Category: press

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.

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.

April 11, 2005

categories: press, narcissism
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Microsoft plucks search exec from Yahoo

Microsoft on Monday said it has hired away Gary Flake, a principal scientist at Yahoo Research Lab and former head of research at the Web portal's Overture Services division. Flake will set the "technology vision and future direction" for Microsoft's MSN portal, its Web search engine, its desktop search software and its paid search business, according to Microsoft spokeswoman Kathy Gill. CNET / NEWS.COM

And so began the next step in my professional life...

April 1, 2005

categories: press, projects
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The Tech Buzz Game

buzz logo

Technology soothsayers can put their predictions to the test as part of a research project merging search-query data with a virtual, online marketplace.eWeek

The Tech Buzz Game is a fantasy prediction market for high-tech products, concepts, and trends. It is a joint research project between Yahoo! Research Labs and O'Reilly Research.

As a player, your goal is to predict how popular various technologies will be in the future. Popularity or buzz is measured by Yahoo! Search frequency over time.

Predictions are made by buying virtual stock in the products or technologies you believe will succeed, and selling stock in the technologies you think will flop. In other words, you "put your play money where your mouth is."

This was just about the last project that I worked on before leaving Yahoo.

March 31, 2005

categories: press
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Second Sight

... Google's Labs and API were held up as exemplars of a modern internet business, while Yahoo was seen as floundering in a sea of accountants, pop-up ads, and Britney Spears. But Yahoo has learned its lesson. Research.yahoo.com, launched last month, is the same idea as labs.google.com - a showcase for new and interesting projects - but it's better. Unlike Google, Yahoo publishes its papers, names its researchers and says what it is up to. One-nil to Yahoo. Guardian Unlimited

Yes. Hell yes. Someone finally gave YRL some props.