Friday, December 3, 2010

Google Refine Messy Data

Google Refine is a power tool for working with messy data sets, including cleaning up inconsistencies, transforming them from one format into another, and extending them with new data from external web services or other databases. Version 2.0 introduces a new extensions architecture, a reconciliation framework for linking records to other databases (like Freebase), and a ton of new transformation commands and expressions. I've tried it and recommend it for cleaning up inconsistent data files when you need a consistent database (they can be in a number of formats including from Access or Excel). There is very little to download and you can be up and running in a realtively short time. Some small bugs exist, e.g. I discovered that I could not export to csv in Explorer - so I use Firefox! This tool considering that it is open a free is a little known secret.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

linked data

Information is the new oil and gold. Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 2009 asked people to call on governments, organisations and anyone holding data for "Raw Data Now!" and that is begining to happen all over the world. It's all about linked data - being able to use raw data, data with relationships which enables anyone to make... correlations. The UK has a mass of public data available on This presentation back in 2009 is how he originally presented it:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mobile Device Point and Retrieve

Dublin is the worlds first city to provide a pointing technology- enabled smartphone application, which allows users to point their mobile device at a building or object in the real world and retrieve information about it, it was announced at the beginning of September. The Augmented Reality feature allows users to access electronically-stored data regarding a point of interest they are looking at, for example overlaid images, opening times or playing audio. The app covers the greater Dublin area and operates within a 10 km radius from where the user is located.

Katowice was just pipped to the post by Dublin, announcing the use of 'Layar' technology to provide a similar style of service on 9th September, some 9 days after Dublin. Wrocław tried not to be outdone by launching a system which tells you about buildings in the town when you take a photo with your mobile phone. This was reported in Gazeta Wyborcza on 14 September.

The Polish city of Łódż has taken a different technology approach. They allocated bar codes to buildings which if read by a mobile phone reader will trigger a bluetooth download and transmit information about the building or location.

When it comes to the prize for the first country using Layar augmented reality, then the Netherlands can claim it fairly and squarly for the announcement as far back as June 16th 2009 of the Layar system provided by SPRXmobile. Layar is derived from location based services and works on mobile phones that include a camera, GPS and a compass. Layar is first available for handsets with the Android operating system (the G1 and HTC Magic). It works as follows: Starting up the Layar application automatically activates the camera. The embedded GPS automatically knows the location of the phone and the compass determines in which direction the phone is facing. Each partner provides a set of location coordinates with relevant information which forms a digital layer. By tapping the side of the screen the user easily switches between layers. This makes Layar a new type of browser which combines digital and reality, which offers an augmented view of the world.

We are taking a step closer to the situation when the physical and the virtual worlds will become one.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Video Communications

 TOKBOX or skype  ?

Skype has text messaging, feature to call normal land lines and mobile phone (for a fee) and conference feature for voice but no conference feature for video. If you want to invite more than one person then you need to revert to audio only.

Tokbox has up to 20 user video conferencing, ability to leave video messages, no software installation necessary.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

iPad - Google Tablet - mobile computing - new Paradigm

There is a stimulating discussion about the likely outcome of the mobile computing challenge event. The two favourites are iPad and the, as yet, unseen Google tablet. There is no denying the fact that regardless of the producer the format does inspire the imagination and mind. I have been frustrated with the mobility of the 'pull' aspect of the internet via a mobile phone even with the more recent models with larger screens because they simply do not have the clout and Human Computer Interface that makes for a satisfying experience for me. Some of the current projects with Wired magazine / Adobe and The Washington Post have re-kindled a belief that published content can be made available in an inviting and interesting way. Will there be a battle over proprietry software though?

iPad or Google Tablet?
I started a dialogue with Technology Chick on the subject and that forced me to look into the Google Tablet because I thought the iPad was a clear front runner at that point. Both sides have been well presented by Sarah Perez in an article on Read Write Web.
The Ipad pros: ready product, looks good, already has publishers lining up to use it as a medium, huge ready to use eco-system of apps
The iPad cons: no web-cam, cannot run flash, price starts at $500, proprietry O/S
Google Tablet Pros: Open source s/w, anticipated affordable price,
Google Tablet Cons: still not in the market, concerns of being "watched" by Google

More answers when we can see the Google tablet. I'm still undecided.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Business Tips from Diverse Sources

Over the past few months I have gathered a number of useful business tips from entrepreneurs coming from different backgrounds and areas of business. The origins are as diverse as chalk and cheese. However, once I began to write these points down I realized that there were a number of common threads.

Let’s start with a Ukrainian media tycoon who was the subject of a Peter Day ‘World of Business’ episode. After overcoming many set-backs in getting his business up and running and receiving an award for his achievement his advice to would-be entrepreneurs is:

  • Know what you want
  • Be prepared to do whatever work is necessary to achieve it, even if that means 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for 10 years.
  • Believe that you can do it.
  • Be honest at all times with the team of people that you work with
  • Choose people for your team that are prepared to work for the same goals (and share the same dream).

The Polish company that have been a success in Poland and expanding that success worldwide to some extent echoed those feelings:

  • Work with people whom you can trust
  • Have faith in your idea
  • Have trust and faith in your customers and treat them with respect.

Next from a Social Innovations event. The discussion was about building communities and Lane Becker, the co-founder and president of Get Satisfaction advised that the first step when building a community is to find your purpose. You should know what kind of community you are creating and also know what success looks like.

Dan Schawbel, the author of Me 2.0, a book on Personal Branding describes 4 steps in personal branding:

  • Discover (what’s your brand?)
  • Create
  • Communicate
  • Maintain

Finally, I’d like to pass on to you some gems which are in a speech by Steve Jobs to the Stanford University Graduates in 2005. He gives three stories: the begining of his life; the middle and what he thought might be the end. It’s worth watching. He describes how it is necessary to follow your curiosity and intuition. Sometimes it is not clear at that time why we might be engaged in a certain activity but it’s about connecting the dots. You can only connect the dots by looking backwards not by looking forwards. Trust that the dots will connect and that will lead you to follow your heart.

Secondly, sometimes life is going to hit you in the head witha brick. Don’t lose faith. You’ve got to find what you love. Keep looking and don’t settle.

Thirdly, if you live each day as if it were the last, one day you’ll most certainly be right. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way that he knows to avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. No one wants to die – even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. Death is very likely the single best invention of life. Finally he told the huge crowd of young people: “Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Future - is it mobile?

All the indications are that the future is very much in the mobile arena from what we may already read. The number of mobile users overtook desk-based in 2008 (Wikipedia). There were a lot of hopes pinned on mobile access to the web when it first became commercially available in Finland in 1996. However, performance and usability have been an issue which the industry has fought to cope with. Ruti Gafni as recently as last year developed an empirical for evaluating usability of mobile devices so that it was possible to measure this when comparing phones, PDAs, etc.

Several alternatives to accessing Internet content have been tried in the years since the Internet became more widely available. This is neatly presented chronologically by Tony Quin in his page: Digital Magazines - a history". One of the more interesting for me was the magazine "Unzip", which was a CD-Rom from IPC was based on content from titles such as New Musical Express and New Scientist in 1995. This coincidental is the year before the first mobile Internet became available. I liked the rich content and graphical interaction in Unzip as well as the fact that there were deep hyperlinks to take you further to the Internet. However, that's when the user experience suffered due to lack of band-width and on top of that multi-media sites were few and far between then.

It is possible though that we about to see the meeting of these two worlds. Gerd Leonhard who is at the forefront of the Internet debate on content and the Internet future has featured the collaboration between Wired Magazine and Adobe.
Does it look like the bridge has been crossed? Well it does depend on the model that the media is brought to the market and the ability of companies to fast track support for the technology. Gerd raises 4 If's and when we get the answers to them we will know if the bridge has been crossed.

References: Usability Issues in Mobile-Wireless Information Systems, Ruti Gafni, The Open University of Israel, Israel