Google is an amazing organisation for gathering and processing data and then giving it to their software to learn from, that then changes the software. The data changes the software, the software changes that data, that data changes … etc.
Machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (anyone want to buy ArtificialIntelligence.ie btw?) are (I think) about using training data to perfect/improve things. Make that software better. Can we make our brain’s software better?
Those CAPTCHA things asking you to figure out what are bridges, traffic lights, road signs (and even chimneys!) are all there to create training data for their autonomous software for cars/drones/whatever they’re going to do next. Google Streetview has taken photos of every major road and street in the Western World at least and that’s some amount of data. The basics can be figured out by buying in street plans and other mapping data. Traffic lights, stop signs and so forth? They need human intervention at least for now. To be more human, Google needs to get more humans. And that’s where we come in. We’re making their data better which helps change their software which changes the data…
There are trillions of photos on Facebook that each perfect their facial recognition software. The more photos in, the better the software gets, especially when the software gets us humans to tag the photos. Now the software is suggesting who these people are so we’re just confirming more than telling the software who these people are. The software now figures out clothing types, food types, locations in those photos. Microsoft and Google have been doing that for years “show me all recent photos taken around the Louvre in Paris”.
Amazon has a service called Mechanical Turk that allows you to write a basic command structure that gets sent to people to do. A very famous one was the guy that paid people $0.02 to draw a sheep facing to the left. He got 10,000 made. Yeah, 2 cents to do something. Say you drew 3 sheep a minute. That means you’d earn $3.60 an hour. So it’s interesting that software that goes through so much data needs humans to polish it up, for now. How smart of Google and Facebook and Amazon to get humans to do work for them for free or for next to nothing.
Google Home and Amazon Alexa are also devices that are taking in training data. They log what 100s of millions of people are saying, so many languages, so many local dialects and accents. Every time you use that the device you paid for, you are training their software to be better. Now this benefits you too and we’ll eventually have devices that finish our sentences. The next step is the camera on the speaker that takes commands from nods or winks or simple hand gestures. We’re evolving from screwing in valves, to punching holes on cards, to keys on a keyboard, to voice, to subtle eye + finger + head moves.
This training data idea is not new at all at all. I did a post recently enough called Pattern Recognition that talks about this. I mentioned Poor Charlie’s Almanack where Charlie Munger has all these rules for making decisions. Knowing everything about your potential purchase and what can impact on it is crucial. And how would you know that? Study the data, study the patterns. Know humans. A quote from him “Acquire worldly wisdom and adjust your behaviour accordingly”
I’m reminded of the book Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef by Massimo Bottura. If a chef isn’t sampling the goods, trying things out and testing them then are they really progressing and moving forward? Now I know many skinny chefs that live off adrenaline and pot noodles but the book title is fair. Doesn’t look like they were using the training data.
As I was knitting this post together I saw this tweet pop up Writing advice from Haruki Murakami: “I think the first task for the aspiring novelist is to read tons of novels. Sorry to start with such a commonplace observation, but no training is more crucial.”
Charlie Munger – financier – advises people to read
Every author advises people to read
Buy some good books and read them, go to a library and read them.
Read some fucking books
The Fever-Tree of Milk: if two thirds of your coffee is the milk, wouldn’t you want it to be the best?
I’m always fascinated by the idea of work and craft. How a restaurant gets a Michelin Star and gets a second or a third. Getting your suppliers to grow old strains of grains, to breed certain strains of birds etc. This piece on the hard work and obsession with ingredients is inspiring. And Cork has a story just like that now thanks to Mews restaurant in Baltimore. Everything is local, as organic as they can find and everything has a purpose.
“If you stick to your vision and don’t compromise then you reap the rewards and the first step is the Michelin star. We knew what we were doing. We wanted to be one of the best restaurants in the country.”
I’ve eaten in a few Michelin Stars and some would blow you away with the work involved in dishes, for others I genuinely question how they were special and how they got an awards for anything more than media mentions. Nothing remarkable food wise and service only so so. Earlier there was the wonderful story of a father and son team growing real Wasabi in Ireland, something that’s even hard to grow in native Japan. The work involved in getting this to grow in Irish soil and in Irish weather shows real dedication. Already the top restaurants are asking to use it. This is a perfect match.
It was in Chapter One that Ed Jolliffe told me the story of Fever-Tree Gin and recommended it to me when I was having some Dingle Gin. Local! I loved the story and their pitch “if three quarters of your G&T is the tonic, wouldn’t you want it to be the best? “ So they went around the world getting the best natural ingredients. Then the bit I really loved – they targeted the best restaurants and best hotel bars who they probably knew would love to get something of this quality to pass on to their customers.
Sourcing local well reared meats, well caught fish, well grown veg is a big thing for this restaurant and some of the best ones around. Every piece of a meal has an origin story. You see and are told the work that goes in to presenting this to you. I remember at some point a desert was described where hot juice from apples was dropped into an ice bath to form little pure beads that was one minor part of the dish. Impressive.
The idea of owning and controlling the whole stack, like how Apple controls everything, both the hardware and the software but not just buying in the parts but dictating how the glass is made in the phones, designing their own chips to their spec, where the materials come from and having them made sometimes using machines they designed. Every single detail. I like that, compared to a fucking pickle on a stone I got in another Irish restaurant. Let the food speak for itself not go-faster-stripe bullshit. Shit coffee but the mugs were amazing yeah?
I see good restaurants do more and more of this as they have the swagger and purchasing power to do this even to the degree that the salt and pepper, the butters are special compared to what you’d normally get. Everything is examined to see can improvements be made. Teas and coffees were some of the last elements to be changed but this is changing. Special teas, bespoke roasted coffee blends. So coffee then…
It makes me think what can be improved in coffee and all the new intense-about-what-they-do coffee shops. I see all these coffee shops and some are roasting their own beans but yet you look at the milk and it’s the same milk that everyone else uses. We’re so lucky in Ireland that our milk is great. But I was wondering why the main element in most coffees is not consistent or being controlled more? To reuse Fever-Tree’s question: “if two thirds of your coffee is the milk, wouldn’t you want it to be the best? “
I remember being told how in LA bagel and pizza places would install special filters to mimic New York water that makes NY bagels the best. All to make sure everything is perfect. It wasn’t fully the water it seems though.
So what about the milk, what milk gives the best cappuccino, gives the best flat white? There is some research about milk with higher protein count and fat count giving a better taste. Yes yes soya milk and oat milk is popular too but people still go for ordinary milk in big amounts. Here’s the story of a crowd in the UK looking at this and like so much coffee culture, Australia has been looking into this for a much longer time.
Ireland of all countries should be at the cutting-edge of this, we produce great milk, cheese and anything dairy. We’re big into our bespoke dairy farms too so why not bespoke milk for our coffees that we seem to be consuming in bigger and bigger amounts? Start your milkers!
I started off trying to put these tips into a form of a Mnemonic or Acronym but R started appearing a lot so I decided to go for all Rs instead. These are a randomly ordered list of tips for doing presentations, the before, during and after. Tag friends or share this to your network if you think it would be of interest.
A lot. Rehearse, a lot. You need to read your presentation out loud. Reading internally you go faster so you’ll get your timings wrong. Know your quarter mark, half and three quarter marks so you can judge your timings. Could you do the presentation without your slide deck?
I use my slide deck as prompts more than anything so I would run through a presentation non-verbally 30-40 times and out loud 10-20 times. At least. Full run-throughs are needed. I don’t like the sound of my voice so I don’t record myself, I know of others that do though.
You need to agree on the topic and how they see the talk/presentation going, research who asked you to give the talk and what their goal is (they do not want to be the person who hired that crazy guy who said their industry is dead), the audience and specifics to all of those e.g. relevant case studies.
The easiest way people can remember/understand what you are going is compare your examples to something they already understand. “We’re Uber for plumbing jobs” “We’re Facebook for mothers”. Make sure your case studies, example are relevant to the audience you are talking to.
If you’ve done your research then your content needs to get the attention of the audience and retain their attention. Do you want to talk to 50 people or engage 50 people?.
A totally fresh deck and a new talk is very exciting but iterating on things you’ve done can be better as you know that stuff backwards and being familiar helps to ground you. Saying that, you don’t want to be like that guy that used the same case study for 3 years in his slidedeck for every talk that he gave. When your audience can give the talk you gave, why do they need you?
You can also test this work on a real but different audience before the main presentation by testing with smaller more informal audiences. Offer to give a talk at another event such as a BarCamp or one of the million TEDx talks that are always happening. To reference Jerry Seinfeld again and the documentary Comedian, he live tested the hell out of just a few jokes nonstop until he got it right.
Cut cut cut, cut all bits that slow you down. Too much is bad, if you have too little you can flesh it out on the fly but you don’t want to end up only half way done when your time expires.
Room + Recce
It would be good to visit the location and the room beforehand to get a feel for the place, if not, you can get photos taken by someone and/or have them fill out a checklist. So many times they tell you they have VGA and HDMI and when you get there you find out that the port has been damaged or works badly. A checklist isn’t a contract but it forces more onus on the venue to ensure it all works.
Respect the audience
Treat them like peers, talk to them like you are talking to a cousin at a family reunion. Don’t talk down to them, don’t try to bamboozle or mislead them. Share your talk/presentation like it is something wonderful you want them to know about.
I don’t like printing out my whole presentations plus most slides are image heavy and text light but I do hand out a summary sheet where people can add in their own notes.
For the live presentation:
Run through with the audience what you are going to say
Realise these points during the talk
Reflect with the audience on what you said
Presentation went well? Do it again and again and again with more live audiences.
Reactive and Randomness
Be ready for something going wrong like the AV going, the wifi going, the projector going. Someone sharing a terrible opinion or wanting you to explain something that has nothing to do with the topic.
Review + Revise
Post event, review how you thought about it, solicit constructive feedback from others. Remember though that everyone has an opinion on how you should present but the audience is the best critic. If they didn’t seem engaged, if they weren’t looking to ask questions urgently, if nobody came up to you afterwards, rejig your presentation!
I’m trying to get into blogging again so this is rambling.
Brian O’Connell interviewed me about phone addiction recently and I do think people are addicted to the scroll. I’m on Twitter too much, though I schedule my tweets so there’s that there is my excuse… Twitter roared into life and culture around 12 years ago and became big for a while. It allowed the instant spreading of thoughts or headlines and allowed people to react to it. If you blogged back then there was no way you could just fire off two sentences and that was enough. Explain yourself boy, elaborate what you mean kid, we didn’t come to your website for two lines of anything. With Facebook and Twitter feeds, we never left those spaces to read, one short bit after another was there.
I was going through how many winners of the Blog Awards ended up writing books. The original Blog Awards, mind, not the one that tried to trade off the thing I helped to start. My God there is some amount of authors from the list of winners. It goes to show that maybe the fair judging system combined with the raw talent that was there, writing, reading, giving feedback and creating a community gave people a road and map to keep going. They were going to be writers anyway, let’s be clear, their talent was there already.
You read it so much in interviews that the advice for writing from writers is just sit down and write. Create a routine and stick to it. A habit. Publishers also talk about recruiting people that have pre-made audiences so it is easier to sell them a book.
Anyway, why I got on to this was I found it really hard to write my 13th Ones to Watch post.It was a relief getting it done but it felt more rewarding too. This blog post I’m writing now feels like it is doing to stay around for a while, for years or longer. While my tweets are findable, they don’t feel permanent. Yet I’m firing off tweets all the time.
During the year there were so many times I wanted to write something but it was easier to write a tweet storm/Twitter thread. Perhaps it was the instant gratification of a Like or Retweet when tweeting and also perhaps banging out 140 characters or basically a one liner after another and another is much easier than stringing sentences and paragraphs together that have to flow. Twitter is writing bullet points whereas blogging is fleshing out the table of contents. We saw it back then with blogging, someone would take time off and then they were gone for good, not coming back.
I remember an old teacher of mine talking about Lent and how it is much easier to give something up than taking something on. I guess Twitter became the easier thing for many of us or even not Twitter but regular life. I used to write two blog posts a day for a few years. I had 2000 visits a day to this blog too. A habit. I got nothing done in my day job…
The people that make writing look easy I’m sure worked really hard to make it look that easy. The finished smooth work needed plenty of attention. Even now as I write this blog post I have various sentences that I’m writing out with points that I want to make and then I’ll create “joining sentences” or “bridging sentences” maybe? to stitch together these little islands of thoughts. This blog post is going to go through many edits, deletions and expansions before you get to see it. And it will probably sit there for a day or two but I hope no longer as I’ll not come back for weeks. Even writing this now I feel like the writing is helping me structure thoughts in my head. Writing brings clarity of thought.
And now I pick up on writing this a day later but at least I went off and wrote another blog post in the mean time which I’m happy about.
There’s been a big drop off in blogging by the people I know and a whole new wave of bloggers that have come in. Maybe we’ll see a new wave of authors come out of the current blogging community or maybe the creativity will have an outlet elsewhere? There have been Twitter users that have ended up creating books from these spaces though a lot of them seem like a book of fortune cookie phrases or one liner jokes. Sorry Gerry. What seems to work though is a single topic Twitter account such as The Irish For that makes so much sense to be made into a reference book of sorts. Which can then extend into something more for the next book/iteration. We’ve seen Facebook Groups create books too with “Oh my God What a Complete Aisling” turning into a book. The creators have mentioned though, like great comedians, they honed their skills over time before they produced this great work. This work has the legs to be a book, a play, a musical and TV show. A world was created in that Facebook Group.
Podcasts are being snapped up by studios like Netflix and others to option for TV shows and movies and books too. I would like to see more blogging from people in my social networks but it’s very hard to create this habit and kick another one but maybe where hard work and toiling of a craft come together no matter the media, we might see new creations and new works come out that will end up on book shelves or on the radio or TV, if we make a habit of it.
Recording the Big Tech Show podcast with Adrian yesterday, I suggested maybe Apple’s big push to be our guardian of privacy and taking shots at Facebook was part of their strategy for their AR glasses that are definitely on the way. This was after Roisin Kiberd expressed horror that Google Glass wasn’t dead and buried in a lead box under 50 tonnes of concrete. (This is how I saw her horror).
The Google Glass blowback was instant and has never been forgotten. The design didn’t help with this boxy looking thing that a surgeon might wear on their face but the main thing was that it was always recording and people did not like that. Maybe it didn’t help that those wearing Google Glass were the stereotype of the creepy white guy watching you from the bushes outside your bedroom.
Apple doesn’t comment on most societal things but they are going strong on privacy. Taking shots at Facebook though is their proxy for Google too. Google were smart about Android. They saw that Apple had a growing and eventual billion device platform that could influence search and the web itself. They were already paying billions to be the default search engine on iPhone and saw the traffic it was generating. Imagine if Apple switched to their own search engine and appls? So Google bought a phone operating system called Android, then they gave that software to any phone manufacturers and started making their own devices too. All those phones have Google apps that send traffic to Google and make Google ad revenue. That was fine but Google also started logging all you did on those phones and used that data to profile you. So Apple on the high end is selling €1300 “clean” phones and Android can be installed on €30 phones.
Android phones scoop up everything about you but Apple is making a lot of noise about the fact that your data on an iPhone stays on your phone and doesn’t phone home to Google/FBI/China etc. And Android allowed others to do the same. Everyone now assumes that Facebook logs everything and sucks up everything about you to their servers and uses that data to help advertisers run ads to you. If you want to bring out AR glasses then you are going to need to prime people that Apple glasses are going to respect privacy unlike those Google Glasses and whatever hardware device Facebook will try to build but will fail at.
Maybe Apple care a lot about privacy but if people will react badly to Apple Glasses then it will impact on them financially so technically Facebook and Google are a threat, not for their hardware they may make but because of all their privacy violations. In an age where so many people believe Facebook is listening in on you via your phones mic, it’s going to be a lot of work to convince people Apple are not recording people on Apple Glasses. I’m sure there’ll be a whole industry of people selling anti-glasses tech that you can wear, that you can install in a bar, that you can use to detect if you are being recorded. Most will probably be scammy. Then we’ll have the media stories of people with glasses being robbed, assaults, bad driving, people being assaulted because they were believed to be recording someone etc. etc. Or will Apple seed positive stories about the goodness of Apple Glasses? Not that they’d ever do that.