November 23, 2006

categories: press, narcissism
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And, still, an even stronger smell…

Last Saturday’s Washington Post had my mug on the front page of the business section. The full story is available online, but lacks the photos. (Fear not, they simply copied the image of me from the front page of this blog, so you aren’t missing anything.)

Anyhow, Alan Sipress describes me as:

… a 39-year-old with a strong, stubby jaw and even stronger opinions.

The title of this blog entry is my complete response.

On a more serious note, while I think it is a great article and one that I feel lucky to be a part of, I think the article goes just a hair too far in characterizing MSFT in a “new” versus “old” kind of way. Many of the most potent change agents within the company have been part of MSFT for over a decade. MSFT is also the most introspective and self-critical environment that I’ve ever worked in (I mean that in the best possible way). So while the article paints me as a sort of “rebel with a cause”, I am really but one of many people who are helping MSFT to grow in new directions and any implication of a “versus” is more on how we’ll change not if we’ll change.

categories: projects, events
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Web 2.0 and Photosynth

On November 9th, I announced the public availability of Photosynth at the Web 2.0 Summit. A lot of people have said that Photosynth was the high point of Web 2.0, which is obviously great kudos to the Live Labs team, MSR, and U. Wa.

A couple of people have asked for a copy of the presentation that I gave, so it is linked here.

Scoble took a really nice video of me demoing Photosynth.

Also, I jumped into a discussion thread at MeFi about Photosynth to answer some questions that people had about the tech preview.

categories: events, opinion
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CIKM, the Internet Singularity, and Offending Academic Publishing

On November 8th, I gave a variation of my singularity talk as a keynote at CIKM. A couple of people have noted on the Internets that I had some strong opinions about academic publishing during the Q&A. So, to be really clear: I did use the word “parasites” and I really meant it.

Most of the hard work in academic publishing is performed for free by academics (writing, reviewing, maintaining editorial standards, etc.) The academic publishing houses charge enormous fees to institutions for hard and soft copy of these publications. And the academics are somewhat forced into this situation because third parties (the publishers) own the “brand” of the journals that one needs to interface with in order to get tenure.

It should now be clear why I’ll never be wildly successful in a purely academic setting.

categories: meta
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Turkey Day Update

The combination of this being a national holiday and my being in self-imposed quarantine from my family (because of a lingering cold/flu) has eliminated any excuse I have for not updating this site. So hold on to your hats because I am on daytime cold/flu medicine, you know, the good stuff.

More to come momentarily…

October 15, 2006

categories: meta
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Hello World!

After nearly six months of puttering, I've finally updated the technology behind my website to be something more reliable than a text editor. This whole site is now based on Wordpress which, I must say, is a pretty sweet publishing tool.

The six months of puttering was due to the fact that I wanted to customize the entire site, convert all of my old content, but I only had scant minutes on weekends to tweak things. Anyhow, I am pleased with the results. Please send me a note if there is anything obviously broken.

Now that I've paid all of the "startup costs" for rebuilding my site, I am hoping that updates (in the form of new posts and pages) will come more frequently. Meanwhile, the existing entries (all of which were more or less written before I updated this site) are woefully out-of-date relative to my real life, so it will take some time to catch up.

I also note that the content here is very navel gazing. I find that I am more comfortable writing about people that write about me than actually writing about others, which lends to the narcissistic tone of this site. I'll try to correct that in time.

Finally, if you are curious about how I've put together this site, be sure to check out the colophon.

March 13, 2006

categories: press, narcissism
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Microsoft Puts Profit on the Line With Web-Based Focus

Flake said Microsoft had a radical goal: to erase nearly all distinctions between the Internet and computing. "No one today thinks about how power gets through the lines to your home," he said. "But today we are very aware of the boundaries between our desktop computer and the Internet. We will see that boundary become invisible."The Los Angeles Times

The whole "software as a service" meme sometimes has the misfortune of carrying a connotation of conflict between purveyors of desktop software and web applications. I think this characterization obscures more important elements of how the industry is evolving.

More specifically, here's the end state that we want: wherever you are, on whatever device you are using, you can get to your stuff. You don't have to think about where your stuff is. It's just there. It's safe, secure, and accessible. You don't have to initiate a connection, there is nothing to download, nor do you have to keep track of what is where.

This is the scenario that I was trying to capture in the quote above. In this world, one of two things must be true: (1) either the master copy of your data is in the "cloud" and the local copy is a cached version, or (2) the master copy is on the device and the backup is in the "cloud".

The point is that the user shouldn't have to think about these distinctions. That's the real promise of "software as a service".

January 30, 2006

categories: press, narcissism
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Noted computer scientist leads Microsoft’s new Net unit

"To be perfectly blunt, we expect there to be things that we push out that will be very exciting, and things that we push out that are going to be very risky and may not work," Flake said in an interview last week, calling those types of risks necessary "to have rapid innovation" in the online world. ... "Microsoft, more concretely than anyone else, is at a crossroads, and I mean this in the best possible way," Flake said. "I like change, and I like being in the middle of change." Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Software Notebook

My favorite part of the whole article: a photo of me with my two dogs on the front of the business section. My least favorite: the silly start of the story which suggests some PR clampdown at MS concerning our Seadragon acquisition (we just didn't close in time for the release, that's all, and someone pushed out the wrong copy to the website).

January 25, 2006

categories: press, narcissism
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Microsoft Launches Live Labs

windows live logo

Quoting from the press release:

REDMOND, Wash. - Jan. 25, 2006 - Microsoft Corp. today announced the formation of Microsoft Live Labs, a research partnership between MSN and Microsoft Research. Under the leadership of Dr. Gary William Flake, noted industry technologist and Microsoft technical fellow, Live Labs will consist of a dedicated group of researchers from MSN and Microsoft Research that will work with researchers across Microsoft and the academic research community. Live Labs will provide consistency in vision, leadership and infrastructure as well as a nimble applied research environment that fosters rapid innovations.

We more or less announced the formation of Live Labs at MSN's Search Champs event, which means that a lot of bloggers got the story first. A snapshot of some of the coverage (and other items) includes:

The Live Labs website was rushed out the door in order to make the announcement, and it shows. Why did we announce if the site wasn't ready? The timing of the Ph.D. fellowships was tied to the academic year, so we either had to announce the launch of Live Labs a bit early or confuse people by announing a set of Ph.D. fellowships that were funded by an undefined entity. Either way was bad, but I think the early announcement was the lesser of evils.

September 5, 2005

categories: press, narcissism
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On the Frontier of Search

I must have talked for two hours with the journalist who wrote this article. It's a perfectly fine article, but I often cringe when I read my own quotes in the press. Here's an example of what I am talking about:

"Search will ultimately be as good as having 1,000 human experts who know your tastes scanning billions of documents within a split second," says Gary Flake, one of just seven Distinguished Engineers at Microsoft, who are paid to think big thoughts. "It will model the human brain." Time Magazine

It's a little frustrating to have a couple of hours distilled down to a sound bite, but so it goes. The issue, here, is that I would never argue that we would literally try to model the human brain in order to make web search better. Anyone working on such models does so in the pursuit of understanding human cognition. That's a great goal, but not one that I am working on at all.

Instead, we are trying to make computers smarter so that they simulate human intelligence. I don't care if I make a computer smarter by simulating the brain, or through some other mechanism (perhaps completely unlike human cognition). I just want smarter computers.

So in the end, the quote makes my ends and means sound confused. Smarter computers for better web search is the ends for me, and brain simulation could be a possible means.

July 18, 2005

categories: narcissism, links
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ITConversations Podcast


ITConversations has posted a podcast of my "from the labs" talk at the O'Reilly ETech 2005 conference. At the time of this talk, Dr. Gary Flake was Director of Yahoo!s Research Lab, and he discusses the philosophy behind the Research Lab. He also demonstrates some of the new tools being developed a Yahoo!, including a collaborative prediction system (with prizes!) in which you can participate. The MP3 runs 17:25 and is 8mb in size.

And let me say, I really admire what ITConversations is doing. They provide a great service to the community, with nothing but support form the community. It's a sort of PBS for the Internet era.

Also, they plug my book on their site, which obviously pleases me.

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