The objective for Mr. Felton and others is to seize data back from the statisticians and the scientists and incorporate it into our daily lives. Everyone creates data -- every smile, conversation and car ride is a potential datapoint. These quotidan aggregators believe that the compilation of our daily activities can reveal the secret patterns that govern the way we live. For students of personal informatics, the practice is liberating because it shows that our lives aren't random, and are more orderly than some might expect.
Mr. Felton calls his compilation the Feltron Annual Report; the slight alteration of his name connotes the mechanical nature of his autobiographical cataloging effort, now entering its fourth year. He plans to continue his project over the next decade in what he hopes will result in a modern-day spin on James Boswell's famously detailed biography of Samuel Johnson. "I want to create connections where I didn't know that they existed," Mr. Felton says. "I'm a natural annotator."
Brainstorming, Mr. Boyd says, is the most overused and underperforming tool in business today. Traditionally, brainstorming revolves around the false premise that to get good ideas, a group must generate a large list from which to cherry-pick. But researchers have shown repeatedly that individuals working alone generate more ideas than groups acting in concert. Among the problems are these: Throwing in an idea for public consideration generates fear of failure, and workers looking to advance their own interests often keep their best ideas to themselves until a more opportune time.
Instead of identifying a problem and then seeking solutions, Mr. Boyd suggests turning the process around: break down successful products and processes into separate components, then study those parts to find other potential uses. This process of “systematic inventive thinking,” which evolved from the work of the Russian engineer and scientist Genrich Altschuller, creates “pre-inventive” ideas that then can be expanded into innovations.
DUBAI is one of those magical places that seem too good to be true. Along with the far larger and richer Abu Dhabi, it is one of seven city-states in the loose United Arab Emirates federation, which gained independence in 1971 from the overextended British empire.
Amazon has become a major player in cloud computing in recent years. Many Web startups have come to rely on its pay-as-you-go hosting and computing services rather than investing in costly and complex infrastructure of their own. The newest offering from Amazon Web Services, called Cloudfront, may provide insight into Amazon's long-term business model. This new product offers companies that are already hooked on Amazon storage and processing the ability to distribute their content and thus make themselves more stable and reliable.
"TV is becoming like the Web," Desai says. From an advertiser's perspective, he has a point. In the 1980s, a popular TV program like The Cosby Show might have captured half the viewers in the entire United States; today's most popular shows, like American Idol, are lucky to capture a fourth of the whole audience. The difference is that there are dozens of channels now, each catering to a different set of viewers. As Desai notes, this is a lot like the Web: the audience is out there, but it's split into small bits consuming a wide variety of content.
Huge quantities of information are never more than a few clicks away on the Web, but it's not always easy to see what things were like yesterday. News stories and blog posts might be archived, but other information often gets lost. For instance, while it's trivial to find a book's sales ranking on Amazon today, it's less simple to see what it was last week. And for anyone curious about how news evolves, it might not be obvious how a story's prominence has changed--did it get top billing on news sites the day it broke, or was it buried at the bottom of the page? A new tool called Zoetrope is designed to help track such information by letting users browse backward through time.