8 min read

Fourthought…Kadomo/Zepheira…Oori! [Àzụ́m áhị́á]

Labor Day ed—surely entrepreneurship counts? Hard work starting companies! From As You Like It to Electro, or is it Hip-Hop? Plus Coach Prime mania!
Fourthought…Kadomo/Zepheira…Oori! [Àzụ́m áhị́á]
As You Like It, Act IV, Scene ii by Frederick William Davis (1862–1919)
What shall he have that kill'd the deer?
His leather skin and horns to wear:
Then sing him home, the rest shall bear this burden;
Take thou no scorn to wear the horn,
It was a crest ere thou wast born,
Thy father's father wore it,
And thy father bore it,
The horn, the horn, the lusty horn,
Is not a thing to laugh to scorn.

—Forester (and presumably ensemble), Shakespeare - As You Like It (IV,ii)

Once upon a time a DJ's task
Was just to play records, what more could you ask?
But then came remixes, scratching and cuts
Which was too much for many, drove some DJ's nuts
But the DJ named Glove has reigned supreme
As the turntable wizard of the hip-hop scene
So listen to him, check him out, but remember this
When The Glove's on the wheels of steel he's Reckless

—Ice-T (with The Glove) - Reckless

It's a day to celebrate workers. To be at either end os a scene where a strong, if daft Audrey is looked upon with Cincinnatic admiration by a courtly refugee—merely the motley fool, mind you. Oh yes. This is Europe (and its Imperial shape-alikes) where somehow the idea of labor has been painted on to the victims of rents. There is nothing automatic about this arrangement, as Ezra Pound laments muddledly (refusing to reckon the thinness of the veneer of Florentine/Venetian mercantilism over feudalism).

I founded Fourthought in June, 1998 with three other friends from college. Eight and a half years doesn't sound that long when I say it, but the near-decade fills my rear view mirror so completely that I can scarcely remember having done anything before it. That's probably a good thing as it means I don't much remember the years of perfunctory consulting at places such as IBM Global Services and Sabre Decision Technologies prior to making the leap to relative independence. It was in part the typical entrepreneurial yen of the immigrant and in part the urge to chart my own high-tech career course that drove me to take the risk and endure the ups and downs of running a consultancy.

That was me in mid-December 2006, on my old blog, Copia announcing I was going to join a new consultancy, Kadomo, co-founded by my friend and colleague Eric Miller. I'd have my usual independence and autonomy to bring clients to the firm, manage and deliver for them, and I could still keep up my leadership in open source projects and community specification development. Perhaps it would be cool to have a break from being the chief executive, as I was at Fourthought for a good seven years, including through the harrowing times of the dot-com crash of 2001, having to lay off most of our employees (harsh memory for Labor Day there!), and then rebuilding the business from the inside of a hole.

2000/2001 dot-com crash infographic. Mind you, total VC investment in Webvan was ~$400m

We'd done well to rebuild within a few years, and it was a decent living through Fourthought, but I'd convinced myself I'd try being a key (As Chief Technical Architect), but not the key exec for a while at Kadomo. The cosmos had other plans as a nasty dispute between a couple of the other founders derailed everything. I was on vacation with my wife in Marseilles while fielding frantic calls that things were falling apart. When I got back to the States I ended up with a key part in the reconstruction, having also to invest some working capital, so we could reorganize into Zepheira. There were a few other dramatic reconfigurations at Zepheira before we arrived in the shape where we created the Library.Link product, eventually acquired by EBSCO, which I left earlier this year.

When I left EBSCO I thought I'd once again try a regular employee stint somewhere, or at most an independent consultant, but I was getting into generative AI, and it was clear that there was a massive gap in experienced software engineering for a lot of the firms joining this gold rush. My older children were also showing interest in what I was doing, as were some of my eldest son's friends. I also knew my brother, Chimezie, also an experienced software and data engineer (who, for example in the quoted article I cited as "one of the most accomplished users of semantic Web technology to solve real-world problems"), would be really good at this stuff, and so here I am again going entrepreneurially all in.

Speaking of semantic technology, it amuses me to look back on what I wrote about it in the context of Kadomo, about the AI-on-the-web tech we were trying to establish long before most people were thinking about AI beyond clocking Terminator films.

Considering my primary responsibility for technology strategy it may seem strange to some that I'd join a semantic Web company, knowing
that I have expressed such skepticism of the direction core semantic Web technology has taken lately. I soured on the heaping helping of gobbledygook that was laden on RDF in the post-2000 round of specs, I soured on SPARQL as a query language when it became clear that it was to be as ugly and inelegant as XQuery. There have been some bright spots of lightweight goodness such as GRDDL and SKOS but overall, I've found myself more and more focused on XML schema and transform technology. My departure point for the past few years has been that a well-annotated syntactic Web can meet all the goals I personally have for the semantic Web. I've always been pretty modest in what I want from semantics on the Web. To put it bluntly what interests me most is reducing the cost of screen-scraping. Of course, as I prove every day in my day job, even such an unfashionable goal leads to the sorts of valuable techniques that people prefer to buzz about using terms such as "enterprise mashups". Not that I begrudge folks their buzzwords, mind you.

The transformer machine-learning model revolution has put this idea of semantic computing on its head as firmly as it's put everything else. This technology, for example is what enabled the likes of DALL-E and ChatGPT. Now rather than top-down, elaborately constructed semantic understanding, it's developed bottom from the weight of trillions of texts in training. You no longer need to put as much complex coding into the rest of the language processing machinery. That's good news for me, given the gripes quoted above. Yes, complexity remains in the system, but it's in the machine-managed part (the language model) rather than in the parts humans have to manage (the specifications and programming code).

XKCD #1838, another classic in the series (and yes, even funnier because it's true)

Electro! Ọ dị go Reckless!

I experienced a real shock when my wife & I were reminiscing about Electro music, and I googled for some of what used to be my favorite Electro jams. Google seems to have decided that Electro is just another word for EDM, even if you put quotes around "Electro". Someone at Google needs to be put on toilet cleaning duty for this insult. Proper Electro is Hashim - Al Naafiysh (The Soul). Have a listen to that and tell me it has anything to do with Clean Bandit or Daft Punk. I outta punk some daft fool at the search engine giant, f'real! Arthur Baker, Bambaata, Cybotron, that's echt Electro! OK, if you bring up, say Newcleus or Fearless Four, now you're in quicksand of controversy. A lot of Electro fans who didn't like rap would swear that Electro has nothing to do with Hip-Hop. I think there was even a gag in the Zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead on this trope, but let's be real, some of the best ever Electro definitely had rapping on it.

Remember "Reckless?" The classic jam from Breakin'? Sure it's an Ice-T vehicle, but if that's not an Electro track, I don't know what it. The scratching by OG DJ The Glove sits lovely among the groovy layering of electronic effects.

Ice-T - Reckless feat. Chris "The Glove" Taylor

Whenever I listen to "Reckless" I always remember a guy I knew in secondary school. He was one of our outcast b-boy crew who preferred Hip-Hop and Electro to the Funk and Boogie most of the cool kids were digging. Just two things I remember about him 1) everyone called him "Forester" because when he was called upon to perform that character in our classroom As You Like It (Shakespeare) recital, he gave that bitty bit part role (really just the song I've quoted above) perhaps more gusto than it strictly required. 2)  He came up with a hysterical, Igbo rendition of "Reckless" that I don't quite remember any more except for the refrain—say, in your best Ice-T LA OG voice: Ọ dị go Reckless!

"Play, music; and you brides and bridegrooms all…"

The quote is, naturally, from As You Like It—the IMO over the top Hymen scene at the end. I'll go quickly through the music recommendations. DJ Premier with two of today's finer lyricists? Yes please!

DJ Premier - Runway feat. Rome Streetz & Westside Gunn (Music Video, Youtube)

Burna Boy has a new album out, I Told Them. For some strange reason it's sparked all sorts of silly debate over his mixing a few minor non-African elements. Is he turning his back on his heritage? Is he appropriating Black American culture? I'm not sure where anyone is finding profit in such idle quarrel. It's a fairly regulation naija-pop album, notable mostly for the fantastic production, which you should expect from such a giant of the genre. For me the stand-out track is "On Form".

Burna Boy - I Told Them (Spotify)

I always dig PJ Morton, but there's no doubt that it's his live releases that really tend to catch my fancy. It was his live cover of How Deep is Your Love from Gumbo that introduced me to the glorious, glorious voice of Yebba. His latest live album is also a must-listen.

PJ Morton - Watch The Sun Live: The Mansion Sessions (Spotify)

A parting word for the Buffs. I can remember watching only two College Football games on TV, ever. Funnily enough, one was at an après-meeting gathering where we were assembling the ill-fated Kadomo company in Columbus (Gators smashed the Buckeyes, as I recall). This past Saturday was the second. Yes I even watched Coach Prime's opera before my typical weekend diet of Premier League (no harm; no foul—The Arsenal beat Man U yesterday 😎). Say what you like about him, but Sanders is not only a mountainous personality, but has a way of enlarging others. The Boulder area is already thoroughly agog. How much more so after the weekend's heroics?

Coach Prime being Coach Prime, Post TCU upset. AP Photo.

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