Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Outsourcing to the Autistic Rather Than to India

This is not the best  title of an otherwise excellent article dated March 27, 2012  in Bloomberg Business Week Technology about making jobs suitable for HFA's (Highly Functional Autistic or Aspergers) . The author of the article is Drake Bennett.

Many engineers in India, especially in areas of high concentration of technical-savvy engineers like Bangalore, face the same problems as us in  Silicon Valley regarding HFA employment.

The Project Dandelion is a result of breathing the air where this idea is floating around, There is this inscription on the Wall of the West Transept of Stanford University  Memorial Church
Thoughts and words travel just as God's life travels, They do not travel like an individual, but you breathe your spiritual life into the atmosphere as you do your breath, and some one else breathes it in. Those not present still receive it, for it permeates space, and all live in it.

This is prophetic indeed. Here are three companies that did pioneering research in HFA , that give hope to Project Dandelion, see slides  .


The pioneer was a company called Specialisterne, started in 2004 by a Danish software engineer with an autistic son—it has since created offshoots in Iceland and Scotland.However this company relied heavily in Danish Government funding and charity donations, which is not the best model for US.


In 2008 a small nonprofit called Aspiritech in Chicago was started to put people with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome to work testing smartphone apps.They believe that the barriers to employment for this (HFA) community are surmountable given the right staffing and training model.

Aspiritech leverages the unique abilities of testers with Asperger's  syndrome and high-functioning autism to offer competitively priced, human-powered software testing services. Aspiritech testers all share some form of high-functioning autism that is characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills and social abilities, making it difficult for these individuals to find and retain work. On the other hand, adults on this part of the autism spectrum possess some unique talents – laser-like focus, attention to detail, superior ability to spot irregularities, superlative technical skills, lack of boredom with highly-repetitive tasks – coupled with high levels of intellect and an intense desire to do work that is commensurate with their skills.

Square One Solutions

The newest entrant into the space in the U.S. is a Los Angeles-based (Santa Monica) software and design firm called Square One. The company has a small pilot program working to design a  software-testing training program for people on the autism spectrum. The project grew out of conversations between company co-founder Chad Hahn and his wife, Shannon, who works with the developmentally disabled. Hahn, along with experts his wife led him to, has put together a software-testing curriculum that he’s now in the process of teaching to an inaugural class of three. The course he’s designed relies not on written instructions but on a software tool called iRise to create simulations of the sort of problems the trainees would confront in an actual work setting.

Hahn says: “I haven’t had one parent of an autistic child come to me and say this isn't going to work,” ...  “They say, ‘This is a way for my child to make more money than they would have made otherwise, and allow them to be more independent.’ They worry, what is my child going to do when I’m gone? And this is kind of a way out.”

Hahn pays substantial salaries of $25 per hour for the HFA software workers, starting from a minimum of $15 per hours day 1. The trick was to use visualizations instead of text during the training.  Quote from iRise newsletter

Due to inefficiencies in outsourcing—including errors attributable to time zone differences, cultural and linguistic barriers, and the typical limited scope of what can be specified in a testing contract—Hahn believes that the typical real effective cost of globally outsourced testing is probably 50% higher than the standard rates of $20-$25 per hour. For that amount, he says, he can employ local people with mental handicaps at something they like and are good at, at much higher rates than they earn at the usually low-skill positions that are often the only jobs they can get.

The first three candidates are undergoing a 60-90 day training program, working ten hours per week at Square One offices. There was just one problem, says Hahn.

“My training materials were pretty text-based, and it’s hard for three trainees to interpret text requirements well,” he says. “Since we’re iRise users, we decided to create visualizations that had bugs and deficiencies, so we could show them how to spot new problems,” he says.

That did the trick, says Hahn. “iRise visualization helps people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome for the same reason that it helps business users understand software requirements: Everyone understands a picture,” says Hahn.

The results so far have been very promising. “We are seeing very encouraging results from the pilot, with all of the three candidates demonstrating the required proficiency needed to test software in a commercial setting,” comments Hahn. “We think we can use their strengths, now that we’ve figured out how to train them.”

Project Dandelion

 ... intends to be a more inclusive project, where in addition of software engineering, there are jobs where the HFA skills exceed the main population skills. Unlike Specialisterne we can't be heavily dependent of Governments and Charities in US

 Aspiritech and Square One are wonderful example of American entrepreneurial spirit and they are a model for Project Dandelion. We have to scale up the results of Square One (right now they seem to have 3 HFA employees ) to hundreds and then thousands of jobs, until the autistic employment will be accepted as natural  by everyone in US and later worldwide.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Silicon Valley and Autism. A creative approach.

A project promoted by Ahrono Associates

See the latest version of this slides from the newer September 29, 2013 article  Highly Functional Autistic young people employment plan and performance computing 

Tweet October 25, 2012 : People like California - including our billionaires - because we are all Asperger, or indistinguishable from them 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Matchmaking: The Nobel Prize to revolutionize Grid and Cloud Computing ?

Lloyd Shapley and  Alvin E. Roth
Nobel Prize Economics 2012
They won the price for  the market-matching theories. This  has many applications and many lateral thoughts.

I read fascinated the article from The Matchmaaker about Alvin E. Roth. Here is a quote:
Academically speaking, Roth is a pioneer of so-called market design: finding situations where a market is failing — often, a place that most people wouldn’t even recognize as a market — and making it work better. Roth has influenced a cadre of young, energetic market designers, many of whom have taken up prominent positions at top universities. Inspired by Roth’s work, these rising economists are also setting their sights on real-world problems. Some are looking at dating websites; others are interested in how universities could do better at scheduling their students’ classes. 
The first thought it flashed my mind: Why not use Shapley and Roth algorithms to match computing, storage and data resources to users?
  When most people think of economics, they think of money — the study of how much things cost and why. Roth distinguishes himself by being more interested in situations where money plays little or no role — for instance, the process that determines who among the thousands of patients awaiting kidney transplants nationwide should receive the small number of organs that are available. As a society, we’ve decided we’re not comfortable with people selling their organs, so some other system — some other kind of market — is required. And a market, in Roth’s view, does not necessarily come down to prices, nor is it always ruled by simple principles like supply and demand: As long as people are competing with each other to get what they want, then resources are being allocated, and that means economists should be thinking about it
 Bingo, I jumped. Lets see the Open Science Grid in Wikipedia
The Open Science Grid Consortium is an organization that administers a worldwide grid of technological resources called the Open Science Grid, The consortium is composed of service and resource providers, researchers from universities and national laboratories, as well as computing centers across the United States. Members independently own and manage the resources which make up the distributed facility, and consortium agreements provide the framework for technological and organizational integration.
In total, the OSG comprises over 25,000 computers with over 43,000 processors, most of which are running a distribution of Linux. 72 institutions, including 42 universities, are consortium members who contribute resources to the grid.  There are 90 distinct computational and storage nodes in the grid, which are distributed across the United States and Brazil. The grid is peered with other grids, including TeraGrid, LHC Computing Grid and EGEE, allowing data and resources from those grids to be shared.
This is a market prone to be improved by market sharing. It includes Grid Computing and it includes Cloud Computing.

Roth and his disciples have made happy many people and organizations using the algorithms originally published by Shapley and Gale (Shapley partner who died in 1998) .

Now its time the management of distributed computing resources. Most of the decision in science and  enterprise grids are not based on money  and stock exchanges. This does not mean they are not part of a market.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Will every computer will be a supercomputer? Quantum Computing

The Nobel Prizes  play a fantastic role  revealing what  is significant for the future. For example the Peace Nobel given to European Union,  pays an homage to the main force opposing the Balkanization of Europe and a return to little village mentality and narrow mindedness.

The Physics Nobel prizes give an homage to Quantum physics, with the most relevant consequences for the future of Quantum  Computers

Britain has some exceptional graduate students in physics, and not all of them are at Oxford or Cambridge. One of them is Dominic Walliman from University of Birmingham  and he has this superb video on what is Quantum Computing, made prophetically two years ago.

While most people say - including most (but not all, thanks God)  HPC scientists - that Quantum computers are sort of almost impossible to build , Dominic Walliman video exudes a fresh air optimism,.

Yes, we will be able to built them in the nearer future, ending the silicon era and leaving in the dust the silicon dinosaurs now on TOP500 supercomputers list. In about ten to fifteen  years, every computer will be a supercomputer. Watch:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Michio Kaku: The Future of Quantum Computing

France's Serge Haroche (left) and U.S. physicist David Wineland
won the Nobel Prize on October 9, 2012 for work in quantum physics
that could one day open the way to revolutionary computers

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Marketing disguised as Sales or viceversa

In February 2010, two and a half years ago, I wrote on Amazon a review on the the book "Marketing Made Easy" by Kevin Epstein. Here is the text:

Entrepreneurial companies, in need of immediate revenues, have a down to earth attitude. Marketing makes leads, leads make customers, customers bring revenues. The entire focus of the is how to do marketing to get money in the shortest time possible. This is not a metaphor. This is a formula: If a customer prospect may buy a $1,000 and the marketeer or sales person has $50 an hour s/he must spend a maximum of 10 hours to have at least 50% margin profit per person. And so on. How many leads we need to close 4 customers? These are classical sales questions, and are answered in this marketing book. Leads collection relevant to a given product are very specific. In the last years, pioneered by Google and Yahoo, these techniques can identify, from the click-through patterns of a visitor, what interest they have, and sending them focused proposals. Anyone is seeing this on Amazon. They propose products you searched for before, the moment you land on the home page. The book touches this subject on page 68 to 71, but on a next edition, the content can be updated.

The book has a lively way to rephrase common sense advise, like "watch the hands, not mouth" (translation "read the body language"), "watch cause" (translation "is the customer ready to buy? Why") or my favorite "Incrementalism" (Translation: don't start from scratch: take all competitor's customer presentations you know of, hire their sales people and call into their accounts")

Is this practical? You bet! Is it original? Yes here, no there. Is it useful? Yes, Yes, Yes. Is it a good book? Yes if you are an entrepreneur and no wonder the book is published by the Entrepreneur Magazine press. Is this boring? Hell, no. An easy and optimistic read.
I just realize Kevin talked (1) the language of  "customer acquisition" , described in another article here, Tristan Kromer's Customer Development and User Experience or (2) personalized offers to specific customers and not to an average dummy customer as in A/B testing , long before it started to reach mainstream.

By the way Kevin's  book is available for free borrowing for Amazon Prime customers

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

New Ideas for starting any business seeded while attending supercomputing events.

 Rather than talking, let's do something about it

My blog entry Why HPC TOP500 never made any money and never will in its' present shape  had a an unexpected large audience of readers.

When in darkness, even a small tiny flickering light can be seen from large distances. 

Here are some  comments published on my blog:
  • Outstanding. It's about time somebody said this.
  • I read this post two times. I like it so much, please try to keep posting.
  • I never thought the point of HPC was to make money. It's to do science. No?
I compiled a survey for "New Ideas for starting any business seeded while attending supercomputing events." Be daring, describe even the wildest thoughts. You don't have to be an entrepreneur to start up a company. You either came across those ideas or generated them via lateral thinking, while attending one of the two most important supercomputing shows over the years.

The survey participants names, if provided, will be kept confidential. 

The tile is self-explanatory. Please note , if you fill in your name, the info is automatically copyrighted by the author of the post.

The goal is to set something at SC'12 where we can invite all those making a contribution or have some useful ideas

Click here to take survey

Monday, October 01, 2012

How to get to Mars. The importance of being a dreamer

Maybe you saw this before. I placed in my blog so I can watch over and over again

This is not about Product Management, or engineering. It's about life and emotion. If one doubts , feels down, has no hopes, listened too much to "reasonable people", must watch this movie. There are so many things that can break, yet none of them did. All worked perfectly.
The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up. Paul Valery, the French poet

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AI and ML for Conversational Economy