Cumulus Partners

22. November 2014 07:32

New O'Reilly Report: When Hardware Meets Software

22. November 2014 07:32 by mike barlow | 0 Comments

The nice folks at O'Reilly (Tim, not Bill) Media have published "When Hardware Meets Software," my incisive, mildly humorous and entirely free white paper about the Internet of Things. It's a good read, and fairly useful in case someone approaches you at a party and starts talking about the IoT ...

Here's the link:

Enjoy! It's free! Cheerio!

28. September 2014 17:17

Plan B: Instant Karma and Lesson Learned

28. September 2014 17:17 by mike barlow | 1 Comments

Yesterday, I sent emails to several friends and asked them to post comments about my Culture of Big Data white paper. What happened next is either a case of instant karma or a life lesson learned. Or both at the same time. At any rate, I began receiving emails from my friends. They had downloaded the paper, written comments and then discovered the comments function wasn't working. My initial response was to blame the publisher. I wrote myself a note to contact them today.

When I woke up this morning, I realized that I should have simply shifted to Plan B. If I had accepted responsibility immediately, instead of "blaming" the publisher, I probably would have come up with a workaround yesterday. Instead, it took me until this morning to realize that I could have simply asked my friends to leave their comments right here, on the good old Cumulus Partners web site.  

So, friends and loyal readers, if you can remember the cool stuff you wrote yesterday, please scroll down and leave your comments here. As the great philosopher Dorothy Gale once remarked, "There's no place like home." Thank you.

5. January 2014 07:38

Storytelling, content or IP? From a writer's perspective, they're all the same ...

5. January 2014 07:38 by mike barlow | 0 Comments

I remember when I first heard the word "content," I was happy because it suggested that people other than storytellers were taking storytelling seriously and that bean counters were consciously assigning economic value to stories.

That said, things spiraled out of control fairly quickly afterwards, and it wasn't long before the term became genuinely wearisome. But that's cool. Some clients still prefer to see the word "content" in a contract and wince when they hear me talk about "storytelling." I have a client who will only refer to content as "IP," which I find really irritating. As long as his checks don't bounce, I can live with it, no matter how silly. From a writer's perspective, words such as "storytelling," "content" and "IP" all pretty much translate into the same thing. And that's fine with me!

10. November 2013 13:23

Writing about big data and its impact on the real world

10. November 2013 13:23 by mike barlow | 0 Comments

Way back in October 2012, mere days before Hurricane Sandy filled our basement with five feet of water, the nice editors at O’Reilly Media asked me to write a white paper on the emerging architecture of big data. That paper was followed by two more, one about the emerging culture of big data, and another about the impact of big data on the traditional IT function.

You can download the papers from the O'Reilly website. They're free, and the folks at O'Reilly will appreciate your interest. If for some reason you cannot access the papers directly from O'Reilly, you can click on the images at right and download them. Either way, they're free! 

Despite my attempts to make all three papers seem wildly different, they all share a common theme or subtext, namely that the technology of big data is evolving far more quickly than the people and processes of big data.

In other words, the tools are more advanced than the organizations using them. At least that’s my takeaway. After interviewing dozens of data analysts, industry experts, and senior-level corporate executives, I’m convinced that the technology is advancing faster than the abilities of the people trying to use it.

In retrospect, it’s not surprising that the technology of big data has evolved more rapidly than the organizational structures required to harness big data and convert it into a steady source of value. C-level executives and boards of directors regard big data as promising, but they weren’t born yesterday, and they need to see the business case before they start writing big checks. “Tactics in search of a strategy” is how one senior executive recently summed up his thoughts on big data.

Many of us sense that big data is destined to become the next big thing, but none of us is quite sure how it will all play out.

We can take comfort in the knowledge that this has all happened before. When airplanes were first pressed into military service, they were used exclusively for reconnaissance. When a team of engineers led by Anthony Fokker developed the synchronized machine gun, airplanes morphed into lethal weapons and a new strategy—aerial warfare—was born.

Most of us know the story of how the folks at Xerox didn’t understand the value of the clunky computer mouse they had invented, and how Steve Jobs took the basic idea and engineered it into a practical tool that helped launch a revolution in personal computing.

Based on what I’ve been hearing from my sources, I have the feeling that we are five or six inventions away from a similar revolution in big data. I’m not really sure what form those inventions will take—or I would quit my day job and invest in the companies making them—but I am certain that multiple disciplines and technologies will be involved.

When it arrives, the big data revolution will transform the modern enterprise, accelerate the growth of markets, and launch a new era of social commerce. The changes—particularly in emerging economies—will be mind-boggling in both scale and scope.

Ten years from now, we’re going to look back and wonder why we didn’t see it coming, but by then we’ll be on to the next big thing, and big data will seem about as interesting as a laptop from the 1990s. Meantime, encourage your kids to learn Python, Ruby, and R.


Editor's note: This post initially appeared in the O'Reilly Strata newsletter

2. June 2013 02:58

Big data vs. big reality

2. June 2013 02:58 by mike barlow | 0 Comments

Quentin Hardy's recent post in the Bits blog of the New York Times touched on the gap between representation and reality that is a core element of practically every human enterprise. His post is titled "Why Big Data is Not Truth," and I recommend it for anyone who feels like joining the phony argument over whether "big data" represents reality better than traditional data.

In a nutshell, this "us" vs. "them" approach is like trying to poke a fight between oil painters and water colorists. Neither oil painting nor water colors are "truth;" both are forms of representation. And here's the important part: Representation is exactly that -- a representation or interpretation of someone's perceived reality. Pitting "big data" against traditional data is like asking you if Rembrandt is more "real" than Gainsborough. Both of them are artists and both painted representations of the world they perceived around them.

The problem with false arguments like the one posed by Hardy is that they obscure the value of data -- traditional data and big data -- and the impact of data on our culture. I'm now working my way through "Raw Data" is an Oxymoron, an anthology of short essays about data. I recommend it for anyone who is seriously interested in thinking about the many ways in which data has influenced (and continues influencing) our lives. I especially recommend "facts and FACTS: Abolitionists' Database Innovations" by Ellen Gruber Garvey. As its title suggests, the essay focuses on what proves to be an absolutely fascinating period of U.S. history in which the anti-slavery movement harvested data from real advertisements in Southern newspapers to paint a vivid and believable picture of the routine horrors inflicted by the slave system on real human beings.

That 19th century use of data mining built support for the anti-slavery movement, both in the U.S. and in England. The data played a key role in making the case for abolishing slavery -- even though it required the bloodiest war in U.S. history to make abolition a fact.

Data itself has no quality. It's what you do with it that counts.


13. September 2011 17:16

Getting ready for writing by reading

13. September 2011 17:16 by mike barlow | 0 Comments

My dad once told me that writers write. As a professional writer, I would add that writers also read. Whenever I begin a new writing project, the first step always involves reading -- and lots of it. At the moment, I'm writing a book on leadership and performance improvement for a new client. It's aimed at a general audience, so I'm reading a bunch of titles that would normally be off my radar. For instance, I'm reading "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren because it's divided into many short chapters and people seem to like that kind of approach. I'm also reading "Strengths Finder 2.0" by Tom Rath, which is a popular self-help book. And I've picked up a copy of "Secrets of the Millionaire Mind" by T. Harv Eker, to see how he integrates the book's message with his training business.

For ideas and inspiration, I'm reading "The Power of Myth" by Joseph Campbell, "The Rational Optimist" by Matt Ridley, "Nonzero" by Robert Wright, "Drive" by Daniel Pink and "Predictably Irrational" by Dan Arielly. These are exceptional books, and I recommend them highly.

For me, one of the best parts about starting a new writing project is that it gives me an excuse to go out and buy a new bunch of books. I need to see that stack of books sitting on my desk ... that's how I know I've got to start writing again! 

27. July 2011 02:55

Seeing the colors of numbers ...

27. July 2011 02:55 by mike barlow | 0 Comments

Jolie O'Dell recently posted in Facebook that she sometimes has a difficult time understanding people on the phone. Her post sparked a lively conversation, and it reminded me of the strange way that our brains work. For example, when I was a child, the numbers one through twenty and most letters of the alphabet (and even some words) had distinct personalities, genders and colors in my mind whenever I saw them ... now I just see numbers, letters and words ... it's OK, but sometimes I miss my childhood ability to create vivid hallucinations around graphic images ... and around music ... on the other hand, I'm happy it doesn't happen while I'm driving or trying to finish a manuscript on deadline ...

12. June 2011 07:36

Last week Hartford, this week Boston

12. June 2011 07:36 by mike barlow | 0 Comments

Had a wonderful time at the CT Business Expo in Hartford. Enjoyed chatting with lots of very nice people who seemed really interested in learning about social media. A big "thank you" to the excellent sound techs who loaned me a laptop for my afternoon workshop on "industrial strength" social media strategy. The room was hot and the audience was tired, but the PowerPoint slides kept them awake. Sometimes PowerPoint is a good thing, after all!

This Tuesday, David B. Thomas and I will be leading a panel at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum in Boston. Should be fun!

7. June 2011 05:45

Is this microphone on?

7. June 2011 05:45 by mike barlow | 1 Comments

Hey, it's great to be back in the saddle. For some reason, the network connection between GoDaddy and my ISP, Optimum Online, was glitching out somewhere, and as a result, I couldn't access my blog for a while. At any rate, here's the latest: On June 9, I'll be speaking at the CT Business Expo in Hartford. On June 14, I'll be speaking at the MarketingProfs B2B conference in Boston. It would be great to see you there!

1. May 2011 04:49

See this exhibit if you're within driving distance of New Haven

1. May 2011 04:49 by mike barlow | 0 Comments

Yesterday we drove up to New Haven to see an exhibition of portraits by Sir Thomas Lawrence at the Yale Center for British Art. The exhibit and the paintings were absolutely amazing. The power of his artistry is even more impressive when you're standing directly in front of the paintings. Even if you don't have a chance to go, I recommend reading Sylviane Gold's excellent review of the exhibition.