Monday, August 30, 2010

比開發推薦系統更好的賺錢方法

上周末,資訊科技和財經類媒體紛紛報導Paul Allen (微軟的共同創辦人,地球上最有錢的人之一),控告(起訴書)各大網路及資訊廠商侵犯了他所投資公司 Interval Research 所擁有的專利,被告苦主包括Aol, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, Officemax, Staples, Yahoo, and YouTube,有人說除了微軟之外,所有人都是他的標的

依照 Wired 的報導,其中兩個專利和推薦系統有關,一個專利是根據消費者這正在閱覽的頁面來決定向用戶推薦物品,另一個則是根據讀者正在閱讀文章的內容和超連接,向讀者推薦新聞故事。

Forbes 的專欄作者 Lee Gomes 對這則新聞的反應很直接
This is yet another example of the cynical use of the American legal system to extort money out of successful companies — in the name of protecting innovation and innovators. Shame on Paul Allen for being part of it.


顯然 Paul Allen 瞄準的對象口袋深度都很夠,這齣戲的劇本很簡單,一個有錢人,伸手到其他有錢人的口袋撈錢。我不知道保羅大哥,除了賺更多錢之外還有什麼其他不可告人的深意,層次不到,無法揣測超級有錢人的心意。不過這時候回頭看看 Wired 1999 年底的文章Think Tanked,滋味很特別。

Resys 諸君,有沒有人想去念個法律學位呢!?

(明日)黃花

相逢不必忙歸去,明日黃花蝶也愁

Get used to it

ted 在 Friendfeed 上分享了據說是比爾蓋茲在一所高中所發表的演說,提出學子們在學校學不到的十一件事。雖然天下雜誌網站上用令人誤會的排版和行文說『專輯精采重點:原文時代雜誌十大最成功的大學輟學生』,但是時代雜誌的Top 10 College Dropouts 文中並沒有這一段演講摘要,不過這十一點的原文Some rules kids won't learn in school可在網路上找到(感謝谷歌),事實上這不是比爾蓋茨說的,而是 Dumbing Down Our Kids 一書作者 Charles J. Sykes 於1996年9月19日發表在 San Diego Union-Tribune 上 op-ed 專欄的短文。根據 About.com,原文共有十四點,不是十一點:

  • Rule No. 1: Life is not fair. Get used to it. The average teen-ager uses the phrase, "It's not fair" 8.6 times a day. You got it from your parents, who said it so often you decided they must be the most idealistic generation ever. When they started hearing it from their own kids, they realized Rule No. 1.
  • Rule No. 2: The real world won't care as much about your self-esteem as much as your school does. It'll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. This may come as a shock. Usually, when inflated self-esteem meets reality, kids complain it's not fair. (See Rule No. 1)
  • Rule No. 3: Sorry, you won't make $40,000 a year right out of high school.
  • And you won't be a vice president or have a car phone either. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn't have a Gap label.
  • Rule No. 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait 'til you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he's not going to ask you how you feel about it.
  • Rule No. 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grand-parents had a different word of burger flipping. They called it opportunity. They weren't embarrassed making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain all weekend.
  • Rule No. 6: It's not your parents' fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of "It's my life," and "You're not the boss of me," and other eloquent proclamations of your generation. When you turn 18, it's on your dime. Don't whine about it, or you'll sound like a baby boomer.
  • Rule No. 7: Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.
  • Rule No. 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn't. In some schools, they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. Failing grades have been abolished and class valedictorians scrapped, lest anyone's feelings be hurt. Effort is as important as results. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life. (See Rule No. 1, Rule No. 2 and Rule No. 4)
  • Rule No. 9: Life is not divided into semesters, and you don't get summers off. Not even Easter break. They expect you to show up every day. For eight hours. And you don't get a new life every 10 weeks. It just goes on and on. While we're at it, very few jobs are interesting in fostering your self-expression or helping you find yourself. Fewer still lead to self-realization. (See Rule No. 1 and Rule No. 2.)
  • Rule No. 10: Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs. Your friends will not be as perky or pliable as Jennifer Aniston.
  • Rule No. 11: Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.
  • Rule No. 12: Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Next time you're out cruising, watch an 11-year-old with a butt in his mouth. That's what you look like to anyone over 20. Ditto for "expressing yourself" with purple hair and/or pierced body parts.
  • Rule No. 13: You are not immortal. (See Rule No. 12.) If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven't seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.
  • Rule No. 14: Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school's a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you'll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now.

對於已經過了 n 個 25 歲生日的你(妳),抽煙還是禁果之類的忠告早就失去失效(expired)了。但每吹熄一次生日蛋糕上的蠟燭,你(妳)益發明白生活是不公平的,實在太XD有道理了。不幸地,對於這點,唯一的對策就是習慣它吧!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

如何撰寫技術文件

改善技術文件的品質,是新工作的任務之一,我打算在上任前先做點功課,喝過今天的第一杯咖啡,上網找了些相關資料,正巧 ReadWriteWeb 的作者Audrey Watters上週發表了一篇短文: Tips for Writing Good Documentation,簡明扼要的介紹了撰寫技術文件的觀念,但沒有涉入太多細節,看來是不錯的起點。

確認文件的讀者是誰,是 Audrey Watters 談到的第一個基本觀念,不論是平面的文字還是立體的簡報,目的都是「傳達」某些訊息給受眾( audience),所以了解文件的目的,弄清楚讀者的知識背景、偏好的 接收訊息方式,都是製作文件前最基本、必要的前置作業。可是,真正落實這個「大家都知道」的觀念,踏實做準備功課的撰稿人,並不太多!

接著Audrey Watters介紹Django共同開發者Jacob Kaplan-MossWriting Good Documentation系列文章,Jacob 把技術文件分為三大類:Tutorial、Topial Guide 和 Reference Guide,每種文件類型有各自不同的目的和重點,然後 Jacob 在 Technical Style中介紹了他認為值得推薦的學習路徑,以及參考書籍(作者考慮的是用英文撰寫文件的情形,如果是用不同的語言撰寫文件,參考書籍必然要因地制宜做修改),最後他談到什麼是比較理想的文件風格(Style)。

Jacob 關於風格的建議可從兩個角度來分析,一個是老貓常提到的易讀性的考量,比如說字型、行距、空間配置等等,另外一個角度則是敘事說理的文字表達方式的考量。前者考慮的是讓讀者看的「舒服」,讀者閱讀技術文件的目的不外乎吸收知識或是解決問題,什麼樣的版型、字型配置,能讓讀者迅速找到他需要的資訊,是技術文件極重要的課題。後者是文字內容本身的可讀性和合理性,文件的目的是要傳達訊息給讀者,能讓人「看的懂」是重中之重的要務。

要讓人看的「懂」的要求可不是廢話,文筆通順沒有錯字只是文件最起碼的要求,如何才能讓讀者在最快的時間內讀懂一個觀念,或是學會如何操作一個軟體和機器,個中學問實在是不簡單。比如說是否以例子來帶動敘述,或是要不要用對話體例來說明新觀念、新事物;有些表達方式,和文字的特性有關,比如英文的時態(tense),主動和被動態(active/passive voice)等等。筆者的第一篇學術論文,在整理相關文獻(related works; literature reivew)時,引用了領域內開山祖師成名作裡面定義專有名詞的句子,被指導老師批評 ambiguous;有些人為了體現論文的權威性和客觀性,認為論文裡的敘述句都要用被動態,「我們觀察到一個現象」都要改成 It is observed that...。

還有,中文在處理主詞和第三人稱時,比英文要簡潔許多,而英文常見到的 ... of ... of ... of 的句子,若是要用中文表達,就得拆成幾個短句才行。語言的特性必然影響文件的撰寫方式,不同性質的文件,對於某些特性的「敏感度」又有所不同,「通順易曉」的要求說來簡單,執行起來難度不小。像白居易那樣,詩能寫的老嫗能解,實在是了不起啊!

最後,Jacob 提了You need an editor 的建議 - If you really want to produce great documentation, it needs to be edited!很多時候,我們不見得能那麼幸運的擁有專業編輯的協助,但是換個角度設身處地審閱文件,運用工具找出基本的文法和用字的錯誤,至少是撰稿人必須做到的;三人行必有我師,同事、同儕也能提供許多寶貴的建議,我想這樣至少能做到起碼的品質保障吧。

The Strategy to win Rock-Paper-Scissors!

I came across the introduction to strategy to win rock-paper-scissors the other day. The visualized map mentioned by Flowing Data is awesome.

Friday, August 20, 2010

昨日之日不可留

今天下午,終於決定回到業界公司任職,下個月初上任報到。新單位的總經理本為舊識,在他的辦公室裡面「氣氛良好」的聊了十分鐘後,我們爽快的達成共識,人資專員效率驚人,五分鐘後把熱騰騰的 offer letter 送進辦公室,兩人當場完成一式兩份文件的簽字手續。

距離通過博士論文口試(dissertation defence)將滿三個月,過去九十天,時而興奮時而惶惑,心神始終在不知所謂的狀態下,白天半睡半醒的在網際網路上閑逛,晚間邊啜着烈酒邊改寫十年來從沒更動過的簡歷和自傳。拿到證書那天,發現這個學年度,我有資格投寄簡歷的學術單位,竟然只有兩個。因為決定「衝關」的時間太晚,註定趕不上這個學年度的人事作業,雖然對於大環境的不利早有心裡準備,但要真正直面關閉的「大門」,心內怎能不惻然。

考慮個把月,和老朋友聊聊後,還是回到產業界,這回因為有「學位傍身」,新的定位是產品研發部門的主管。不再像以前需要那麼頻繁的「拋頭露面」或是要打理公司的 daily operation。但是我很明白,新的角色在半年到一年內,不太需要我過去五年在校園所學,主要仰賴的還是我的管理和協調的經驗;如果一切順利,我才能在  R&D 的這個 R 字上有所著墨。面對這樣的結果,除了點一首 C'est La Vie 給自己,還能說什麼呢?

新單位開發的產品有二,一是資料庫(數據庫)性能調校,第二個也是未來幾年的重點則是資料庫稽核( Database Activity Monitoring , DAM),兩者和我熱愛的 cyber culture 、recommender 距離都有點遠。未來幾個星期,要努力的掃蕩各相關業者的白皮書和市場報告,網際網路的議題是要暫且放下一段時間了。 Data Mining 在 DAM 領域還是有些「文章」可做的,如果我能撐到把新單位的 R&D 兩個面向都做出點成績,那時或許可以整理點東西出來吧。

總覺得說什麼「告一段落」或是「展望未來」都是廢話,這時心裡翻來覆去的只有一句:昨日之日不可留....

Sunday, August 15, 2010

台北榮民總醫院生活廣場前有片小空地,空地裡有個小圓環,週遭種了幾棵樹,每天午後總有三五十隻麻雀在樹上和空地間穿梭,時而在圓環裡的空地閑庭信步,方步踱久了,就飛到樹枝和樹梢小憩。




做一個更好的馬克杯

做一個更好的人,可以過上更好的生活,所以「我」要做一個更好的馬克杯!! Image Source: I NEED COFFEE: Life is Coffee Comics #23