Srinivas Reddy’s Weblog

My Tech Rants

Open Aid data reflections

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I would like to share my idea that I had submitted to “Open Data Challenge” in this blog. Even if the idea has not made it to the winners, I think the idea is worth reflecting upon and hopefully implement it as well. The idea aims to use the “Open Knowledge Foundation” project IATI registry that maintains references to standardized XML file released by aid recipients, donors and intermediaries.

The idea is to create Datasets on grassroots agencies (NGO’s) working in development projects in a standard format (IATA format) by enabling ‘Self Service’ entry of such data by these organizations, including building useful visualizations on the datasets. This idea can take a lot inspiration from the World Bank aid visualizations that are currently available and AidData portal that tracks development finance. What I miss in the current solutions is a “Self Service” interface where recipients, donors and intermediaries can maintain the data for their grassroots development projects in a standardized format.

Who will benefit from this idea?

  • This will provide transparent information access to (potential) grassroots aid donors on current funding agencies, causes and recipients
  • Help (potential) receivers transparently access information on current funding agencies and causes
  • Help funding intermediaries better match the interests of donors and aid receivers
  • Enhances current aid data sets with grassroots aid data and makes the data more representative

What will be needed to implement this idea?

  • Need user studies with grassroots agencies on “open aid data” needs and willingness to contribute to “Self Service” data entry
  • Need to explore ways to aggregate grassroots aid data (both automated and manual)
  • Build infrastructure / tools to help ‘Self Service’ data entry of aid data in IATA format
  • Leverage related efforts regarding map features, API & Technology tools to help build visualizations. While CKAN IATI provides the basis needed for building grassroots aid data format and AidData platform can be extended with grassroots datasets it needs to be seen if data format needs changes/simplifications and to what extent current open visualization platforms can be reused

I would expect getting grassroots agencies to contribute to Open Aid data (be it manual or automated means) would be the biggest challenge. Given the potential transparency benefits for the Aid process it is well worth the effort to give it a try :)  Would be interesting to hear the views of others on it…

Written by srinivasreddy

June 19, 2011 at 6:35 am

Posted in CSR, opendata, Technology

Emerging Business models

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Watching the replays from the recent SAP Sapphire user conference two things that stuck out to me are – need for business model innovation and enabling micro consumption. Be it in the Enterprise IT industry or any other industry for that matter, Consumers demand  “Instant value based on Fresh content”. Most industry business models are not prepared for such agility.  This nice blog post @dahowlett highlights this for the Enterprise IT industry. While adopting to the bazaar business models pioneered by Open source software development become mainstream finding the right Content monetization model is the challenge. The music industry trends show case the current state of the art. The fact that Apple Appstore crossed the 500,000 mark recently shows that the power of micro consumption in the consumer IT has arrived. While Salesforce is trying to replicate this in the Enterprise space with the AppExchange and SAP with its EcoHub, Enterprise consumers can only benefit from the competition.

What is really preventing the traditional Enterprises from adapting the Bazaar type of Business model? The question if this is the right model for all Business to adopt is something I personally feel is not up for debate anymore. At the heart of adoption would be creating learning organizations that empower people to collaborate in the enterprise and across the Business network in a transparent way. In this context I like the thought on “social objects in the enterprise” by JP Rangaswami.  Making people across organisational boundaries to collaborate is difficult enough than the task of collaborating with business ecosystem is a major challenge to conventional organizational setups. The genY style leadership being promoted by Vineet Nayar from HCL is a good example on how we can get there. I also like the following statement from SAP Chief Sustainability Officer Peter Graf  “we need to manage entirely new type of resources – social impacts, environ impacts, network life cycle sustainability metrics (energy, water, ..) not just finance and enterprise assets (people, machinery,…)”.

I liked a statement from an expert at SAP Customer event Sapphire “Future is in harnessing diversity (be it people, technology, domains, systems) and ensuring interoperability for unlocking new value”. While the emphasis is mine, I think they highlight the key aspects of a Bazaar business model. Given the current smart customers who keep themselves informed in real time the next gen biz models begin with empowering the employees.  While providing “self service” access to content inside the enterprise has been mainstream for some time how this can be enabled for the business network will be key for the emerging business models. Enabling Amazon mechanical turk like efficiency to extended business process can make the “Bazaar” like business models possible.

Written by srinivasreddy

May 28, 2011 at 10:37 am

Posted in SAP, Technology

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Mobile user notes of a Tourist

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Having recently come back from a short vacation in London (UK) I would like to share some of my thoughts on Mobile usage status and needs as a Tourist in this blog.

– Before our trip we were doing some research on places to visit in London so as to optimize time and cost. Having consulted with some London resident friends, visitors and online travel sites we had come up with a initial short list on paper. I wanted a digital version of this list (kind of Tour itinerary)  with map integration to show location details. Basically during research stage I was navigating different websites (travel sites + Google maps) to arrive at a list of places to see. Ideally I would have liked to consolidate this list, get it pushed to my mobile device and provide offline access. Kind of briefing book interface of this content would be great. In reality it was a pretty inefficient process (add stress factor) to actually visit planned places and my expensive mobile was under utilized due to the expensive roaming charges. Considering the number of people who have a similar need there may be some business opportunity for a techie here …

-  I understand Google Maps offers some way to mark (star) locations that you can reuse, I was trying to star locations on the map (based on where I am) from Mobile device but looks this feature is not enable. I know they have some feature to help you track your movements remotely but that is not what I wanted (think of the roaming costs!)

– I tried to use the Google Maps street view but found it as a good idea but still practically useless, at least the current implementation on the mobile device (am using Android HTC Desire).  I found the need a few times that I need some visual assistance (kind of augmented reality support) to go a place from where I am.  I know there is a app for that but possible trying to startup a different app for each need is something even a techie like me had not done naturally

– I was trying to use Foursquare to check-in at some locations and get some tips. The data quality and interaction speed was so poor that I gave up after a few tries.  I was actually looking for some kind of location history (details for a tourist spot I am currently at) and info on other interesting sites nearby. Yes my travel guide provides this information but my “smart phone” can make this process more enriching and fun

– We found out it can be difficult to locate and meet people even knowing they are pretty close by. There should be easy way to share location information and guide the user to the shared location. I know given the accuracy of our GPS systems this is asking for too much but the mobile networks know enough to provide a good enough approximation.

– The biggest hurdle to mobile data usage is the roaming charges. This is still far too expensive currently for tourists. Given the promotion budgets of Governments’ & local businesses to attract tourists, its amazing that the only innovative business model for free Mobile internet usage is to go to Starbucks. At some locations open Mobile Wi-Fi networks were available but did not work at least for me.

– There were lot of promotional offers  with complex pricing models (be it for using the public transport, visiting tourist spots, hotel stay,..). It would be interesting to have a Groupon like service which not only makes last minute offers but also helps optimize standard tourist needs

– It was helpful to use Mobile to locate nearest food joints (the user interface can be better). Use of mobile search and usage of user reviews has arrived

– SMS based messaging is still the killer app for mobile. Given the noise level in London subways it was the best way to communicate. Expect this will be the case for most big city tourists but can imagine instant messaging may also be helpful (if only we can get most users to one system, Facebook?)

– I was impressed by the wealth on knowledge at the Natural History Museum. It is a bit sad that you have to be physically present there to experience this. Given the current E-Learning technologies creating virtual tours for the remotest of schools in the world should be feasible. Actually it was notable how understaffed the museum was, considering the looming British budget cuts this can only get worse. Mobile technologies may help to augment visitor experience in a efficient way. Every object in the museum had a great story to tell (be it the Dinosaur skeletons or the many rock samples…) if only we can make them smart enough to tell their own story and enable the visitors to engage with them in a whole new way…

– Last but not least I had to visit the Apple store to experience it first hand. It was amazing to see people still waiting in queues for hours to buy the iPad. I am convinced mobile internet is here and hopefully we will see mass market data charges sooner than later. The apps to make Tourist experience more rewarding will come Smile

Written by srinivasreddy

April 16, 2011 at 4:47 am

Posted in Mobile, Technology

Tagged with

Android User & Developer Notes

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Having recently got my HTC Desire HD android phone, I have been trying out lot of things, as a end User and Developer on it. In this blog I would like to share some of my experiences. As someone involved with Mobile app development I am impressed with the ease of use (even my 3 year old kid can use it) and feature set available. I better understand know why Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt keeps emphasizing ‘get your best developers to work on Mobile!’.

After getting to startup my device (must say slot to insert mobile card in the phone can be better) as probably most people do I installed social networking related apps (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare). It was interesting to note LinkedIn had no own app (unlike for Blackberry) for Android. The usage of Android Appstore itself to find and install apps was easy. But still not sure what’s the difference between HTC likes and Market app installed on the device by default to install apps from the appstore. Having added a 8 GB SD card could at least could install apps without needing to worry about space and the good search integration in device makes the lookup experience nice. Liked the integration of Google content in the device including Reader app (to read blogs), People (i.e. contacts, like the way it links contacts from facebook and other services), GMail, Maps, YouTube, Google Places, Google Earth, Google Sky and Googles. While some of the applications clearly need more work the current feature set is also impressive. I mostly find my self using the Barcode Scanner app to scan barcodes on my PC to install apps on my mobile, its kind of neat and no typing effort Smile  

Other apps I am currently using include MobileVoip (as a Voip user find this pretty convenient), Dropbox (like the idea of access to files anywhere, but would expect google docs would do this for me sometime…), Evernote (like to idea of digital notes but did not use much still), Barcoo (a consumer app to scan barcodes to get product information). There are some apps installed for Exchange rate info (does not work currently…), Weather and Stock information as well.  As for the games have the usual suspect top rated free apps (Angry Birds, Talking Tom, Dora Memory, Kids Puzzle/Number games, Teeter,..). Mostly motivated by my kids needs, but must say he really loves them all!. It would be great if you could just export all installed apps and share it, maybe just need to find the app that does it Winking smile

Now to switch gears and put on my Developer Hat. Its nice to use the many apps out there but it would be more fun to develop own application Smile  I tried this out using the Android SDK with Eclipse plugin and using the Adobe Burrito release.  While details on using them can be content for next blog, in short its easy to use the environments to quickly develop apps for Android. The Video of my demo app developed using the Adobe Burrito can be found below. This demo (work-in-progress) adapts the Flex Mobile Survey Ape sample app to work against the SAP River platform.  

I found using Mocking UI development tools particularly useful to think through the Mobile application idea and share with others. Some tools that I tried out and can suggest are AppInventor tool from Google and Balsamiq mockup tool, I find the latter tool better. If you plan to work on Mobile apps in the SAP environment than projects in SAP Code Exchange can provide a good starting point. This blog on using SAP Xcelsius on Andorid phone, also gives some idea of potential for Mobile content on Android.  Using OCR cloud service to automate data capture on the device is one area I find interesting in context of mobile apps. Hopefully I was able to inspire you to use and build apps for the Mobile platform..

Written by srinivasreddy

February 28, 2011 at 8:35 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Design of Design

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Having recently read the book “The Design of Design” by Frederick Brooks, a legendary Computer Scientist, I would like to share some of my related thoughts in this blog post. Everyday we are “consumers” of design decisions of different people (be it in the laptop where I currently write this post with, Chair I am currently sitting in….) and at the same design many things ourselves (be it in the blog post I am writing, the projects we undertake,…).  Given the importance of Design in everyday life (without getting into details on “what is design”?) its worth to spend some time to think about the process of Design itself without getting to abstract about it. This book is a good starting point for this.

Some key (personal) notes from this book

– The hardest part of design is deciding what to design.

– In design process “problem and solution space” are moving targets

– Successful designs are end user driven designs. The success of open source software can be to a good extent attributed to the fact that the developers (ex: Linux OS) where also users of the software

– “Design” reflects the mind of the designer and design team

– Coherence/Integrity of Design reflect in the product as a whole and in every element of it and are a hallmark of a great designer

– Identify “critical resource” in design and optimize for it. Use “constraints” to innovate and scope the project

– Follow “key design achievements” in your domain past & present. You should learn from “prior art” to understand the “design constraints” and related decisions

– Design process to follow (water fall, Spiral,…) relate to design complexity of the project

– Globalization driven specialization makes it difficult to have a “Chief Designer” who can manage it all. Still a core design team needs to ensure “consistency” in design

– “Design Contests” may be a good way to solve critical design problems and ensure grassroots innovation

– End users need to know details on “design decisions” to ensure better outcomes. Designers are also “human”

– Articulated guesses beat unspoken assumption. Former allows debate for improvement

– Design = Orthogonal (decouple things) + Propriety (less is more) + generality (extensible)

– “Delight” comes from superior elegance of solution and not novelty per se. Design for the end use.

– Several micro decisions reflect the designers style

– Need right design visualizations for different stake holders to understand and contribute

Hopefully I can make use of at least some of this advice in my next designs Smile

Written by srinivasreddy

January 31, 2011 at 6:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Which platform(container) should your application(content) target?

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My last blog post was about what new applications can be built, in this blog I would like to share my thoughts on how we should be building them. Having recently read this blog post on Timeless software, I like the idea of thinking in terms of container (read platform if you like) and content (aka application). I had blogged a log time back how offering ‘Everything as a Service’ was the trend for IT industry, looks this still holds true. One could potentially build a custom container for hosting their content but considering the resource constraint most apps wouldn’t do it. This Oreilly Media  youtube video gives a good overview on the container/content battles happening in the Internet economy. Given that some key containers (ex: social network by Facebook, search by Google, Smartphone by Apple/Google,…) have established providers while for other intense battle is currently underway, it’s a real challenge to bet on one container to build the app on.

Taking a value chain approach would help on deciding the container of choice. The most important being the target consumption audience. Based on the end-user of application several constraints (ex: need for a native app or browser based, on premise/cloud or mixed offering, ..) limit container choice. The procurement options (be it of hardware, reusable software components, skilled development team, ..) also to an extent constrain the choice. Container support for the production process (be it for application lifecycle management, built-in data models, legacy integration options, ..) is a important criteria.  Last but not least the monetization options offered by the container (ex: revenue sharing model, appstore to enable delivery, support and relationship management options, ..) are important.

I would be personally interested in building applications in Sustainability and E-learning domains.  Typical container requirements would include support for collaboration (ex: office documents, content management systems, ..), support for transactional/analytical data models ( ex: Asset management, Course management, ..) and support for legacy integration (ex: migrate/integrate asset data, integrate energy data from external data sources, ..). Current container options to build such a application can range from using Infrastructure services from Amazon (be it for compute or store), using Microsoft Azure services (considering current Microsoft on premise options not ideal for next gen apps), build on the Salesforce platform, build on the Google app engine platform, use hosting services from vendors such as Rackspace and build on open source components (ex: WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, ..) or build on the SAP Business ByDesign platform, to list a few of the many options.

As you can see making the container choice is complex and risky! While we can only expect the container/content battles to intensify in the future using open standards and open data maybe the best guidance in preventing any vendor locking and ensuring hopefully a ‘Timeless Software’. Wishing all readers a Happy New Year hopefully you will have a successful 2011!

Written by srinivasreddy

December 31, 2010 at 7:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

Which platform(container) should your application(content) target?

leave a comment »

 

My last blog post was about what new applications can be built, in this blog I would like to share my thoughts on how we should be building them. Having recently read this blog post on Timeless software, I like the idea of thinking in terms of container (read platform if you like) and content (aka application). I had blogged a log time back how offering ‘Everything as a Service’ was the trend for IT industry, looks this still holds true. One could potentially build a custom container for hosting their content but considering the resource constraint most apps wouldn’t do it. This Oreilly Media  youtube video gives a good overview on the container/content battles happening in the Internet economy. Given that some key containers (ex: social network by Facebook, search by Google, Smartphone by Apple/Google,…) have established providers while for other intense battle is currently underway, it’s a real challenge to bet on one container to build the app on.

Taking a value chain approach would help on deciding the container of choice. The most important being the target consumption audience. Based on the end-user of application several constraints (ex: need for a native app or browser based, on premise/cloud or mixed offering, ..) limit container choice. The procurement options (be it of hardware, reusable software components, skilled development team, ..) also to an extent constrain the choice. Container support for the production process (be it for application lifecycle management, built-in data models, legacy integration options, ..) is a important criteria.  Last but not least the monetization options offered by the container (ex: revenue sharing model, appstore to enable delivery, support and relationship management options, ..) are important.

I would be personally interested in building applications in Sustainability and E-learning domains.  Typical container requirements would include support for collaboration (ex: office documents, content management systems, ..), support for transactional/analytical data models ( ex: Asset management, Course management, ..) and support for legacy integration (ex: migrate/integrate asset data, integrate energy data from external data sources, ..). Current container options to build such a application can range from using Infrastructure services from Amazon (be it for compute or store), using Microsoft Azure services (considering current Microsoft on premise options not ideal for next gen apps), build on the Salesforce platform, build on the Google app engine platform, use hosting services from vendors such as Rackspace and build on open source components (ex: WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, ..) or build on the SAP Business ByDesign platform, to list a few of the many options.

As you can see making the container choice is complex and risky! While we can only expect the container/content battles to intensify in the future using open standards and open data maybe the best guidance in preventing any vendor locking and ensuring hopefully a ‘Timeless Software’. Wishing all readers a Happy New Year hopefully you will have a successful 2011!

Written by srinivasreddy

December 31, 2010 at 7:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized