Release 4.0

Friday, May 16, 2003

A parade of interesting people
THis week I met with a variety of interesting companies, starting with SJ Labs, a voice over IP company. I went into the meeting skeptical, and came out enthusiastic, especially after a brief demo. I've just gotten two cell phones, one for the US and one for Europe (more because of billing issues than rechnical roaming problems), and started a blog. To be truly modern, I think, I need VoIP on my PC....

Next came my old friend Chris Houle, who has now joined Quantrix, a startup that offers more powerful modeling than you can get in a spreadsheet, but complementary to a spreadsheet and as simple as one. Think Improv, the stunning modeling tool that Lotus developed for Steve Jobs' NeXT machine, or Metaphor, the company that came (indirectly) out of PARC.

I also had a discussion with Don McLagan, ceo of Compete. this is an interesting company that tracks behavior of (anonymous) users, primarily so that marketers can accurately predict sales and best figure out how to go after specific markets. What intrigues me is what I see as a trend towards analysis of nonquantitative data; I also recently wrote about a company called Intelligent Results, which analyzes call-center reports to understand the prospects for delinquent loans. (It will be up on my Website shortly.) If anyone comes across any more such examples, I'd be eager to hear about them. I hope to take this on as a serious topic sometime in the fall. (Google recently bought Applied Semantics, whose AdSense also fits into this category.)

posted by Esther 3:11 PM

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Back to the blog
Yeah, it's well-known that most blogs die in infancy... but I couldn't bear to let that happen to this one. My problem is not lack of interesting things to do, but lack of time to write about them. (Plus, many of the "events" in my life are private.meetings..) It's easy to get excited about writing a blog in the company of other bloggers, as at Tim O'Reilly's Etech conference... but then when you go out into the real world, it's different.

SO rather than try to recap the entire two weeks, some highlights (remembering that blogs originated not as commentary, but as listings plus annotations).

Last weekend I was at the Santa Fe Institute's board meeting, an interesting occasion. The Institute has been tremendously successful in its initial mission - to spread the science of complexity/emergence/adaptive systems throughout the world, and now it has to produce an encore...which it is doing in tantalizing areas such as astrobiology, economics/game theory, and the like.. I have been a trustee for nine years, and now my last term is up, but I still love the place. We heard some interesting talks, among others, by Marc Feldman, David Krakauer, Ellen Goldberg and George Cowan, all affiliated with SFI.

Later in the week, in a delightful counterpoint, I heard my own brother, George Dyson, give a talk to a small fundraiser/donor thank-you at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where we both grew up, and where he is a resident scholar this year. It was intriguing to be a trustee at one place, and (indirectly) staff at the other. George's talk, which delighted the other people there as much as it did me, touched on the Institute's history and its luminaries, including Janos von Neumann, Einstein, Oppenheimer and (recently died) Julian Bigelow, of whom George is a great champion. In short terms, Bigelow built the machine that von Neumann designed. But a lot of what George has discovered in the archives is touchingly human - memos about the computer guys taking too much sugar at the Institute teatime in the great hall, discussions of where to put their offices - next to Goedel in a spare room, or in more spacious digs in the basement next to the men's lavatory... (there was a certain prejudice amongst some of the scientists against mere engineers.) And my favorite memo - the one banning children under 10 years old from dining privileges!

More soon, I promise! (just putting the stake back in the ground....)

posted by Esther 1:55 PM

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Esther's travelogue