April 12, 2016

The Future of Economics May Be in the Hands of Machine Learning

Historically, the discipline of economics has always been categorized among the social sciences, which means the word ‘science’ should be understood as somewhat loosely applied. Unlike the natural sciences, which are prescribed as strictly positivist and bound by the ideals of empirical truth to only build theories around quantitative data that can be measured and duplicated, social sciences are often influenced by observations that are open to interpretation. In social sciences, research models can be eclectic, built from combination of qualitative and quantitative data. And conclusions drawn from models like that are prone to the influence of bias and personal ideologies. Not that hard sciences can’t also be prone to bias and ideology. It’s just that the whole point of the strict empirical research model is to limit the potential for bias and interpretive ambiguity.

Collaboration Technology Fuels Innovation for States and Localities

Collaboration forms the cornerstone of the innovative work conducted at the North Carolina Innovation Center, which is run by the state’s Department of Information Technology (DIT). The iCenter both showcases collaborative workspace options and technologies and puts them to work helping the departments the DIT serves. “When Governor Pat McCrory first envisioned the iCenter, it was primarily about creating a culture of collaboration throughout the state to better serve citizens,” says North Carolina CIO Keith Werner. The agency has been fortunate to work with partners to demo equipment and furniture without burdening taxpayers, he adds. Determined to run lean, DIT took advantage of existing resources on both the personnel and the facility side.

From tech supplier to IT service provider, a CIO makes the 'big switch'

"IT is not just an enabler of certain processes but part of the delivery of every product and service we offer," Watkins said. Indeed, the company itself was undergoing a transformation, Watkins said. KAR no longer wanted to be a car auction company that uses technology but "a technology company that sells cars," he said. IT had not kept up with the vision. "With the convergence of these technologies, business demand skyrocketed and created a wide gap between business expectations and IT delivery. Something had to switch," Watkins said. ... "We need our staff to be agents of change. The status quo doesn't get it done. We have to look at things differently. We have to be problem solvers. We have to bridge siloes between IT and operations, between one IT team and another IT team, and between being a technology provider and being a service organization," he said.

Windows XP still powers 181 million PCs two years after support ends

Even though Microsoft retired Windows XP two years ago, an estimated 181 million PCs around the world ran the crippled operating system last month, according to data from a web metrics vendor. Windows XP exited public support on April 8, 2014, amid some panic on the part of corporations that had not yet purged their environments of the 2001 OS. Unless companies paid for custom support, their PCs running XP received no security updates after that date. Consumers were completely cut off from patches, with no alternatives other than to switch to a newer operating system or continue running an insecure machine. But two years after XP’s support demise, nearly 11% of all personal computers continue to run the OS, data for March from U.S.-based analytics vendor Net Applications showed.

The digital effect on the BPM lifecycle

The shift from traditional to digital business goes well beyond incremental improvement. In metaphorical terms, moving from the railroad to the automobile would be incremental change; the transition from traditional to digital business would be more like moving from the automobile to the space shuttle, i.e. whole new game, new players, new rules, new stakeholders, and importantly, new risks and new rewards. ... It is a marvelous instantiation of the chicken and the egg: does the business enable the technology or does the technology enable the business? I will, for now, be comfortable with the simple answer: YES. Let the philosophers amongst us continue to impress their cocktail party friends with the more verbose answers and profound wisdom that can only be found in the third glass of wine.

DataStax believes multi-model databases are the future

DataStax added to its own multi-model capabilities with the announcement of DataStax Enterprise (DSE) Graph, a scaled-out graph database built for cloud applications that need to manage highly connected data. Graph databases are a specialized form of NoSQL database intended to address relational data, but in a much more efficient and scale-out manner. "Graph is an excellent method of evaluating, expressing and analyzing previously unrecognized relationships in data," Gartner's Heudecker and fellow analyst Mark Beyer wrote in their July 2015 report, Making Big Data Normal with Graph Analytics. "Instead of examining and analyzing data as a set of discrete and unrelated atomic elements, graph allows for the exploration of the frequency, strength and direction of relationships in data."

Security researchers defeat reCAPTCHA

The system uses techniques to bypass CAPTCHA security measures such as tokens and cookies as well as machine learning to correctly guess images presented to it. The researchers said the system they had devised was “extremely effective”, automatically solving 70.78 percent of the image reCaptcha challenges, while requiring only 19 seconds per challenge. The trio also applied this attack to the Facebook image captcha and achieved an accuracy of 83.5 percent. The researchers said that the enhanced accuracy of the attack system on Facebook's security was down to the higher-resolution images it used. Google's lower resolution images make it difficult for the automated system to classify images.

Top 5 misconceptions about Big Data

The business opportunities for big data can be significant. One of the more straightforward examples which didn’t involve any exotic new practices or people is Guess Inc. They were able to re-engineer their data pipeline to completely transform the experience of managing their retail stores. In the old world the store managers had a weekly printed report. In the new world they have real-time, dynamic information about their store, their customers, and brand & loyalty programs. So Guess was able to overhaul the process of decision-making. If they’d just focused on doing more of the same, this wouldn’t have happened. ... Some organizations are large enough to bear the cost of being Hadoop experts. Many aren’t. And the degree of expertise required for the care and feeding of Hadoop is highly dependent on how it’s being used.

Why Solving Problems Always Leads to More Problems, and How to Stop the Madness

A problem, once solved, merely restores the status quo. Solving it gets you back to where you were before the problem arose, but brings no lasting difference to the situation. A staff member quits, we recruit a new one, and now we're right back where we were. The customer gets angry, we send them flowers and give them a credit, and we're back on an even keel with them. But nothing has changed. An obstacle, when solved, measurably changes the situation, or even the business as a whole; things are never the same again after we solve it. And because we solved the obstacle, it dramatically reduces the number of problems we will have going forward. That's one way you know you're solving obstacles, because the number of related problems are permanently reduced.

Claire Agutter on IT Service Management and Future Practices

ITSM is defined as an organization’s capabilities to deliver IT services that support the business. It can include people, processes, tools, suppliers…pretty much anything that makes up an IT service. For example, think about your own organization without email, remote working, printing etc. How would it look? IT service management has been developing as long as IT and technology itself. Because IT services support business processes, they need to be dependable, reliable and do the job they are meant to do. If IT is failing, the business suffers. Not many businesses can cope with paper and pens now. Many organizations realized quickly that IT needed to be governed for them to get value.

Quote for the day:

"Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal." -- Henry Ford