An Ontological Approach for Fighting Spam

Over the years, I’ve been impressed by Bayesian methods for fighting spam.

And although Bayesian methods improve by learning, they are ultimately statistically based.

In what I believe to be a first, Technion Faculty of Computer Science researchers have revealed their plans to develop an ontologically based solution for fighting spam. Also of interest is the fact that their raw data will come from Wikipedia.

These researchers could use the approach I’ve outlined elsewhere to build their ontologies.

Ultimately, it’ll be interesting to see how well this knowledge-based approach compares with Bayesian and other approaches in common usage today.

In-situ Investment in India: A Key to Cisco’s Globalization Strategy

globeandmail.com reports:

… chief globalization officer at Cisco Systems Inc., [Wim] Elfrink is taking his wife, two daughters and the family dog from suburban Silicon Valley to Bangalore, India.

Why?

I just tell people that I want to be where the innovation is.

Elfrink and Cisco’s decision seems have support:

International business experts say Cisco’s executive migration is a shrewd move that should give high-ranking employees critical insight into one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

This announcement is interesting on a number of levels:

  • It’s a gutsy move by a senior executive at one of The Valley’s most-prominent companies. And it follows on the heels of US concerns about outsourcing, and specifically to India.
  • It bears testimony to India’s rapid arrival on the technology scene in a very substantial way.
  • And though I’m no economist, it also underscores a shift in innovation from The Valley to Asia.

Even though Cisco isn’t the first to make moves like this, it will be interesting to see how this develops.

Disruptive Innovations: The Company

In blogging about DICtabrain, I used the phrase “disruptive innovation”. Then, in Googling this phrase I ran across Disruptive Innovations, the company.

Their tagline is: “We build today the tools you are going to use tomorrow”. Apparently, they will deliver on this promise through the combination of “Innovation + Open Source + Standards + Chutzpah”.

One of their products is the Nvu (pronounced N-View) editor. This editor has Mozilla roots and is being used by some of the highest-profile digerati (TBL, GK). True to their promise, Nvu remain Open Source.

In August of last year, Disruptive Innovations joined the W3C.

Disruptive Innovations looks like an interesting company to watch.

DICtabrain: “Voice Powered Ideas”

In a recent post, I blogged:

… Jott goes a lot farther than my low-tech solution:

  • You call their toll-free number
  • You leave a message – your reminder, to-do, idea, etc.
  • Jott transcribes your message, and delivers the corresponding text to your phone and email

“Obscenely simple … incredibly clever” (Christopher Null, Yahoo! Tech). I couldn’t agree more!

Unfortunately, I cannot attest to how well this actually works.

I live in Canada, and the public beta only supports US-based cell phones -(

Fortunately, there’s great news for us Canucks as DICtabrain is developing a similar solution 🙂

Although I expect to have more to blog about soon, it’s worth noting that DICtabrain:

  • Makes an explicit connection to blogging
  • Is looking for alpha-trial participants
  • Has their own blog

Some may be nonplussed by services like DICtabrain’s or Jott’s.

As DICtabrain’s James Woods blogs:

Some people will never understand the benefits of voice powered writing while others seem to be waiting for it with baited breath.

I think the reason for this disconnect is the creative process itself.

Some people need to internalize their creative process by working things through inside their heads.

Others need to externalize it. And its for the externalizers that frameworks like GTD and solutions like DICtabrain’s make complete and total sense. In DICtabrain’s words: “Good ideas are only valuable if they can be remember[ed] and then actioned.

With Jott and DICtabrain appearing on the scene with similar solutions within the past 3-4 months, it’s clear that there’s something interesting happening.

Perhaps Jott and DICtabrain have glommed onto a disruptive innovation.

What are they disrupting?

How about the dictaphone + analog/digital voice recorders + voicemail + technology for action management methods.

Collectively!

That’s an impressive disruption, and one of the reasons why companies like DICtabrain and Jott are likely to draw attention from the likes of:

  • Traditional dictaphone companies – ??
  • Consumer electronics companies – Apple, Sony, etc.
  • Telcos/Networking companies – Cisco, Nortel, Skype, etc.
  • Software companies – Google, Microsoft, Nuance, etc.
  • And others

With unified messaging a key deliverable of enterprise-class traditional PBX and VoIP solutions, injecting the DICtabrain or Jott solution into the mix could be quite interesting. For example when you have robust IP connectivity, you have the networked equivalent of Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking in Skype + (DICtabrain or Jott) … and potentially more!

To re-quote Christopher Null, Yahoo! Tech: “Obscenely simple … incredibly clever”.

Let me close (again) with a small dose of realism:

I haven’t been particularly impressed by speech-to-text conversion in the past. This will be the gating factor for me.

The Top Ten Reasons You’ll Want GMail on Your Blackberry

I’ve blogged a lot about the GMail client for the Blackberry over the past few weeks.

There’s been enough interest to warrant a Top Ten list – something along the lines of “The Top Ten Reasons You’ll Want GMail on Your Blackberry”.

Before I release my Top Ten, I thought I’d consult the collective wisdom of those who happen by my blog.

Please share a comment to this post, or drop me an email (ian DOT lumb AT gmail DOT com), and let me know what you think should be on this Top Ten list.

I’ll summarize and share in about a week.

With thanks in advance.

Google Office for the Blackberry: Coming Soon?

In a recent post, I blogged:

Now picture this: A J2ME client application for Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

This is interesting on a number of levels:

  • It’s feasible! Google Docs & Spreadsheets is likely written in
    some variant of Java (J2*E) already, so paring it down to J2ME is (in
    principle) possible.

Alas, Google Docs & Spreadsheets (GD&S) isn’t based on some variant of J2*E.

It’s based on JavaScript. To see this, open a document or spreadsheet in GD&S and then look at the document source (“View \ Page Source” in Firefox) and/or the DOM (“Tools DOM Inspector” in Firefox). Or, try to open a document or spreadsheet in GD&S on your Blackberry. You’ll soon find out about the dependence on JavaScript.

More precisely, GD&S is based on AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript + XML). AJAX is behind the wonderful user experience afforded by most of Google’s offerings. (There’s an outstanding explanation of how AJAX achieves this experience available from Adaptive Path president and founder J. J. Garrett .) AJAX is a multi-tier platform or framework for developing and delivering Web-centric applications. (And many refer to it in the same breath as Web Services.)

In striking contrast, the GMail client for the Blackberry is a stand-alone Java application that executes within a J2ME container under the Blackberry operating environment.

gmail_berry.png

Clearly AJAX and J2ME are completely different environments/platforms.

Thus it would seem that Google has the options summarized by a two-dimensional platform versus motivity grid.

platform_motivity.png

On the vertical axis, platform ranges from self-contained to service-oriented.

Motivity is a bona fide word that is synonymous with locomotion (the power or ability to move). I intend here to coin a slightly different meaning, a juxtaposition of mobility and connectivity. More precisely, I propose to use motivity as a semi-quantitative measure of the degree of mobility relative to the degree of connectivity. As mobility increases, connectivity decreases, and motivity therefore increases. This is illustrated by the horizontal axis of the two-dimensional grid. It is also important to note that connectivity is itself a proxy for bandwidth and latency. More precisely, high connectivity is taken to imply high bandwidth, low latency connectivity.

Thus the options in taking GD&S to the Blackberry are:

  • Port GD&S to the Blackberry operating environment (i.e., develop a native J2ME client version of GD&S) – the lower-right quadrant of the 2D-grid

or

  • Port the client-side aspects of AJAX to the Blackberry operating environment (JavaScript and the AJAX engine) and interface this in real time with the server-side components – the upper-right quadrant of the 2D-grid

There is one other possibility that originates in the lower-left quadrant. GD&S could be written as a Java application. A pared down version could be relatively easily be made available for the J2ME-based Blackberry operating environment. (This was my naive suggestion that’s been revisited in this post.) In parallel, through use of the Google Web Toolkit (GWT), the same Java version of GD&S could be converted to AJAX as “… the GWT compiler converts your Java classes to browser-compliant JavaScript and HTML.”

Thus a revised two-dimensional grid of the possibilities is shown below.

platform_motivity_gwt.png

Either way, it may be some time before Google Docs & Spreadsheets makes it to the Blackberry.

GMail on My Blackberry Revisited (Again)

Three new discoveries. One good, one bad, and one inbetween.

First the good one. You can follow a link. Suppose you’re reading a message, and there’s a link in the message. You can use the thumbwheel to highlight the link, and then depress the thumbwheel to open the link via “Get link”. When you close the link, via the ESC button (below the thumbwheel), you’re returned to your GMail session. Nice!

Now the bad one. The GMail client for the Blackberry doesn’t understand GMail Groups. (This is a collection of individual GMail contacts.) It’d be nice to have this functionality in a future version.

And finally, the inbetween one. Your contacts are only as current as your last log in. I had to log out of the GMail client on my Blackberry, and then log in again, so that I could see contacts that I’d added. I suppose this is what’s required to repopulate the contacts cached on the Blackberry. Selecting “Refresh” did not have the effect of repopulating the contacts cache. It’d be nice to have an option that addresses this in a future version …

This is one of several posts regarding the GMail client for the Blackberry. The others are:

Jott: “Think it. Jott it. Do it.”

Have you ever left yourself voicemail?

I have. I’ve left myself reminders, to-dos, tried to capture ideas, etc.

Most often, I’ve done this when I’m driving somewhere. I use my cell phone to make a call to my voicemail because I can’t (easily) write or use my Blackberry.

That’s the basic premise behind Jott.

However, there is one significant difference. Jott closes the loop. In their words: “Think it. Jott it. Do it.”

The loop-closing “Do it.” is one of the reasons why Jott is currying favor with the GTD crowd.

And of course, Jott goes a lot farther than my low-tech solution:

  • You call their toll-free number
  • You leave a message – your reminder, to-do, idea, etc.
  • Jott transcribes your message, and delivers the corresponding text to your phone and email

“Obscenely simple … incredibly clever” (Christopher Null, Yahoo! Tech). I couldn’t agree more!

Unfortunately, I cannot attest to how well this actually works.

I live in Canada, and the public beta only supports US-based cell phones 😦

To be more precise:

I’m outside of the United States, can I use Jott.com?

You can if you are using your cell phone, and the Caller-ID comes through to our systems. However, significant charges may apply to this phone call, so check your Carrier’s Terms and Conditions. Jott.com is not responsible for charges associated with phone calls, internet access, text messages, and the like.

That’s from the Jott FAQ. Regardless, it didn’t work for me 😦

I haven’t been particularly impressed by speech-to-text conversion in the past. This will be the gating factor for me. Because I can’t do my own assessment, I was interested in Jott’s FAQ on this:

Why are my jotts not transcribed perfectly?

We use a combination of machine and human transcription to convert your voice to text. The quality of this transcription is affected by many factors, including recording quality, noise, accents, pronunciation, etc. At times, the quality of the recording will be so bad that we will simply label it inaudible. You are free to click on the speaker icon at our web site to easily listen to your recording.

We encourage you when leaving jotts to speak clearly and normally, understanding that the quality of the recording will affect the quality of the transcription.

Given that personal transcription programs (like Dragon NaturallySpeaking) require substantial training to be effective, this entry in Jott’s FAQ is certainly a reasonable one.

Jott has more to offer. For example, there is Jottcasting. One scenario they describe is simultaneous delivery of a message to a recipient’s phone and email.

What I really like about Jott is its elegant simplicity.

I expect Jott to be an excellent acquisition target for the likes of Google …

And for those who like to have everything integrated, Jott would have much more value if it was a part of some existing solution like Google Office (GMail + Google Docs & Spreasheets).

I look forward to seeing Jott develop (e.g., by tracking their Web site and blog) – and especially to Canadian service 🙂

Quantitative classification of cloud microphysical imagery via fractal dimension calculations

I recently referred to a paper I wrote for a Fractals in Engineering conference in the mid-90s:

I did lead a project at KelResearch where our objective was to classify hydrometeors (i.e., raindrops, snowflakes, etc.). The hydrometeors were observed in situ by a sensor deployed on the wing of an airplane. Data was collected as the plane flew through winter storms. (Many of these campaigns were spearheaded by Prof. R. E. Stewart.) What we attempted to do was automate the classification of the hydrometeors on the basis of their shape. More specifically, we attempted to estimate the fractal dimension of each observed hydrometeor in the hopes of providing at automated classification scheme. Although this was feasible in principle, the resolution offered by the sensor made this impractical.

I’ve now added the citation and paper to my publications list.

I expect to revisit this paper soon … stay tuned.

sync blackberry contacts with gmail

Update (February 10, 2009): See Sync Google Calendar and Gmail Contacts with Your BlackBerry for a recent How To guide to the Google Sync for the BlackBerry solution.

Update (November 18, 2008): Google has provided a solution! (Thanks to Matt S. for pointing this out.)

Update (March 6, 2008): We may have a solution!

I’ve noticed a few search-engine terms with variations of the string “sync blackberry contacts with gmail”. Since this is clearly of interest to some, I thought I’d share the good news, and the, well, less-good news.

First the good news: Your GMail contacts are automagically available to you when you are composing a message. In other words, there’s no need to do any syncing. It looks like the J2ME-based GMail client for the Blackberry downloads contacts on demand, and also does some nifty caching.

Now the less-good news: If you were hoping that your GMail contacts were going to magically appear in the “Address Book” application on your Blackberry, well, you will be disappointed.

There may be some indirect way of keeping your Blackberry Address Book in sync with your GMail contacts.

For example, you may be able to sync the desktop software that manages your contacts (e.g., Apple’s Address Book, Lotus Notes, Microsoft Outlook, etc.) with GMail contacts. I haven’t spent much effort looking into this, but Intellisync has offered services along these lines, and there’s at least one solution for syncing GMail contacts with Apple’s Address Book