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Interview Rob J Hyndman Forecasting Expert #rstats

Here is an interview with Prof Rob J Hyndman who has created many time series forecasting methods and authored books as well as R packages on the same.

Ajay -Describe your journey from being a student of science to a Professor. What were some key turning points along that journey?
 
Rob- I started a science honours degree at the University of Melbourne in 1985. By the end of 1985 I found myself simultaneously working as a statistical consultant (having completed all of one year of statistics courses!). For the next three years I studied mathematics, statistics and computer science at university, and tried to learn whatever I needed to in order to help my growing group of clients. Often we would cover things in classes that I’d already taught myself through my consulting work. That really set the trend for the rest of my career. I’ve always been an academic on the one hand, and a statistical consultant on the other. The consulting work has led me to learn a lot of things that I would not otherwise have come across, and has also encouraged me to focus on research problems that are of direct relevance to the clients I work with.
I never set out to be an academic. In fact, I thought that I would get a job in the business world as soon as I finished my degree. But once I completed the degree, I was offered a position as a statistical consultant within the University of Melbourne, helping researchers in various disciplines and doing some commercial work. After a year, I was getting bored doing only consulting, and I thought it would be interesting to do a PhD. I was lucky enough to be offered a generous scholarship which meant I was paid more to study than to continue working.
Again, I thought that I would probably go and get a job in the business world after I finished my PhD. But I finished it early and my scholarship was going to be cut off once I submitted my thesis. So instead, I offered to teach classes for free at the university and delayed submitting my thesis until the scholarship period ran out. That turned out to be a smart move because the university saw that I was a good teacher, and offered me a lecturing position starting immediately I submitted my thesis. So I sort of fell into an academic career.
I’ve kept up the consulting work part-time because it is interesting, and it gives me a little extra money. But I’ve also stayed an academic because I love the freedom to be able to work on anything that takes my fancy.
Ajay- Describe your upcoming book on Forecasting.
 
Rob- My first textbook on forecasting (with Makridakis and Wheelwright) was written a few years after I finished my PhD. It has been very popular, but it costs a lot of money (about $140 on Amazon). I estimate that I get about $1 for every book sold. The rest goes to the publisher (Wiley) and all they do is print, market and distribute it. I even typeset the whole thing myself and they print directly from the files I provided. It is now about 15 years since the book was written and it badly needs updating. I had a choice of writing a new edition with Wiley or doing something completely new. I decided to do a new one, largely because I didn’t want a publisher to make a lot of money out of students using my hard work.
It seems to me that students try to avoid buying textbooks and will search around looking for suitable online material instead. Often the online material is of very low quality and contains many errors.
As I wasn’t making much money on my textbook, and the facilities now exist to make online publishing very easy, I decided to try a publishing experiment. So my new textbook will be online and completely free. So far it is about 2/3 completed and is available at http://otexts.com/fpp/. I am hoping that my co-author (George Athanasopoulos) and I will finish it off before the end of 2012.
The book is intended to provide a comprehensive introduction to forecasting methods. We don’t attempt to discuss the theory much, but provide enough information for people to use the methods in practice. It is tied to the forecast package in R, and we provide code to show how to use the various forecasting methods.
The idea of online textbooks makes a lot of sense. They are continuously updated so if we find a mistake we fix it immediately. Also, we can add new sections, or update parts of the book, as required rather than waiting for a new edition to come out. We can also add richer content including video, dynamic graphics, etc.
For readers that want a print edition, we will be aiming to produce a print version of the book every year (available via Amazon).
I like the idea so much I’m trying to set up a new publishing platform (otexts.com) to enable other authors to do the same sort of thing. It is taking longer than I would like to make that happen, but probably next year we should have something ready for other authors to use.
Ajay- How can we make textbooks cheaper for students as well as compensate authors fairly
 
Rob- Well free is definitely cheaper, and there are a few businesses trying to make free online textbooks a reality. Apart from my own efforts, http://www.flatworldknowledge.com/ is producing a lot of free textbooks. And textbookrevolution.org is another great resource.
With otexts.com, we will compensate authors in two ways. First, the print versions of a book will be sold (although at a vastly cheaper rate than other commercial publishers). The royalties on print sales will be split 50/50 with the authors. Second, we plan to have some features of each book available for subscription only (e.g., solutions to exercises, some multimedia content, etc.). Again, the subscription fees will be split 50/50 with the authors.
Ajay- Suppose a person who used to use forecasting software from another company decides to switch to R. How easy and lucid do you think the current documentation on R website for business analytics practitioners such as these – in the corporate world.
 
Rob- The documentation on the R website is not very good for newcomers, but there are a lot of other R resources now available. One of the best introductions is Matloff’s “The Art of R Programming”. Provided someone has done some programming before (e.g., VBA, python or java), learning R is a breeze. The people who have trouble are those who have only ever used menu interfaces such as Excel. Then they are not only learning R, but learning to think about computing in a different way from what they are used to, and that can be tricky. However, it is well worth it. Once you know how to code, you can do so much more.  I wish some basic programming was part of every business and statistics degree.
If you are working in a particular area, then it is often best to find a book that uses R in that discipline. For example, if you want to do forecasting, you can use my book (otexts.com/fpp/). Or if you are using R for data visualization, get hold of Hadley Wickham’s ggplot2 book.
Ajay- In a long and storied career- What is the best forecast you ever made ? and the worst?
 
 Rob- Actually, my best work is not so much in making forecasts as in developing new forecasting methodology. I’m very proud of my forecasting models for electricity demand which are now used for all long-term planning of electricity capacity in Australia (see  http://robjhyndman.com/papers/peak-electricity-demand/  for the details). Also, my methods for population forecasting (http://robjhyndman.com/papers/stochastic-population-forecasts/ ) are pretty good (in my opinion!). These methods are now used by some national governments (but not Australia!) for their official population forecasts.
Of course, I’ve made some bad forecasts, but usually when I’ve tried to do more than is reasonable given the available data. One of my earliest consulting jobs involved forecasting the sales for a large car manufacturer. They wanted forecasts for the next fifteen years using less than ten years of historical data. I should have refused as it is unreasonable to forecast that far ahead using so little data. But I was young and naive and wanted the work. So I did the forecasts, and they were clearly outside the company’s (reasonable) expectations, and they then refused to pay me. Lesson learned. It’s better to refuse work than do it poorly.

Probably the biggest impact I’ve had is in helping the Australian government forecast the national health budget. In 2001 and 2002, they had underestimated health expenditure by nearly $1 billion in each year which is a lot of money to have to find, even for a national government. I was invited to assist them in developing a new forecasting method, which I did. The new method has forecast errors of the order of plus or minus $50 million which is much more manageable. The method I developed for them was the basis of the ETS models discussed in my 2008 book on exponential smoothing (www.exponentialsmoothing.net)

. And now anyone can use the method with the ets() function in the forecast package for R.
About-
Rob J Hyndman is Pro­fessor of Stat­ist­ics in the Depart­ment of Eco­no­met­rics and Busi­ness Stat­ist­ics at Mon­ash Uni­ver­sity and Dir­ector of the Mon­ash Uni­ver­sity Busi­ness & Eco­nomic Fore­cast­ing Unit. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Inter­na­tional Journal of Fore­cast­ing and a Dir­ector of the Inter­na­tional Insti­tute of Fore­casters. Rob is the author of over 100 research papers in stat­ist­ical sci­ence. In 2007, he received the Moran medal from the Aus­tralian Academy of Sci­ence for his con­tri­bu­tions to stat­ist­ical research, espe­cially in the area of stat­ist­ical fore­cast­ing. For 25 years, Rob has main­tained an act­ive con­sult­ing prac­tice, assist­ing hun­dreds of com­pan­ies and organ­iz­a­tions. His recent con­sult­ing work has involved fore­cast­ing elec­tri­city demand, tour­ism demand, the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment health budget and case volume at a US call centre.

Interview Alain Chesnais Chief Scientist Trendspottr.com

Here is a brief interview with Alain Chesnais ,Chief Scientist  Trendspottr.com. It is a big honor to interview such a legend in computer science, and I am grateful to both him and Mark Zohar for taking time to write these down.
alain_chesnais2.jpg

Ajay-  Describe your career from your student days to being the President of ACM (Association of Computing Machinery http://www.acm.org/ ). How can we increase  the interest of students in STEM education, particularly in view of the shortage of data scientists.
 
Alain- I’m trying to sum up a career of over 35 years. This may be a bit long winded…
I started my career in CS when I was in high school in the early 70’s. I was accepted in the National Science Foundation’s Science Honors Program in 9th grade and the first course I took was a Fortran programming course at Columbia University. This was on an IBM 360 using punch cards.
The next year my high school got a donation from DEC of a PDP-8E mini computer. I ended up spending a lot of time in the machine room all through high school at a time when access to computers wasn’t all that common. I went to college in Paris and ended up at l’Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan in the newly created Computer Science department.
My first job after finishing my graduate studies was as a research assistant at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique where I focused my efforts on modelling the behaviour of distributed database systems in the presence of locking. When François Mitterand was elected president of France in 1981, he invited Nicholas Negroponte and Seymour Papert to come to France to set up the Centre Mondial Informatique. I was hired as a researcher there and continued on to become director of software development until it was closed down in 1986. I then started up my own company focusing on distributed computer graphics. We sold the company to Abvent in the early 90’s.
After that, I was hired by Thomson Digital Image to lead their rendering team. We were acquired by Wavefront Technologies in 1993 then by SGI in 1995 and merged with Alias Research. In the merged company: Alias|wavefront, I was director of engineering on the Maya project. Our team received an Oscar in 2003 for the creation of the Maya software system.
Since then I’ve worked at various companies, most recently focusing on social media and Big Data issues associated with it. Mark Zohar and I worked together at SceneCaster in 2007 where we developed a Facebook app that allowed users to create their own 3D scenes and share them with friends via Facebook without requiring a proprietary plugin. In December 2007 it was the most popular app in its category on Facebook.
Recently Mark approached me with a concept related to mining the content of public tweets to determine what was trending in real time. Using math similar to what I had developed during my graduate studies to model the performance of distributed databases in the presence of locking, we built up a real time analytics engine that ranks the content of tweets as they stream in. The math is designed to scale linearly in complexity with the volume of data that we analyze. That is the basis for what we have created for TrendSpottr.
In parallel to my professional career, I have been a very active volunteer at ACM. I started out as a member of the Paris ACM SIGGRAPH chapter in 1985 and volunteered to help do our mailings (snail mail at the time). After taking on more responsibilities with the chapter, I was elected chair of the chapter in 1991. I was first appointed to the SIGGRAPH Local Groups Steering Committee, then became ACM Director for Chapters. Later I was successively elected SIGGRAPH Vice Chair, ACM SIG Governing Board (SGB) Vice Chair for Operations, SGB Chair, ACM SIGGRAPH President, ACM Secretary/Treasurer, ACM Vice President, and finally, in 2010, I was elected ACM President. My term as ACM President has just ended on July 1st. Vint Cerf is our new President. I continue to serve on the ACM Executive Committee in my role as immediate Past President.
(Note- About ACM
ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery www.acm.org, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. )
Ajay- What sets Trendspotter apart from other startups out there in terms of vision in trying to achieve a more coherent experience on the web.
 
Alain- The Basic difference with other approaches that we are aware of is that we have developed an incremental solution that calculates the results on the fly as the data streams in. Our evaluators are based on solid mathematical foundations that have proven their usefulness over time. One way to describe what we do is to think of it as signal processing where the tweets are the signal and our evaluators are like triggers that tell you what elements of the signal have the characteristics that we are filtering for (velocity and acceleration). One key result of using this approach is that our unit cost per tweet analyzed does not go up with increased volume. Using more traditional data analysis approaches involving an implicit sort would imply a complexity of N*log(N), where N is the volume of tweets being analyzed. That would imply that the cost per tweet analyzed would go up with the volume of tweets. Our approach was designed to avoid that, so that we can maintain a cap on our unit costs of analysis, no matter what volume of data we analyze.
Ajay- What do you think is the future of big data visualization going to look like? What are some of the technologies that you are currently bullish on?
Alain- I see several trends that would have deep impact on Big Data visualization. I firmly believe that with large amounts of data, visualization is key tool for understanding both the structure and the relationships that exist between data elements. Let’s focus on some of the key things that are pushing in this direction:
  • the volume of data that is available is growing at a rate we have never seen before. Cisco has measured an 8 fold increase in the volume of IP traffic over the last 5 years and predicts that we will reach the zettabyte of data over IP in 2016
  • more of the data is becoming publicly available. This isn’t only on social networks such as Facebook and twitter, but joins a more general trend involving open research initiatives and open government programs
  • the desired time to get meaningful results is going down dramatically. In the past 5 years we have seen the half life of data on Facebook, defined as the amount of time that half of the public reactions to any given post (likes, shares., comments) take place, go from about 12 hours to under 3 hours currently
  • our access to the net is always on via mobile device. You are always connected.
  • the CPU and GPU capabilities of mobile devices is huge (an iPhone has 10 times the compute power of a Cray-1 and more graphics capabilities than early SGI workstations)
Put all of these observations together and you quickly come up with a massive opportunity to analyze data visually on the go as it happens no matter where you are. We can’t afford to have to wait for results. When something of interest occurs we need to be aware of it immediately.
Ajay- What are some of the applications we could use Trendspottr. Could we predict events like Arab Spring, or even the next viral thing.
 
Alain- TrendSpottr won’t predict what will happen next. What it *will* do is alert you immediately when it happens. You can think of it like a smoke detector. It doesn’t tell that a fire will take place, but it will save your life when a fire does break out.
Typical uses for TrendSpottr are
  • thought leadership by tracking content that your readership is interested in via TrendSpottr you can be seen as a thought leader on the subject by being one of the first to share trending content on a given subject. I personally do this on my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/alain.chesnais) and have seen my klout score go up dramatically as a result
  • brand marketing to be able to know when something is trending about your brand and take advantage of it as it happens.
  • competitive analysis to see what is being said about two competing elements. For instance, searching TrendSpottr for “Obama OR Romney” gives you a very good understanding about how social networks are reacting to each politician. You can also do searches like “$aapl OR $msft OR $goog” to get a sense of what is the current buzz for certain hi tech stocks.
  • understanding your impact in real time to be able to see which of the content that you are posting is trending the most on social media so that you can highlight it on your main page. So if all of your content is hosted on common domain name (ourbrand.com), searching for ourbrand.com will show you the most active of your site’s content. That can easily be set up by putting a TrendSpottr widget on your front page

Ajay- What are some of the privacy guidelines that you keep in  mind- given the fact that you collect individual information but also have government agencies as potential users.

 
Alain- We take privacy very seriously and anonymize all of the data that we collect. We don’t keep explicit records of the data we collected through the various incoming streams and only store the aggregate results of our analysis.
About-
Alain Chesnais is immediate Past President of ACM, elected for the two-year term beginning July 1, 2010.Chesnais studied at l’Ecole Normale Supérieure de l’Enseignement Technique and l’Université de Paris where he earned a Maîtrise de Mathematiques, a Maitrise de Structure Mathématique de l’Informatique, and a Diplôme d’Etudes Approfondies in Compuer Science. He was a high school student at the United Nations International School in New York, where, along with preparing his International Baccalaureate with a focus on Math, Physics and Chemistry, he also studied Mandarin Chinese.Chesnais recently founded Visual Transitions, which specializes in helping companies move to HTML 5, the newest standard for structuring and presenting content on the World Wide Web. He was the CTO of SceneCaster.com from June 2007 until April 2010, and was Vice President of Product Development at Tucows Inc. from July 2005 – May 2007. He also served as director of engineering at Alias|Wavefront on the team that received an Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for developing the Maya 3D software package.

Prior to his election as ACM president, Chesnais was vice president from July 2008 – June 2010 as well as secretary/treasurer from July 2006 – June 2008. He also served as president of ACM SIGGRAPH from July 2002 – June 2005 and as SIG Governing Board Chair from July 2000 – June 2002.

As a French citizen now residing in Canada, he has more than 20 years of management experience in the software industry. He joined the local SIGGRAPH Chapter in Paris some 20 years ago as a volunteer and has continued his involvement with ACM in a variety of leadership capacities since then.

About Trendspottr.com

TrendSpottr is a real-time viral search and predictive analytics service that identifies the most timely and trending information for any topic or keyword. Our core technology analyzes real-time data streams and spots emerging trends at their earliest acceleration point — hours or days before they have become “popular” and reached mainstream awareness.

TrendSpottr serves as a predictive early warning system for news and media organizations, brands, government agencies and Fortune 500 companies and helps them to identify emerging news, events and issues that have high viral potential and market impact. TrendSpottr has partnered with HootSuite, DataSift and other leading social and big data companies.

Using Cloud Computing for Hacking

This is not about hacking the cloud. Instead this is about using the cloud to hack

 

Some articles last year wrote on how hackers used Amazon Ec2 for hacking/ddos attacks.

http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/216434/cloud_computing_used_to_hack_wireless_passwords.html

Roth claims that a typical wireless password can be guessed by EC2 and his software in about six minutes. He proved this by hacking networks in the area where he lives. The type of EC2 computers used in the attack costs 28 cents per minute, so $1.68 is all it could take to lay open a wireless network.

and

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-15/sony-attack-shows-amazon-s-cloud-service-lures-hackers-at-pennies-an-hour.html

Cloud services are also attractive for hackers because the use of multiple servers can facilitate tasks such as cracking passwords, said Ray Valdes, an analyst at Gartner Inc. Amazon could improve measures to weed out bogus accounts, he said.

 

and this article by Anti-Sec pointed out how one can obtain a debit card anonymously

https://www.facebook.com/notes/lulzsec/want-to-be-a-ghost-on-the-internet/230293097062823

VPN Account without paper trail

  • Purchase prepaid visa card with cash
  • Purchase Bitcoins with Money Order
  • Donate Bitcoins to different account

 

Masking your IP address to log on is done by TOR

https://www.torproject.org/download/download.html.en

and the actual flooding is done by tools like LOIC or HOIC

http://sourceforge.net/projects/loic/

and

http://www.4shared.com/rar/UmCu0ds1/hoic.html

 

So what safeguards can be expected from the next wave of Teenage Mutant Ninjas..?

 

Predictive analytics in the cloud : Angoss

I interviewed Angoss in depth here at http://www.decisionstats.com/interview-eberhard-miethke-and-dr-mamdouh-refaat-angoss-software/

Well they just announced a predictive analytics in the cloud.

 

http://www.angoss.com/predictive-analytics-solutions/cloud-solutions/

Solutions

Overview

KnowledgeCLOUD™ solutions deliver predictive analytics in the Cloud to help businesses gain competitive advantage in the areas of sales, marketing and risk management by unlocking the predictive power of their customer data.

KnowledgeCLOUD clients experience rapid time to value and reduced IT investment, and enjoy the benefits of Angoss’ industry leading predictive analytics – without the need for highly specialized human capital and technology.

KnowledgeCLOUD solutions serve clients in the asset management, insurance, banking, high tech, healthcare and retail industries. Industry solutions consist of a choice of analytical modules:

KnowledgeCLOUD for Sales/Marketing

KnowledgeCLOUD solutions are delivered via KnowledgeHUB™, a secure, scalable cloud-based analytical platform together with supporting deployment processes and professional services that deliver predictive analytics to clients in a hosted environment. Angoss industry leading predictive analytics technology is employed for the development of models and deployment of solutions.

Angoss’ deep analytics and domain expertise guarantees effectiveness – all solutions are back-tested for accuracy against historical data prior to deployment. Best practices are shared throughout the service to optimize your processes and success. Finely tuned client engagement and professional services ensure effective change management and program adoption throughout your organization.

For businesses looking to gain a competitive edge and put their data to work, Angoss is the ideal partner.

—-

Hmm. Analytics in the cloud . Reduce hardware costs. Reduce software costs . Increase profitability margins.

Hmmmmm

My favorite professor in North Carolina who calls cloud as a time sharing, are you listening Professor?

Timo Elliott on 2012

Continuing the DecisionStats series on  trends for 2012, Timo Elliott , Technology Evangelist  at SAP Business Objects, looks at the predictions he made in the beginning of  2011 and follows up with the things that surprised him in 2011, and what he foresees in 2012.

You can read last year’s predictions by Mr Elliott at http://www.decisionstats.com/brief-interview-timo-elliott/

Timo- Here are my comments on the “top three analytics trends” predictions I made last year:

(1) Analytics, reinvented. New DW techniques make it possible to do sub-second, interactive analytics directly against row-level operational data. Now BI processes and interfaces need to be rethought and redesigned to make best use of this — notably by blurring the distinctions between the “design” and “consumption” phases of BI.

I spent most of 2011 talking about this theme at various conferences: how existing BI technology israpidly becoming obsolete and how the changes are akin to the move from film to digital photography. Technology that has been around for many years (in-memory, column stores, datawarehouse appliances, etc.) came together to create exciting new opportunities and even generally-skeptical industry analysts put out press releases such as “Gartner Says Data Warehousing Reaching Its Most Significant Inflection Point Since Its Inception.” Some of the smaller BI vendors had been pushing in-memory analytics for years, but the general market started paying more attention when megavendors like SAP started painting a long-term vision of in-memory becoming a core platform for applications, not just analytics. Database leader Oracle was forced to upgrade their in-memory messaging from “It’s a complete fantasy” to “we have that too”.

(2) Corporate and personal BI come together. The ability to mix corporate and personal data for quick, pragmatic analysis is a common business need. The typical solution to the problem — extracting and combining the data into a local data store (either Excel or a departmental data mart) — pleases users, but introduces duplication and extra costs and makes a mockery of information governance. 2011 will see the rise of systems that let individuals and departments load their data into personal spaces in the corporate environment, allowing pragmatic analytic flexibility without compromising security and governance.

The number of departmental “data discovery” initiatives continued to rise through 2011, but new tools do make it easier for business people to upload and manipulate their own information while using the corporate standards. 2012 will see more development of “enterprise data discovery” interfaces for casual users.

(3) The next generation of business applications. Where are the business applications designed to support what people really do all day, such as implementing this year’s strategy, launching new products, or acquiring another company? 2011 will see the first prototypes of people-focused, flexible, information-centric, and collaborative applications, bringing together the best of business intelligence, “enterprise 2.0”, and existing operational applications.

2011 saw the rise of sophisticated, user-centric mobile applications that combine data from corporate systems with GPS mapping and the ability to “take action”, such as mobile medical analytics for doctors or mobile beauty advisor applications, and collaborative BI started becoming a standard part of enterprise platforms.

And one that should happen, but probably won’t: (4) Intelligence = Information + PEOPLE. Successful analytics isn’t about technology — it’s about people, process, and culture. The biggest trend in 2011 should be organizations spending the majority of their efforts on user adoption rather than technical implementation.

Unsurprisingly, there was still high demand for presentations on why BI projects fail and how to implement BI competency centers.  The new architectures probably resulted in even more emphasis on technology than ever, while business peoples’ expectations skyrocketed, fueled by advances in the consumer world. The result was probably even more dissatisfaction in the past, but the benefits of the new architectures should start becoming clearer during 2012.

What surprised me the most:

The rapid rise of Hadoop / NoSQL. The potentials of the technology have always been impressive, but I was surprised just how quickly these technology has been used to address real-life business problems (beyond the “big web” vendors where it originated), and how quickly it is becoming part of mainstream enterprise analytic architectures (e.g. Sybase IQ 15.4 includes native MapReduce APIs, Hadoop integration and federation, etc.)

Prediction for 2012:

As I sat down to gather my thoughts about BI in 2012, I quickly came up with the same long laundry list of BI topics as everybody else: in-memory, mobile, predictive, social, collaborative decision-making, data discovery, real-time, etc. etc.  All of these things are clearly important, and where going to continue to see great improvements this year. But I think that the real “next big thing” in BI is what I’m seeing when I talk to customers: they’re using these new opportunities not only to “improve analytics” but also fundamentally rethink some of their key business processes.

Instead of analytics being something that is used to monitor and eventually improve a business process, analytics is becoming a more fundamental part of the business process itself. One example is a large telco company that has transformed the way they attract customers. Instead of laboriously creating a range of rate plans, promoting them, and analyzing the results, they now use analytics to automatically create hundreds of more complex, personalized rate plans. They then throw them out into the market, monitor in real time, and quickly cull any that aren’t successful. It’s a way of doing business that would have been inconceivable in the past, and a lot more common in the future.

 

About

 

Timo Elliott

Timo Elliott is a 20-year veteran of SAP BusinessObjects, and has spent the last quarter-century working with customers around the world on information strategy.

He works closely with SAP research and innovation centers around the world to evangelize new technology prototypes.

His popular Business Analytics blog tracks innovation in analytics and social media, including topics such as augmented corporate reality, collaborative decision-making, and social network analysis.

His PowerPoint Twitter Tools lets presenters see and react to tweets in real time, embedded directly within their slides.

A popular and engaging speaker, Elliott presents regularly to IT and business audiences at international conferences, on subjects such as why BI projects fail and what to do about it, and the intersection of BI and enterprise 2.0.

Prior to Business Objects, Elliott was a computer consultant in Hong Kong and led analytics projects for Shell in New Zealand. He holds a first-class honors degree in Economics with Statistics from Bristol University, England

Timo can be contacted via Twitter at https://twitter.com/timoelliott

 Part 1 of this series was from James Kobielus, Forrestor at http://www.decisionstats.com/jim-kobielus-on-2012/

SAS Institute Financials 2011

SAS Institute has release it’s financials for 2011 at http://www.sas.com/news/preleases/2011financials.html,

Revenue surged across all solution and industry categories. Software to detect fraud saw a triple-digit jump. Revenue from on-demand solutions grew almost 50 percent. Growth from analytics and information management solutions were double digit, as were gains from customer intelligence, retail, risk and supply chain solutions

AJAY- and as a private company it is quite nice that they are willing to share so much information every year.

The graphics are nice ( and the colors much better than in 2010) , but pie-charts- seriously dude there is no way to compare how much SAS revenue is shifting across geographies or even across industries. So my two cents is – lose the pie charts, and stick to line graphs please for the share of revenue by country /industry.

In 2011, SAS grew staff 9.2 percent and reinvested 24 percent of revenue into research and development

AJAY- So that means 654 million dollars spent in Research and Development.  I wonder if SAS has considered investing in much smaller startups (than it’s traditional strategy of doing all research in-house and completely acquiring a smaller company)

Even a small investment of say 5-10 million USD in open source , or even Phd level research projects could greatly increase the ROI on that.

That means

Analyzing a private company’s financials are much more fun than a public company, and I remember the words of my finance professor ( “dig , dig”) to compare 2011 results with 2010 results.

http://www.sas.com/news/preleases/2010financials.html

The percentage invested in R and D is exactly the same (24%) and the percentages of revenue earned from each geography is exactly the same . So even though revenue growth increased from 5.2 % to 9% in 2011, both the geographic spread of revenues and share  R&D costs remained EXACTLY the same.

The Americas accounted for 46 percent of total revenue; Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) 42 percent; and Asia Pacific 12 percent.

Overall, I think SAS remains a 35% market share (despite all that noise from IBM, SAS clones, open source) because they are good at providing solutions customized for industries (instead of just software products), the market for analytics is not saturated (it seems to be growing faster than 12% or is it) , and its ability to attract and retain the best analytical talent (which in a non -American tradition for a software company means no stock options, job security, and great benefits- SAS remains almost Japanese in HR practices).

In 2010, SAS grew staff by 2.4 percent, in 2011 SAS grew staff by 9 percent.

But I liked the directional statement made here-and I think that design interfaces, algorithmic and computational efficiencies should increase analytical time, time to think on business and reduce data management time further!

“What would you do with the extra time if your code ran in two minutes instead of five hours?” Goodnight challenged.

Quantitative Modeling for Arbitrage Positions in Ad KeyWords Internet Marketing

Assume you treat an ad keyword as an equity stock. There are slight differences in the cost for advertising for that keyword across various locations (Zurich vs Delhi) and various channels (Facebook vs Google) . You get revenue if your website ranks naturally in organic search for the keyword, and you have to pay costs for getting traffic to your website for that keyword.
An arbitrage position is defined as a riskless profit when cost of keyword is less than revenue from keyword. We take examples of Adsense  and Adwords primarily.
There are primarily two types of economic curves on the foundation of which commerce of the  internet  resides-
1) Cost Curve- Cost of Advertising to drive traffic into the website  (Google Adwords, Twitter Ads, Facebook , LinkedIn ads)
2) Revenue Curve - Revenue from ads clicked by the incoming traffic on website (like Adsense, LinkAds, Banner Ads, Ad Sharing Programs , In Game Ads)
The cost and revenue curves are primarily dependent on two things
1) Type of KeyWord-Also subdependent on
a) Location of Prospective Customer, and
b) Net Present Value of Good and Service to be eventually purchased
For example , keyword for targeting sales of enterprise “business intelligence software” should ideally be costing say X times as much as keywords for “flower shop for birthdays” where X is the multiple of the expected payoffs from sales of business intelligence software divided by expected payoff from sales of flowers (say in Location, Daytona Beach ,Florida or Austin, Texas)
2) Traffic Volume – Also sub-dependent on Time Series and
a) Seasonality -Annual Shoppping Cycle
b) Cyclicality- Macro economic shifts in time series
The cost and revenue curves are not linear and ideally should be continuous in a definitive exponential or polynomial manner, but in actual reality they may have sharp inflections , due to location, time, as well as web traffic volume thresholds
Type of Keyword – For example ,keywords for targeting sales for Eminem Albums may shoot up in a non linear manner after the musician dies.
The third and not so publicly known component of both the cost and revenue curves is factoring in internet industry dynamics , including relative market share of internet advertising platforms, as well as percentage splits between content creator and ad providing platforms.
For example, based on internet advertising spend, people belive that the internet advertising is currently heading for a duo-poly with Google and Facebook are the top two players, while Microsoft/Skype/Yahoo and LinkedIn/Twitter offer niche options, but primarily depend on price setting from Google/Bing/Facebook.
It is difficut to quantify  the elasticity and efficiency of market curves as most literature and research on this is by in-house corporate teams , or advisors or mentors or consultants to the primary leaders in a kind of incesteous fraternal hold on public academic research on this.
It is recommended that-
1) a balance be found in the need for corporate secrecy to protest shareholder value /stakeholder value maximization versus the need for data liberation for innovation and grow the internet ad pie faster-
2) Cost and Revenue Curves between different keywords, time,location, service providers, be studied by quants for hedging inetrent ad inventory or /and choose arbitrage positions This kind of analysis is done for groups of stocks and commodities in the financial world, but as commerce grows on the internet this may need more specific and independent quants.
3) attention be made to how cost and revenue curves mature as per level of sophistication of underlying economy like Brazil, Russia, China, Korea, US, Sweden may be in different stages of internet ad market evolution.
For example-
A study in cost and revenue curves for certain keywords across domains across various ad providers across various locations from 2003-2008 can help academia and research (much more than top ten lists of popular terms like non quantitative reports) as well as ensure that current algorithmic wightings are not inadvertently given away.
Part 2- of this series will explore the ways to create third party re-sellers of keywords and measuring impacts of search and ad engine optimization based on keywords.
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