed by a wide variety of people – and that’s also why they can be outsourced.

In EmPower, we had an interesting scenario in which our 3 operations department were actually at different levels of “processizability” (yes, I just coined that word). And therefore covered pretty much the whole spectrum. The “Process” oriented departments needed the basic skill/ expertise of the process – in some places it was domain knowledge of healthcare/ in some cases it was good knowledge of Microsoft office functions/ in some cases it was English writing and summarizing (unfortunately, 30 million dollars or no, Summly didn’t work for us (we tried it much before yahoo bought it :)!); and then they needed the skill of taking a series of task steps and performing them as documented. The characteristics that merited excellence in performance here were the ability to undertake these same tasks faster/ better/ cheaper – so, process improvement; productivity efficiencies; and ofcourse quality were the metrics of evaluation. This is where the normal process engineering measures like lean and six sigma were applicable – and folks did green belt and black belt projects…So focus was on automation/ tools to make work better/ business process management techniques etc..

sixsigma cartoon

From the demand side, what these functions necessitated were task orders that were essentially the same/ similar business problems, for many different businesses/ brands/ industries – with some minor twists. So, you couldn’t throw in a “new” angle to the problem – the client had to choose from an almost predetermined menu of choices – a bit like a buffet meal. They got solutions that worked like clockwork – because over a period of time we had gotten so good at doing them.
Also, the business problem itself was not so much exploratory/ unstructured but a repetitive one – and the focus was on the “what” not so much the “why” and “how”.

On the other end, we had a department which got faced with business problems that no one knew the answers to – it was about finding out reasons/ detecting patterns – so fairly exploratory/ research and analytics oriented. The brief was “tell us what we don’t know”! The evaluative metrics therefore became frameworks/ client satisfaction/ hypotheses generated and methodology of proof provided and presentation simplicity and clarity…

The issue for us in order to scale however was – how would you processize this – the consulting companies have done versions of this – they templatize frameworks, have standard modus operandi – and I think, pretty much by the sheer bank of experience of solving problems over the years, have quasi answers to most questions they will see. But, when you are using a very new, very evolving medium – in our case Social Media – and part of the brief is to find out “what the client doesn’t know” – it was tough to use previous experience.

Having said that, we still injected processes – there was one for brief capture, then for what to research, then a source database for where to research, the research process was documented and continuously kept getting evolved, then there were processes for analytics and then one for story writing. Our teams followed all these in most cases – but interestingly, for this department, the places where one output scored over another – by leaps and bounds – was when the folks doing it actually “broke the process” i.e., went beyond the bounds of it – and injected some of their own thinking/ innovation into it.

I guess that made the difference between the first and the second type of functions – in one, the process WAS the solution, in the other, it was the means to get the solution – and a means that we attempted to replicate in order to scale, but the solution would get much better – the more creative you got at it.

This made for many many fights between the market facing and the operational folks – obviously, for the client facing folks, the attempt was to throw the ball out of the park – always! Great ambition – and one that would ensure that the client was delighted and came to you for more – the ops guys however had to battle doability/ bandwidth/ kind of resources and ultimately the cost of this creativity – vis-à-vis the meager returns they got out of it. Their point – you want innovation, you pay for it – the whole point of processizing something is that it can be repeated in a human agnostic way – that also reduces the price due to efficiencies built in and the resource cost which you can keep arbitraging – but then you cant expect creative/ innovative thinking! If you want a Ferrari or a Bugati, you jolly well pay for it – if you want cheap, buy a Nano!

The trade offs were actually spectacularly different – business processes in general have higher probabilities of client satisfaction. The client’s expectations are well understood – both by you and her, and since you have done this many times before, you can execute well. Think of the fast food chain restaurants (we have our own versions here called “darshinis” – those are probably the best processized service outlets I can think of – every task is pre-known, documented, broken down; every person is assigned one (or more) of those sub tasks – these are all sequenced in a particular manner – even exceptions (like if your chicken wings are taking too long, the KFC front desk folks offer you either coke or crispy chicken) are envisaged and recorded. At our darshinis, the job sequencing is brilliant – one person takes orders, another puts banana leaves for u to eat, the third serves you, the fourth serves you a different set of dishes, the fifth offers you seconds, the sixth offers you water again and the seventh comes and takes the banana leaves after you are done – and cleans up the mess – to start all over again! Fast, cheap, efficient…great client satisfaction

veg selling process

I see examples of it in my vegetable shop – this is an open market stall – has the freshest veges, and an assembly line service operation – every client is asked what they want/ helped in selection – with the salesmen actually filtering out the not so fresh veges/ weighing done/ upsell – cross sell done/ money totted up and checked out – all done in matter of minutes. On top of which, these guys greet you with a smile, generally remember what you bought the last time (all in their heads – no computer/ loyalty database); send a man to help drop your heavy load to your car, ask about your maid Tulasi who they know has gotten married; know when you buy a new car – and even give you a discount when you don’t have exact change! Customer satisfaction? No, delight!

On the other hand, the customers who have asked you for the holy grail “creative insights” – take much longer and harder to get satisfied – coz they don’t know themselves what will satisfy them. So, then it’s a looong engagement process to align expectations, take them along in your journey – keep them abreast of your findings so they are always in the know – on short repeatedly and iteratively manage them…client relationship leading to client satisfaction maybe..But, the flip side is, if they are satisfied, it may be a “higher level” of satisfaction as you pulled out a rabbit out of a hat – almost!

For us therefore, both ends of the spectrum had their place in the sun in our portfolio – the “research and analytics” innovation stuff was the flagship service we would sell – its what gave us entry into clients and got the big names in (after all, for the largets spenders on research and analytics in the world, you had to show results out of the ordinary – only then would you acquire them as clients). And these innovative services were also then the loss leaders ☹ (which is a little counter intuitive but well what to do) The process services on the other hand were not only the bread and butter – ie, got us the bulk of our revenue, but also were the jam – ie provided us the profitability – we needed both therefore to make a good mix…

But I really worry about this – can you processize innovation? You can processize the process that leads to innovation maybe, but I really think the two are polar opposites. I know Gary Hamel and the like have attempted to devise enterprise processes to fuel innovation – even some 10 years ago, my company had undertaken a big exercise under his aegis (I actually think all that came out of it was “foreign jaunts” for many delighted managers) 3M is maybe one of few companies – oh yeah and Google I would say where this seems to have been done well. Any others?

To me, innovation – real innovation, atleast the IDEA – is about a smart brain spotting a clever idea – a gap/ a better way to do it/ a customer need – it’s about making connections that another brain/ other men have NOT made – it’s about that unusual lens you have applied to existing data and patterns to detect something unprecedented – THIS is difficult to processize/ train/ impart…..What you CAN do is like I said devise processes for generation of ideas/ to constantly make those ideas be visible/ to enable working on those ideas – and sure, in many cases, genius is 99% diligence/ dedication and 1% inspiration. But u can processize the diligence – u can’t the intelligence!

But wouldn’t it be nice if u cd undertake / implement the innovative stuff also ina processized/ profitable way – I guess too much to ask for?

In the meanwhile, if you agree that innovation and processes are oxymorons, and if u are the kind of person who likes interesting twists in language, here are a few lists. A few that tickled my fancy were:

“act naturally”
abundant poverty”
“crisp tender”
“buffalo wings”
intimate stranger”
and my new favorite – “ethical hacking” 🙂

Of God, Google, and Graph Search

18 Jan

I stayed away three whole days, thinking i couldn’t be one more person writing about Zuckerberg’s latest, (subscribing to the view that “nothing on Facebook is as important as Zuckerberg would like us to believe it is” ) – but now that the dust has settled a bit, here it is…

A few years ago, my colleague told me about a statement in a conversation she had overheard between her then 5 year old son and his friend – “God doesn’t know everything, Google does”!

True to form, a few days ago when my 7 year old daughter asked me – which were the largest and smallest frogs in the world – i gave her the standard answer that modern day moms give their pesky kids – just “Google” it! (I was reading somewhere the other day that the “new definition of literacy is – ‘how soon you can find info’ not how much you know/ can read”. Its certainly a tenet which helped me and my partners build our business in the outsourced Research and Analytics phase)

But, to come back to how therefore does Graph Search change the landscape – Is it really a game changer? Can it become the Google Killer? A look at stock prices shows that Yelp stock went down 8%, LinkedIn and Microsoft went up, Facebook went up a trifle after having come down in the beginning, and Google – zilch! NO movement pretty much! (it did swing wildly during the press announcement)

So lets take a look at what works and what doesn’t in this “third pillar of Facebook”.

The goods:
– It makes search far more relevant – and replaces that holy grail for marketers – Word of Mouth. So, you will go to the movie your freind liked, take your child to the dentist your boss took hers to, and try out the restaurant your brother in law liked. We’ve all seen the studies that say trust is highest when recommendations come from people you know – so thats what facebook graph does – give you trustworthy recos.

It does make me think, if it replaces my calling my brother in law to ask him about his restaurant recos, then maybe its not such a great thing after all – i don’t call him enough as it is. I have to confess I even wished him happy birthday via Facebook — in an increasing digital world, i am looking for more occasions to physically connect with my friends than less! But well, relationship guilt apart, Facebook Graph will definitely give me the ability to get an aggregated look at my friends’ opinions.

– This works really well therefore for “local searches”

– It uses data already there – no one has to make a special effort – facebook has 1 billion members and 240 billion photos – this data jolly well be used for something

– As mashable pointed out, you can look at some interesting nuggets from the way search results emerge – so, People liking KFC also like Star Wars, Musicians like to play Tetris battle, and While Apple employees like David Guetta, Google employees like Pink Floyd (in the interests of fair disclosure let me mention that Google for me has always been the “best” company – they are, really like God! )

But while on this topic, I should tell you how some years ago, using — yes, none other than Google, we discovered that People who search for skin care, also search for eating — and, from the intersection of “skin care and eating” emerged some interesting categories like “Water” and “Olive Oil’ and “Tea”…

– And ofcourse, it will be good for advertisers – enabling them to target their messages even better, thus getting Facebook higher revenues

The “oh hums”

– As a lot of people have said already, “likes” which is one of the basic data pieces that facebook is using for the graph search algorithm, is a dubious one

– “Likes” can be bought as everyone knows (and Amitabh Bachchan referred to in his comment (you must forgive me a little self promotion 🙂 – atleast its based on clicks and not bought out likes 🙂 )

– More importantly, a “like” doesnt always show active endorsement/ recommendation – its is very often merely “acknowledgement”, as i’ve said before, a “lift of the eyebrow” to say yep…

– Nearly a decade of working with Social Media has taught me the unfortunate truth that most people use this medium to express extreme negative reactions – so its a “rant outlet”, not so much a praise one…add to this the fact that facebook doesn’t have a “dislike” feature…there, u are getting only one side of the picture – the prettier one.

– And finally, the flip side of the “relevance” piece – the fact that because its from my network, (social graph – btw, i really dont like the name – yes, i know its fm demographics and not “x” and “y” graphs, but come-onnnn, i’ sure there were better names) means its NOT from the world wide web, and THAT “comprehensiveness” is what i want when i go to Yelp/ Match/ Google. (The Bing partnership should help – but thats like a patch on a torn pair of jeans)

This highlights the essential difference between Google Search and Facebook Graph Search – Google approached Search from the “Outside-In” – go wide, touch the universe, and THEN personalise it (the +1s its hoping “your world” will get it – I have to admit, so far, its not been very successful with its 135 million folks on G+).
While Facebook, being who they are, approach it from the “Inside-Out” – search amongst your friends and then broaden it.

This is at the heart of the “comprehensiveness” vs “relevance” debate of Search, the “Universe” vs. “Sample” debate of Market Research – and has been captured brilliantly in the statement – “Google went from Search to Social while Facebook went from Social to Search”

So, whats the ultimate verdict? I know its too soon, but will, as Forbes says, Graph Search be Facebook’s Siri? or will Google start seeing eating away of its dominant position? Should we all move to Graph once its available, or should we stick to Google?

I think that the smart consumer will use the best of both worlds – get recos from Google for a look at what strangers/ mass/ experts say, and then go to Facebook for endorsements on what family and friends feel. After all, if you ARE the sorts who research anyways, a few seconds more clicking one more site wont make a big difference!

Having said that, the answer to the “world’s largest frog species” is – Goliath Frog; that to world’s smallest frog species is the newly discovered Paedophryne amauensis ; and guess where i found it? No surprises there — a place where God gets defeated 🙂 amen….