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My time at the Autocloud

The global CADCAM behemoth known as Autodesk hoovers up another small company every two weeks — a process unlikely to diminish following a $750million bond issue last month. (Well, what else are they going to do with that money?)

It was only a matter of time before this happened to me on account of my machine tooling software — shortly before I took delivery of my corporate coloured hang-glider. What could go wrong?

Not only are corporations not people, they are also not like governments whose citizens have a right of access to information. There is very little data to go round, and no one except the too-busy-with-everything-else CEO has the authority to request it. So all we can do is webscrape the press releases.

I wonder what time of day they get put out?

SELECT substr(date, 12, 5) as time, count(*) as c
FROM parsed GROUP BY time ORDER BY c desc

pressreleasetime

Clearly the most popular times are 8am, 8:30am and 9am Eastern Standard Time, exactly on the half-hour marks, not just sometime between 8 and 9am. You can imagine people in the office on the day having a very firm idea about when is the right time to put it out for the benefit of New York Wall Street casinos so that they have as little information as possible when they start placing bets on the share price.

In big companies it’s all about the finance.

Let’s look at an item from the more detailed SEC financial filings, where my 20 years of efforts in the industry has been filed under “Other”, in favour of these schmancy far-less-work-to-build internet thingies, Vela, Socialcam and Qontext. Humph.

velaad

Basically, it’s clear to me that nobody in the primary finance system is using data or quantitative financial models to do their instant trading in response to the disclosures — or else these press releases and quarterly reports would look a whole lot different. They would be machine readable, wouldn’t they? With unique company number identifiers corresponding to structured assets of statistically approximated business models held by the investment houses that would enable the financial analysts to (a) instantly merge the known assets of the taken over company into the purchasing company, and (b) automatically value the sale-price assets of the taken over company in relation to its peers in the same market in the microseconds necessary to respond to the disclosure for the purpose of rapidly dumping or acquiring stock until the price is statistically close to the calculated fair value.

I’m a garbage-in garbage-out kind of guy. If the information ain’t effectively getting into the finance system, it ain’t going to emerge from it. The traders may be rich from shifting around your pension money for a fee, but they do not have psi powers. And their determinations are as informed as the position of Mozart on the weekly top of the charts.

Meanwhile, I have graphed the occurrences of the word “cloud” in their press releases:

cloudad

It’s rapidly approaching 100% of press releases. The company says it’s moving into the internet technology.

I was then trying to do some analysis of the About Autodesk boilerplate section of each press release, as it evolved from this:

Autodesk, Inc. is a Fortune 1000 company, wholly focused on ensuring that great ideas are turned into reality. With seven million users, Autodesk is the world’s leading software and services company for the manufacturing, infrastructure, building, media and entertainment, and wireless data services fields. Autodesk’s solutions help customers create, manage and share their data and digital assets more effectively. As a result, customers turn ideas into competitive advantage, become more productive, streamline project efficiency and maximize profits.

to this

Autodesk, Inc. is a leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software. Customers across the manufacturing, architecture, building, construction, and media and entertainment industries — including the last 17 Academy Award winners for Best Visual Effects — use Autodesk software to design, visualize and simulate their ideas. Since its introduction of AutoCAD software in 1982, Autodesk continues to develop the broadest portfolio of state-of-the-art software for global markets. For additional information about Autodesk, visit www.autodesk.com.

… but there were too many typos in it, even though you would have thought that it would have been cut-and-pasted from the previous press release almost every single day!

When you think about it, the press release stream is actually just a very poor quality blog specifically designed to be plagiarized by over-worked journalists. I did a detailed analysis of one single press release here.

The company also hosts about 40 proper blogs, which make more interesting reading.

This large corporate adventure has given me a different perspective. At Scraperwiki I was used to making datasets from aggregations of corporate data (finance statements, government contracts, product recalls, etc), but I never really felt it was real. Behind them there are stories and deals taking place and lives turning upside down at the stroke of a CEO’s pen. How do we know if the data that has been captured contains the essence of what is going on, or if it has been carefully cleansed for the purpose of to disclosing nothing of any significance to the stock market for the first half hour of the day. For all we know these datasets could be as significant as a list of sock colours for showing what is going on out there.

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2 Responses to “My time at the Autocloud”

  1. Patrick March 7, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

    “When you think about it, the press release stream is actually just a very poor quality blog specifically designed to be plagiarized by over-worked journalists …”

    Sounds like you’d be a fan of churnalism.com

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