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(San)deep's World. Wise observations from Prof. Sandeep Krishnamurthy, Associate Professor of Marketing and E-Commerce, author, educator, Dad, coach, racquetball player, evangelist, speaker and thinker.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Google shuts off C|Net because it used information available through Google searches!

Google's Chief Is Googled, to the Company's Displeasure

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Published: August 8, 2005

Google says its mission is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." But it does not appear to take kindly to those who use its search engine to organize and publish information about its own executives., a technology news Web site, said last week that Google had told it that the company would not answer any questions from CNET's reporters until July 2006. The move came after CNET published an article last month that discussed how the Google search engine can uncover personal information and that raised questions about what information Google collects about its users.

The article, by Elinor Mills, a CNET staff writer, gave several examples of information about Google's chief executive, Eric E. Schmidt, that could be gleaned from the search engine. These included that his shares in the company were worth $1.5 billion, that he lived in Atherton, Calif., that he was the host of a $10,000-a-plate fund-raiser for Al Gore's presidential campaign and that he was a pilot.

After the article appeared, David Krane, Google's director of public relations, called CNET editors to complain, said Jai Singh, the editor in chief of "They were unhappy about the fact we used Schmidt's private information in our story," Mr. Singh said. "Our view is what we published was all public information, and we actually used their own product to find it."

He said Mr. Krane called back to say that Google would not speak to any reporter from CNET for a year.

In an instant-message interview, Mr. Krane said, "You can put us down for a 'no comment.' "

When asked if Google had any objection to the reprinting of the information about Mr. Schmidt in this article, Mr. Krane replied that it did not.

Mr. Singh, who has worked in technology news for more than two decades, said he could not recall a similar situation. "Sometimes a company is ticked off and won't talk to a reporter for a bit," he said, "but I've never seen a company not talk to a whole news organization." SAUL HANSELL

Friday, July 08, 2005

Developers, Developers, Developers vs. Customers, Customers, Customers.

Steve Ballmer is on Channel 9- at last! Once again, he spouted his mantra- "developers, developers, developers". He said that "it was about building things".

You know what? It is not. It is about "customers, customers, customers". I think Google gets that and Microsoft does not. In fact, I would argue that this is going to be the fundamental difference between Google and Microsoft. Google realizes that it is about building cool apps, of course. But, not just cool apps for cool apps sake. It is about cool apps that customers will use. It is about changing how individuals interact with software and process information. Yes, developers build that stuff and you cannot have a software company without developers. But, you know what? You cannot have a software company without customers either.

The funny thing is just yelling "developers, developers, developers" does not get these guys to your side. The cool apps part is a better way of attracting developers.

In Ballmer's world, it is about selling to enterprises and then hiring developers to do the grunt work. The individual customers gets what the enterprises want and not necessarily what is in their best interest. On the other hand, in Google's world, innovation is designed for the little guy and the big guy gets to use similar stuff as well.

Which is better? Only time will tell.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Keepers of the Hive

From ESPN, no less!

By Amar Shah
Special to Page 2

With their Harry Potter spectacles, floppy black mops of hair and bookish personas, they look exactly like a younger version of me. The similarities are eerie.

Nitish Lakhanpal, Sameer Mishra, Nilesh K. Raval, Arjun R. Modi, Krunal Shaval, Aravind Arun, Saptarshi Chaudhuri, Midhat Patel and Nikhil B. Koganti are probably my adolescent doppelgangers, except they can spell "tintinnabulary," and I can merely look it up in a dictionary.

The nine who resemble me joined 264 other participants in the 78th annual Scripps Howard Spelling Bee in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday. But the group is also part of a niche demographic that has dominated the event over the past seven years. Indian-Americans are the New England Patriots of spelling bees, having won five of the last seven competitions, including newly crowned 2005 champion Anurag Kashyap of San Diego.

Although representing less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, Indian-Americans made up around 15 percent of last year's participants. This year's spelling bee continued the trend, as 31 competitors of Indian origin (according to, an Indian news portal) vied for the coveted title of the nation's best speller. Seven of the 17 contestants from Texas were Indian-American, and Puerto Rico's lone representative was none other than Arun.

Around the globe, the Indian spelling acumen is spreading. Across the pond, Gayathri Kumar, 13, beat out 100,000 competitors to win the BBC's Hard Spell competition, England's version of the spelling bee. Indeed, it's a global affair.

As a kid, I learned all the stereotypes about my culture. We were the studious, intellectual sorts, who excelled in math and science. (A lot of good that did me. My mathematical exploits ended after I failed pre-calculus three times.) We owned convenience stores and motels, and populated medical schools with future Dr. Patels. Some truth exists in the last generalization. My dad earned a living as the Godfather of Gas, the hospitality industry is run by an Indian motel cartel, and the lady who delivered me was named Dr. Patel.

Now a slice of original Americana, the spelling bee, is our domain of excellence, but I wonder why?

I participated in my first and last spelling bee in second grade, when my teacher, Sister Noreen, asked me to spell "knowledge." I stammered and missed the word on the first letter. I started my attempt with an "n," and my future as a spelling master ended. I retired … at age 7.

Later, I learned the value of the silent "K," but my ambition to be a splendid speller gradually dissipated with my youthful dreams of a Knicks championship and a fantasy Natalie Portman wedding. The best way for me to rest my alphabetical demons and to understand the cultural quirk of Indians in the spelling bee was to track down an individual who had experienced the grueling, crazy world of bee season and conquered it.

Nupur Lala won the 1999 national spelling bee when she correctly spelled "logorrhea." She is, also, the quietly driven starlet of "Spellbound," the delightful Oscar-nominated documentary that pushed the bizarre, whimsical world of spellers into the mainstream of pop culture.

She was in class the day I called her home in Arkansas, just a few days before the 2005 spelling bee would begin. Her dad answered and took a message. Nupur called me back in 15 minutes. I sent her a small list of questions by e-mail, and the next morning I received a college thesis in my in-box. Although she claims to use only 5 percent of the words she studied, I know she's being modest. Anyone who uses words like "inculcate" and "serendipitously" in everyday life, automatically draws envy.

The first question I posed was why are there so many Indian-American contestants in the spelling bee.

"The tradition of education in Indian households is a very strong one, and children are encouraged to test their academic boundaries and to strive to fulfill their potential from when they are very young," Nupur wrote back. "A distinct advantage ceded to Indian children is that the first wave of Indian immigrants who came to this country went to schools where the primary language of instruction was English. Most Indian spellers are children of these parents, and it helps to have a coach at home who can read words to you at any time."

Parental help is one thing. Parental pressure is another.

Neil Kadakia, the other Indian kid portrayed in "Spellbound," had a father whom A.O. Scott from the New York Times described as the "closest thing in the movie to a classic stage parent, pushing his son through a regimen of tutors, drills and meditation." Neil spelled 7,000 to 8,000 words a day as his father drilled him like some Vince Lombardi drunk on the dictionary. Neil also had the burden of a relative who paid 1,000 people in India to chant his name. Also, his dad pledged to provide 5,000 hungry people a free meal if Neil won. He didn't.

Last year, Akshay Baddiga collapsed while spelling "alopecoid." He got up and recovered to spell the word correctly. His brother Praytush won the competition in 2002, and Akshay finished as runner-up in 2004. Talk about pressure.

Page 2 is all over the 2005 Scripps Howard Spelling Bee, including our first-ever fantasy draft from among the 273 participants. Plus, we've got Darren Rovell's guide to picking the Spelling Bee winner, and Sportoon's take on the competition.

I asked Nupur's mom, Meena, about the way she handled Nupur's spelling career. "Most parents were not as pushy as the Kadakias – maybe one or two," Meena said in a phone interview. "Most were happy for just getting to the nationals."

Nupur said her parents encouraged her to read by filling the house with books.

"My parents were always supportive of my spelling bee endeavors," Nupur wrote. "My parents did always remind me though that my schoolwork was first priority and then spelling bees. I clearly recall being close to tears after missing 80 percent of a word list, and my mother reminding me, 'Nupur, there's more to life than spelling bees. Don't sweat it so much.' My dad didn't even want me to compete again, thinking that I should perhaps try something new or that the pressure was too much."

Nupur says athletics are not given a high priority in Indian culture, making it unlikely Indian parents would teach their children the mid-range jumper or how to hit a curveball. They hit the books, not the weights.

"Indian parents see this as a prime opportunity for their children to learn the benefits of competition in an arena where it's not necessarily the fastest or biggest kid who will be the winner and where nothing but sheer hard work will bring you success," Nupur said.

Three-time Spelling Bee participant and this year's runner-up, 11-year-old Samir Patel feels the same way. "I used to want to play football," said the 4-foot-8 Patel in a Knight-Ridder interview. "But look at me. I am way too short to play in the pros."

It has been 20 years since the first Indian-American, Balu Natarajan, won the national spelling bee. Natarajan is now the team physician for the Chicago Fire of the MLS.

Nupur Lala is an incoming junior at the University of Michigan. At 20, she doesn't know what path she wants to take. She's torn between economics and microbiology. But she left me with this bit of wisdom:

"When one delves into the English language, there are so many repeating patterns and a few derivations that underlie so many of the same words. Many spellers have inculcated in them a strong love of reading and language, and this is a trait that crosses all boundaries of ethnicity and nationality at the National Bee."

Nupur and her mom planned to watch this year's competition. And after Marshall Winchester went down on the word "sarang" in the 11th round, the National Spelling Bee became an all-Indian Final Four, featuring Rajiv Tarigopula, Aliya Deri, Anurag Kashyap, who also wore glasses, and Samir Patel.

The four contestants spelled again and again until the 14th round when Rajiv stumbled on "odyllic." And then there were three, the first time ever that three contestants went past the 15th round. The next rounds were a battle of word supremacy, and Samir Patel enjoyed the revelry of competition. He brimmed with confidence and seemed to play with the judges when they asked him to spell "onnychopagy.' He knew the meaning before they did, asking the judges with almost a coy wink. The word meant the habit of nailbiting.

In the 18th round Aliya Deri, who loved Indian dance, misspelled "trouvaille." The crowd applauded her efforts with a standing ovation. The exuberant Samir was given the word "Roscian," and in stunning upset missed it when he used an extra "s" instead of "c." It was Anurag's turn, and the bespectacted, braced word wonder from San Diego, spelled 'appoggiatura', which meant a tone to support an essential note of a melody.

It was the harmonious word of victory.

Amar Shah works as a production assistant for ESPN's SportsCenter.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Puzzles from IIT,Bombay Alumni Newsletter.

I just saw this on the IIT, Bombay Alumni Newsletter. Aaah. It sure reminds me of my 4 years there.

Before you start, listen to what the editor has to say- "Editor’s Note: We solved these puzzles in 15 minutes flat." OK. Good luck and off you go.

Ants everywhere!
You have a rod of length L, and n ants are placed at positions t1,t2,t3.. tn=L which are at equal intervals from the left end of the rod. All ants can move with the same speed. Ants may begin to move in any direction, but if two ants collide they will reverse directions. What is the maximum time re-quired for all ants to fall off the rod?

Transportation problem
Looks confusing but hey it really isn’t that bad. Every pair of cities in a country is linked by exactly one of the three modes of transport, namely, road, rail or air. All the three modes of transport are used in the country. No city in the country is served by all the three modes and also no three cities are linked pair wise by the same mode of transport. Determine the maximum number of cities in the country.

Number Puzzle
This is just another number puzzle which generally feels like magic, but is really only logic. Choose a number. If even, make it half. If its one more than a multiple of four, multiply it by three and add one. If its one less than a multiple of four, multiply it by three and subtract one. Whats the minimum number you will reach by a successive application of this rule? Justify.

(THIS LOOKS LIKE A CONJECTURE TO ME- NOT A PUZZLE) Playing with squares and cubes
If a number is a square of an integer, and also the difference between cubes of two
consecutive integers, then the square root of this number can be expressed as a sum
of squares of two consecutive integers. For eg. 169 = 512 - 343, so 13 = 4 + 9

Friday, April 29, 2005

Bill Gates says "irregardless"

My dear colleague, Prof. Karen Brown, reports-

In an NPR interview this morning, Bill Gates said the word "irregardless." Clearly, with this sort of direction from the top, it is no wonder Microsoft is producing the kinds of problems Sandeep has discovered with the grammar check function in MS Word.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The New Statesman has posted a wonderful story about my GrammarCheck adventure.

How to improve Jane Austen: Observations on the grammar check. By William Skidelsky

William Skidelsky

What many people have long suspected has been confirmed: Microsoft's grammar check is indeed virtually useless. Sandeep Krishnamurthy, a professor at the University of Washington, tested hundreds of examples of bad writing. Among the sentences deemed grammatical were: "Marketing are bad for brand big and small", "Gates do good marketing job in Microsoft" and "I am agree with what the article say".

Krishnamurthy began his investigations when a student turned in a "poorly written report" that had been judged error-free. For some students, Microsoft's tool appears to have acquired an absolute authority: if a piece of writing passes the check, then it must be OK.

Microsoft argues that the grammar checker is intended as a writing aid rather than a catch-all, and that it is "designed to catch the kinds of errors that ordinary users make in normal writing situations". Yet if it cannot determine something as basic as whether a verb agrees, it is hard to see how it can perform even this function.

I tested the check using Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The first sentence - "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife" - might have read slightly differently if Microsoft Word had existed in Austen's day. Apparently, the comma after "acknowledged" is ungrammatical. Equally unacceptable is the first sentence of Emma: "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly 21 years in the world with very little to distress or vex her." Here, the check recommends replacing the infinitive "vex" with "vexes". Henry James's prose is famously complex, and sure enough, the third sentence of The Europeans - which describes "a lady who stood looking out of one of the windows of the best hotel in the ancient city of Boston" - is wrong on account of the word "lady" being "gender-specific". "Woman" or "person" is advised.

Even apparently straightforward sentences fall foul. "Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can't be sure"- the opening of Camus's L'Etranger - should have "or" replaced by "alternatively" or "on the other hand". And as for the most famous opening sentence of all, Anna Karenina's "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way", Microsoft thinks this is "too wordy", and suggests deleting "all".

Friday, April 22, 2005

Democratizing Innovation.

Prof. Eric Von Hippel of MIT has written an excellent book titled- "Democratizing Innovation". You can print off a free copy here. I highly recommend it.

Look into this.

You may like these two links- Freakonomics, The Culturally Customized Web Site.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

A colleague wishes me happy birthday.

One of the joys of my recent Grammar Check adventures is that I hear from delightful people with beautiful minds. Today, I heard from Gael Cooper, Professor of Public Relations and Director, Scripps Howard Center for Media Studies at the University of Southern Indiana. She wishes me happy birthday in this way-

Hippo bird day, two ewes!

Hippy berth die too use!

Hap pee bread due deer San Deep,

Hump pea bun deal tooth hue!!!!

[Yes, Microsoft Word's Grammar Check thinks it is just fine.]

Monday, April 11, 2005

Story featured on "Chronicle of Higher Education"

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story on my efforts. It has a fun title- "Microsoft Word Grammar Checker Are No Good, Scholar Conclude" (yes- Grammar Check does not detect the flaws in this sentence). Unfortunately, registration is required since this is classified as "premium content".

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

My Grammar Check Page on Google

My Grammar Check page has emerged as one of the top ranking pages on many Google searches. I provide some data below to support this assertion. The number is the rank on the search results page and the expression within parentheses is the relevant search term.

#5(grammar check)
#6("grammar check")
#2(Microsoft Sandeep)
#4 (Microsoft Word grammar)
#2 (Microsoft Word Grammar Check)

Monday, April 04, 2005

The linguists react.

This was posted by John Lawler from the University of Michigan on a list for linguists-

I see three points in it that I think are of interest to
linguists worldwide.

First, we could all use a better grammar-checker program, and the ultimate
intent of the 'crusade' is to stimulate linguistic research and
development, so this seems like good news for linguists and linguistics,
which is fairly unusual here as well.

Second, we can see from the surprise being shown by the American public and
the media that everybody actually *did* expect the MS Grammar Checker to
(ahem) 'Check Grammar'. This endemic ignorance is emphatically *not* good
news for linguists or linguistics. It's downright appalling.

Third, how come it's a business professor instead of a linguist?

Costco Testing Quick-Check

From Tim Razeltoff(Abarim Business Computers)

Costco Testing Quick-Check

Costco is either experimenting or has begun to institute a form of quick-check in its stores. Costco floor supervisors are usually near the cash registers to respond quickly to questions or problems. They also spend a lot of time just observing and not really doing much. Costco has figured out a way to make the time of those floor supervisors more productive.

Yesterday at the Aurora Village store I noticed that 2 of the floor supervisors were carrying hand-held scanners. They moved into the customer lines, scanning carts that had a smaller number of items. They would scan the customer's Costco card and the purchases in the cart. When the customer got to the cashier they only needed to give the cashier the Costco card to scan and the bill rang up immediately. Items never needed to be taken from the cart and the process was done in seconds.

It looks like Costco has found a way to speed the lines, make better use of personnel resources, make the store more efficient, and probably reduce costs - all with current personnel.

I don't know whether this is an experiment or whether Costco is already implementing this new program. I also don't know whether the scanners are from Intermec or some other company.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

My latest thoughts on Grammar Check

Written communication is on the rise, thanks to the reality of the virtual organization. Today, all of us write extensively to communicate with co-workers and colleagues on topics ranging from the mundane (e.g., setting up meeting times, sharing anecdotes) to the serious (e.g., online discussions on the future of a product, online decision making). The online environment is mostly textual and therefore, people are frequently judged entirely on their writing. Poor writing is equated with low abilities and could lead to a serious loss of reputation or status- especially when there is an absence of face-to-face interaction.

Despite competition from WordPerfect and OpenOffice, Microsoft Word is the dominant word processing software worldwide. It is everywhere. Users now use Word on multiple operating systems (different versions of Windows, Mac). It is the default word processor for e-mail writing for many. On college campuses worldwide , it is the tool de jure for writing reports, term papers, Masters theses and Ph.D dissertations. Its sheer pervasiveness brings with it a minimum level of responsibility. Therefore, Microsoft must take it upon itself to introduce features that enhance the user’s ability to write and strive to set the correct user expectations.

Grammar Check gives writers easy access to grammatical rules. The feature is easy to locate and even easier to run. The message to users is this- “Help is one click away”. As a result, in a world filled with deadlines and other time pressures, many are likely to run a Grammar Check on their documents “just to be sure”.

What do users expect when they run this check? I think they expect “minimum grammatical competence”. I define this as the absence of glaring grammatical errors. My point is that users are mistaken in making this assumption. You can run Grammar Check and still have terrible writing (not just “so-so” writing). Imagine the thousands of reports, e-mails, term papers, blog postings and memoranda that were sent out by users who wrongly assumed that Grammar Check would have caught their worst errors. These individuals would be surprised to learn that in some cases their writing was not just average, it was terrible.

Grammar Check gives users a feeling of comfort. This aura of invincibility that surrounds the users of this feature can be very damaging. Users who rely on it regularly (the 20% in your poll) may not be writing at the level they think they are writing at.

Grammar Check does not check the grammar of poor writers. Faced with the worst sort of writing, it freezes like a deer in the headlights. As a result, those who need the most guidance do not get any. I have emphasized ESL writers in this context. Children who are learning to write are a similar group that may expect an unusally high level of performance from Grammar Check. K-12 educators must be wary about the limitations of this feature on Word.

At this point, I think Grammar Check must either be renamed as “Grammar Analyzer” or something else that connotes a lower level of scrutiny. The Help file must be changed to reflect true performance. A warning message such as “Use at your own peril” or something along those lines must be included. The phrase “comprehensive analysis of text” must be removed.

I refuse to accept the point of view of many techies that we have to wait for perfect AI for us to move forward. We can take innovative and new approaches to this problem. On the Slashdot thread, there are already hints and ideas for new ways of building a Grammar Check.

The problem is not that we are relying on technology to help us with grammar. I am not asking Microsoft to withdraw their Grammar Check feature. I believe that a software program can help us improve our grammar. My message to all players in the marketplace is to create a better product- a plateau that is well within our reach.

Finally, I have been shocked by the comments of some techies that I am expecting too much from them. I know that is not the case. I hope future products have grammar analyzers that detect poor writing and help all of us write better.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The story about the story.

I made two national TV appearances on Wednesday- on CNN's "Daybreak" program and MSNBC's "Connected Coast-to-Coast" with Ron Reagan and Patricia Crowley. In addition, I was on King5 News (the Seattle-area NBC affiliate) and KOMO 1000 News (a Seattle radio station). I have received several e-mails and my web page has received more than 63000 hits on three days (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). The blogosphere is abuzz with this story.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Major news coverage.

I received more than 40,000 hits on my home page yesterday due to major news coverage on my observations on Grammar Check. A Slashdot thread on the topic helped the cause.

This was my favorite post in the thread-

Hulk work hard on Grammar Checker for Microsoft! Program many long hours. Very hard to type with huge green hands and puny little keys! Many times get angry and smash keyboard. Many keyboards broken. Hulk also get help with grammar from Yoda. Yoda very wise. Maybe not best work in world, but Hulk take pride in work. Why puny University of Washington professor criticize hard work of Hulk? Criticism hurt Hulk's feelings. Hulk angry! HULK SMASH!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Seattle Post Intelligencer is running a story on my grammar check efforts.


A Word to the unwise -- program's grammar check isn't so smart
Monday, March 28, 2005


Microsoft the company should big improve Word grammar check.

No, your eyes aren't deceiving you. That sentence is a confusing
jumble. However, it is perfectly fine in the assessment of Microsoft
Word's built-in grammar checker, which detects no problem with the

Sandeep Krishnamurthy thinks Microsoft can do a lot better.

The University of Washington associate professor has embarked on a
one-man mission to persuade the Redmond company to improve the
grammar-checking function in its popular word-processing program.
Krishnamurthy is also trying to raise public awareness of the issue.

"If you're a grad student turning in your term paper, and you think
grammar check has completely checked your paper, I have news for you
-- it really hasn't," he said.

Microsoft says it has been making continuous improvements in the
grammar-checking tool, and the company notes that the issue is more
complex than it might seem. Experts in natural-language processing say
the broader issue reflects a deep technological challenge beyond the
current capabilities of computer science.

"It is tremendously difficult," said Karen Jensen, a retired Microsoft
researcher who led the company's Natural Language Processing research
group as it developed the underlying technology for the grammar
checker, which debuted in 1997. "It gives you all kinds of respect for
a human being's native ability to learn and understand in natural

But Krishnamurthy, a professor of marketing and e-commerce at the UW's
Bothell campus, isn't convinced that the software giant is doing
everything it can -- and he supports his point with eye-catching

He has crafted and posted for public download several documents
containing awful grammar. Depending on the version and settings, the
Word grammar checker sometimes detects a few of the problems. But it
overlooks the majority of them -- skipping misplaced apostrophes,
singular-plural inconsistencies, missing articles, sentence fragments,
improper capitalization and other problems.

An excerpt from one of his documents: "Marketing are bad for brand big
and small. You Know What I am Saying? It is no wondering that
advertisings are bad for company in America, Chicago and Germany. ...
McDonald's and Coca Cola are good brand. ... Gates do good marketing
job in Microsoft."

With examples like that passing through unflagged, Krishnamurthy
questions whether Microsoft should even offer the grammar-checking
feature in its existing state.

"If you're including a feature in a widely used program like Microsoft
Word, it's got to pick up more things than it currently does," he
said. "I agree, the English language is very complicated, but I think
we should expect more from grammar check."

By comparison, the grammar checker in Corel Corp.'s WordPerfect Office
12 catches many of the errors in Krishnamurthy's test documents that
aren't detected by the Microsoft Word 2003 grammar checker, even set
at the highest sensitivity to errors.

In fact, there is room for Microsoft to make incremental improvements
in Word's grammar checker, said Christopher Manning, assistant
professor of linguistics and computer science at Stanford University.

For example, he said, the Word grammar checker could benefit from
greater use of advanced probabilistic and statistical methods to
analyze sentences and flag problems. Microsoft has applied some of
that more advanced research to competitive and high-profile areas such
as Web search and spam detection.

Microsoft says the grammar-checker does use probabilistic techniques
in addition to more basic, rules-based methods. But with further use
of advanced approaches, it appears possible for Word's grammar checker
to improve, Manning said. However, he said, "It still wouldn't be as
good as a good human editor."

Microsoft calls that the fundamental issue. Responding to an inquiry
about Krishnamurthy's examples, the Microsoft Office group said in a
statement that the grammar checker "was created to be a guide and a
tool, not a perfect proofreader." Microsoft also makes that point in
Word's product documentation.

The statement added, "It is possible to list a number of sentences
that you would expect the Word grammar checker to catch that it
doesn't. But that doesn't represent real-world usage. The Word grammar
checker is designed to catch the kinds of errors that ordinary users
make in normal writing situations."

It would be possible to "dial up the sensitivity" of the Word grammar
checker to catch more errors, the company said. However, that could
also cause it to flag sentences considered correct in colloquial

That would risk making the tool more intrusive than people want, the
company said. In fact, Microsoft dialed down the sensitivity of the
grammar checker in certain respects starting in 2002, responding to
customer feedback. For example, some people objected when the tool
flagged sentences of more than 40 words as "perhaps excessively

Krishnamurthy said he considers the company's view too simplistic. He
suggested that Microsoft further increase the available settings,
beyond the current options, to let people essentially "pick the level
of intrusion." He also said the company should offer an add-on for
people who need extra help, such as students for whom English is a
second language.

As it now stands, the tool helps good writers but "really doesn't help
bad writers at all," he said.

Krishnamurthy, 37, grew up in Hyderabad, India. A textbook author and
a frequent contributor to scholarly journals, he is passionate about
writing and the English language.

But how did a marketing and e-commerce professor become a
grammar-checking crusader? While always stressing the importance of
writing well in the first place, Krishnamurthy would also routinely
tell his students to run the Word spelling and grammar checks as a
precaution before turning in their papers.

Then, last year, one student turned in a badly written report.

"The least you could have done is run spell-check and grammar-check,"
Krishnamurthy said.

"But I did!" the student said.

That prompted the professor to investigate, and he began discovering
blind spots in the Word grammar-checking tool. Krishnamurthy
ultimately decided to assemble specific examples of bad grammar that
made it through undetected. He began circulating them last week via
e-mail to friends, colleagues and Seattle-area media. He also created
a Web page for the purpose:

The professor is careful to point out that he's not out to bash
Microsoft. But he says the company is spending too much energy on
extraneous capabilities, while neglecting core features such as the
grammar checker. Among other things, Microsoft is trying to expand the
market for Microsoft Office by adding a series of related server-based

Office and related software make up Microsoft's second-most profitable
division, bringing in more than $7.1 billion in operating profit in
the last fiscal year. The core Office programs dominate the market.

Despite the lack of intense competition, there is a business incentive
for Microsoft to invest in core features, said analyst Rob Helm,
research director at Kirkland-based research firm Directions on
Microsoft. That's because one of the company's biggest challenges is
persuading customers to upgrade from older versions of its own

By making improvements to features such as the grammar and spelling
checkers, Microsoft "can give people an additional incentive" to shift
to the newer version, Helm said.

Jensen, the retired Microsoft researcher who worked on the original
grammar-checking technology, said major advances would involve making
computers understand sentences in ways that humans would.

As an example, she cited one of the sentences used in Krishnamurthy's
sample documents: "Gates do good marketing job in Microsoft." Only by
knowing that "Gates" probably refers to Bill Gates -- and not to the
plural of the movable portion of a fence -- would the program know to
suggest using "does" instead.

"It's this level of understanding that you just can't expect a
computer to have at this point," Jensen said. "Someday, of course, it
would be great, but we're not there yet."

In the meantime, Krishnamurthy is spreading the message. He doesn't
suggest that anyone stop using the grammar-checking tool, but he wants
people to fully understand its limitations and not consider it a
substitute for good writing and editing.

In one part of his Web site, he has posted a cautionary list of "top
writing mistakes" made by his students. No. 11: "Assuming that
Microsoft Word's spelling and grammar check will solve all writing


On the Net:

P-I reporter Todd Bishop can be reached at 206-448-8221or

P-I senior online producer Brian Chin contributed to this report.

(c) 1998-2005 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Monday, March 21, 2005

Microsoft Word Spelling and Grammar Check

Microsoft Word Spelling and Grammar Check Demonstration
Sandeep Krishnamurthy

Too often, college students feel that running the “Spelling and Grammar check” feature on Microsoft Word is sufficient to ensure good writing. The paragraph shown below is designed to pass these checks. You can judge the quality of writing for yourself!

---------------------------Demonstration Paragraph Begins----------------------------

Marketing are bad for brand. McDonalds is good brand. McDonald’s is good brand. McDonald’s are good brand. McDonalds’ are good brand. Finance good for marketing. 4P’s are marketing mix. I use marketing mixes for good marketing. Internets do good job. Internets help marketing. Internets make good brand. Gates do good marketing in Microsoft. Gates build the big brand in Microsoft. The Gates is leader of big company in Washington. Warren buffet do awesome job in marketing. Buffet eat buffet.

---------------------------Demonstration Paragraph Ends------------------------------

[I used Microsoft Word 2002 SP3 to run the Spelling and Grammar check. Please try it on your computer and tell me what happens. I would love to hear from WordPerfect and OpenOffice users as well.]

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Ethics of Conducting E-Mail Surveys

This paper has been receiving a lot of attention lately. Visit my SSRN page to read this and other papers.


Abstract: The prospect of using e-mail in survey research can be very exciting to academic researchers. However, it raises many ethical concerns. While many people have started to say that obtaining consumer permission is important, there is no clarity on how to obtain and maintain permission. Some academic researchers might argue that, due to the low volume and infrequent nature of their surveys and the general positive perception of academia, their e-mail surveys do not add to the Spam problem. However, this is problematic from an ethical perspective since it changes the definition of what Spam is from any unsolicited e-mail to a subset of these e-mails which have certain predefined characteristics. There are ways to implement permission-based respondent contact if the academic community wants to. The only negative to keep in mind will be the statistical problem of self-selection and the loss of complete randomness to some degree. Regardless, the future legal landscape may force academic researcher to adopt permission as the standard.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Meet Megan Conklin

She has a wonderful blog with great links.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

A Textbook Author Reports.

I am the author of a book called "E-Commerce Management: Text and Cases". The book has several E-Tasks. When my students finish these tasks, I ask them to post it on to their student page. Turns out, Google has cached many of these and they are freely available on the Web. A colleague recently reported that-

"I am really enjoying your text; however, I have my students complete the E-Tasks and an analysis for the cases in your text. As they turn in their work I see they are giving your students' pages as references for some answers without searching for the answers themselves."

The students are clearly smart. They know that if they provide references the teacher will not call it plagiarism. Yet, they are not doing the work. At the same time, they are showing their research skills in locating information. Overall, a mess. I will simply ask my students to stop posting their writeups in future classes.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Excerpts from Henry Mintzberg's talk.

I attended a talk by Henry Mintzberg yesterday. Well, it was more of a discussion.

Here are some snippets.

You cannot create a leader in the classroom.

Shareholder value comes from ignoring shareholder value.

The big picture is painted with a lot of little brush strokes. [if you are a manager who is not detail-oriented, you are disconnected]

Strategy grows like weeds in the garden and not tomatoes in a hot-house. [ideas come from everywhere]

Synthesis does not come from analysis. [and we teach our MBA students to do way too much analysis]

Managers have to be smart and thoughtful.

Two schools of success- Peterian (inspired by Tom Peters- do things well) and Porterian (inspired by Michael Porter- strategic positioning).

Leaders are created before the age 10.

Leaders are formed at the time of crisis and when challenges present themselves.

Filters in GMail

I am quite annoyed about the process to set up filters in Gmail. When I go to set up a filter, the auto-complete process is disabled. This forces me to copy and paste the e-mail leading to a waste of time. GMail techies- enable auto-complete in the filter setting process.

By the way, all of a sudden, I have 50 invitations to Gmail! Ye!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

My SSRN Page.

I have finally started to move all my publications to SSRN. Do visit my SSRN page. My full publication list is available here.

One of my favorites

One of my favorites