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The Story of the Similarities Engine

Note: this is old text, and is way out of date...

About this section

For the 11 months that SE has been on the web, I have been a little too busy to post much inthe way of text describing the reason I created this system.I finally have a little more time, so I hope to do a little writing here and let you know what's going on.

What happened to the old version?

I've had a lot of feedback on the new system, with most of /you saying that you like the old version better. Well, you are right. The previous version was a better system. (It allowed you to enter a list of your five favorite recording names, not just one artist name, and then emailed you back a list of other recording names that it recommended you check out.)

The thing is, it was a hell of a lot of work to keep running. By switching to this new system, which doesn't require any day-to-day effort from me, I was able to get some badly needed rest, and also close a business deal that you will be hearing more about very soon.

Stop it! No! NononoNO! Don't enter "Floyd,Pink" into this system!

There. I can finally say it. For almost a year, I've been wishing I could post that info at the front of the original version of SE, in a font so big it would make your monitor fall off your desk. I couldn't do it though, because the original SE was gathering data from everyone who used it, and mentioning any particular artist's name would have skewed the results. So I would carefully tweak the instructions, to try to explain the following: The way to enter an artists name is "Gabriel, Peter", but the way to enter a group's name is "Rolling Stones". You wouldn't believe some of the entries that I saw come through--here are some of the "best" with some comments from me.

What was it like running the old version?

Pretty difficult at times. Between 100-200 people per day would fill out the blank form, typing in the names of their five favorite recording. If I had been able to allow people to choose the names of their favorites from a list, then the responses that were sent in would not have had any spelling errors on them, but I didn't have the technical resources to set the page up that way. Plus, by presenting you with a blank form the way I did, I got more accurate replies. (Think about if you wanted to survey people about the name of their favorite ice cream. You would get a different set of responses if you said "What is your favorite ice cream?" than if you said "Is your favorite ice cream vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or something else?")

So I had all of these response forms coming in, many with some ridiculous spelling errors on them. About half of the CD names typed in were spelled exactly right, and my system was able to automatically correct about half of the remainder. This left one quarter of the entries, or about 25-50 per day, that I had to manually look at and correct. Keeping up with this task, along with trying to make constant improvements to the system, plus work at my "day" job, didn't leave much room for the rest of my life. I was in serious sleep-deprivation mode there for a while.

Having a popular web page

In return for all this work, I get to run a web page that is quite popular. I can't tell you what fun that is. I received kind email messages from users all over the world, and many of these people have become my friends. It's also quite a rush to wake up and find out your page has received some great new publicity, such as when the New York Times web page ran a long article on my site.

The web is obviously changing our world, and I feel honored to be a part of that. There may come a day when you have to have a staff of 30 and be backed by megabucks venture capital to create a web page that can make a stir, but that day isn't here yet. All you need is an idea for a new page, some basic computer skills (and maybe some help from a friend that with more advanced computer skills to get started), $1500 worth of hardware and a $15/month account on an Internet Service Provider (ISP). With a little luck, a lot of hard work and some careful publicizing of your site, you could soon have people sending email to you saying "kewl! i like it, dude!"

Trying to market the system

Of course, fleeting net-fame wasn't my objective. I have been working on the core technologies behind my web site off and on for over 15 years. The Similarities Engine is hopefully going to be my ticket out of rewarding but slow moving jobs in LAN support (I was most recently with NIH in Bethesda, MD) to wild new opportunities. That's why I shut down the original version of my system, so that I could have the time to create some of these new opportunities. This last month has been terrifying and exhilarating. Before this month, I tried hard to find a partner who saw the potential of the work I was doing, but I never did connect with the right individual. I finally decided I had to find the company that would hire me on to their team, and by doing so aquire both a valued employee, the system I created and the web traffic I have built up.

My new partners

Well, I can't say just yet. But watch this space!

I'll be writing more here soon.

Okay, I'm back!

I didn't exactly write more here "soon"; actually it has taken me over a year! But here goes.

First, I'd like to tell you all that I got married! And I met my new wife because I put this web page together and it became a success! Pretty cool, huh? I can't wait to tell you about it, but right now it's late and I have to just summarize.

In a nutshell: I found my new partners and joined up with them, and we ran a company called NetAngels.com for a while, trying to create a client-server based web toy that would change the world. It didn't happen that way, but I had fun, as you shall see. I was the number 4 guy in the company for a while, and to begin with they sent me to Poland, where our development work was being done. I was there for four months, and I met Kasia, who was working at the development company, The Polished Group. I asked her to marry me while I was there. Next I was sent to San Francisco for four months, and finally NetAngels was bought out by our biggest competitor, FireFly, so I moved back where I started from, Maryland. I have since begun work back at the company I had been with before the whole NetAngels adventure, The Orkand Corporation, where I will be working as a contractor at The National Institutes of Health (NIH). I work for the division NCI-DCS, where one of my duties is keeping that very web server running. I also moderate and maintain about 20 listserves, do tech support, and some development.

Kasia and I got married, and her dog arrived here.

More soon!

I'd love to hear from you, please use the "feedback" form on the menu to the left!


Notes to myself, for when I finally get around to organizing this stuff:

Locating titles recommended by the SE:

Unfortunately, you are on your own with this one. Sometimes the recordings that are recommended will only be available in a few countries, none of which are anywhere near you. The Internet makes our world a small one, except when you live in Chicago and you want to know more about a CD that is only available in Sweden.

Sorry about that, and good luck on your searches. Let us know about your adventures along the way!

The Similarities Engine as a Business Opportunity

Note: The following text is not valid anymore, and is included for historical purposes. I don't own the rights to the Similarities Engine system any more:

I am looking for a company or individual interested in becoming a partner with me on further development of The Similarities Engine.

The technologies I have invented here are capable of generating revenues in many various ways.

What I need is guidance and funding to help me re-write this system as a fully interactive web page. Won't you be this partner?

I need either a technical partner who knows interactive Web authoring, including Hot Java or other advanced scripting knowledge, and who has the time to dedicate to a re-write of this system in return for part ownership, or

Alternately, I need an investor interested in helping me fund the creation of a start-up company, and provide guidance in the business end of things, as we hire the technical talent needed.

How it works--The Similarities Engine

Unfortunately, I can't say much about the algorithm behind The Similarities Engine at this time. I'd like to market the technology, so I have to keep quiet about the methods that it uses for now.