Category Archives: technology, humour, design, vision

Time To Walk The Talk!!

I have been giving talks here and there, in public, in private and sometimes talking to myself on the unrealized power of mathematics and the impact it can have on the WWW. Now is the time to walk the talk.

For that purpose I have started my own enterprise– EvolviMatix[1]. I will come to the ultra-geeky name in a short while.So, first things first. Usually some practical thinkers take action to test their theory, to validate it. And that is what most people think I am doing(including my wife before I explained to her). Actually it is the converse. I am basically a philosopher(the greatest thing is that I do not need a degree to be so), and my action is solely for the purpose of thinking, to have more clarity about the state of affairs in my mind.Actions are for the sake of achieving clarity in thinking and not vice-versa (atleast for me).

My hypothesis is that the smartest strategy you can have is to maximize your odds of getting lucky, the rest are mere details[2]. And I have explicitly stated that in my company’s official strategy(company strategy). My strategy is to get lucky– that’s it.However, it would require a lot of thinking to increase my odds of getting lucky, and that is where my experience with mathematics will come into play. Please understand that it has nothing to do with numbers. As I have said elsewhere that mathematics(and also numbers) is primarily a tool for meditation, that it has other benefits is just a side effect.

If you look at the short history of internet superstars, that is how it happened. Say Google, it didn’t happen that one fine day the founders dreamed up the strategy how to rule the internet and be the poster boys of web2.0. They were just solving an interesting problem while doing their PhD. And it so happened that they soon realized the impact of what they were creating.

Caterina and Stewart had created a game company and were working on that, when they stumbled upon this goldmine of tagged photo-sharing(which was actually a small part of the game they were building).And that is how Flickr came into the scene.

Even Microsoft had an evolutionary approach to strategy when they wanted to put a PC in every home. They were tinkering with various operating systems which also included an OS they were building with IBM. It was just that Bill Gates saw a greater velocity in the Windows market and went for it.And nobody thought that computers will have so varied uses and applications so as to reshape our social and business life.All the breakthroughs were solutions waiting for a problem.

Now, everybody seems to be creating the next killer app, the next idea which is going to revolutionize the web. So, I just thought of doing something different. I endeavor to be extremely lucky. And I am tackling a tough technical challenge of the internet(that’s all I can say about the project in stealth mode).So, wish me luck!!

Notes:
[1] ‘Evolvi’ is derived from evolution. ‘Matix’ is derived from Matrix, a mathematical structure(much glamorized by the movie ‘Matrix’).
[2] Sometimes people mix up Vision with Strategy. My Vision is to generate wealth(I will write about my vision another time). ‘How’ I do that is strategy.

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Project Euler

Here is an excellent mix of mathematical challenges which can be solved with the help of computers. Interestingly most of the users use Python as their programming language. Somehow, not just on this piece of fact, I suspect that mathematicians like Python(including me).

So far I have solved 4 problems… the journey continues.

Here is the link : Project Euler

Have Fun!! :))

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Talk on Application of Higher Mathematics on WWW.

Here I gave a talk on application of higher mathematics on world wide web :

http://tinyurl.com/2x8prl

or : http://tinyurl.com/3ptezb

Tell me how you like it 🙂

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The Hedgehog who got fucked or the power of probability.

I have been long intrigued by the ‘Hedgehog Concept’. Basically it is your USP which lies at the intersection of three conditions:1.What you can be the best in the world at.
2.What drives your economic engine.
3.What you are deeply passionate about.

And Jim Collins(perhaps he mooted this idea), classifies companies into two categories—Foxes and Hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are the companies who apply the above principle and foxes are companies who pursue multiple endeavors and seem diffused in their strategy.

Ever heard of Intersil? It is the name of a hedgehog which got fucked by a fox. Wi-Fi Technology was developed in the mid 90s and by the end of the decade Intersil was leading producer of Wi-Fi. At that time it was the best in the world, Wi-Fi was driving its economic engine and I am sure the Intersil guys must be very passionate about it. So, it was truly a hedgehog.Then came a fox named Intel. It started selling its own Centrino brand of Wi-Fi chips at dirt cheap prices. It wasn’t better than Intersil by a long shot, but it sure was damn cheap. In fact, Intel was selling the chips at a loss. It destroyed Intersil;Intersil, to put it mildly, got fucked.

Intel derives most of its profit from laptop chipsets rather than pc chips. So, it made sense for Intel to commoditize Wi-Fi which in turn will make laptops more popular. And hence, Intel was not running at a loss by this strategy at all, if you look at the big picture. And this tactic had the added advantage of eliminating the hedgehogs,like Intersil.

Mostly, people don’t want to believe depressing news even if the facts say so. So, after giving a bad news I practise giving goodies and solutions, and that makes the party-spoiler more palatable. So, here I present solution in mathematics to come out of this quandary. Imagine you are a hedgehog with one core competency. And let us assume the probability that a bigger rival having the same business is 0.4(and hence 0.4 chances of you being killed, to simplify things). Now imagine you have 3 core competencies tied in an intimate manner which make you distinctive, instead of one which you were doing best. So, what are the chances of your rival beating you up in that game? The probability is 0.4×0.4×0.4=0.064. So, now your chances of being killed dropped from 40 in 100 to 6.4 in 100.That is a dramatic risk reduction. So, the best strategy is to tie together a few core competencies in a unique manner, which holistically work together,even if those core competencies are not the best.

Reference:
[1] G.Carr,Nicholas, “Does IT Matter?Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage.”
[2]Isaiah Berlin, “The Hedgehog and the Fox .”
[3] http://tinyurl.com/27dqjo

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The myth of average and the so called ‘keyword density’.

“Let’s take the average. ““Let’s analyze the keyword density of the page.” I hear these words often enough. The important thing is that in most of the cases- and by that I do not mean 51%, but something close to 95%- these techniques have absolutely no use.

Let us first talk about average, or mean. When we talk about taking the mean and it to be useful we usually assume(or should assume) that the data distribution is uniform. The estimation with average as a central tendency breaks apart when we are encountered with skewed data. In fact almost most of the data in the real world is skewed except for those textbooks examples. To bring home my point let me tell you a joke, about a statistician. It is said that there was a very tall statistician who was crossing a river with his family of a very short wife and 3 very small kids. He had to decide whether to cross the river or not. He being a mean guy(pun intended) he decided to take the mean or the average of the height of the whole family, and compare it with the depth of the river. He found out that the average height of his family just manage to top the depth of the river. And he decided to cross with his whole family. When he reached the other side, not surprisingly he found out that he is the only one who was able to cross the river, and the rest of the family drowned. The same happens in the real world estimation. The average or the mean is almost always a bad measure of central tendency. In fact nature works more on what is called Pareto Distribution, or 80-20 rule in layman’s parlance.

Now let us talk about word density. Let us for sometimes ignore the fact that the term does not satisfy the rigor of mathematical definition, and is more of a buzzword than actually something statistically useful. But the general idea is to match the most number of keywords pertaining to the supposed subject. Let us say you are manually looking for the page most relevant to the subject ‘apple computers’, and on your side you have a list of words pertaining to ‘apple computers’. One document you find that it contains the words– apple, steve, steve woz, steve jobs, mac,leopard etc etc etc…and it matches 90% of your word list. What is your conclusion? I would definitely say that the aforementioned document is NOT related to apple computers, but actually is a spam. So basically a simplistic keyword density spews out spam after spam and you are wondering what is wrong. It is not just that the word density technique is very easy to game, but that it also inherently is a mismatch to the real world situation. You don’t come across relevant documents with neatly placed word density. And to top it all, your list of relevant terms may not be complete and are likely to give lots of false positive.

I vote for banning these two words in the technical exchanges- average/mean and ‘word density’ so that we don’t fall into woolly thinking.

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