Monday, April 28, 2014

Big Company Arrogance and User Opinions

This is a continuation of the previous blog entry Comments to the History of the Grid paper 

In August 2008, a Finnish journalist named Lauri Malkavaara sent this letter to Nokia. He was comparing his latest (at that time) Nokia E 51 phone to a brand new cell phone from a company which never made phones before, called Apple iPhone
Summary: By putting a telephone like the E 51 onto the market, Nokia has squandered its most important legacies: that of making telephones so that they are easy to use. This will cause Nokia some grief.
This grief finally  lead to Nokia being acquired honorably by Microsoft 5 years later (2013), but it could have been much, much worse. for the company who was the pride of Finland.

This reminded me of the scientists and students interviews I conducted for Bosco (in fact for HTCondor) where I heard from users no one wants command line, everyone wants to use familiar GUIs they are already working with. I was  a messenger. I summarized my tape recorder words that the users themselves spoke.

Exactly what Lauri Malkavaara did for Nokia.
Dear Nokia:
This is a letter for a person who is responsible for designing Nokia telephones. I could not find any place on the Nokia website for giving feedback on Nokia products. There actually was a possibility to ask questions, but this is more of an answer than a question.
I am sending this letter to Nokia Press Services because I am familiar with the place. While I am a journalist by profession, I am writing this as a private individual. I hope that you will forward my letter to whomever you feel might be the best recipient. However, it would be best if you would frame this and hang it on the wall of your lobby so that every Nokia employee could see this each morning when they come to work.
Nokia’s dazzling success began about 20 years ago when mobile telephones became commonplace. The mobile telephone is a technological innovation. This means that some people (a very small proportion of them) were naturally interested. Another part (a very large proportion) had misgivings.
The misgivings were unfounded, as Nokia’s telephones were very easy to use. Everyone learned to use them right away, and no manuals were needed. To call, press the green handset symbol, and to hang up, press the red one. Nokia’s telephones in particular were known for their ease of use. Nokia became the overwhelming market leader.
My employer bought me my first mobile phone in 1996. It was handy and durable, but it broke down in 2001, at which time I was given my second mobile phone. It had new functions, and even the internet. However, I quickly learned to use this new telephone.
My second mobile phone broke last week and my employer bought me the third mobile phone that I have ever had in my life. It has been the source of some bewilderment for a week now. At first I did not even know how to make calls without consulting the manual, and I still understand very little of it.
The problem is that about six months ago a friend of mine at work showed me a device manufactured by Apple called the iPod Touch. It was love at first sight. I wanted an iPod, and that device would also give me convenient access to the internet and much more. I ordered my own iPod touch, turned it on, and knew immediately how to use it. I have been using the device on a daily basis for over six months now, without giving any thought to the manuals. The logic of the device opens up right away. It is no wonder that the device is a huge global success. 

My new Nokia telephone model is called the E 51. Unfortunately the phone has not been designed to make it easy for just anybody to learn to use it.
In fact, I get the feeling that it was designed as if its main purpose all along would be to advertise itself to telephone technology enthusiasts. All kinds of amazing functions are promoted on the display, but since I do not understand what the names mean, my guess is that I will never use them.
Here is an example: the first thing that nearly every user of a telephone wants to do is to change the ringtone; so do I, but how do I do it? While fiddling around with the new phone I noticed that it has a key with the picture of a house on it. Pressing it opens up the main menu. At this point I was supposed to understand which one of the keys is for the ringtones. The options are messaging, office, log, media, tools, installations, connectivity, download, address book, web, calendar, and instructions.
The names were not much help, so I tried each of them one at a time. With each of them, new choices opened up, but none of them appeared to offer a way to change a ring tone. Therefore, I tried to seek advice from instructions, but they only gave instructions on the installation of 3D ringtones. I did not want any of those, because I do not even know what they mean.
Finally I asked for help from a friend who is into technology. It turned out that I should have known at the outset that I should select tools, and from there go to settings and from there to general, and from there to personalisation, and there, finally I would finally find what I had been looking for: Tones. I was therefore expected to make five discerning choices in a downward hierarchy before doing something with my telephone that is the first thing that every user of a new telephone wants to do.
Initially I had a choice of 12 keys. Assuming that beneath each of the keys – on each hierarchical level – there is an average of 10 new keys, the changing of the ringtone was hidden at a hierarchical level where 120 000 different choices are possible. Consequently, in a random search I would have had a 1/120 000 chance to find the right one. And the search would have been virtually haphazard, because the names of the keys were of little help.
This just cannot be. Telephones – like all other devices – need to be designed on the terms of the simplest user. All of the most important functions need to be offered at the first hierarchical level, or at the very latest at the second, and they need to be found on the basis of the name of the key using ordinary common sense. The more sophisticated and more special features need to be placed at the lower hierarchical levels. People who use them are technology enthusiasts and are quite capable of finding them there.
And then there is another, different example: I send a text message, which is something that I do dozens of times every day. First, I press messages, then I select create message, and then I need to choose from among four options: text message, multimedia message, audio message, or e-mail. So each time, dozens of times a day in the years that follow, I am bothered by this extra message, and each time I give the same answer.
I would guess that this is the case with others. My guess is that out of every 1 000 messages sent, 999 are ordinary text messages. It is as if my telephone had not been designed in such a way that it would make it as easy as possible to do what I am doing with it all the time, and that instead, the telephone is constantly promoting all of the amazing things that I could do with it.
A telephone is mostly used for making calls and sending text messages. It would be vitally important for these features to be designed so that the user can perform the tasks with as button pressing as possible – in other words, quickly.
Summary: By putting a telephone like the E 51 onto the market, Nokia has squandered its most important legacies: that of making telephones so that they are easy to use. This will cause Nokia some grief.
Yours in friendship and concern,
Lauri Malkavaara

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Comments to the History of the Grid paper


This quote from Ian Foster blog inspired me.
Two years ago, Carl Kesselman and I published a rather lengthy paper that purports to recount the “history of the grid.” (I. Foster, C. Kesselman, The History of the Grid (PDF), in Cloud Computing and Big Data, IOS Press, Amsterdam , 2013; 37 pages, 176 references).
We believe that this paper includes useful material. We also know that it can be much improved, and to that end we plan a second edition. We invite suggestions for improvements. For example: What did we get wrong? What work did we forget to mention? What do you see as the most important accomplishments  of the grid community? The most important influences? The most egregious failures

The  Grid Computing book

Few books made such a strong, passionate response as the 1998 Grid 1. The metaphor of having "compute power" delivered in its ultimate incarnation from a plug on the wall. very much like electricity had a mesmerizing effect in front of each audience I used this analogy. Even today, 15 years later my lay friends asks whether I was successful creating this plug on the wall.

At that time - 1999 - I was working with Wolfgang Gentzsch on Codine in Genias - which later - in 2000 - we sold to Sun and the product was renamed Sun Grid Engine.

Surprisingly Grid 2 published in 2005 got lukewarm reviews on Amazon. Only three reviews and not even one five star rating

Are Scientists super-powerful users?

The answer is No. Here is why.

I  conducted in depth interviews at various universities. The reality is that scientists are normal people, who have their own work to do and have no time to learn system administration.  Scientists want to do science and not mess with coding, command lines, and system administration. These are nagging distractions for them.

As an anecdote, there is an interview with Mr. Higgs (not Dr. Higgs, as the professor never completed a Ph.D. degree) from Guardian.  He hardly uses email. HTCondor - the de-facto open source cluster resource management software - would be totally unmanageable for the famous Nobel Prize physicist.

Even seasoned system administrators confess being in a state of "permanent beginners" (actual user wording on the HTCondor  users group)

Grids and cluster software and HTC were born in Academia. It attracted one of the nations best engineers and scientists working on grids, because the rewards were too great not to put up with it the hardship.  Like the identification of Higgs particle

The key is ease of use, the sentiment of "I like it" . Nir Eyal published a book titled
Hooked:  How to Build Habit-Forming Products'\\This has not happened in CHTC. Grids are still in a rarefied space well above mortals

Generating Startups

We live newer times, it is never too late to get people hooked on grids. If we can look at the fact laden history of Grid in academia, perhaps we can go back create a "happy-end"

The problem was the market for actual grid software was very small. At one SC 2007 conference, drinking a beer with PBS, LSF, Univa and Sun, we agreed the market for license sales was less than $100 million. Many people used free in house or open source software.

Despite the benefits - enterprises can deliver faster, with better quality products that were not possible before,-  large system houses could not delver and support grids (HP, IBM, Sun Dell) to the enterprise.

The academia business approach was: "Here is the technology. You must like it" This is best illustrated in this video "A scientist' business value proposition"

Modern Product Creation

There is not one word in the Grid about product management. Generations of computer scientists graduate without having a clue of what that is.

Look at the 4 minutes video on how Dropbox was created. Without writing one line of code they demo-ed a simulated UI of what this software will do. (MVP = Minimum Viable Product)
Contrary to traditional product development, which usually involves a long, thoughtful incubation period and strives for product perfection, the goal of the MVP is to begin the process of learning, not end it. Unlike a prototype or concept test, an MVP is designed not just to answer product design or technical questions. Its goal is to test fundamental business hypotheses
The lesson of the MVP is that any additional work beyond what was required to start learning is waste, no matter how important it might have seemed at the time.

Telling the truth

In his article from New York Times, The Employers Creed, David Brooks writes what people modern employers should recruit.
Bias toward truth-tellers. I recently ran into a fellow who hires a lot of people. He said he asks the following question during each interview. “Could you describe a time when you told the truth and it hurt you?” If the interviewee can’t immediately come up with an episode, there may be a problem here.
I can describe very well what happen when I went in front of OSG all hands meeting and simply put on two slides what the most distinguished scientists said
“Moving to  HTCondor from XXX was an uphill battle”
“Bosco? In the past, they came and said: “Try a new tool called SOAR - System of Automatic Runs. Supposedly to make it easier. But I did not see anything will feel us comfortable. We ended with the same problems as HTCondor itself” 
"In Biology, speaking for me and my colleagues, we are not interested to triple or so the number of hours by getting on different grids, but by actually getting on any grids. It is more about ease of use than availability of resources."
 “CHTC guys helped us to write the submit files, I wish these could be simpler and more accessible to my students”
“If it weren't for our proximity to HTCondor people, we would not be able to run HTCondor” 
If we had a magic wand..? That would be nice to have a function to send to HTCondor, and this function generates the scripts
I was only the messenger. Bosco project is now is part of HTCondor distribution, buried with much older stuff  accumulated over the years. Most people don't know it is there. It is, the same with SOAR

One brilliant idea:  Dynamic Data Center

Can we bootstrap a Renaissance for grid - clouds?  I liked the presentation of Frank Wuerthwein at ISC BigData '13 in Heidelberg . He is one of the most inspiring talents in Open Science Grid  leadership.

In an interview   Frank describes a worldwide grid model when one can take a piece of hardware, donate it to the grid, automatically all required sw is loaded, and if later the user wants the resource back, the compute resource is restored to its original state, something similar to "now is safe to remove the USB device" message we get on any Windows laptop / desktop.

Frank calls this the Dynamic Data Center. It is similar to have a solar power system on our homes, communicating with a national or regional power grid

This is just an illustration of a bright idea. The litmus test, however , is not the technology itself . It is the modern product creations product management, user UX, which was illustrated in the DropBox example.

Frank work was in High Energy Physics and the name of the game is Big Data. This is a cosmic size Big Data. Big Data can bring grids to the front stage

Cloudera manged to get a 1 billion dollars  for a product readily available in open source (Hadoop).

I think the Dynamic Data Center has the billions potential in infrastructure. In its ultimate implementation, of creating a single grid (aka cluster, cloud, big data infrastructure) over the entire world, this grid will be a miracle, just as it looked when Grid 1 book was published.

This is impossible to achieve in the Academia alone. If computer entrepreneurs can make a car to scare the entire automotive industry, other computer entrepreneurs will make a viable Dynamic Data Center corporation. It could be a flurry of startups.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The myth of Highly Confident People

In a post on LinkedIn Few Things Highly Confident People Don’t Do  Gaurav Kamboj talks about some people "who don’t make comparisons, don’t find joy in people-pleasing, don’t require anyone’s permission to act. don’t avoid doing the scary thing, don’t make excuses" and so on.

Here is my comment to Gaurav's post:
There is no such thing as highly confident people. The human condition has been described by the masters of literature, like Shakespeare. There is not one highly confident character in any play of Shakespeare, in any book of Dostoevsky or John Steinbeck.  You created a fiction, like James Bond, Superman, Spiderman and so on. Which is great, but do not pretend others to take your model in real life. 
The fictional James Bond's health has been analyzed in an article from British Medical Journal and reported in Scientific American.
 during one dinner with his nemesis Auric Goldfinger, Bond had 18 drinks before somehow driving himself safely home. “Despite his alcohol consumption,” the study authors write, “he is still described as being able to carry out highly complicated tasks and function at an extraordinarily high level. This is likely ... pure fiction.”
Bond would have been sexually dysfunctional and there is no way to seduce so many ladies, as in the moment of truth the bed for Mr. Bond  would be a place for sleeping fighting horrendous headaches.

Silicon Valley mythology has created a super entrepreneur called Steve Jobs, which is a fiction and has nothing to do with the real person.

Someone asked the Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler why his works all seemed to treat the same subjects. He replied, "I write of love and death. What other subjects are there?"

If we look at the real Steve Jobs, we quickly realize that Steve - an adopted child - strives for love and acceptance. His last years - when he had the happiest family and biggest success an entrepreneur can dream, he fought with the cancer and the specter of death. Every day is precious.

What Gaurav recommends "don’t make excuses, don’t find joy in people-pleasing" are surface, observations of a much deeper yearning of a mortal Steve Jobs

Few people know Stanley Kubrick's movie Eyes Wide Shut with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman is inspired from an Arthur Schnitzler novella,  Dream Story . Here is final dialog from the movie:
 Bill: What are we going to do now?
Alice: I think we should both be grateful that we have come unharmed out of all our adventures, whether they were real or only a dream.
Bill: Are you really sure that?
Alice: Only as sure as I am that the reality of one night, let alone that of a whole lifetime, is not the whole truth. And no dream is entirely a dream.
I can see these lines are too deep for a  pep positive article on LinkedIn. Our success could be a dream or a reality, but we can never be sure. The very last lines are down to earth:

Alice Harford: I do love you and you know there is something very important we need to do as soon as possible.
Dr. Bill Harford: What's that?
Alice Harford: Fuck.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Silly Job Interview

In my previous blog, I wrote
This is the traditional HR... They are often looking for human beings that don't exist. The  candidates dress, rehearse, talk and write resumes hiding the real selves and faking to appear what they believe -  but they are never sure - the recruiter wants them to be.
This is nothing new. This sketch is from 45 years ago.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

How Twitter Built User Habits and Guns N' Roses

I watched Josh Elman live at on March 25  How Twitter Built User Habits . Believe it or not when twitter came out, Tweeter  started as an exotic, yes-I-tried-it-once.

Josh is guy who made Tweeter part of our lives, a new habit so powerful that unpopular governments can trigger street revolution is they ban it.

This talk is one of the most relevant learning in my life as product creator, product manager, whatever you call it You may have a great idea. You have the code. But this is not the essence.

Understanding is how you know whether you have a visitor or a regular user. 

- Just come once
- Come via a prompt
- Don't remember your name

- Use daily/monthly
- Come directly
- Top of mind

Josh  realized that if you came to Twitter 1-6x/month, there was a low chance that Twitter had become a habit for you. But if you came 7 - 8x/month, then you were using it enough and it had become a habit. For Twitter this type of insight from in-depth analysis was invaluable and moved them from something that was mildly working, to something that now has 232 million active users.

I am very surprised that this video has only 65 views on YouTube. But this video holds the key to success to almost any service intended to be used in the high tech industry.

It is amazing that Guns N' Roses - November Rain video has 236 million views, slightly more than Tweeter user base.

This is food for thought. We can inspire from both successes

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Aftershocks after the Cloudera 4.1 billion bombshell

There is a tremendous shock after the huge investment Cloudera got.
Big-data exuberance has surged with the recent news about how much money was raised by Cloudera, the frontrunner among start-ups distributing Hadoop, open-source software used for storing and parsing huge volumes of data. The total — mainly from Intel, but also venture capital firms — was $900 million, putting a value of $4.1 billion on the young company
In a joint white paper in 2011, written by Cloudera and Teradata, the conclusion was
Having both Hadoop and a data warehouse onsite greatly helps everyone learn when to use which.
But this week Cloudera announced Cloudera Enterprise 5 and the borderline between Hadoop and data warehousing becomes more fuzzy.

Teradata partnered with Hortonworks, one of Cloudera competitors, to release Teradata QueryGrid

Other big among smaller players is Pivotal . The CEO is Paul Maritz, ex #3 in Microsoft and native of Zimbabwe, a country I lived in the seventies (used to be called Rhodesia). They offer “an easy way to buy not only Hadoop, but all the important layers on top of it.” 

According to Nick Rouda, a big data warehousing consultant
Pivotal is making its bid with the bundling strategy. “It is offering a broader platform than the Hadoop players like Cloudera and Hortonworks, positioning itself as a one-stop shop,”
SAS is also changing it's products for data mining to include Hadoop.

From now on the game is big business not technology. Gartner estimated in the past about 1,000 accounts for all Hadoop vendors. Oracle has 400,000 accounts. IBM probably has a similar number.

Will the traditional data warehousing, like Teradata Labs, IBM and Oracle be under threat by the Hadoop newcomers (Cloudera, Hortonworks, MapR Technologies, Pivotal, etc) ? No, but it will erode the profit margins for the Data warehousing.

Big Data is organically part of the cloud technology, that Oracle dismissed first, then put all resources into it. As I wrote in my blog
Oracle will not be able to build a cloud business without eroding it's own mighty enterprise software  revenues.
 Looking at Oracle big data pages we read:
learn how Oracle engineered systems -- powered by Intel® Xeon® processor E5 and E7 families -- are designed to access, analyze, and store data more efficiently and cost-effectively to uncover new business insights. 
Sure, all is beautiful, except Intel now owns 18% of Cloudera and I expect soon Cloudera will run best on Intel platforms - because the devil is in the details.

This "must have Hadoop" craziness is tempered by reality. Big Data does not predict the future by itself. Even Google Flu Trends, the darling of Big-Data-as-Messiah speech writers, discovered that they predicted 30% to 50% more cases of flu than actually occurring.

Hadoop actually represents the "Distributed Computing" paradigm and you could think of it as a subset of Grid Computing. And Grid Computing is originator of the cloud computing.

Grid Computing experts can run a grid, but they are the only ones. See sample message from HTCondor users. Oh My God! Grid computing was too complex and too geeky to reach wide adoption.

Hadoop is less difficult to use, but not by much, see Cloudera Hadoop Hackathon pictures. These photos seem taken from the  first episode of HBO's Silicon Valley - you can watch it on you tube
Thomas Middleditch, left, and Josh Brener in “Silicon Valley,” a new HBO comedy
The sooner the Hadoop is buried into the data warehousing software, in such way that the Joe Shmo user doesn't know it exists, the bigger the adoption

She who offers the best user experience, wins.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

The need to hire non-conformists and underdogs

" Job seeking is the second greatest arena of social pretense in modern life — after dating." David Brooks advocates for hiring policies where non-conformists and underdogs  have real chances.

I would not be a blogger, if I would believe I have nothing to say. But  David Brooks is so compelling , I decided to quote the entire piece from March 31 New York Times opinion pages,

The Employer’s Creed

Dear Employers,

You may not realize it, but you have a powerful impact on the culture and the moral ecology of our era. If your human resources bosses decide they want to hire a certain sort of person, then young people begin turning themselves into that sort of person.

Therefore, I’m asking you to think about the following principles, this Employer’s Creed. If you follow these principles in your hiring practices, you’ll be sending a signal about what sort of person gets ahead. You may correct some of the perversities at the upper reaches of our meritocracy. You may even help cultivate deeper, fuller human beings.

Bias hiring decisions against perfectionists. If you work in a white-collar sector that attracts highly educated job applicants, you’ve probably been flooded with résumés from people who are not so much human beings as perfect avatars of success. They got 3.8 grade-point averages in high school and college. They served in the cliché leadership positions on campus. They got all the perfect consultant/investment bank internships. During off-hours they distributed bed nets in Zambia and dug wells in Peru.

When you read these résumés, you have two thoughts. First, this applicant is awesome. Second, there’s something completely flavorless here. This person has followed the cookie-cutter formula for what it means to be successful and you actually have no clue what the person is really like except for a high talent for social conformity. Either they have no desire to chart out an original life course or lack the courage to do so. Shy away from such people.

Bias hiring decisions toward dualists. The people you want to hire should have achieved some measure of conventional success, but they should have also engaged in some desperate lark that made no sense from a career or social status perspective. Maybe a person left a successful banking job to rescue the family dry-cleaning business in Akron. Maybe another had great grades at a fancy East Coast prep school but went off to a Christian college because she wanted a place to explore her values. These peoples have done at least one Deeply Unfashionable Thing. Such people have intrinsic motivation, native curiosity and social courage.
Bias toward truth-tellers. I recently ran into a fellow who hires a lot of people. He said he asks the following question during each interview. “Could you describe a time when you told the truth and it hurt you?” If the interviewee can’t immediately come up with an episode, there may be a problem here.

Don’t mindlessly favor people with high G.P.A.s. Students who get straight As have an ability to prudentially master their passions so they can achieve proficiency across a range of subjects. But you probably want employees who are relentlessly dedicated to one subject. In school, those people often got As in subjects they were passionate about but got Bs in subjects that did not arouse their imagination.

Reward the ripening virtues, not the blooming virtues. Some virtues bloom forth with youth: being intelligent, energetic, curious and pleasant. Some virtues only ripen over time: other-centeredness, having a sense for how events will flow, being able to discern what’s right in the absence of external affirmation. These virtues usually come with experience, after a person has taken time off to raise children, been fired or learned to cope with having a cruel boss. The blooming virtues are great if you are hiring thousands of consultants to churn out reports. For most other jobs, you want the ripening ones, too.

Reward those who have come by way of sorrow. Job seekers are told to present one linear narrative to the world, one that can easily be read and digested as a series of clean conquests. But if you are stuck in an airport bar with a colleague after a horrible business trip, would you really want to have a drink with a person like that? No, you’d want a real human being, someone who’d experienced setback, suffering and recovery. You’d want someone with obvious holes in his résumé, who has learned the lessons that only suffering teaches, and who got back on track.

Reward cover letter rebels. Job seeking is the second greatest arena of social pretense in modern life — after dating. But some people choose not to spin and exaggerate. They choose not to make each occasion seem more impressive than it really was. You want people who are radically straight, even with superiors.

You could argue that you don’t actually want rich, full personalities for your company. You just want achievement drones who can perform specific tasks. I doubt that’s in your company’s long-term interests. But if you fear leaping out in this way, at least think of the effect you’re having on the deeper sensibilities of the next generation, the kind of souls you are incentivizing and thus fashioning, the legacy you will leave behind.

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo

AI and ML for Conversational Economy