Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Is your query being queried?

In the world of OR practice, it is almost always the case that a solution approach for a particular analytical problem in one industry is mathematically equivalent to something that was solved in a completely different context three decades ago. To avoid re-inventing the wheel, a first and basic step to rule this in or out would be to Google this (for example). However, there are some unexpected occasions when a query that combines some known well-documented methods and ideas returns very few hits. These situations are interesting because it hints at a probability that the attempted method/approach could be something that is practically new or rare. Perhaps you are asking an original and specific question in a context that doesn't have a well-documented answer. Could this potentially be an 'intellectual property' ? I get excited, but ...

On the other hand, these are exactly the queries that could also interest a search engine provider - technical words/phrases that on their own generate a shipload of responses, but in combination, yield no more than a handful. I get a bit worried. Will my query be flagged and put in a 'queue in a cloud' somewhere, waiting to be inspected by man and machine? Am I going overboard here? Two decades of explaining OR to non-OR people can do that. But didn't that Watson thingy provide the right questions to answers in a jiffy without even using the Internet? Maybe I'm just better off reinventing the wheel and doing 'original research'. Let the lawyers sort it out.

After three weeks of blissful soaking in the joy of India's successful world cup campaign that culminated in the biggest victory party in the world atop cloud nine, it's back to square one.

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