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Copyright Law Breaker?
Saturday, March 31, 2007

Some students are claiming that turnitin breaks copyright laws by storing papers submitted to the service.

I've used turnitin twice, and I'm not too fond of the it but I can see how it may be useful to teacher and university professors.

The turnitin service lets students upload their papers into a massive database for comparison against other students' papers. The idea is to catch plagiarists in the act by flagging content that is too similar (or the same) as any of the other papers submitted or whatever else turnitin thinks is a source for content (internet sites, etc.).

The first question that comes to mind is, of course, related to copyrights. The company has cleared with their lawyers to check if they are breaking any laws. So far, in the US and Canada, none. But their legal savvy will be put to test with their first copyright infringement law suit.

The is reporting that "Two McLean High School students have launched a court challenge against a California company hired by their school to catch cheaters, claiming the anti-plagiarism service violates copyright laws."

But copyright is not my whole issue (if I had one) with the service. I'm more concerned with the proprietary and confidentially of the information that it written in those papers and is just "uploaded" with no guarantee of privacy.

Of course there is a privacy statement and agreement that every user has to read and agree to before using the service, but who reads those anyway--I know I didn't. And what if the company is bought by an unscrupulous evil doer? Imagine all that private information stored in that database.

Plagiarist or not, there is probably a lot of good ideas and private information about a quite a lot of different subjects floating around just waiting to be compared.

4:40 PM | 3 comment(s) |

Web 2.0 at its best?
Wednesday, March 28, 2007

No body said that "Web 2.0" sites must be used for good. Forget,,, Welcome to the dark side of crowd-sourcing and Web 2.0:

This site is so adamant on keeping the "worst" singers alive in American Idol because, the site's creator argues, someone must let the world know that the show is nothing more than a popularity contest and not a singing competition.

So far it has been working; Sanjaya keeps on singing and if this keeps up he may win the competition. Poor dude.

12:02 AM | 0 comment(s) |

What's in a number?
Sunday, March 25, 2007

It depends who you ask.

When I was a kid, I remember the time to pick a number for the soccer team's jersey being a very stressful one. We all knew that we had to wear the same number as the best professional players, and if we didn't get there on time the day the shirts were handed out the best numbers could be gone and the whole season would be a bust. (Trust me, you play better with the same number as Maradona's on your back.)

Marketing departments all over the globe caught on, and now they know that the the shirts that sell the most are the ones with the number the best (and most famous) players wear. It's a winning formula.

Apparently, Dunga, Brazil's coach, doesn't care too much about how the world works or how much money Nike has spent to create the myth of Ronaldinho's number 10.

Over the weekend Brazil played a friendly game against Chile. Brazil won 4-0, and Ronaldinho scored 2 goals.

The problem for everyone is that Ronaldinho didn't wear the number 10 jersey (as you can see from the picture above). Kaka did. Ronaldinho wore the unwanted, and not so mythical, number 7.

And this is a problem for Nike (and Dunga) because of the newly 10R Nike campaign just launched in March, i.e., whole products, print, and web sites have been created with the understanding that Ronaldinho is the best player in the world and his number is 10, unconditionally.

Well, not for Dunga. I'm sure, though, he'll come to his senses and then agree with Nike that Dinho is still the best player in the world and must wear the number 10 jersey for every team that he plays for--even if he is not in the best physical form of his career.

In the world of marketing what counts is positioning, and by the amount of money spent on R10, I'm sure everyone will agree that Ronaldinho is the best. Even if FIFA is mistaken to think that Cannavaro was the FIFA player of 2006. The nerve of some people...

Can the "R" be transformed to "K" without anyone noticing? I'm not sure that would work. So somebody better be calling somebody to fix this minor misunderstanding.

11:58 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Free Energy?
Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"Who is Jonh Galt?" Well, in real life his name is not John at all. In fact, he is an Irish inventor named Sean McCarthy.

In Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, John Galt invents a new engine that generates power out of nothing. As incredible as this sounds, McCarthy is claiming that it can be done outside of Rand's 1000+ pages allegoric opus about Objectivism.

What is interesting about McCarthy's claim of free energy is that it breaks down one of the most fundamental laws of physics: energy cannot be created nor destroyed, only transfered. In addition, McCarthy is not licensing the technology to anyone. He has put his claims to be verified by the scientific community before making products off of it.

Is free energy possible? If it is, there is no point in worrying about fossil fuel dependency and we should not worry about China becoming fully industrialized and oilified.

And free energy has a brand name: Orbo. The company "commercializing" Orbo is Steorn.

I wish I could look into the future and see what the real deal is. But then again, Tesla's research never got around to becoming a main stream product--imagine, bouncing off electricity off the atmosphere to transfer power wirelessly.

This is what McCarthy looks like:

12:46 AM | 0 comment(s) |

The Economist Idea of Innovation
Monday, March 12, 2007

The Economist is probably one of the most read weekly magazines around business schools in North America. It is known for its sharp current affairs analysis and a wide coverage of issues that have a relevance to everything (political, economical, technological, etc.).

I'm certain that being a paper magazine, it has seen its share of readership decreased because of the advent of the internet (at least the hard copy version). In truth, the medium is at a cross roads, I think, and it either evolves or closes down shop.

So what's a magazine to do? The Economist decided to try something different and it is being called innovative.

They created a group called Project Red Stripe to come up and bring to market one idea in six month with 100 thousand UK pounds. Their "about us" page says the following:
    Project Red Stripe is a six-member team comprised of The Economist Group?s employees that has been brought together with the task of creating an innovative and web-based product, service or business model by July 2007. In addition to the research which the team is conducting in-house, we are soliticing ideas from the outside world in an effort to attract submissions from a diverse group of people. If you want to know more, please go to the FAQs.
The idea of creating the group is interesting, and the premise of the group "asking" the public for "ideas" is in concert with the new crowd-sourcing models we hear about (read Wikinomics, for more details). But I don't know if the project has the right basis, nor the right incentives to succeed.

From what I read, the group is not under the gun to produce or be gone. In other words, as soon as the 6 months are up these people go back to work to their cubicleland somewhere. There is no hunger to succeed, and there is no sufficient monetary incentive if the project succeeds. A salary is incentive enough, however, when there is no salary people seem to work harder, i.e., entrepreneurs just seem to want it more because there is no security blanket. Of course, there is the bragging rights, but I take that as icing on the $60-120K salary.

Moreover, asking the "public" for ideas will not likely generate enough that are worth while. This type of exercise degenerates into the lower common denominator thinking that make MySpace interesting but not extraordinary. In addition, why would I give my best idea to a group of paid employees with no direct reward to me?

There is a disconnect between a truly community driven effort to create content and the need to change or die for this company.

It is definitively an interesting idea and a different way of doing things in an "old schooled" news business, however, innovation is more of a process rather than a mandate. It's a change from within that requires a way to developing profitable ideas that are aligned with the long term vision of any corporation.

The desire of "creating a high tech, internet related business model" is well and all, but don't we all want to create that next great web-based business?

I'll keep an eye on this project, as I've become interested in the exploration of innovations in any setting, but I don't expect anything beyond a combination of RSS feeds from the current content. The time is too short to really create a disruptive product and the incentives are not aligned with the corporate strategy.

The magazine has most of the data it needs to move into the new territory it needs to: it has a captive audience, it has the a great deal of demographics, it has advertisers. I would just ask a simple question to all stake holders: "what do you want?" And go from there. Maybe a cutting edge web-based business is not what users want, and will not likely come out of this experiment.

Update: Slashdot has more to say about this very item. As usual, some of the comments are better (read nicer) than others. For example:
    figment says: this is the most stupid idea I have ever heard out of them. They actually will compensate you, with a rocking 6-mo web-subscrption to (street value: roughly $50).

    Perhaps the Economist should actually talk to their economists, and ask them what 'Incentive Compatability' means. $50 for a new revolutionary business idea surely isn't incentive compatible. If I were the Economist, I'd be terribly embarassed about this.

7:31 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Intentional Software
Tuesday, March 06, 2007

For obvious reasons, the technologies and products that create the most noise in the main stream media are the ones related to the web (Web 2.0, Ajax), the portable music player world (iPod, iPhone), the Operating System universe (OS X, Vista), and the gaming console ecosystem (Wii, Xbox 360, PS3).

All these technologies are end user products, but there is also another category that is less interesting to consumers, though, very important to people like me (or you, if you are a software engineer/developer) that surfaces from time to time. I am talking about software engineering methodologies.

As part of my MBA studies, among many other courses, I am currently enrolled in a class called BU655, Management of Innovation and Technology Transfer. A portion of the course's evaluation is a critique and analysis of an article about a current technological innovation.

For my assignment, I found an interesting article at Technology Review written by Scott Rosenberg, titled "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Meta."

The article's subject is Intentional Programming, which is the invention of an ex-Microsofty and based on research work published in 1995. The process looks very pretty; see for yourself:

I have heard of Intentional Programming in the past, but thought the framework to be too proprietary and probably not very practical at the time, i.e., it is really a radical change in the way software is engineered, and there is no public evidence that it actually works--everything is theoretical right now and in theory everything works--but that is not stopping Charles Simonyi, its creator, to market it as a product through his company Intentional Software.

Since this is, mostly, a software development blog I thought to post the critique online to see if someone else has any thoughts on Intentional Programming.

The opinions expressed in the following document are very subjective. My comments are based on the information I have right now, so I am thinking my views on the subject may change as I gain more experience in the field--this is a nice way to say that I do not know everything nor claim to do so, thus willing to learn about anything and from anyone.

(Note that I do not work for Intentional Software--although it looks like an interesting company to work for--nor have I ever used Intentional Programming to create any software applications. For all I know, the framework is the best thing invented after electrons.)

Critique and analysis of Rosenberg's article "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Meta." (PDF, 202 KB.)

10:55 PM | 0 comment(s) |

You have to spend money to make money

Fascinating lesson in marketing: spend $100 million (allegedly) to make $18 million.

9:45 AM | 0 comment(s) |

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