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Archive for May, 2006

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Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

I left one big question hanging in that last entry, though I knew the answer. I meant to leave real space between leaving Inxight and picking what to do next. Though this part was and wasn’t so on purpose, the separation of entries mirrored the thinking. Answer is … starting another company with a co-founder who found me through a friend of mine.

I met Yossi for the first time in mid-April. The week before, I got an incredible offer from SAP. Just 2 weeks before that I’d formally declared my intent to move on, though really six months earlier I’d promised myself that April was it, and said so to Inxight CEO Ian Bonner. During those six months of knowing mentally that I would move on, it was thrilling to feel free and to be ‘available’. But the process had a natural structure of opening, middle, and closing.

The meeting with Yossi started the five week dash to decide despite my intention to wait awhile. SAP and other BigCos could wait for moons with no impact; in the other case, I could feel the ticking, the beating. And the decision came down to these two ends of a spectrum. Either the largest enterprise-software company (note the dash) or the smallest (zero everything).

Two offers I felt I couldn’t refuse. Carlin, my wife, wondered whether if I couldn’t accept either, that perhaps I should turn down both. Utterly sensical, or perhaps radical. Friends, family, new acquaintenances listened, many placed their bets silently, after making sure I wasn’t missing anything major. Most everybody said you have to decide, go with your gut, or follow your heart. You know.

The founding route appeared so suddenly. Magically, as if the universe was saying that I shouldn’t go the easy way to the great offer sitting there. “Hell no, don’t go.” Or that I needed to be a founder even if I was saying I didn’t want to be just yet. “Swing, baby, Swing.”

Was it too fast? Not an affair, but perhaps a rebound? The old man in me was saying, let one go. And the young man, well, you know. One friend said, “as to options developing (too) fast, that’s the v. nature of good ones.”

We’ll see. Meanwhile, my heart is beating loud and clear.

Inxight, Ce N’est Pas Moi
Saturday, May 27th, 2006

It’s true, I am moving on and am truly excited about next things. Bittersweet? A friend asked. No, more like Wistful Sweet.

Twenty years ago today, I drove out alone from MIT to California in a Blue Standard-Shift Celica to do a thesis at PARC. And it’s been one long trip through PARC and Inxight until now. Roughly 10 at PARC and 10 at Inxight. The journey for me was to be part of inventing things and then taking them out into the world until everybody is using them.

I do feel that this has happened in a way. Just as it happened for PARC in general. When people say, a little too loosely, that PARC didn’t succeed, I usually respond, PARC succeeded, Xerox didn’t in fully capitalizing on it, and if they had, you wouldn’t have all what you have today. Xerox did fine. And, Inxight is doing fine, never better.

Inxight is a huge part of me. It’s a big step to leave. And in a sense, I will never leave. My long-ago Xerox badge still hangs in a showcase at Inxight. Some day I may take it and other things on the walls that belong to me. Until then, I remain an advisor, shareholder, and most importantly, a friend.

A thousand thanks to all that helped, for the time, knowledge, money, support, and fun along the way

Link Love
Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

One moment in the blogger’s corner at Sapphire06 last week, I overheard the execution of Jeff Nolan and Julia French on getting a little “link love,” for us bloggers (I’m almost there to fitting in). This struck me as quite hilarious, though it’s not like I haven’t received “let’s crosslink” email, or that I’m clueless on the nuances of collaborative separations in the real world (ever hear of the separation of church and state or editorial and advertising?).

Well, it happens naturally. A number of the bloggers have listed and linked the other bloggers, and now Charlie has really nailed the experience of being in the pen together with a blogger corner’s link love letter. And though his toast toward me is certainly, well, nuanced, I’m grinning sheepishly. There’s a secret coded message in that last line.

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Well, Charlie, let me just say, now, I’ve decided, in fact today, and you needn’t worry that I’ll have nothing to say next time.

Detect the Expected, Discover the Unexpected
Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

I’m attending the Spring meeting of the VAC Consortium at Stanford. This is a collective effort of gov, edu, and com people surrounding the new field of “Visual Analytics.” Significant seed and foundational funding comes from the Department of Homeland Security, but Academia, other Government Agencies, and even Industry will fall in on this amazing start. The quite well-formulated R&D Agenda, as authored by an all-star cast of researchers and scholars, integrates information sensemaking, information visualization, information presentation, and analytical processes as a new integrated pursuit that can have an impact on big challenges facing the country (and the world).

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This overall effort exhibits broad thinking about the fuller and longer game of creating and sustaining progress in applying sensemaking and action-creating technologies. It’s not just about funding research, but also about stimulating many other elements of the ecosystem from educational to commercialization. The R&D agenda (and funding) is strong enough that many researchers will recategorize work, special issues of journals will appear, rebranding of workshops and conferences, and eventually somebody will declare themselves the first tenured professor in Visual Analytics. Lest you laugh from commercial land, worry the day you may be reporting to a CVAO.

The first meeting was last Fall at the National Visual Analytic Center created at Battelle’s Pacific Northwest Lab. This second meeting at Stanford marks the rollout of activity to four RVACs (Regional), and the first GVAC (Government). Each center will be presenting their initial research directions and activities.

The Opening Keynote by Marti Hearst, focused on the tighter tying together of front end presentation (visualizations) with back end processing (e.g. text analysis). Her talk itself mirrors the pulling together of topics a little more tightly now. She has certainly worked in the consitutent areas (in fact I worked with her on these years ago at PARC), but provoke by her looking closer at what was happening, she created a new talk rather than sequence through talklets from courses and other keynotes.

Tomorrow, I’ll moderate (not a verb that comes to friends’ mind for the noun me) a panel focused on how this tremendous collaboration of participants can accelerate knowledge, inventions, innovations along the technology pipeline from research to mission impact. The panelists represent the practical realities of building solutions and serving real users in the most challenging and complex techno-social environments I’ve ever seen. As part of this panel, we borrow a move from the hotter Internet world: the 5 minute (you-get-hooked) Demo or Showcase pitch. There will be five such pitches in the middle of a discussion about how we can reshape our activity all the way back from the point of impact to improve arrival time and rate.

Sapphire Gems and Nuggets
Sunday, May 21st, 2006

Sucked into an enterprise process speech pattern, I’d have to say this post concludes the “Badge to Back” process: Sapphire06 was quite the whirlwind trip into the world of large enterprise process applications. I’ve been to many, many conferences, but this is the first time, I’ve been to the ecosystem conference of a mega-vendor (unless you count Java One). Around 16,000 attendees and 200 Hardware and Software Vendors and Service Providers exhibiting on the tradeshow floor that seemed a good 15 minutes to cross.

As per my last posting, I attended on a “Blogger Badge,” (thanks to Jeff Nolan, Mike Prosceno, and Stacey Fish). Certainly the highlights for me were the many gems of interactions with the bloggers, certainly in the Blogger’s corners, in our combined meetings w/ SAP execs, and also at the various social events.

Besides Sapphire postings across the lot, bloggerly essences certainly comes out in Niel’s story on his naked conversation with SAP’s CEO and Charlie’s comment on blogger’s self-organizing and aggregating their efforts and syndicating their work, somewhat differently than press and analyst. And Vinnie, an ex-Gartner analyst, has certainly retooled as a blogger extraordinaire, even punctuating his conversion with a self-imposed limit to two questions after others bloggers at a Blogjam with trailblazer SAP executive Dennis Moore.

The world of big enterprise applications certainly seems faraway from my usual interests in rich user experiences, individual sensemaking tools, text analytics, information flow and so on. The big applications of ERP, CRM, SCM, HR, SRM and so on from SAP and Oracle (including PeopleSoft and Siebel) are predominately about organizational control, orderliness, and efficiency. Yet, I see a distinct leaning toward the themes of intelligence and knowledge processes above and even beyond the “systems of record.” Central services for business intelligence, content, search, and collaboration; metadata management services to the stores in different applications; composite application to organize flows across different portions of the business; and new consistent and simplified user interface layers all prominently appear in demonstrations, presentations, and discussions.

A long way to go, for sure, but necessary prerequisites to moving up the hierarchy of needs appear to be falling into place now. Consolidation and rationalization of the fundamental process systems using a Service-Oriented Architecture designed to supposedly lend themselves to composition and reuse will perhaps create the basis for organizational sensemaking at a level that hasn’t been possible before.

Confused Identity
Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

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I’m attending Sapphire ’06 invited as a blogger. Well then, if
they say I’m a blogger, then I’m a blogger. This despite having
a grand total of two entries in the last year. And never being a
regular poster in five years of having a blog. Perhaps, being
called a blogger, is what I needed to get going blogging
regularly. Perhaps not, but at least, I’ll post a few entries as
I make sense of SAP, the crusty apps that dominate the world
inside firewalls, and the prospects for better information
interaction in this world.