Monday, August 26, 2013

Seriously... One Third

There has been much hubbub and ado about the announcement that Ballmer is stepping down from Microsoft. Although I don't understand why it should be a surprise to anyone that a successful giant nearing the age of sixty with billions of dollars would want to stop working and relax on a beach somewhere. But I digress.

The funny thing to me was not all the "Is this the end?" or "Microsoft failed" commentary. That type of silliness will always persist because people are adversarial, petty, and generally not very bright. Instead I laughed every time it became clear that these *ahem* journalists or editors didn't really have a very clear picture or had skipped the non-obvious research.

For example, on TechCrunch there was a call to shakeup the Microsoft board. Which I fully understand and quite frankly agree with. But reasons were just silly. In one case the mention was made that even with the failure of the latest hardware releases, Microsoft should still be okay because they have 1 or two other businesses that produce some revenue. That's funny.

  • One third of the worlds telephone traffic is driven by Skype. 
  • One half of all server revenue is driven by Windows Server.

Don't get me started on XBox, the game console that sold more units this holiday than any other manufacturer.

Has Microsoft been sitting back pushing out products at a sluggish pace? Certainly. Are they behind on the innovation curve? Absolutely. But just because revenue for consumer devices in the midst of bubble has outstripped corporate spending, don't discount the ability of corporate spending to catch up. Don't for a minute ignore that holding those patents that bring in big bucks every time an Android sells is negligible. If you want to make a case of demise, it has to be more than top-line revenue. It's about explaining motivations, potential and positioning.

Does Microsoft have this? Who knows. I'm hardly a proponent and ardently a critic of their bloated, boorish, and bland offerings these days. I just get agitated when I see one-sided conversations, and shallow analysis masquerading as some deep insight.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Data About Food

I've just spent the last many days reviewing, testing, quantifying, validating, and otherwise taking the measure of the various data sources that exist for and

The USDA gives great nutrition data and a sampling of volume-metric data for a pretty wide swath. But then you have manufacturers and brands and alternative nutritional information. And you have categorization and ingredient discrepancies, all manner of portioning, form, and packaging options. And so on, and so on.

Not surprising some of the best food data comes from the online shopping hubs and support establishments who want to make it easy for you to buy through their channels. After all, who shops online without looking at pictures, even if it is just for a bottle of ketchup or can of soup?

As typically arises in these scenarios, the categorization schemes they each favor isn't particularly overlapping or supportive. They certainly aren't designed to co-exist as they have a vested interest in keeping you in their garden of data. So you go with Option A with 10k foods or Option B with a partially overlapping 50k of foods. Maybe Option A is better organized with better data and easier access. Option B might be much more expensive or just have no reliable categorization scheme. Choices, choices.

In an enterprise we would call this a Master Data Management problem. In the real-world, it's just business. Good thing I know a little about addressing these MDM issues in really big enterprises. How to rationalize 10's of thousands of foods ain't no thing if you've got the right patterns and the discipline to do a little wrangling.  I just needed to wrestle this foundation to the bedrock so that now I can take on much more interesting concerns. Like merging some hardcore analytics, massive datasets, and some truly sick algorithms all towards helping people get and stay healthy.

Let me finish this glass of scotch and I'll tell you more about the coolest new stuff we are working on in connected health...