C7 reads

October 26, 2012 — Deja un comentario
Since its beginnings, there were very few requirements for each new C7 employee. As time went by,
some basic conditions were added, each of them with its corresponding learning system, to carry out in the first months of activity.

However there is a first condition that survived from those early days and that remains valid today: reading.
An old rumour, which has already become myth, says that Hari Seldon himself predicted C7′s foundation, while working in his theory about the Galactic Empire decline. In his honor, The Foundation (I. Asimov) is the first non-theoretical book recommended for anyone who wants to understand what is done within Continente Siete.
In contrast, in The Fifth Discipline (P. Senge) is where one can find better answers in terms of operational and theoretical aspects. These help you understand the mindset and approach taken in most problems, and the subsequent resolution.
The last member of the founding triad is The Black Swan (N. Taleb). This book serves as a constant reminder that those premises which are assumed as valid are not always so, thereby driving a constant review of every working paradigm.
Numerous literary works were added to these three books, such as Statistical Inference and Design of Experiments (R. García), Six Pixels of Separation (M. Joel), Pride and Prejudice (J. Austen), The Courage of Truth (M. Foucault), The Tipping Point (M. Gladwell). Each one of them has an owner who lends it so that anyone interested can read it, scoring on a sheet that serves as a record and control, to avoid  losing anything on the way.
Together, these books foster the habit of reading, both as educational and for the simple pleasure of reading. In fact, our library is near the arm chairs, inviting anyone who has some time off to visit at any point.
So the next time you come, we invite you to look through all these books. I am sure you’ll find one that catches your eye, allowing you to pause your activities, have a coffee and read, read, read.

Leer, leer, leer, vivir la vida
que otros soñaron.
Leer, leer, leer, el alma olvida
las cosas que pasaron.
Se quedan las que quedan, las ficciones,
las flores de la pluma,
las solas, las humanas creaciones,
el poso de la espuma.
Leer, leer, leer; ¿seré lectura
mañana también yo?
¿Seré mi creador, mi criatura,
seré lo que pasó?
- Miguel de Unamuno -
This time I’m going to delve in a more philosophical or theoretical aspect. Is quite an open-ended thing, so don´t expect a straight up point!
It all begins because many times we found ourselves (in C7) talking about systems, whether it’s about defining a problem, understanding the dynamics of a situation, or trying to leverage the emergent of a system.
On the many different ways to define what a system actually is, it is usual to compare it to a “bunch of parts” and talk about how on a system these parts interact, have a structure, a purpose or something. We are not concerned about this aspect now, we are assuming a mild understanding of what a system actually is.
The line that I want to draw this time, albeit blurry and wide, is the difference between what we can interpret and analyze as a system, and what needs to be taken as a whole. This is why we’ll be talking about the ontological and epistemological realms.

hmmmmmm…. reaaaaally?
Ontological refers to an “entity”, what may be called a “thing in itself”. Think of a person, which is “a thing in itself” regardless of being constituted by many different parts. If we set these parts apart, the person is no more, and putting things back together won´t bring the person back. It has specific properties that emerge on it´s own level of aggregation, like character, emotions, self-consciousness, and so on.
On the other hand, Epistemological refers to a “unit of knowledge” or “what can be known”, regardless of the kind of bond that ties it together. Think of a group of people, like a mob. Even though they might behave as one, with emergent properties, you can separate them, and after a while put them back together, and they´ll be able to exhibit the same behavior. It seems quite similar in it´s properties to an ontological person, but it´s complexity can be reduced.*
*We´ll be talking about irreductible complexity some other time
This difference is better taken, or understood, in relation to the quintessential concept of “emergence”. Let’s see how these different fields take on this:

onthological emergence: apparition of a qualitative novelty,
epistemological emergence: unpredictability from lower levels.

So, for instance, even if we know that a given phenomenon is caused by the interaction of many parts, like a mob, it’s very different the approach we’ll take if we are studying the movement of the people through a set of stairs and halls or if we are looking at the explosion of violence that can occur inside mobs.
In the first case, we can successfully, and sufficiently, model it understanding the “decision rules” of every individual for themselves, and see what happens when those rules interact. We do not need to assign a “mood” to the mob, or a transcendent purpose or a hierarchy. Accounting for the individual rules we can model the emergent behavior. But we cannot establish a direct, obvious link between the individual rules and the whole. This is easy to see in bird flocks, whose movement is unpredictable, even though we can know with a high certainty what every individual bird does.
On the second case, it is not enough to look at any individual, as there are some properties that are shared between all the elements inside the mob. The “violence”, “excitement”, or the maintenance of it, is not located on any individual, but rather on the interaction between them. If a leader is taken out, another individual will probably take it’s place. Actions can be coordinated between different sections of the mob, and there is a threshold quantity of people so that this phenomenon takes place. Under this “critical mass”, nothing happens, even if the “most violent individuals” are present. So in this case we need to look at the mob as a whole, with a given structure and mechanisms, but largely indivisible.
Why does that matter? Well, it serves as a framework to tell what “is” from what we “see as”. What has existence of its own and what is an apparent unit. This serves us to consider for instance a methodology for approaching an issue, or the level of aggregation we can use to describe the lower or higher levels that we are interested into.
This perspective may not change what we actually end up doing on a given task or problem, but is an important reality check, and it´s a big clue to help us set the way the analysis takes place. It will help us answer some things: “Are we asking the right question?”, “Is this one problem or a set of related, smaller problems?”, “Do we need other tools, or disciplines, to tackle this thoroughly?”, and so on.
Perhaps this is no more than a brain teaser, but if it gets you to be more conscious about the way to approach different problems, then it´s a double win.

Flush the toilet

October 12, 2012 — Deja un comentario

Flush the toilet…

..and check which way water spins!

It may sound new to some people and it may ring a bell to others when it comes to the question: which way does water spin when you flush the toilet? The answer will come later.
There are several forces involved in the motion of an object, but there is one special effect that appears when the analysis takes place in a rotating reference frame. The latter term refers to a non-inertial reference frame rotating relative to an inertial one, in which case Newton’s laws cannot describe properly the forces involved unless fictitious forces are used.
We can now discuss, for instance, the centrifugal forces; but it is more interesting to learn about Coriolis Effect. It was in 1835 when a French engineer-mathematician called Gustave-Gaspard Coriolis described this “force”. Any object in motion in a rotating reference frame is accelerating by a force perpendicular to its motion. Even though this force does not exist because of a physical interaction, it creates a deflection on the path of an object due to the motion of the coordinate system, i.e. the Earth. This is why this kind of effect can only be appreciated at large scale, when the object´s  speed is greater than the ground’s.
Three aspects are related to the Coriolis Effect. First of all, the motion of the Earth is the rotating frame reference, but the effect weakens as we approach to the equator in a horizontal direction. That is why the latitude is another aspect to take into account. Finally, the motion of the object will also determine the magnitude of the Coriolis Effect.
Some examples can be seen both in natural and human developments. When it comes to natural sources, this effect is shown by the motion of great lakes and oceans, even the wind. On the other hand, the deflection planes or missiles evidence when travelling mostly from one hemisphere to another is also because of the mentioned effect.
Image 1. Large-scale wind patterns
 

All in all, we now know there is an effect named Coriolis which impact depends on the reference time-frame and affects our everyday-life (and in greater magnitude if you are further the Equator). But, can we really see it if we flush the toilet at home?

I am sorry to disappoint you guys! But if you flush the toilet in the Northern hemisphere or in the Southern, the swirl (vortex) generated only depends on the lavatory itself and other irregularities of the surface, because the speed of the drain is faster than the one generated by the Coriolis Effect. If you really want to verify the effect, you have to use a bigger recipient and tons of water. In laboratory circumstances, i.e. certain temperature and latitude, letting the water set still; then the conditions are set to evidence the Coriolis Effect when the Earth’s movement is slower than the one of the water relative to its container.

What is an algorithm?

An algorithm is a step-by-step procedure for calculations. The following is an example from the “HowStuffWorks” website:

Let’s say that you have a friend arriving at the airport, and your friend needs to get from the airport to your house. Here are four different algorithms that you might give your friend for getting to your home:
The taxi algorithm:
  1. Go to the taxi stand.
  2. Get in a taxi.
  3. Give the driver my address.
The call-me algorithm:
  1. When your plane arrives, call my cell phone.
  2. Meet me outside baggage claim.
The rent-a-car algorithm:
  1. Take the shuttle to the rental car place.
  2. Rent a car.
  3. Follow the directions to get to my house.
The bus algorithm:
  1. Outside baggage claim, catch bus number 70.
  2. Transfer to bus 14 on Main Street.
  3. Get off on Elm street.
  4. Walk two blocks north to my house.


Continente Siete Beginnings
Continente Siete started as a business consulting boutique company, with big focus in mathematics. We had the know-how, we had technology, methodology and teaching experience. Put these traits in the cocktail mixer and the first result that pops out is: consulting! Why? Consulting pays, and we already had some experience in the industry as well.
We started out as “Business Psychologists”, trying to understand companies’ problems, and offering innovative solutions to overcome them. This path took us to Demand Forecasting, where we tackled Forecast Accuracy problems for major companies through various approaches (technology, process engineering, methodology and training). The path also took us to Transportation, Online Marketing, Telecommunications and other Industries. The mechanics, however, were always the same. You tell us your bigger problems, and we’ll find an innovative solution.
Business for Continente Siete resulted promising, the company grew from 4 employees to 20 in less than 2 years.
The Consulting Dilemma
What was our growth model? Sell more projects! However, this required us to hire more people, more training, etc. In the end, we could never turn around income-cost equation drastically enough.
Furthermore, potential projects were always huge, and often led to long negotiations that could turn out either way. This made planning extremely difficult.
Combine these two, and you have a company that is always living in the edge, having to think thrice before entering negotiations with a potential new client.
Continente Siete’s Shift
Early 2012 we took a strategic turn towards pure algorithms. Before, algorithms were part of a bigger service, but after this point, they became our core.
The idea was simple (and frankly, it was always there, but we had never made it explicit before this point), find a massive problem, and identify what part of that problem can be addressed with pure mathematics, no humans involved.
Continente Siete would then continue their consulting service, but redefine it as either Private Lab, or Premium Service. These are today our labor intensive areas of application. The third area, the biggest one, is development. This way our services fund our product developments, until they become self-sustainable.
This is where we are right now, trying to make our developments self-sustainable so that they can serve as an “income buffer” for the whole Company, and shift planification towards the long-term.
Algorithms in Continente Siete
Today there are several algorithms we are developing inhouse.
Flimbu: our most mature product, Flimbu automatically optimizes any Adwords account by changing the CPC (cost-per-click) values of every keyword in the portfolio. In order to do this there are extraction, forecasting and optimization algorithms working in sync.
Behavioral: e-commerce is still growing at gigantic steps. Almost all sales come from either the website or a newsletter. However, most companies are using the same website layout and newsletter configuration for everyone. This not only has a short-term opportunity cost, but it also has a negative long-term effect on the user (they get tired, saturated). Behavioral is a set of algorithms that understands patterns in the users and uses these patterns to optimize both newsletter configuration and website layout. Businesses should only offer what is attractive for the specific user.
Forecastia: this product not only contains a set of forecasting algorithms (this is commodity) but it offers an extremely efficient matching algorithm. The latter is its competitive advantage, which is understanding what forecasting model should be used for each series, and how to “clean” the series before even starting to segment it.
Price Analytics: how much do I gain by increasing the price of this product by 10%? Price Analytics is a set of algorithms that target this type of questions. By reading price movements and volume shifts in sales through econometric and data mining algorithms, it is able to quantify price elasticity effects (of both promoted and non-promoted products).
a mathematical algorithm that rotates a simple geometric figure in three dimensions, but it's easier to say it's a butterfly, right? Plus, it has the metaphoric perks...
Continente Siete logo figure – a mathematical algorithm that rotates a simple geometric shape in three dimensions, but it’s easier to say it’s a butterfly, right? Plus, it has the metaphorical perks…



Why do Algorithms?

The strategic turn in Continente Siete aimed towards algorithms, but… Why algortihms? Well, there are several benefits in developing algorithms:

  • Non-linearity: algorithms can be run by computers, which in turn can be set into products, enabling for non-linear growth. This means that they are completely scalabale, and we don’t need to incur in significant costs to provide the product for more clients. Marginal costs are close to zero.
  • Universal language: mathematics is Universal, and so are algorithms. It doesn’t matter whether you are in Argentina, or in Pakistan, the code is the same.
  • No boundaries: no shipping costs, no material movement, basic logistics. The only thing that travels is information, and Internet enables it to travel the whole World. 
  • Unrestricted: there are practically no laws or policies that restricts the importing / exporting of data. Business does not depend on the Government type.
All these benefits make algorithm development extremely attractive. However, there is a big con in algortihms. As it travels the world and is somewhat visible to many eyes, copying becomes fairly easy. There are very low entry barriers. So how does Continente Siete build their protection policies?

I like to believe we turn a con into a pro. These low entry barriers motivate us to build our protection system base on innovation and continuous improvement. Stay ahead and let them copy!

Cadáver exquisito

September 21, 2012 — Deja un comentario
¡El viernes 14 de septiembre tuvo lugar el primer cadáver exquisito en el Continente! En el mismo participamos 10 autores: Lauta, Nico, Fede, Jony, Juli, Mechi, Ini, Migue, Afro, Baco.

Fundamento

Un cadáver exquisito es una composición colectiva – normalmente un texto o un dibujo – en la que cada autor no conoce más que las últimas palabras o líneas del autor anterior, y compone su parte a partir de las mismas. Al finalizar la composición, lo que se obtiene es una secuencia de fragmentos con un mínimo vínculo entre cada uno pero que, en términos generales, puede resultar en una coherencia sorprendente.
El objetivo principal, en nuestro caso, fue desarrollar las capacidades de escritura y de creatividad, con una actividad que a su vez fomente la interacción grupal. Justamente por esto, se decidió planificar la tarea de modo de poder escribir todos al mismo tiempo, y no secuencialmente.

Metodología utilizada

Puesta en común: tema y frases

Después de un muy entretenido debate, decidimos que el título del cadáver sería La primavera del cangrejo, y se trataría de un cuento de historias naturales (al estilo de Horacio Quiroga). Asimismo, elegimos frases que servirían de nexo entre cada uno de los textos, y sorteamos el orden de escritura. Ya con las frases y el título del cuento definidos, nos dedicamos a escribir nuestras partes, con la condición de mantenernos dentro de las 4 a 10 líneas cada uno. Finalmente juntamos las partes y, tras el almuerzo, leímos entre todos el resultado.
A continuación, ¡nuestro primer cadáver exquisito!

La primavera del cangrejo

La marea subió, y el atardecer de ese día soleado se esfumaba por el horizonte. Hortensia barrenó la última ola y decidió volver a la playa. Venía caminando por el fondo del mar, cuando dos peces de colores fluorescentes se le acercaron.

-Disculpa, me llamo Roberto – el más rojo le dijo – Con mi amigo estamos buscando la fiesta de las aletas coloradas, ¿sabés dónde es?

Hortensia no se ubicaba mucho por esos mares, pero decidió ayudarlos a llegar.

-Muchas gracias – le dijo el otro pez. Esa voz le resultaba familiar, era él, lo miró y le dijo a Nemo:

-¡Vos sos actor de Hollywood!

Nemo miró con cara de quien se sabe famoso, pero quiere mantener los pies sobre la tierra:

-Bueno, Hollywood… A veces voy a un evento o dos de esos, ¡pero me gusta pensarme más como un pez con suerte!

Hortensita lo miraba y sus ojos desorbitados no podían ocultar su fascinación por el personaje. A decir verdad, en la película estaba mucho más limpio y colorido, pero en vivo se notaban los detalles de las escamas brillantes y desprolijas, mucho más reales y atractivas para la joven cangrejita.

-¡Woooow, me encantó tu película! ¡Siempre sueño que me hago famosa actuando de princesa cangreja!

-Y sí… mucho sueñan eso, pero al final se da cuando menos lo buscás…

Nemo miró su reloj pulsera sumergible, y con cara de apurado dijo:

-¡Hora de mi entrenamiento diario!

Y sin despedirse, Nemo salió a entrenar sus aletas.

Hortensia no lo siguió y, solitaria, se sorprendió soñando lúcida; sucesivas imágenes de lo que le podría ocurrir a su compañero invadieron sus ojos. Como a la mayoría de los cangrejos, nunca le había gustado nadar, pero ante una aterrante visión de Nemo siendo masticado por veinte barracudas barrigudas, en un violento ataque vomitivo de impulsividad, decidió saltar del borde del arrecife y se lanzó hacia el abismo. Mientras caía lentamente ante la resistencia del agua pensaba:

-¿Qué estoy haciendo? ¡Yo jamás haría esto! ¿Está realmente pasando?

Hay un lugar donde no hay luz, donde no hay primavera, donde no hay sueños, donde la realidad y la ficción más fantasiosa se entremezclan como los tentáculos de dos pulpos en una pulseada. Donde no amanece: el fondo del mar.

Amanece en el barco, amanece en el mar.

Los primeros rayos de sol comienzan a escabullirse entre los párpados de Hortensia, obligándola a transitar el sendero que separa el sueño de la realidad. A medida que el mundo real gana terreno, un agudo dolor de cabeza la invade. Cubriendo sus ojos del sol con sus tenazas, se dijo a sí misma:

-Que resaca hermano, no puedo más.

Y luego, sin mirar a su compañero y con los ojos aún cerrados, le dijo:

-Che Nemo, pasame las aspirinas.

Pero Hortensia se enteró de que él se había ido.

Con él también se fueron los barcos, alejándose de la orilla en busca de pesca fresca de primavera. Hortensia se encontró sola y sin saber cómo protegerse en esta nueva temporada. Su sentido de la orientación todavía no estaba tan desarrollado y los procedimientos de los pescadores le eran desconocidos. La costa parecía ser un lugar seguro para esperar el anochecer. Tal vez ahí encontrara mas cangrejos a lo cuales podría unirse. Solo necesitaba entender hacia dónde debía caminar. Pero se encontraba en un lugar tan profundo que era imposible saber que dirección tomar. Le pareció ver haces de luz y se dirigió en ese sentido. Sin embargo cuando llegó al lugar comprendió que algo arriba suyo provocaba ese efecto. Un barco tal vez. Permaneció en el lugar y la luz se fue perdiendo de a poco hasta llegar a una negrura total.

-El fondo era más oscuro de lo esperado – piensa Hortensita.

-¿siempre será así? – dice para sus adentros mientras nada en la olla, grande y oscura.

Recuerda su niñez, sus paseos en la arena donde papá cangrejo le contó que en primavera los humanos reconectan con el nacer, con la vida, y no son tan propensos a matar para comer, prefieren una dieta verde, frutas y verduras que se entregan para alimentar. Sigue nadando, y recordando. Agua cada vez más caliente de por medio, se topa con un langostino que la mira afligido y suspira:

-¿Y la primavera? ¿No llegaba ahora? ¿Nos mintieron?

Una vieira lo abraza y casi para sus adentros suspira:

-Primavera, por favor, primavera.

Se sintió bien, no estaba sola. Al final, ella no era la única…todos esperaban la primavera.

Es que ya estaban cansados del frío del mar y la arena golpeando en sus cuerpos y rutinas. Hasta que al fin el invierno terminó, pudieron salir de sus cuevas, enfrentarse con el sol cálido y los turistas que llegaban a sus playas, pensaron que ahora sí iban a poder disfrutar. Y eso fue lo que pasó, se alegraron cada mañana al despertarse, Hortensita estaba feliz y pensaba que sus penas habían terminado. Pero luego de unos días algo falló, su destino se volvió a opacar… Como todos saben, la primavera termina.

Como todos saben, la primavera también comienza.

¡E incluso a veces es primavera, si tenemos suerte!

Y nuestra historia transcurre justamente en primavera, lo cual es poco común. Esto no debe sorprenderlo, querido lector, ya que también Hortensia era una cangreja poco común.

Se había percatado ella solita de su naturaleza especial. No por nada debía asistir a colegios especiales, aceptar amigos especiales, y hasta comer algas para nada ricas, pero especiales al fin. Al mismo tiempo, sus padres, biólogos genéticos de renombre en aquella región marítima, le recordaban con constancia e intensidad que ella había nacido para “ser especial”, y que las restricciones que le imponían eran sólo por su propio bien.

Hortensia existía dentro de una burbuja de confusión y aceptación.

-¿Por qué no puedo disfrutar como los demás cangrejos, las bondades del mar?

-¿Por qué debo comer solo alimentos preparados para mi?

-¿Por qué estoy confinada a las paredes del laboratorio de experimentos de mis padres?

-¿Y por qué, cada vez que me enfurezco, mis tenazas exponen un brillo incandescente verde fluo, al mismo tiempo que comienzan a agrandarse desmesuradamente?

Estaba confundida, decidida a cambiar.

De a poquito, fue rebelándosele a los hábitos impuestos. Empezó por demandar comer algo que realmente le gustara, con la esperanza de que este primer paso fuera fácil.

A caparazón firme, se acercó al sector de Nutrición del laboratorio, se plantó delante de Gutiérrez, el encargado, y le dijo:

-Quiero una crema helada de fitoPlankton.

Gutiérrez se congeló. Entendió la situación, pero decidió desligarse y llamar a Galíndez, el chef de turno. Galíndez se acercó, después de escuchar la historia, y frunció el entrecejo:

-Hortensia, ¿Estás segura de lo que haces? – le preguntó mientras se rascaba sus avejentadas branquias.
-Si – su voz, firme como la nariz de un tiburón martillo.

El chef miró a Hortensia a los ojos. Sabía de su deseo de vivir, y deseaba no ser el encargado de poner fin a semejante aventura. Pero el deber obliga, y tenía la orden de hacer ese plato específico de cena. Aun así, y en un aire de valentía, liberó a la pobre cangreja, soltándola a su suerte en el mar, e improvisó un intento de cangrejo con otros ingredientes del lugar.

Llegó el momento de presentarle el plato a tan famoso comensal, y con manos temblorosas fue él mismo el encargado de entregar la presa. Sin embargo, no contaba con la respuesta del personaje, respuesta que cambiaría su humor y le devolvería el aire al cuerpo:

-No gracias, soy alérgica a los crustáceos


The development of new technologies for storing renewable energy seems to be a key aspect for the energetic “turnaround”. With this post we want to illustrate this point, and motivate you to keep reading and learning about what is going on in the fascinating world of clean energies.

This article shows some results and challenges of using lithium ion batteries connected to the energy generators: the fluctuating supply of electricity based on photovoltaics and wind power can be stored until the time of peak consumption”.



http://www.energyharvestingjournal.com/articles/storage-systems-for-renewable-energy-00004648.asp?sessionid=1

A fundamental requirement of energy supply, comes from strong fluctuation in energy consumption. With appropriate storage and fast discharge, energy requirements during peaks in energy consumption can be supplied with minimum “effort”. This means being able to “fluctuate” in supply, minimizing the cost of generation overall. The following article discusses the impact development of new technology could have. “When storage becomes cheap and massive, the impact will be huge.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-27/ski-lifts-help-open-25-billion-market-for-storing-power-energy.html?cmpid=yhoo

Another important reason for needing optimal storing energy comes from the fluctuation of output of the renewable sources. For example, for a 4KW photovoltaic generator, “cloud cover can cause generation to drop by 80% in just a few seconds” according to SaftBatteries.

Apart from minute-to-minute variations, we also have daily variations in the generation of both wind an solar energies, due to the obvious dependency of climatic variables. As an example, the following graph shows energy output for wind generation in Ireland for different days:

So, not only is storage important for “demand-buffering” but also for “supply-buffering”. Apparently, it is the current bottleneck for a potential massive conversion to clean energies. It is not an easy challenge, but the first step of recognizing the problem has been made.
The following links show different experiments using super-capacitors with pen ink and iron-air batteries as alternatives:
Are any of them definite solutions? Apparently not yet, but the wind seems to be blowing on our backs, pushing us forward to a new world…

Seeking true Matrix

September 7, 2012 — Deja un comentario
Once upon a time… Matricks!

Morpheus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. Remember… all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.

What about the red pill? Are we sure we want to know anything about the rabbit-hole? We are usually working on models, making our own representations of reality. It is part of our job, to make our own matrix, in order to interact with it, looking for the truth, either the truth in the past or the expected one in the future. Bottom line, we´re in charge of making things work, first in fiction and then in reality.
Morpheus: What is the Matrix? Control. The Matrix is a computer-generated dream world built to keep us under control in order to change a human being into this [holds up a Duracell battery].
Neo: No, I don’t believe it. It’s not possible.
Morpheus: I didn’t say it would be easy, Neo. I just said it would be the truth.

But, how can we do to make those things work? Mainly, we need a good vision of reality, given by people who interact in that reality. Once we know what has to be represented, the first step is already being taken.
Morpheus: I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.

As a comparison between what we do and the concept behind the film (and because we are big fans of it), we decided to make a simple model that represents the way we act, just for doing it. This is how Matricks was born, with basic controls and a hidden truth behind the numbers, that we hope you enjoy discovering!

Morpheus: Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

Press on the red pill to run the model

Note: the name “matricks” arises from the conjunction of “Matrix” and “tricks”, due to the trick hidden in the model

Redes Sociales y la empresa

Las Redes Sociales de Internet (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) vienen cobrando cada vez más protagonismo. Hasta en el mundo de los negocios, hoy forman parte de la Comunicación Digital de cualquier empresa. En Continente Siete vemos el valor de estos canales, y hemos estado tratando de apalancarlos desde un principio.
Mantener la disciplina

Los Canales Digitales admiten altos niveles de información. Es por eso que muchas empresas optaron por crear equipos dedicados para la creación de contenido y la comunicación en los mismos. En Continente Siete buscamos la participación de todo C7er (y el tamaño de la empresa no justifica tener a una persona dedicada únicamente a estos canales) por eso intentamos un enfoque diferente.


Hace aproximadamente un año, un equipo de 3 personas dedicó sus días D (día dedicado al desarrollo de proyectos de interés personal) en entender y establecer los usos correctos de cada canal. El output de este proyecto fue el armado de una política de comunicación descentralizada, con pautas y guías para un efectivo uso, en donde cada C7er puede efectuar una comunicación oficial de Continente Siete por estas vías.


Resultados: el nivel de comunicación aumentó significativamente. Sin embargo, el costo de generación de contenido era alto y el incentivo bajo, llevando a un flujo esporádico de información que subutilizaba los canales.

Apalancando en múltiples puntos

Hace unos meses el problema recobró importancia, y un equipo de Continente Siete decidió montarse sobre la solución anterior. Esta vez, no solamente se trabajaría en la política, sino también en la organización y el incentivo.


Organización

Se usó el Trello (www.trello.com es una aplicación web que sirve como herramienta para la gestión de proyectos AGILE) y se creó un tablero para organizar el flujo de comunicación digital. En el tablero hay 3 listas: Repositorio, Programados y Posteados Recientemente. 


En el Repositorio cada C7er puede crear una tarjeta con un link a un artículo interesante, o agregar contenido propio. En esta misma tarjeta la persona se auto-asigna y sugiere a través de un código de colores los canales en los cuales cree que vale la pena comunicar.


Un encargado luego pasa estas tarjetas a Programados, en donde se le agrega una fecha de “posteo” que la persona asignada deberá respetar.


El encargado es un C7er diferente cada mes, y un Google Spreadhseet se encarga de comunicar a quién le corresponde el cargo.
Incentivo


Gamification is the use of game design techniques, game thinking and game mechanics to enhance non-game contexts” – Wikipedia


A través de este concepto de Gamification es que se intentó agregarle incentivo al sistema. Se creó un monitor en el cual el C7er que ejecuta la comunicación debe registrar sus “posteos”. El mismo monitor muestra las últimas tendencias de los “posts” en Continente Siete, y, para cada persona, le asigna un nivel por cada canal de comunicación (por ejemplo, un C7er puede ser Level 1 Facebook, y al mismo tiempo Level 4 Blog C7). También cada C7er tiene un Puntaje y Nivel total de acuerdo a qué tanto avance tenga en los diferentes canales.
De esta manera se generan Rankings que permiten a los C7ers entrar en una sana competencia para ser el mejor comunicador.


En un futuro cercano también se agregarán Awards y premios reales para continuar en la curva ascendente de Incentivos.
Resultados y últimas palabras

Desde su implementación hemos tenido un flujo constante de comunicación a través de los diferentes canales, sin perder la calidad de la misma. La exposición ha aumentado significativamente. Si bien se agrega un costo extra que es el de registrar el “posteo”, el beneficio por facilitar la creación de contenido y por el incentivo, parece ser mayor.


Queda por re-analizar los parámetros de uso correctos de cada canal, ya que no queremos saturarlos y perder audiencia por esto.

Gracias Jose, Mechi, Migue y Juancho por ayudar a armar este programa!

Ahora, aprovecho y me sumo un puntito en el Blog C7.

Imagine your job is to schedule the pick-up and delivery of certain goods. Everyday, you will receive orders that vary in many ways: there are many suppliers from which to pick-up; different order sizes; different lead times; different delivery dates and time windows! With this information, you must decide how to satisfy the demand, using your limited resources….

It’s not a simple job! Unless you have an unlimited fleet of trucks that don’t use fuel, and a group of drivers willing to make ridiculous trips at no cost, you will be motivated to design optimal routes. Added to these obvious economic reasons, you should also be considering pollution and traffic congestion!!

OK, don’t panic… There are several ways of tackling this problem, and one of them is the Wright’s Saving Algorithm, a deterministic method that groups clients in order to reduce the total distance travelled by trucks.

The procedure is very simple, and results are suprising! It consists of pairing all orders, and calculating the kms saved by grouping these two suppliers. This image shows how in this case, grouping suppliers 1 and 2 would generate a saving: S=d13+d02-d12. 

The negative term in the saving comes because pairing suppliers adds a new route: the one connecting both suppliers. If this distance is greater than the positive terms, then pairing these suppliers will have a “negative saving”, indicating that its best to visit both separately (if we consider distance as the only cost indicator).

The algorithm then analyzes all combinations, ordered by greater saving, and assigns orders to the available trucks, considering capacity and fuel restrictions.

You can try the model we developed here: http://www.runthemodel.com/models/825/

In the example, you have to locate the suppliers in the green area (by clicking and dragging) and click the START button. You will see how new orders that arrive each day are assigned to the different trucks. Try pausing the model when orders arrive and thinking how you would assign the demand to the available trucks. Then compare your ideas with the algorithm! With few suppliers you will probably be able to match the results (or even beat the algorithm!), but try adding suppliers, and the problem will become exponentially more complex!!

Milk Runs tour re-make

Simulation model Milk Runs tour re-make created with AnyLogic - simulation software / Transportation & Logistics
Run the model Developed with
simulation software AnyLogic

     What do a fern and a snowflake have in common? If I were to tell you that they relate in the same way as DNA relates to Romanesco broccoli, would it strike you as odd? They are all cases of natural-given self-similarity. In mathematics, a self-similar object is exactly or approximately similar to a part of itself (this contradicts the popular saying: beautiful from afar, but far from beautiful).

     A couple of weeks ago I came across a creation of the Polish mathematician Warclaw Sierpinski and was amazed by its simplicity and beauty. The Sierpinski Triangle is a self-similar fractal figure created by following a very simple algorithm. In fact, the algorithm is so simple that you can draw it on a sheet of paper while reading this post:

  1. First draw an equilateral triangle the size of the palm of your hand
  2. Choose a random point inside the triangle and mark that point with a pen or pencil.
  3. Randomly choose a corner of the triangle.
  4. Mark a new point halfway from the last point you drew and the previously chosen corner.
  5. Randomly choose a new corner (it may be the same one you chose before).
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 indefinitely (do this a couple of times).

Note: You probably won´t notice anything extraordinary by doing 10 or even 50 iterations.


     I would recommend you draw a couple of points in order to understand the algorithm but leave the ‘indefinitely’ part to a machine. At Continente Siete we modelled this simple algorithm and will leave it for you to discover what emerges from the seemingly trivial steps you have followed.


     You can run the model by following these three steps:

  • After starting the model, click inside the displayed triangle to select an initial point
  • Repeatedly click on the ‘Add point(s)’ button located on the upper right of the window (select the ‘Auto Add Point(s)’ checkbox to do this automatically).
  • Observe the emerging pattern (note: speed up the process by adding several points  at a time with the ‘Add points’ slider located on the upper right of the window).


     We welcome you to discover and experiment with the other features included in the model.


     Maybe the next time you eat broccoli you´ll take a closer look and appreciate the mathematics behind nature.