Thursday, April 30, 2009

Gauss vs Pareto

The Black Swan is the state bird of Western Au...Image via Wikipedia

Lately we have heard a great deal about "Black Swans" and how the markets are acting "differently". Perhaps this is because we have been ignoring data and stuck with an incorrect simplifying assumption that markets are "normally distributed"

Here is a quick analysis of the Dow over the last 70 years. Take 5 minutes to read the article, it is amazing -- but here is the bottom line

If the markets are based on "normal" aka "Gaussian" distributions;

"A five standard deviation event should only occur once every 7000 years in a world of normal distributions. "


"It happened 73 times over an 80-year period.
" (Emphasis mine, the article is from Oct 2008)

I've not done the data analysis but I would suspect we are looking at some sort of power law. Thus Pareto, not Gauss should be driving our actions in investments.

The market is perhaps a great deal risker then we thought and conversely there are potentially greater opportunities to be found.

In the past week, I've had to rethink my password strategy and my investment strategy....

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

"New Shopping, New LIfe" Trojan

Wow - my google account was just cracked and sent out over hundred emails in my name -- and I had a 9 character password! Moving on to 15+ character passwords across all websites...

Be warned - this was not on the PC but web only!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rethinking the problem - Cars

TED - 2009_Shai Agassi photo © Suzie KatzImage by Suzie Katz via Flickr

Shai Agassi left SAP awhile back and started BetterPlace to change the economics of the car industry -actually personal transportation.

The company is a great example of rethinking the issue from the ground up. In the video, he uses some examples of countries leveraging their "features" to get to a "betterplace" . He did miss the US's key feature/attribute for powering cars electrically -- using available "Negawatts" .

Many years ago Amory Lovins (Rocky Mountain Institute, MIT) estimated that the US "wastes" about 50% of electricity, he coined the "term" Negawatts and showed that at the margin, saving a Negawatt was far cheaper then creating a "watt". -- more then enough savings available to power all the cars in the US with no additional electrical plants, no additional carbon emissions.

Even with that omission, it is still a great talk - well worth 18 minutes of your day both for the content and watching a great presenter.


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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Info-Vis" and Tyranny of Averages - Part III

Continuing the "infovis" and Tyranny of Averages themes --
NY Times has a great graphic showing Unemployment by County.

Called "Geography of a Recession" it is an example where the knowing the average , 7.1% (Dec 2008) doesn't tell you the full story. Look at the different counties, some areas of the country are approaching 20% and some are at 2 or 3%. They also show 1 year change -- again some areas unemployment has increased 7 or 8% in the last year.

If you were trying to solve the unemployment problem -- digging into the details and understanding where/who/what/why are critical to coming up with a valid solution(s)
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Monday, February 23, 2009

Information Visualization "Info Vis"

My Current DashboardImage by bwc via Flickr

As some of you know - I've been interested in opportunities to improve productivity thru better information visualization. Most of the enterprise applications I have seen and used either no graphics or very basic charts even Business Intelligence solutions -- yet there has been an explosion in creativity in the area of scientific visualization. I believe there is an opportunity to help business users understand the interactions in the business and react better by using techniques of "info vis". Some examples are 'google maps mashups' , market treemaps, heatmaps and other techniques to combine multiple dimensions into a single view of the business.

I've setup a poll on LinkedIn - please let me know your thoughts.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Amazon Web Services Part II - Impact on the Enterprise

Image representing Mechanical Turk as depicted...Image via CrunchBase

This week, I also tried out SmartSheet -- a new service for collaboration and project management. Looks like a good service with a number of useful features -- what really impressed me was the SmartSource feature that integrated with Amazon's Mechanical Turk.

A colleague asked for some helping doing some supply chain and financial analysis but only provided the supply chain data. The client wanted 10 years of financial data used and while I could have used my spare time to poke thru various SEC filings, I instead "Smartsourced" the request thru Smartsheet. That is, I built a spreadsheet of what information I wanted with the attributes (COGS, Sales, etc -- 1998, 1999,....) and went to lunch. I specified I wanted 2 answers for each variable (to check). About 3 pm I checked my account and all the answers were there.

Not bad for a few dollars and avoiding an hour or two of tedious work that could have stretched over 1 day or more due to interruptions..

Will definitely look for more opportunities to use this service.

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Amazon Web Services Part 1 - Impact on the Enterprise

With my wife and kids traveling this week, I had some extra time so I tried out Amazon EC2 and Mechanical Turk (next post).

EC2 is an incredibly "geeky" name for an amazing set of services that allow you to configure your own Unix or Windows computer in "the cloud" with some standard software like app servers and database for Linux/Windows.

I was able to setup a configuration with a login in just a few minutes. This is amazing to me -- as I have been on projects where this could take anywhere from 1 to 5 weeks! Granted some of the time was not actually work time but time to schedule for hardware procurement, ordering, delivery, setup, new electrical drops, personnel constraints etc. The difference is stunning - one person getting an instance up and running in minutes vs a month of realtime. And think about not having to explain why your project is more important than any other...

An "extra large" instance is 15 GB of memory, 8 EC2 Compute Units (4 virtual cores with 2 EC2 Compute Units each), 1690 GB of instance storage, 64-bit platform and would cost you between $0.8 and $1.2 per hour to run. And you only pay for what you use. Granted if you had to go to a large "instance" you would have a bit more work todo but it looks like the services Amazon provides handles this as well.

There seems to be decent security* that probably is equivalent if not better than average enterprise.

Faster, Cheaper and perhaps equivalent security will definitely change the enterprise implementation business for the better. Allowing shorter implementations, more prototypes and better results at a lower cost.

Let me know what you think....

*Note that some people feel that "behind" their firewall is safer and perhaps in some cases that is actually true. However in many cases the perception of security is greater than the actual security. If you don't superglue your USB ports shut, remove CD drives from your laptop and don't require a token. (Aka the "something you have and something you know" rule) Then it would take someone about 10 minutes to change the root password of that laptop and another 5 to find all the passwords you have stored on your machine, in the browser cache or written on the case ....

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Makes you think

Click on thru to Umair's latest posting regarding his interpretation of the worldwide economic crisis.

Extra credit - if he is right, what are the implications for your organization, job, career etc.

Let me know what you think.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Tyranny of Averages Part II -- Banks at Risk

One of my favorite bloggers posted a link to table of banks and their "Texas Ratio". I've used Click2Map to map those with Ratio's higher then 50.

Makes an interesting mashup of where the economic crisis is happening most intensely. Tyranny of Averages strikes again. On a related note - Wall Street Journal just had an article on banks in Alpharetta Georgia and yes, that is one of the clusters on the map.

Enjoy - Banks with a Texas Ratio of 50 or more.

Note -- most of the 8000+ banks on the list are just fine. Here is the original data set.