Sunday Short Takes

June 22, 2008

1. I’m annoyed with the editors of the Globe and Mail’s Number Cruncher series.  They deliver their stories as blog posts but no one on the editorial team bothers to respond to their readers.  Maybe I am just the first person to ever ask a question so they are unsure what to do but come on after making me go through an annoying sign-up process you’d think someone could at least say “Can’t help ya mate”.  The real tragedy is it’s an excellent series.

2. I haven’t seen a lot of innovation in user interfaces for help desk applications, I wonder if creating a riff on the basic Getting Thing Done UIs I have seen would work and be helpful.

3. With all the unstructured data out there I wonder if a simple graphical tool designed to turn this data into actionable information would be helpful?  

What I am thinking is a visual environment with drag-and-drop parsing workflow creation where one could use predefined rules (or create their own rules) that parses a document extracting the information needed in a structured format 

So for instance you could create a “parser” for a series of emails that always have the essential same structure and get that data into a dB.

Hmm, maybe I need to think more about this, it may actually be quite useful…

4. Another interesting blog post today on /Message.  Stowe is right, at every turn and with every interaction we are exposing ourselves to loosely coupled, information rich data flows and we need to be able to mine these flows to extract actionable information otherwise we are stuck with static silos. Information is out there, we just need better means of extracting it from the crushing weight of all the data we see every day.  

5. Another OpenID mechanism.  From the site “Emailtoid is a simple mapping service that enables the use of email addresses as OpenID identifiers.”


First what do I mean by actionable information?

It is information that comes from a trusted source, is about something that’s important to you, and that, once known compells you to an take action.

So how do we aqcuire actionable information from the fire hose of data we see every day?  Well while it often appears that the volume of information we have flowing through our various data pipes is inherently at odds with the ability for us to make it actionable I think this misses one key point, the fact that the inherent volume of similar data can actually be seen as a positive if the right “mining” tools are in place.

This flow of information more often than not has patterns that can be extracted statistically, syntactically or semantically or using some combination, ie. using syntactic and semantic features to improve statistical recognition.

A good overview of leveraging data using statistics can be found in a talk given by Peter Norvig at Paul Graham’s latest startup school.