Mathias Brandewinder on .NET, F#, VSTO and Excel development, and quantitative analysis / machine learning.
by Mathias 31. December 2009 11:56

It’s this time of the year again, which is traditionally an occasion to look back at what went down during the year, and set the sights for the year to come. 2009 has been a good year to me professionally. In spite of a gloomy economic context, Clear Lines is still alive and kicking, and revenue has remained stable, without requiring any particular marketing effort. I completed a few consulting projects without any noticeable glitch, managed to find time to release the first official version of Akin – and I am extremely motivated to begin 2010 on the right foot. So many things to do!

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by Mathias 14. July 2009 06:58

While shopping at PetCo the other day, I saw this scene, and couldn’t get enough of it. It’s a great illustration of what happens when teamwork goes wrong. If I saw this in real life, I would feel sorry for the team, but the mice don’t seem to be suffering (besides some confusion), so sit back and enjoy the show, guilt-free.

by Mathias 14. April 2009 16:17

I have been working on my first own application since a few weeks, and it is taking good shape; a first version should be available for willing testers soon. But as technical issues get resolved, I move into more unchartered territory. Should it be open-source, or proprietary? Should I trademark anything? And… how should it be called?

The current code name for the project, “Blue Lobster”, isn’t quite right for a serious professional application. My initial thought was “Akin”, as in “essentially similar, related, or compatible”, and I was pleased to find out that no piece of software with a similar name was listed in the US patent and Trademark database. Alas, Google wasn’t quite as lenient, and the search query “akin + software” yielded quite a trove, including enterprise resource planning systems and a Christian verse reminder system, “For those of you out there that are trying to memorize bible verses”. I don’t think we are direct competitors, but I would still prefer to have a unique, distinctive name for my application, if such a thing is possible in the Google age. I think I found it today – some more Googling, a few more bug fixes, and the alpha-release should be out by May first!

by Mathias 26. January 2009 13:54

Since forever, I have lived perfectly happy without a TV. And then came Hulu, which made me an addict. I love that I can watch what I want, when I want it, and I simply feel more at home browsing and searching than sitting in front of a tube with a remote - a matter of generations and geekiness, I guess. Which brings me to my point: when I went there today, I found the following message:

This note, however, is not about the fact that episodes of ''It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia'' were taken down. Rather, this note is to communicate to our users that we screwed up royally with regards to _how_ we handled this specific content removal and to apologize for our lack of strong execution. We gave effectively no notice to our users that these ''Sunny'' episodes would be coming off the service. We handled this in precisely the opposite way that we should have. We believe that our users deserve the decency of a reasonable warning before content is taken down from the Hulu service. Please accept our apologies.

Respect to Hulu, not for messing up (which happens to everyone), but for owning up to it, in straightforward language, instead of the usual obfuscation most corporations opt for in this type of situation. This kind of radical transparency is refreshing.

by Mathias 23. September 2008 17:37

On September 2, 2008, Google launched its browser, Chrome, with great buzz in the geekosphere. I gave it a spin, but stayed with Firefox (old habits die hard), and did not give it more thought until I came across this post where Donn Felker ventures his gut feeling for what the browser market will look like in 2009.

I believe that his forecast, while totally subjective, qualifies as an “expert opinion”, and is essentially correct, and wondered what quantitative analysis methods would add to it – and decided to give it a shot.

The Bass adoption model


Properly representing the introduction of a new product on the market is a classic problem in quantitative modeling. At least two factors make it tricky: there is only limited data available (because it’s a new product), and the underlying model cannot be linear (because it starts from 0, and has a finite growth).

In 1969, Frank Bass proposed a model which is now a classic. It represents adoption as the combination of two factors: innovation and imitation. Innovators are the guys you see in line at the Apple store when a new iGizmo is launched; they have to have it first, regardless of how many people have it already. Imitators are the cautious ones, who will jump on board when enough people are using the product already – the more people already adopted, the more imitation will take place.

In terms of dynamics, innovators determine the early pick-up of the product, and create the initial critical mass of users– and imitators drive the bulk of the growth, going from early adoption to peak.

The mathematical formulation of the model goes like this:

 

(from http://www.valuebasedmanagement.net/methods_bass_curve_diffusion_innovation.html)


It is a very elegant and lightweight model, which takes only 3 parameters, and is surprisingly good at replicating actual adoption. The Excel model attached provides an illustration of the dynamics of the model, depending on its input parameters, the total population, and the rates of innovation and imitation.

Bass.xls (27.50 kb)
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