Monthly Archives: June 2017

On the road again

I’m going to be traveling for a week, and probably won’t be able to post much while I’m gone.



Also published on Medium.

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Political Irony

The Danger of SQL Operations in Microsoft Dynamics CRM

danger thumb The Danger of SQL Operations in Microsoft Dynamics CRMYou may have heard that performing SQL operations on your Microsoft Dynamics CRM databases are dangerous or unsupported. But what does that mean? What is so dangerous about it? Why is it unsupported?

To clear the air, I’m talking specifically about anything that will alter data in your system and I’m also talking about on-premise deployments since you cannot access the database if you’re in the cloud.

Running SELECT queries on base tables is fine because you’re just consuming data, but the INSERT, UPDATE and DELETE statements are dangerous. I won’t be able to cover every single scenario in this article, but I can provide some examples where seemingly innocent data updates can cause chaos.

Firstly, why are some integrations built to create or update records in CRM using SQL? The short answer is performance. Direct SQL inserts or updates are a lot faster than going through the CRM SDK, but performance is less important than data accuracy and a stable system.

I have seen integrations that create and update Accounts and Contacts using SQL. The integrations only set the core data on these entities, such as names, phone numbers, email addresses, and physical and postal addresses. What are the impacts?

System fields don’t get set

System fields such as Created By, Created On, Modified By, Modified On don’t get set. This is difficult to maintain if you altering data with SQL. It also messes up data analytics (Advanced Find, Reports) if you want to run queries against these fields.

Nothing gets audited

If you’re using Auditing in CRM, no Audit records will get created.

Customer Address records don’t get created

This is an interesting one. Addresses for Accounts and Contacts are stored in a separate table in the database called customeraddress. Creating an Account or Contact using SQL means that the customeraddress record will be missing. If the user manually adds addresses to Accounts or Contacts on the form and clicks “Save”, the address data will disappear because there is no customeraddress record to hold the information.

Email Matching doesn’t work

Another interesting one. CRM contains a table in the database called EmailSearchBase. This table is responsible for matching email addresses for incoming emails to email-enabled entities in CRM. If you have email-enabled records with email addresses in CRM that have been created or updated using SQL, the EmailSearchBase table will be empty and incoming emails won’t be matched to the right records.

Again, there are many other scenarios where SQL inserts and updates are a bad idea. My advice to you is to avoid it. The CRM SDK exists for a reason and ensures that platform business logic is executed to provide accurate data throughout the system.

If you have concerns that your data may have been altered with SQL or you have experienced some of the problems I’ve listed above, leave a comment below.

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Magnetism Solutions Dynamics CRM Blog

The numbers don’t lie: Why women must fill the data scientist demand

 The numbers don’t lie: Why women must fill the data scientist demand

We hear every day that more and more jobs are disappearing, yet the data science community cannot keep up with unprecedented demand. When you consider the growth of the industry, it’s not surprising to hear there will be a shortage of 1.5 million analysts capable of analyzing big data in the U.S. alone, by 2018, according to McKinsey. Globally, demand for data scientists is projected to exceed supply by more than 50 percent by 2018.

So why are women not entering the field? It appears women are deterred from jobs in data science for the same reason they are deterred from other STEM fields. But interestingly, some stereotypically female traits are exactly the qualities that make for a successful data scientist. In fact, we’re seeing some women channel these stereotypes to move ahead of their male counterparts in the industry.

Consider the following three examples.

Collaboration. Women are skilled collaborators, able to work with all different people. This is an important quality for data science professionals, as cross-departmental collaboration is key. Data science touches every function in a modern business, and those most successful will be able to collaborate with all different teams and individuals.

Communication. For many of the same reasons, data scientists must also be strong communicators. Communication is an area where many women traditionally excel and it’s an important quality to have. Not only do data scientists lead dialogue and share insights among various departments, but they also need to be able to listen well and speak the language of different teams. For example, communicating with the sales department may be different from communicating with the IT department. Good data scientists will be able to speak to everyone.

Perspective. Being able to inspire a team and see the big picture are both important. A data scientist must be able to not only collect and analyze data but draw meaningful insights and understand what it means for the company. The ability to holistically view a situation is a competitive differentiator for organizations as well as a positive attribute that many women possess.

Once we begin associating a variety of skills with data science, the perceptions of our industry can change. According to the Washington Post, women now make up 40 percent of graduates with degrees in statistics – a popular starting point for a career in data science.

While a degree in mathematics is a great place to start, it’s important not to categorize the position as being completely scientific and technical, only suited for individuals who excel at math and science. A career in data science is transferrable across all industries. Whether you have a passion for healthcare or retail, there is likely a data science opportunity for you.

Personally, I was drawn to data science because of my love for innovation and my passion for wanting to make the world a better place through technology. Specifically, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a technology I believe can change the world. I was taken by the idea that through data science we can accelerate the impact of IoT, as data scientists are key in helping organizations get a true ROI. Additionally, big data can only be managed through intelligent systems and processes, which you need data scientists to administer.

So how can you get started? In an effort to educate people in other fields about data science, we are seeing boot camps pop up around the world. These 10-12 week courses are a great way for people to get their feet wet, to see whether a career in data science is right for them, and to simply gain a better understanding of what the job entails. Further, an increasing number of universities are adding full-time data science majors to their roster of undergraduate offerings. The University of Cambridge has even created the Cambridge Big Data Strategic Research Initiative to bring together researchers from across the University to address challenges presented by our access to unprecedented volumes of data.

In the field of data science, the numbers don’t lie. While the number of female data scientists is currently disproportionate to men, the employment demands and signs from academia are encouraging. We may have to fight a little harder to break down the stereotypes that have prevented women from entering STEM fields for many years, but it’s worth the fight. Setting the stage now will inspire future generations to see that they too can be a data scientist.

Tanja Rueckert is President of IoT and Digital Supply Chain at SAP.

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Big Data – VentureBeat

New T-SQL Functions in SQL Server 2017

SQL Server 2017 brings some new T-SQL functions for us. They are very simple and can help us simplifying our T-SQL code. Let’s talk about them.


String_AGG

This new function solves an old and very interesting problem: How to concatenate several records in a single string value?

There are several situations where this need arises. For example, when some people have several e-mail addresses, or several phone numbers, and we would like to print a report with these emails and phone numbers.

This was barely impossible before, we could only achieve this some XML tricks.

Let’s try an example. This script below creates a table and insert some records.

drop tableif exists names

create table names
( [name] varchar(50) )

go

insert into names values (‘joao’),(‘jose’),(‘maria’),(‘joaquim’)

go

This query below uses some tricks with XML to concatenate the names in a single comma separated string:

select stuff((select ‘,’ + [name] as [text()]
       from names for xml path()),1,1,)

NewFunctions1 New T SQL Functions in SQL Server 2017

The new STRING_AGG function gives us the same result:

select string_agg([name],‘,’)
       from names

The AdventureWorks database has another interesting example for this function. The tables ‘Person.Person’ and ‘Person.EmailAddress’ are related and each people can have several email addresses. It’s an usual need to list the people with their email addresses in a single record.

This query below should achieve this, however there is a catch:

select lastname,string_agg(emailaddress,‘, ‘) email
       from person.person, person.EmailAddress
       where person.BusinessEntityID=EmailAddress.BusinessEntityID
       group by lastname

The result will be the following error:

NewFunctions2 New T SQL Functions in SQL Server 2017

The size limit of the string_agg function results depends on the data type. Usually the data type will be varchas, as in the example above, and the size limit will be 8000 bytes.

However, in the CTP 2.0 this function doesn’t considers the ‘group by’ field in the calculation, that’s why we saw the above error message even without any record over 8000 bytes.

The solution is changing the data type of the field, we can use the ‘Cast’ function for this:

select lastname,string_agg(cast(emailaddress as varchar(max)),‘, ‘) email
       from person.person, person.EmailAddress
       where person.BusinessEntityID=EmailAddress.BusinessEntityID
       group by lastname

Trim

This new function has been requested for a lot of SQL Server DBA’s for a long time.

Removing the empty spaces in a string always demanded the use of two functions, like this:

SELECT RTRIM(LTRIM( ‘     test    ‘)) AS Result;

This new function simplifies this task:

SELECT TRIM( ‘     test    ‘) AS Result;

Concat_WS

Concat_WS function is similar to the Concat function that exists since SQL Server 2012, with the ‘WS’ as a plus. ‘WS’ in this case means ‘With Separator’, meaning this new function is able to add a separator between each string value it concatenates.

The NULL value behavior with both functions is the same: NULL values are ignored, not even adding the separator.

This isn’t SQL Server default behavior in a concatenation. As a default, concatenating a NULL value with a string value yields a null value. Besides what a lot of people believe, NULL doesn’t mean an empty value, NULL means an unknown value. That’s why any value concatenated with NULL yields NULL: the result is also unknown.

SQL Server has a session configuration called CONCAT_NULL_YIELDS_NULL, however this configuration is deprecated. You can see more about this here 

Both functions, CONCAT and CONCAT_WS, ignores the default behavior and the CONCAT_NULL_YIELDS_NULL configuration, ignoring NULL values during the concatenation.

This is very useful to simplify the queries when we need to concatenate fields that aren’t always filled, such as address fields, that sometimes have all the fields filled and sometimes haven’t.

The first example below use a comma as a separator, the 2nd uses a carriage-return (char(13)) :

SELECT CONCAT_WS(‘,’,‘1 Microsoft Way’, NULL, NULL, ‘Redmond’, ‘WA’, 98052) AS Address;

select Concat_WS(char(13),addressline1,addressline2,city,PostalCode)
       as [Address],AddressId
       from person.Address

This function can be useful to produce reports, concatenating some fields, however it’s not useful for exporting data, because when we export data we need some kind of separator, such as a semi-colon (“;”) even when a field is NULL, but this function doesn’t add the separator when a field is NULL.

Translate

Translate does the work of several replace functions, simplifying some queries.

The function is called ‘Translate’ because its main objective: transform one kind of information in another by doing a bunch of replaces.

For example: GeoJson and WKT are two different formats for coordinates. In GeoJson a coordinate is represented using the format ‘[137.4, 72.3]’ while in WKT a point is represented using the format ‘(137.4 72.3)’.

We would need several ‘Replace’s to transform GeoJson format in WKT format and the reverse. The ‘Translate’ function can do this easily.

Using ‘Replace’ function the transformation would be like this:

select replace(replace(replace(‘[137.4, 72.3]’,‘[‘,‘(‘),‘,’,‘ ‘),‘]’,‘)’) as Point

Using the ‘Translate’ function the transformations becomes way simpler:

SELECT TRANSLATE(‘[137.4, 72.3]’ , ‘[,]’, ‘( )’) AS Point,
       TRANSLATE(‘(137.4 72.3)’ , ‘( )’, ‘[,]’) AS Coordinates

Instead of several ‘Replaces’, the ‘Translate’ syntax allows us to specify all the characters in the source string we would like to replace and all the new characters.

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SQL – Simple Talk

NetSuite announces new channel partners seeking to drive growth with cloud ERP

og image NetSuite announces new channel partners seeking to drive growth with cloud ERP

Cherry Bekaert, Terillium, Revolution Group and Conexus SG Join NetSuite Solution Provider Program

SAN MATEO, Calif.—June 27, 2017—Oracle NetSuite Global Business Unit, one of the world’s leading providers of cloud-based financials / ERP, HR, Professional Services Automation (PSA)</a> and omnichannel commerce software suites, today announced the addition of new partners to the NetSuite Solution Provider Program including Cherry Bekaert, Terillium, Revolution Group and Conexus SG. All four partners have launched new cloud ERP practices with NetSuite to help clients capitalize on the transformative power of cloud ERP. These new partners are responding to high demand for cloud ERP that can deliver greater agility and scalability for growth without the costly overhead and limitations of on-premise systems. At the same time, the partners are taking advantage of the opportunity to diversify and grow their business while benefiting with the high margins and recurring revenue offered through the NetSuite Solution Provider Program.

Launched in 2002, the NetSuite Solution Provider Program is the industry’s leading cloud channel partner program. Since its inception, NetSuite has been a leader in partner success, breaking new ground in building and executing on the leading model to make the channel successful with NetSuite. A top choice for partners who are building new cloud ERP practices or for those expanding their existing practice to meet the demand for cloud ERP, NetSuite has enabled partners to transform their business model to fully capitalize on the revenue growth opportunity of the cloud. The NetSuite Solution Provider Program delivers unprecedented benefits that include highly attractive margins and range from business planning, sales, marketing and professional services enablement, to training and education. Click here for more information about the NetSuite Solution Provider Program.

“These new partners are teaming with NetSuite as the global migration to the cloud continues to accelerate,” said Craig West, Oracle NetSuite Global Business Unit Vice President of Channel Sales. “We look forward to helping customers modernize and transform how business is done through these collaborative and mutually beneficial relationships.”

Cherry Bekaert Launches ERP Consulting Practice with NetSuite Cloud ERP
Cherry Bekaert (www.cherrybekaert.com), one of the 25 largest CPA firms in the U.S. with 1,000+ associates, has launched a new ERP consulting practice to offer NetSuite to businesses in software and technology, manufacturing, distribution, private equity, transportation and logistics, nonprofit, financial services and other industries. The 70-year-old firm, headquartered in Richmond, VA with strong concentration from Washington, D.C. to Miami, will provide implementation, support and customization services to existing and new midmarket customers amid growing demand for NetSuite’s industry-leading solution for ERP, CRM and ecommerce. Cherry Bekaert specializes in helping clients take advantage of opportunities and address new requirements that come with expansive growth. By joining forces with NetSuite, Cherry Bekaert’s new Cloud Solutions practice will equip clients for improved efficiency and productivity in financial operations; compliance with revenue recognition, tax and reporting requirements; and real-time visibility into consolidated financial results.

“The demand for cloud solutions is surging among our middle-market client base, particularly in technology, health and life sciences, and industrial, the sectors that make up our practice,” said Paul Doucet, Managing Director of Cherry Bekaert’s Cloud Solutions practice. “NetSuite’s integrated applications provide a dynamic cloud solution with deep expertise in our core industry segments. We look forward to an equitable and rewarding relationship.”

Terillium Expands Oracle Platinum Relationship with NetSuite
Terillium (www.terillium.com), a Platinum level member in the Oracle Partner Network since 2006 and 12-time recipient of Oracle Excellence Awards, is expanding its Oracle technology offerings as a new NetSuite Solution Provider serving clients in the small and midmarket manufacturing, distribution and services sectors. Based in Cincinnati, OH, with more than 170 associates, Terillium’s new NetSuite practice will complement its traditional focus on Oracle JD Edwards and Oracle cloud offerings for supply chain, procurement, financials, planning and budgeting, sales and human capital management. With Oracle’s acquisition of NetSuite complete last November, allying with NetSuite was a “natural fit” that enables Terillium to offer organizations NetSuite’s agile, scalable and unified platform, according to Steve May, Vice President at Terillium. Terillium leverages deep expertise gained in delivering solutions to more than 500 businesses to meet rising demand for cloud ERP, CRM and B2B ecommerce with a complete NetSuite services offering for implementation, customization, integration and ongoing optimization.

“We teamed with NetSuite because it’s the #1 cloud ERP on the market with a complete and proven platform used by over 40,000 organizations that can be deployed very quickly with all the benefits of the cloud,” May said. “Offering NetSuite cloud ERP to the businesses we work with is aligned with our mission to provide the best solutions and services possible.”

Revolution Group Focuses on Manufacturing, Distribution with NetSuite
Revolution Group (www.revolutiongroup.com), founded in 1995, is expanding their cloud ERP practice with NetSuite to meet growing demand among its manufacturing, distribution and professional services clients and prospects for cloud ERP. Based in Ohio with about 80 associates, Revolution Group will provide NetSuite cloud ERP distribution, implementation, customization and development that combines NetSuite’s best-in-class platform with Revolution Group’s decades of expertise in the manufacturing, distribution and professional services industries. The relationship with NetSuite expands Revolution Group’s cloud technology portfolio beyond Salesforce and the Plex Manufacturing Cloud. Revolution Group will also leverage its development team and the SuiteCloud development platform for “last mile” customizations and optimizations that help clients continuously innovate and grow with NetSuite.

“We see NetSuite as a very scalable, flexible and growth-oriented platform to meet our customers’ business requirements,” said Rick Snide, CEO of Revolution Group. “Businesses are seeking cloud ERP solutions that correspond with their business needs and budget. Our teaming with NetSuite allows us to offer our clients and prospects options that complement our current services and help them achieve their goals.”

Conexus SG Expands Beyond On-Premise Microsoft ERP with NetSuite
Conexus SG (www.conexussg.com), based in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, has joined the NetSuite Solution Provider program to offer their first cloud ERP offering and expand beyond its traditional focus of on-premise Microsoft Dynamics GP, SL, CRM and related solutions. The move addresses increased demand for NetSuite cloud solutions, among Conexus SG’s clients and prospects in the oil and gas, manufacturing, distribution, healthcare, restaurant and services industries in the Texas and Oklahoma region. Founded in 2008 and a Microsoft Gold ERP Partner that has served hundreds of customers, Conexus SG combines its deep experience in industry-specific ERP implementation with NetSuite’s proven platform to offer clients a true cloud ERP solution geared for efficiency and growth. Besides NetSuite ERP, CRM and ecommerce implementation and optimization, the 20-person firm will also offer the NetSuite OpenAir professional services automation solution.

“Customers are asking for cloud and customers are asking for NetSuite,” said Eric Holleman, Conexus SG Managing Director. “The future is cloud, and NetSuite is the clear leader in cloud ERP. NetSuite is an ideal fit for fast-growing companies because it doesn’t require infrastructure, it’s fast to implement, and it’s scalable for growth. We’re delighted to team up with NetSuite to offer clients greater choice and flexibility.”

About Oracle NetSuite Global Business Unit
Oracle NetSuite Global Business Unit pioneered the Cloud Computing revolution in 1998, establishing the world’s first company dedicated to delivering business applications over the internet. Today, Oracle NetSuite Global Business Unit provides a suite of cloud-based financials / Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), HR and omnichannel commerce software that runs the business of companies in more than 100 countries. For more information, please visit http://www.netsuite.com.

Follow Oracle NetSuite Global Business Unit’s Cloud blog, Facebook page and @NetSuite Twitter handle for real-time updates.

About Oracle
The Oracle Cloud delivers hundreds of SaaS applications and enterprise-class PaaS and IaaS services to customers in more than 195 countries and territories while processing 55 billion transactions a day. For more information about Oracle (NYSE:ORCL), please visit us at oracle.com.

Trademarks
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NetSuite's Latest Press Coverage

Congratulations to the Data Insights Summit Analytics Challenge winners!

Last month we celebrated the Microsoft Data Insights Summit with a Data Analytics Challenge, and as usual we were highly impressed with all the submissions!

We asked for entries in three different categories: Complex Data Preparation, Advanced Analytics, and Just for Fun. Entries were judged on the following criteria:

  • Data Prep: How well you tackle the data prep challenges associated with the dataset
  • Insightfulness: How well you answer the analysis topic, and what insights you uncovered
  • Data visualization and storytelling: How well you create a report and visuals to explain your insights
  • Creativity: What you do to surprise us, for example mash together an interesting additional dataset, or use a clever presentation trick

Take a look at the great videos and insights uncovered by the three winning submissions.

Complex Data Preparation

Congratulations to Rishi Sapra and the Altius team! Rishi’s submission featured two videos: one narrating insights, and one outlining their approach to the challenge. See the report.

Advanced Analytics

Congratulations to Scott Ferguson! See the report.

Just for Fun

Congratulations to Kane O’Donnell at Aware Group! They trained a recurrent neural net on script data from television show “The Simpsons”, so that they could generate ‘new’ script lines for each character. We’ve embedded the cool report below:

All of the winners will receive a Super Prize Pack and free pass to the 2018 Data Insights Summit. We very much enjoyed everyone’s submission, and they all will be receiving credit for the Microsoft store. Thanks again to everyone who entered, and see you next year!

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The meaning of procrastination

 The meaning of procrastination

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 The meaning of procrastination


About Krisgo

I’m a mom, that has worn many different hats in this life; from scout leader, camp craft teacher, parents group president, colorguard coach, member of the community band, stay-at-home-mom to full time worker, I’ve done it all– almost! I still love learning new things, especially creating and cooking. Most of all I love to laugh! Thanks for visiting – come back soon icon smile The meaning of procrastination

Posted on June 28, 2017, in Clever, Friends, Funny, Jokes, Kids, School, Teens, Troll, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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3 ways to transform your business

CRM Blog 3 ways to transform your business

If you’re looking to make changes to your business, take a look at Microsoft Dynamics 365. This robust, easy-to-use system eliminates data silos from your company, which improves the transfer of data and the flow of communication within an organization.

Managers will also love Microsoft Dynamics 365’s adaptability. C-Suite executives have enough to worry about – they shouldn’t have to spend time trying to get used to a customer relationship management tool. They should, however, be able to configure that system with ease and integrate it relatively quickly into their organization.

Ken Jacobsen, vice president of The TM Group, noted that Microsoft Dynamics 365 can be the perfect solution for companies because of its customizability.

“One of the strengths of Microsoft Dynamics 365 is that it can be custom tailored to a client’s specific needs,” said Jacobsen. “And this doesn’t have to be done by a developer. It’s actually very easy for a business analysis type of person to actually open the application and customize the views and the screens without actually having to know how to do any coding.”

If you want to make significant changes to your business, you should read the blog on The TM Group’s website about 3 ways to transform your business.

By The TM Group

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CRM Software Blog | Dynamics 365

Expert Interview: Mike Lloyd of Ambercite on Patent Searches

Mike Lloyd, Senior Vice-President of Business Development at Ambercite, is an IP analyst who has helped develop an entirely new way of analyzing patents. We recently caught up with Mike to get his insight on patents, the challenges facing those doing patent searches and how Mike and his team are trying to impact the world of patent searches. Here’s what he shared:

Tell us about the mission of Ambercite. How are you trying to impact the world of patents?

We want to help inventors, patent attorneys and patent professionals find better patents faster – by using our truly unique and innovative tools that can provide a very different picture on the world of patents.

Can you give us a primer on the world of patent searches? Who is searching for patents? Why is it important that they have better search abilities? What are some of the current challenges in searching for and analyzing patents? What’s at the roots of these challenges?

Patents are searched by inventors, patent owners, patent examiners, patent attorneys, and professional searchers.

Patent searching is currently an inefficient process. Professionals can spend hours searching through patents and still not find all they are looking for. The reason for this is that too many searchers are based on either keywords or classification codes. Both types of searches sound good in theory, but in practice can fall down when relevant patents have unexpected keywords or classification codes. This happens all the time.

blog BD Legacy Expert Interview: Mike Lloyd of Ambercite on Patent Searches

What patent innovations are you and your team bringing to the forefront? What excites you about improving the way we search for patents?

At Ambercite, we have developed an alternative way of patent citations, that applies smart algorithms to the 153 million patent citations in our database – to help our users instantly find the closest matches to the patents they are looking at. These can be accessed through two different solutions – one being an interactive patent network, and the second being a unique tool that can find thousands of matches for a whole portfolio of products

Why is the ability to search for patents effectively and efficiently so important to businesses today?

Patent searching matters – billion-dollar litigation has been decided on the results of patent searches.

But it is more than this – the results of patent searching can impact decisions to invest in new research, new products, new companies… multi-million dollar decisions can turn on the result of patent searches.

What best practices can you offer to patent searchers? What tools or resources should they be using to improve the way they search?

We recommend to clients that while they should continue to use a variety of approaches to achieve their search goals, that “no search is complete” without using recently released Ambercite AI tool. We also offer Amberscope, which provides left field thinkers to explore our network of over 50 million patent families.

What trends or innovations in the world of patents are you following today? Why do they interest you?

The big trend now is to speed up and improve the outcomes of patent searching via smart tools – and Ambercite is excited to be part of this trend.

What about trends in Big Data? What interests you in in the broader world of how we access and use data?

Big Data is exciting because we’re moving to a world where assumptions can be tested and hidden trends can be uncovered. This is a philosophy that appeals to me, in that data can provide new answers to real questions.

Syncsort focuses on liberating enterprise-wide Big Data to make it available to next-generation platforms like Hadoop for analytics that provide answers to important questions. Download this TDWI checklist report for tips and tricks from industry experts to plan and launch a successful data lake project.

 Expert Interview: Mike Lloyd of Ambercite on Patent Searches

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Will Blockchain Technology Finally Lead Us To A Fair Payment Model For Content?

DECENT thumb Forbes01 e1498495694264 Will Blockchain Technology Finally Lead Us To A Fair Payment Model For Content?

During my journalism internship, I could already see there was going to be a problem with my chosen vocation. The small New England television station where I was interning was struck by a wave of media consolidation and competition from new cable networks. Writers were happy just to be called in as weekend temps. Geez, even my mentor was telling me to go to law school.

That was 1992, and traditional journalism was in deep crisis. Then along came the Internet, that happy digital highway of instant-publishing gratification. This had the effect of turning nearly everyone into a writer and publisher, for better or for worse. But the question ingrained upon me during my internship remained: How does anyone seriously get paid for this?

Different models – subscriptions, sponsorships, embedded ads, SEO, and pay-per-download – have been tried for promoting equitable distribution of digital content, but the question of secure, reliable payment still hovers over the media industry – as it does for most anyone who produces creative content, like books, movies, music, or pictures.

The traditional route of an author has been to present their work to a publisher and hope that their particular flavor of creative genius will be chosen for readers’ mass consumption. Few make the cut, and those who do face absorbent publishing fees that detract from hard-won earnings, sometimes leaving the author with a slim royalty of 25% for their e-book (source: Business of Publishing).

One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, wrote in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear about the many rejection letters – some helpful, some seemingly capricious – that she received from publishers. Undeterred, she chalked it up as part of the creative process, preferring perseverance to despair. She also kept her day job until her third book, the New York Times bestseller Eat, Pray, Love, won critical acclaim. Oprah promoted it in her book club, and Julia Roberts played the lead role in the movie version.

But what if there’s another path to publishing that’s open, free from media manipulation, and inherently just in matters of financial compensation? The answer might be found in blockchain technology. Underpinning the new “Internet of trust,” blockchains are open, distributed ledgers for recording transactions so they are verifiable and permanent. Inherently secure and resistant to tampering, this technology is ideal for recording events, records management, identity management, and transaction processing. But blockchain technology isn’t just for the likes of banks and insurance companies. It can also help creatives showcase their work, cultivate an audience – and get paid securely and directly.

DECENT, a Swiss tech startup, is applying blockchain technology to build a secured and trusted content distribution platform for authors, artists, and creatives of all calibers. Already in its second round of testing, with a launch date set for June 30, DECENT is attracting interest from technology enthusiasts and authors alike. Content posted on the platform includes e-books, blogs, videos, music, photos, and white papers, as well as independent software packages. Additionally, DECENT is encouraging third-party developers to build their own apps on top of its open-source protocol, opening the way for new publishing opportunities such as blogging spaces, photo galleries, and independent newspapers.

Freedom of speech on the blockchain

What makes DECENT different from other content distribution platforms is both the blockchain technology that supports it and its commitment to freedom of speech. Founded in 2015 by Matej Michalko and Matej Boda, both from Slovakia, DECENT is an independent, nonprofit peer-to-peer network that is wholly owned by its users. As such, it is not affiliated with any economic, media, or political party. In this decentralized network, content is hosted on multiple sites, meaning that it cannot be blocked, manipulated, or tampered with once it is published. This level of security provided by blockchain technology, in effect, also presents an interesting opportunity for independent media and organizations, like political opposition press and dissidents. “We have created a fully integrated and trustworthy worldwide platform system of digital content distribution, where blockchain plays a central role,” says Michalko. “Communication and all payments are done through the blockchain.”

That means no middlemen stand between the content author and the consumer. Whether in the form of publishing fees or content hosting fees, the cut taken by middlemen can be a serious threat to trust and profitability. “Most middlemen are unnecessary,” says Michalko. Citing a key advantage of blockchain compared to other technologies, he adds, “There is a significant reduction of costs of hosting because blockchain is peer-to-peer technology.”

DECENT community: Authors, consumers, publishers

The DECENT community is divided into three groups based on their relationships to the content: authors, consumers, and publishers. Authors comprise all types of content creators, whether they are individuals, organizations, businesses, artists, writers, photographers, software developers, music producers, or videographers. These people can upload their content, regardless of format, to the DECENT platform and set their price for which they will allow someone to access it. “There are no steps needed from the author. Just basically, upload the content to the platform and push the Publish button,” says Michalko. And what about tracking the content downstream? DECENT will tag the content with a digital fingerprint, enabling the author to identify copies of the content, so no unauthorized person can access or distribute it.

Consumers are the people who purchase the content and download it for their use. They can either access DECENT via its app or on the Web. “We built our products aimed at the general public, so no special knowledge is needed,” says Michalko. Purchasing content is like entering into a contract: the consumer makes a promise-to-pay; the author then delivers the content; and the payment is made. No payment, no content.

Payment is made with DCT tokens, a cryptocurrency like the Bitcoin that is the value denomination used in the DECENT community. DCT tokens are exchangeable to Bitcoins (BTC) and fiat currencies like euros, dollars, or pounds.

Which brings us to the role of publishers. Publishers are the members of the community who sustain the network by applying their independent computing resources for activities like processing transactions between authors and consumers and mining of Bitcoins. They typically provide their services in exchange for a fee. To be a publisher requires the necessary hardware and computing resources.

Startup credo: Build fresh, hire smart

DECENT stands out among blockchain startups in that it has its own blockchain built on open-source protocols. This provides the DECENT team with assurance in both the integrity of its technology and the mission of its platform. From September to November of 2016, DECENT held its initial coin offering (ICO) for its DCT tokens, raising 5,881+ BTC in the value of USD$ 4.2M at the end of the ICO and having a value of $ 15M in June 2017. More than 4,000 people backed the ICO, often buying in at two bitcoins or less. The funds will be used by the startup to further the development of its technology. DECENT’s team consists of 35+ people, spread among four global locations: Switzerland, Slovakia, China, and Armenia. Recently, DECENT hosted an AMA (Ask-Me-Anything) session to answer questions about its service offering and progress toward launching its main net. You can watch the recording of that AMA session here.

Michalko’s vision for DECENT is to be the content distribution platform of choice. He says, “I have confidence because we have great technology and a great team, and we are able to eliminate all the unnecessary middlemen.”

For more on blockchain, see How Can You Turn Blockchain Into Business Value?

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