bob schukai

I know the feeling


I’ve currently been on an extended trip through Europe, but last week, one of the biggest news stories was the landing of the Philae probe on a comet. It marks the first time that we have been able to achieve such a feat. The entire mission has been one series of innovations after another, and personally, I’m so happy for the engineers in the European Space Agency (ESA) command center who have seen their dream become a reality.

Although the Philae probe has now gone into a hibernation status due the inability of the probe to recharge its batteries, it has accomplished a number of key objectives including sending pictures back from the comet and sending science data from all of its on-board instruments including the COSAC – the Cometary Sampling and Composition experiment – which drilled into the comet in search of molecular building blocks that may have kickstarted life on planets like Earth.

I was reading the Sunday Times, and it had a great article written by Bryan Appleyard titled “One Giant Step.”  I genuinely appreciated his comments about this project for a number of reasons. Have a read of this quote: (more…)

Billy Idol, The Sex Pistols, and innovation

Well, if that title didn’t get you to read this blog post, I doubt anything I write will!

I’m currently reading Billy Idol’s new autobiography called Dancing With Myself, and it sort of hit me while that this might make for an interesting piece. I’ve made it a habit to read a lot of musician biographies/autobiographies including Jim Morrison, Keith Richards and Sammy Hagar, but what has really struck me about this one is the era in which Idol arrived onto the music scene. Prior to doing his solo bit, that pretty much everyone of the MTV era knows, he was in a band called Generation X that released their first single in 1977. You had a lot of factors all coming together at the same time to impact the music scene, but most notably in England, you saw a lot of social strife and economic problems. All of this really culminated in 1978-1979 with what was called the “Winter of Discontent” where widespread union strikes effectively shut down significant pieces of the economy over pay and work hours.

billy idolWhen you have people that feel like there is no future or opportunity, it’s no surprise that the punk scene emerged as a creative outlet to express rage at what was going on. Bands like The Clash and the Sex Pistols put out some really hardline messages like “London’s Burning” and “Anarchy In The UK,” and Idol was a part of that scene. No hint of subversion here – lyrics in both of those songs were in your face.

Whether you like their music or the message, what the bands and youth of Britain wanted was better opportunity, change, and even – one might argue – innovative thinking from those in charge. As a standalone concept, punk rock was a radical departure from the music of the 60s and even the mainstream 70s rock music with a highly charged political message against the status quo. Punk even struggled to get its message out, because no one wanted to open up their clubs for these bands. (more…)

A dream dinner party

Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit

I’ve always had lists of people I’d love to have drinks or dinner parties with, and they usually revolve around a theme like sports or music or tech. This week, I had one of those opportunities when I attended the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco. This one was built around the age of innovation, and you could not have asked for a better lineup of speakers, moderators, and even guests. How would you like to spend the day listening to the likes of Elon Musk (SpaceX, Tesla), Evan Spiegel (Snapchat) Sal Khan (Khan Academy), Daniel Ek (Spotify), Marc Andreessen (Andressen Horowitz), Mike Judge (Silicon Valley, King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead), Eric Schmidt (Google), and Mike Bloomberg? Or imagine seeing Sting, Jimmy Buffett, and his older brother (not really) Warren Buffett in the audience? (more…)

He shoots…wide of the net

I have a confession to make. I’m not going to achieve one of my goals for 2015, and I already know it.

Earlier this year, I ran my first marathon in Orlando at Disneyworld, and I had planned to run another one before year-end in December.  It was a good one too – the Intertrust Cayman Islands Marathon. Who wouldn’t want to get a few days on a beach in December? Unfortunately, I’ve spent most of the summer battling the biggest curse of runners, plantar fasciitis, which is just brutal to deal with. I’ve only now just been cleared to start resuming a running program in the last couple weeks, and I can still feel the pain in the heel. I’ve got a half marathon scheduled for November which was planned to be part of the training; now, it will be a stretch just to see if I’ll be able to even run that one.

It’s hugely frustrating to me, because I love running and it’s something that I can do wherever I am in the world. It’s also frustrating, because I set a goal to do it and realize it isn’t going to happen. No amount of training, wishing, hoping, or praying will change it. I can’t try and jam in more training hours or force it. This one is out of my control, and that is what makes it even harder. At this point, all I can do is be smart about my rehab and start thinking about 2015.

It felt like primetime to write about this now as we’ve reach the fourth quarter.  All of us might be looking at our own goals and realizing that for whatever reason, we’re not going to be able to achieve one or more. Maybe it’s out of your control, maybe it is something we did wrong along the way (perhaps for example, overtraining aggravated the situation in my foot), maybe it just wasn’t achievable to begin with. (more…)

Tennis anyone?

US Open

Ahead of the 2014 World Cup, we launched the Reuters Sports Reel app as a way to showcase the terrific photography produced by our journalists. What makes this app so compelling is that you actually see photos coming into the app during events in near real time. In addition to covering this year’s Tour de France, we have now covered the Hungarian and Belgian Formula 1 Grand Prix races. With our internal push notification platform, you can get alerts for the events, teams, or individuals you most want to follow. Apple has already chosen to feature this product, and as mentioned when we launched the app, you can get it for both iOS and Android.

There are a couple of great pictures below from the Belgian F1 race, and we will be covering the rest of the Formula 1 calendar: (more…)

My week Down Under


I’ve just wrapped up a week-long trip to Australia – my first for Thomson Reuters, and with a bit of luck, hopefully not my last. It’s absolutely one of the best places to visit in the world, if you can take the long flight to get there. From Dallas, the flight is 15.5 hours and that’s just to get you to Brisbane – continuing on to Sydney required a stopover to refuel, and another hour or so in the air.

Earlier this year, I had been asked to present at an information retrieval conference session on the Gold Coast. While the title of my session, “OK Glass…Google…Why Do I Need Your Search?” is a bit facetious, it allowed me to talk about the way we are thinking about the continuous client service. Of course we need search. Search has, in my opinion, evolved into a learned history of things I care about and am interested in. Thus, applying algorithms to that learned history enables services to proactively and asynchronously push content to my phone, without me even needing to ask for it. That’s incredibly important, because those and other types of devices do not have the sorts of user input functionality that we have on our desktops and laptops (i.e. a large screen, keyboard, and mouse). (more…)

Analytics: How big data can solve our most complex problems

big data

Big data seems to be everyone’s favorite answer to complex questions. Of course, big data is not an answer in and of itself, but a way to get to the answer. So it was nice to hear a wide range of experts give varying opinions on the subject. The above titled panel featured Drake BaerDon TapscottBob Schukai (from Thomson Reuters), Guruduth Banavar and was moderated by Bill Thoet.

The panel discussion oscillated between the potential of big data, the problems it raises and the progress that’s already been made. Both Don Tapscott and Guruduth Banavar talked about the new asset class that has been created as a result of big data. But in many instances, the data is unstructured and complex. These “digital crumbs” that are being created have the potential to pass all other asset classes. A useful analogy that Tapscott used was that of natural gas and the idea of “data frackers.” With data being accumulated from “stuff we do every day,” there’s unlimited potential for new innovation and knowledge, but also major privacy risks.

Although it may feel like big data just appeared, it “did not fall from the sky,” as Drake Baer most aptly put it. We’ve already made huge strides using big data in things like sequencing the human genome, the Square Kilometre Array, and artificial intelligence. Bob Schukai even made the analogy of our brain as a computer, where processing big data is simply how we experience life.

He also explained how Thomson Reuters is one of the original big data companies. The panelists debated about how the traditional business model is changing with information becoming more widely available. So in addition to providing information, companies must be able to provide what the customers need to know about the data. Bob explained how Thomson Reuters is providing context, relevancy, location, insight & a predictive component. Banavar went as far as saying that IBM’s goal is to eventually have a Watson in every home! The potential opportunities for big data, even on a personal scale, are quite exciting.

Designing with empathy

It’s nice to be back in Aspen for the Ideas Festival, and unsurprisingly, I’ve spent a lot of time in sessions around creativity and innovation. I particularly enjoyed one run by IDEO featuring their founder, Tom Kelley, titled Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential in All of Us.  

There were a couple of great themes worth sharing. The first of those is the obvious one: with creativity and innovation comes failure. Tom had a really good way of putting innovation into context using the example of running an experiment. With an experiment, you have a hypothesis – and sometimes it’s right and sometimes it’s not. If you treat the creative process as an experiment, you’ve reframed failure as a potential outcome but with a completely different spin.

Perhaps the best message I took away was the concept of “designing with empathy.” Kelley talked about the development and launch of a GE scanning machine that could do incredibly powerful things, particularly in the field of pediatric medicine; but the machine scared the daylights out of kids.  Over 80% of them were so frightened that they had to bring in an anesthesiologist to keep the kids still. The GE product designer was gutted to hear that his incredible work had caused such a reaction – and so GE went back and took another run with a redesign that included graphics to make it look like a pirate ship! Kids were told to pretend they were hiding from the captain and to stay as still as possible, and it worked. After the redesign, less than 10% of kids that went into the scanner required the anesthesiologist. (more…)

Heard around Aspen – June 28th

aspen ideas festival

Saturday marked the first full day of sessions at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival. Make sure to check out our full series of posts on this year’s event. Here are some of the most interesting, provocative and salient quotes we heard around Aspen: (more…)

Thomson Reuters at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival

A place for global thinkers and leaders to discuss inspirational issues and look to the future

This year’s Aspen Ideas Festival (AIF) from June 27th to July 3rd marks a decade of inspirational gatherings, in which key global thinkers and leaders have debated, shared and grappled with issues affecting their societies. We’re pleased to continue participating in the Festival, partnering with the Aspen Institute and the Atlantic for the seventh year, and to support this great event’s 10th anniversary.

Instead of looking back, the Festival’s theme will look forward and ask important questions like: (more…)