Monday, October 30, 2006

Its Professional Networking!

Social Networking sites have emerged as a great way to catch up with old friends and make new friends. But, they have been frowned upon by businesses as a distraction from work. I have met many professionals who have confessed that they try to keep their profiles and conversations as conservative as possible. They try to avoid putting up wild photos etc. because they don't want their online profile to have a negative impact professionally. Most companies today do not encourage their employees to visit these sites, especially not from the workplace.

But now, there is a new kind of online networking - "Business Networking"! Although Business networking sites such as LinkedIn, Ryze, Spoke and Jigsaw have been around for a long time their success has been limited. Hoover’s, a unit of Dun & Bradstreet, and Visible Path, hopes to change that with the introduction of a free service called Hoover’s Connect. It is to offer visitors to the ability to mine their networks to find helpful connections with prospective clients or business partners.

According to the New York times,

The service, which is being previewed starting today on, requires little effort, but it does take a little trust. Users who visit are shown the site’s typical collection of information regarding businesses, including contact information, sales statistics and key executives.
But those who sign up for Connect can download software from Visible Path that makes note of whom a user messages via e-mail and how frequently (it does not monitor the content of the communications). The service tracks activities within Microsoft Outlook, the dominant business e-mail system, and will eventually include
Web-based e-mail systems like Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo Mail.
Im not very clear about how this site will actually help build business contacts, but I guess the concept here is similar to, where you can find out who is connected to whom through social and professional networks.

As the New York Times article says, we start with the assumption that enough users have fed contacts into the system to make such connections possible. But Paul Pellman, an executive vice president of Hoover’s, said in the aricle that because the site was promoting the service prominently to its two million monthly users, establishing a strong base should not be difficult.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Inside google news

Yesterday, I attended an interesting talk by Krishna Bharat, Principal Scientist at Google. To give you a bit of a background, Krishna Bharat was the brain behind google news. Google News was awarded the 2003 Webby award in the news category. Also, Bharat recieved the 2003 World Technology Award for Media and Journalism.

In his speech, Bharat explained the news aggregation process followed by Google news. He explained that they give weightage to factors such as significance of the news to a particular geography, quality of the article and reputation of the publication.

Another remarkable thing is that they try to provide all the different viewpoints for any story. For example, if there is some news about Israel, Google news will try and provide news from a US source, from an Israeli source, from a Turkish source and from an Arab source in order to ensure a balanced view. I had never noticed this before, but when I tried testing this on Google news, it turned out to be true!

Also, I asked him about the process involved in determining whether or not a particular website is a reliable news website. Bharat explained that they have a team that determines which websites to include in the google news search based on factors such as number of journalists, presence of editors, reputation etc. A few websites are included due to recommendations from readers. For example, even though Online Journalism Review (OJR) is actually a blog it still shows up on Google news because of its reputation. It is heartening to note that there are people involved in this process and it is not all automated and machine generated as many of us believe (Atleast I believed that).

Overall, a great talk.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A virtual life

Today, I came across a really weird concept called second life. Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents.
Apparently, you can "visit" the second life by creating a highly individualised avatar or persona with any characteristics that you may choose. Once you enter the second life you can do almost everything that you can do in real life, but without the laws of physics applying to you. That basically means that you can fly, walk on water...anything. What do you do when you get there? You can meet people, even buy virtual land or just have fun visiting casinos, dance clubs, shopping malls etc.

When I first read about this, my first reaction was..who would want to do something like this? And the answer : 1,029,966 people from around the globe! And the big businesses are not far behind. According to the New York Times,

The Second Life online service is fast becoming a three-dimensional test bed for corporate marketers, including Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Sun Microsystems, Nissan, Adidas/Reebok, Toyota and Starwood Hotels.

I still find it a bit hard to digest..but I guess it is working!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Now the internet is on your TV

Hewlett-Packard, the computer hardware giant recently launched a new cutting-edge television called the HP Mediasmart TV. This TV is capable of playing picture, video and audio files off your PC or even from the internet. With this new innovation, we are increasingly looking at uniform methods of delivery of different media.

According to,

It's the first consumer television to combine traditional TV capabilities with
computer-like functionality that lets you invisibly, and instantly, move digital
media content from wherever it might be in the house to the screen in your
living room.
By tapping into your home network — either wired or wireless —
the Media Smart set streams digital media files from where they naturally sit on
your computer's hard drive.

Does this signal the end of the PC? Not in the near future; especially if the HP Mediasmart maintains the current price( Right now, it costs $2500). But its really interesting to see the pace of all these innovations. I guess it wont be too long before we will need just one device that will combine all the capabilities of the computer, TV, mobile phone. And unlike, the devices that are available today, it will actually be user-friendly and inexpensive.

Let the countdown begin..

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A newspaper that talks!

If you are tired of staring at the computer screen trying to read a newspaper online, here is a solution for you! Washington Times' "Click-2-Listen," is a new feature on their website which allows you to convert all their articles into audio files.
This can even be a great way for you to multi-task! You can play the article in the background while you work. Whats more, you can also download the articles onto your cellphone or MP3 player and listen to them at your convenience. The publication is planning to venture into podcasts as the second stage of implementation.
If traditional radio organisations like NPR are giving out transcripts of their shows for audiences that prefer to read rather than listen, Washington Times is doing the reverse.
I think this is a good example of "convergence"- giving the audience what they want, in whichever medium they want!
Here is the link to the article if you would like to know more.

Monday, October 02, 2006

INTEL Vs AMD - Round three

Corporate wars are not new. We have always had companies competing with each other for a share of the same market. With increasing competition, this fierce war has just gotten more intense.

Although this is not a new concept in any way, the pace at which technology is evolving has definitely had an effect on this war. The raging battle between chip-makers INTEL and AMD is a case in point. For a long time, INTEL had a virtual monopoly when it came to computer chips. AMD was a distant second that did not pose any real threat to AMD. However when AMD launched its revolutionary dual core processors which could increase PC performance without increasing energy consumption, it pushed INTEL onto its back foot.

Now, just a couple of years later, we are already into the new generation of chips- the quad core processors that have 4 processors in place of 2. And suddenly, it is time for major shift in the market. The pace at which these changes are occuring seem to be beating Moore's law, which predicts the rate at which processors will evolve.

R & D plays a far more crucial role in a company's success today than ever before. With technology evolving at such a breakneck speed, technology companies cannot even afford to relax for a moment. As companies struggle to out do each other, I guess customers will have a good time.