Monday, May 14, 2012

Visualizing the Miami Heat's Pain Points

Here is another example of how the NBA is embracing analytics and visualization.  The article details "five ugly trends" for the Miami Heat, covering pacing, rebounding, and the individual performance of key players (James, Wade, Bosh).  Included are a series of charts and graphs that allow the user to interact and change the parameters to see different views of the analysis.  This is an excellent use of data visualization (using Tableau).

Read the article.

(submitted by Bharath)

How Does Your Boss Stack Up? 8 Traits of Good Managers

While this article is not directly technology-related, given the dearth of good managers in the technology space, this article was too good to pass up.  This author highlights eight traits of effective managers.  For anybody who manages or seeks to manage, this is definitely worth the read.  Here are the eight traits, but read the article for the details behind each one.

1. Business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield
2. A company is a community, not a machine
3. Management is service, not control
4. My employees are my peers, not my children
5. Motivation comes from vision, not from fear
6. Change equals growth, not pain
7. Technology offers empowerment, not automation
8. Work should be fun, not mere toil

Read the article.

Meep, Meep: Google Fiber

Broadband connectivity is rapidly becoming an important resource in the world.  While it is not as critical a utility as water, electricity, or natural gas, it is quickly becoming an essential commodity.  Increasingly, broadband is the platform over which our knowledge, entertainment, and commerce are moving.  Therefore, it is downright embarrassing that the U.S. ranks 26th globally in broadband speed with an average of 5 mbps.  Google is using its vast resources to improve this situation by laying an optical fiber network in the Kansas City area as a pilot of Google Broadband.  Local testing in Palo Alto, California delivered average speeds of 922 mbps to users.  Google's goal is not to re-wire the entire U.S., a project that would cost $350 billion, but rather to spur innovation and development by the neanderthal telecommunication companies.  However, not everyone agrees that more broadband is a good thing.  Hollywood is nervous that better U.S. broadband will equal more content piracy, attributing current slow U.S. broadband speeds with containing the faster growth of film piracy.  Ultimately, faster broadband is coming, the question is when it will arrive.  It is fitting that a commercial company like Google is pioneering this initiative, but at some point the federal government is going to need to take ownership of regulation, much like it did with electric utilities a century ago.  The question is which (if any) presidential candidate has this vision and will act on it?

Read the article.

(submitted by Tom)

Now Showing (on the Small Screen): Netflix Customer Analytics

Netflix built its DVDs by mail business by combining a convenient hassle-free movie service with a movie recommendation system.  The original recommendation system, Cinematch, which relied on movie rental history and user ratings of movies, was somewhat limited due to a lack of data.  It was modestly successful, however, and helped Netflix establish itself as a leading online movie rental house. Netflix always knew that Cinematch needed to improve and attempted a crowdsourced competition in 2006 to improve the system.  The contest ended three years later with a 10% improvement in movie recommendations.  Since then Netflix has dramatically expanded its online streaming service, which allows it to capture a whole new set of data points on users' actual viewing of movies.  For example, did a user watch the whole movie or did they stop it after 5 minutes?  The expanded data set improves Cinematch's accuracy.  Improving Cinematch's accuracy is crucial to Netflix's future, not only to compete with other online streaming services, but because a smart recommendation system can direct users to content Netflix already owns thereby limiting content licensing fees.

Read the article.

(submitted by Walter)

Harvard's Big (meta) Data

Harvard University has 12 million books, recordings, maps, and other items in its 73 library collections.  Each of those items has an associated set of metadata such as title, publication, publishing date, description - up to 100 pieces of metadata per item.  The university is now making all of this metadata publicly available to researchers.  According to the article, this has led to the creation of visual timelines showing when intellectual ideas were developed and the hope is other innovations will follow.  The goal is to produce other similar insights.  Harvard is considering eventually releasing circulation data which should provide even more fascinating insights.  In fact, if other libraries follow suit it could bring all sorts of insight into the evolution of our collective knowledge.  Kudos to Harvard for taking this step and let's hope this effort continues.

Read the article.

(submitted by Judi)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Resume Visualization: How Fast Recruiters Look at Your Resume

Ever wonder how recruiters read a resume?  In a study published by TheLadders, researchers used an "eye-tracking" technique to identify how recruiters scan a resume.  In the average of six seconds spent on each resume, recruiters look for "name, current title and company, current position start and end dates, previous title and company, previous position start and end dates, and education."  Of particular interest are the heat maps tracing the "eye-tracking" movement - this is an excellent use of visualization.

Read the article.

Not Your Average Watch: Dick Tracy Meets Crowdsource VC Funding

Eric Migicovsky's recent invention, the Pebble, is a watch that displays data from a smartphone using a Bluetooth connection.  Users can use the Pebble to read emails, text messages, and interact with Apps straight from the watch on their wrist all while their phone remains in their pocket.  This is part of the natural evolution of wearable computers.  What is even more unique about the Pebble is how its development was funded.  Instead of being funded by a traditional technology VC, the Pebble received money from a crowdsource VC funding (a.k.a. crowd funding) web site called Kickstarter.  Entrepreneurs post their ideas on the site and individuals contribute money to the project.  The Pebble is Kickstarter's most successful project to date, and another example of how entrepreneurship and new business models are emerging in the digitally enabled business world.

Read the article.

(submitted by Tom)

Putting the Government Into the Cloud

Salesforce.com recently released a version of its cloud-based software targeted to governments with the goal of helping these entities to rapidly adopt social and mobile technologies. There are two interesting aspects to  this story- first, this is a good test to see how Salesforce will fare reinventing itself beyond the CRM market.  Second, it appears Vivek Kundra (the first U.S. CIO and now Salesforce.com's Executive Vice President for Emerging Markets) was the driving force behind this initiative. While many high-profile government leaders make a transition to lobbying (Henry Kissinger, John Ashcroft, Richard Gephardt, to name a few) or to university posts (Donna Shalala and Condelezza Rice) after their time in Washington, Kundra is taking a more technology and entrepreneurial based approach to his post-government work.  It will be interesting to see if this is just a one-time occurrence or if Silicon Valley will draw other high-profile government employees.

Read the article.

Maintaining Digital Security in the Supply Chain

HP recently announced that the compact flash cards that ship with their ProCurve 5400 switches may contain malware that can compromise the system.  While this security breach is an embarrassment for HP, it is a warning of an even more insidious threat to manufacturers.  As supply chains become more globally distributed and products more technology-based, the effort to ensure products do not pickup malware along the way to the consumer is going to be an increasing challenge.  Embedding the proper digital security controls in everything from pacemakers to cars is going to be crucial for any manufacturer of a product with a microchip in it. A consortium of security experts is now working to publish a set of guidelines to ensure digital security for commercial software and hardware products in global supply chains.

Read the article.

Big Data: Little Talent


The subject of this article should be absolutely no surprise to anyone...analysts are predicting a talent shortage for people with skill sets in Big Data, namely data scientists.  Well duh!  This is a cyclical problem in the technology industry.  A new technology emerges and shortly thereafter a shortage of people with those skills emerges.  The article cites IBM's need for Cobol programmers as one of the first tech labor shortages.  But there are many other examples: web designers/programmers and J2EE developers in the .COM era, and more recently SharePoint experts, App developers, and SEO architects.  Right now there are too few data scientists in the market at a time when their skills are in high demand with the rise of advanced analytics.  Companies are looking for people that can apply mathematical models to data sets and distill insights from the results, but finding that there are few to be had.  It will take a couple years before the supply catches up to the demand, until then look for data scientists to be well compensated and treated well.

Read the article.

(submitted by Kyle)