Mohammad Al-Ubaydli’s blog

Barrick Goes Open-Source

Posted in Management by Dr Mohammad Al-Ubaydli on April 21, 2008

It’s taken eight years since the CEO of US Gold made all data about his company’s gold mine available to everyone, but other mining companies are finally beginning to copy his open source approach:

Unlike ATP, Barrick is reaching outside the organization to solve a production puzzle. At the company’s Veladero mine in Argentina, silver is a significant by-product. An estimated 180 million ounces are contained in reserves. The problem is that using traditional methods, the company is achieving only a 7% recovery rate. Now that per-ounce silver prices are moving up into the high teens, Barrick is understandably frustrated at failing to capture more than a modicum of the metal.

Last September, the company opened its books to the entire world. Anyone registering on the program’s website gets access to all of the Veladero-related data one could desire. Teams submitting research-worthy proposals will earn $25,000 in funding, and if any of these finalists produces a commercially viable solution for extracting more silver, Barrick will pay a performance bonus of $10 million.

The data are available the “Unlock the Value” website.

A weekend that reminded me of the first time I used the Internet

Posted in People / organisations, Technology by Dr Mohammad Al-Ubaydli on April 19, 2008

1994 was a special year for me. One of my professors at Anglia Polytechnic University suggested I use the Internet. I did not know anything about this Internet thing, and when I arrived at the computer labs I discovered that the software involved was even less friendly than that DOS operating system I was being forced to use.

But one tool seemed to be a newsgroup that allowed participants to ask questions of each other. I could not see the point of this but I thought I would ask the weirdest question I could think of – how do I get a copy of the game of Life, which I had read about as a usefully simple introduction to artificial intelligence algorithms.

One of the participants replied that same day asking me for my address so that he could send me the game. I was sure I misunderstood his questions, because surely he could tell my electronic address from the software? But did he, I asked, mean my mailing address? If so, here is my home address. Of course, I was young and naive, and kids, you should not do this.

But the Professor – he turned out to be one – really did mean to know my home address. And within a week a floppy disk arrived with a copy of the game of Life. The postage had been paid from his university in Canada to my home in Cambridge, England.

I cannot overemphasize how important this first experience was for me. From that day onwards I learned that the Internet is full of nice people, and that I must be nice to others there too.

I remembered this lesson during the last weekend as I went to Startup School. A very nice friend of mine, John Knight, told me to apply and when I arrived there were literally one thousand other very nice people in the lecture theatre with me. Every one of them was unfailingly helpful. Some introduced me to others that could help me, others taught me how to integrate software, and others still introduced me to new linguistic techniques for my Arabic language company.

The following posts will officially be about the lectures I attended, but bear in mind that before and after each of these lectures some random person in the audience taught me something really helpful. None of them had to, they did not even have to talk to me, but they all did and I benefited so much. I hope that in time I will be able to thank each of them by paying them back individually. But I know that all that they truly wanted was for my Arabic language students to be taught better.

I hope I do not disappoint them, nor my good friend John.

Facebook: a tale of two countries

Posted in Society, Technology by Dr Mohammad Al-Ubaydli on April 14, 2008

Here is what worries Israel about the use of Facebook:

CNN has reported that Israeli officials are claiming Facebook to be a national security threat. A new list of rules that were announced on Thursday (that have yet to be officially published) allow soldiers to create pages on networking sites. The catch? Well, just as long as they don’t identify themselves a soldiers or reveal information about what they do. The officials have claimed that some soldiers have unintentionally uploaded pictures of themselves with classified equipment that reveals sensitive information.

And here is what worries Saudi Arabia about Facebook:

An unidentified woman was beaten and shot after being caught chatting on Facebook with a man, and now a Saudi Islamic preacher is demanding the social-networking site be blocked from his country, reports Arab & Society.

The preacher, Sheikh Ali al-Maliki, considers Facebook “a door to lust,” and warned “the accession of women to it.” Many Saudi women are joining the popular social-networking site, and al-Maliki goes on to report that “Young women and men are spending more on their mobile phones and Internet than they are on food.”

I can only hope that the lady rests in peace. There is no need to follow the link to the UN Human Development Report to figure out which of these two countries ranks higher (hint: it is not Saudi Arabia).

But against such a depressing new story it is my pleasure to announce the new Facebook group we created at the Bahraini Embassy in Washington DC for Bahraini students in North America. If someone you love is a Bahraini student in a university in North America then show them how much you care by sending them a link to the page.