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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.

Python with Friends

Wanted to learn Python? Stuck on a desk with no redemption. You have two very lucid options. One is use Google. I mean not the search engine, but their class on learning Python.

The videos are available on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/user/GoogleDevelopers (starting at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKTZoB2Vjuk&feature=plcp)


http://code.google.com/edu/languages/google-python-class/

The other is new module of Python at code academy. It is truly awesome even if you dont know any programming!

So learn some awesome python today and be an excellent hacker tommorow!

http://www.codecademy.com/tracks/python

Update!

I have been busy-

1) Finally my divorce came through. My advice – dont do it without a pre-nup ! Alimony means all the money.

2) Spending time on Quora after getting bored from LinkedIn, Twitter,Facebook,Google Plus,Tumblr, WordPress

See this answer to-

 What are common misconceptions about startups?

1) we will change the world
2) if we get 1% of a billion people market, we will be rich
3) if we have got funding, most of the job is done
4) lets pay ourselves high salaries since we got funded
5) our idea is awesome and cant be copied, improvised, stolen, replicated
6) startups are painless
7) it is a better life than a corporate career
8) long term vision is important than short term cash burn
9) we will never sell out or exit. never
10) its a great idea to make startups with friend

Say hello to me – http://www.quora.com/Ajay-Ohri/answers

3) Writing freelance articles on APIs for Programmable Web

Why write pro? See point 1)

Recent Articles-

http://blog.programmableweb.com/2012/07/30/predict-the-future-with-google-prediction-api/

http://blog.programmableweb.com/2012/08/01/your-store-in-the-cloud-google-cloud-storage-api/

http://blog.programmableweb.com/2012/07/27/the-romney-vs-obama-api/

4) Writing poetry on http://poemsforkush.com/. It now gets 23000 views a month. I wish I could say my poems were great, but the readers are kind (364 subscribers!) and also Google Image Search is very very kind.

5) Kicking tires with next book ” R for Cloud Computing” and be tuned for another writing announcement

6) Waiting for Paul Kent, VP, SAS Big Data to reply to my emails for interview after HE promised me!! You dont get to 105 interviews without being a bit stubborn!

7) Sighing on politics engulfing my American friends especially with regards to Chic-fil-A and Romney’s gaffes. Now thats what I call a first world problem! Protesting by eating or boycotting chicken sandwiches! In India we had the world’s biggest blackout two days in a row- and no one is attending the Hunger Fast against corruption protests!

8) Watching Olympics! Our glorious nation of 1.2 billion very smart people has managed to win 1 Bronze till today!! Michael Phelps has won more medals and more gold than the whole of  India has since the Olympics Games began!!

9) Consulting to pay the bills. includes writing R code, making presentations. Why consult when I have writing to do? See point 1)

10) Reading New York Times to get insights on Big Data and Analytics. Trust them- they know what they are doing!

Who made Who in #Rstats

While Bob M, my old mentor and fellow TN man maintains the website http://r4stats.com/ how popular R is across various forums, I am interested in who within R community of 3 million (give or take a few) is contributing more. I am very sure by 2014, we can have a new fork of R called Hadley R, in which all packages would be made by Hadley Wickham and you wont need anything else.

But jokes apart, since I didnt have the time to

1) scrape CRAN for all package authors

2) scrape for lines of code across all packages

3) allocate lines of code (itself a dubious software productivity metric) to various authors of R packages-

OR

1) scraping the entire and 2011′s R help list

2) determine who is the most frequent r question and answer user (ala SAS-L’s annual MVP and rookie of the year awards)

I did the following to atleast who is talking about R across easily scrapable Q and A websites

Stack Overflow still rules over all.

http://stackoverflow.com/tags/r/topusers shows the statistics on who made whom in R on Stack Overflow

All in all, initial ardour seems to have slowed for #Rstats on Stack Overflow ? or is it just summer?

No the answer- credit to Rob J Hyndman is most(?) activity is shifting to Stats Exchange

http://stats.stackexchange.com/tags/r/topusers


You could also paste this in Notepad and some graphs on Average Score / Answer or even make a social network graph if you had the time.

Do NOT (Go/Bi) search for Stack Overflow API or web scraping stack overflow- it gives you all the answers on the website but 0 answers on how to scrape these websites.

I have added a new website called Meta Optimize to this list based on Tal G’s interview of Joseph Turian,  at http://www.r-statistics.com/2010/07/statistical-analysis-qa-website-did-stackoverflow-just-lose-it-to-metaoptimize-and-is-it-good-or-bad/

http://metaoptimize.com/qa/tags/r/?sort=hottest

There are only 17 questions tagged R but it seems a lot of views is being generated.

I also decided to add views from Quora since it is Q and A site (and one which I really like)

http://www.quora.com/R-software

Again very few questions but lot many followers

Interview James G Kobielus IBM Big Data

Here is an interview with  James G Kobielus, who is the Senior Program Director, Product Marketing, Big Data Analytics Solutions at IBM. Special thanks to Payal Patel Cudia of IBM’s communication team,for helping with the logistics for this.

Ajay -What are the specific parts of the IBM Platform that deal with the three layers of Big Data -variety, velocity and volume

James-Well first of all, let’s talk about the IBM Information Management portfolio. Our big data platform addresses the three layers of big data to varying degrees either together in a product , or two out of the three or even one of the three aspects. We don’t have separate products for the variety, velocity and volume separately.

Let us define these three layers-Volume refers to the hundreds of terabytes and petabytes of stored data inside organizations today. Velocity refers to the whole continuum from batch to real time continuous and streaming data.

Variety refers to multi-structure data from structured to unstructured files, managed and stored in a common platform analyzed through common tooling.

For Volume-IBM has a highly scalable Big Data platform. This includes Netezza and Infosphere groups of products, and Watson-like technologies that can support petabytes volume of data for analytics. But really the support of volume ranges across IBM’s Information Management portfolio both on the database side and the advanced analytics side.

For real time Velocity, we have real time data acquisition. We have a product called IBM Infosphere, part of our Big Data platform, that is specifically built for streaming real time data acquisition and delivery through complex event processing. We have a very rich range of offerings that help clients build a Hadoop environment that can scale.

Our Hadoop platform is the most real time capable of all in the industry. We are differentiated by our sheer breadth, sophistication and functional depth and tooling integrated in our Hadoop platform. We are differentiated by our streaming offering integrated into the Hadoop platform. We also offer a great range of modeling and analysis tools, pretty much more than any other offering in the Big Data space.

Attached- Jim’s slides from Hadoop World

Ajay- Any plans for Mahout for Hadoop

Jim- I cant speak about product plans. We have plans but I cant tell you anything more. We do have a feature in Big Insights called System ML, a library for machine learning.

Ajay- How integral are acquisitions for IBM in the Big Data space (Netezza,Cognos,SPSS etc). Is it true that everything that you have in Big Data is acquired or is the famous IBM R and D contributing here . (see a partial list of IBM acquisitions at at http://www.ibm.com/investor/strategy/acquisitions.wss )

Jim- We have developed a lot on our own. We have the deepest R and D of anybody in the industry in all things Big Data.

For example – Watson has Big Insights Hadoop at its core. Apache Hadoop is the heart and soul of Big Data (see http://www-01.ibm.com/software/data/infosphere/hadoop/ ). A great deal that makes Big Insights so differentiated is that not everything that has been built has been built by the Hadoop community.

We have built additions out of the necessity for security, modeling, monitoring, and governance capabilities into BigInsights to make it truly enterprise ready. That is one example of where we have leveraged open source and we have built our own tools and technologies and layered them on top of the open source code.

Yes of course we have done many strategic acquisitions over the last several years related to Big Data Management and we continue to do so. This quarter we have done 3 acquisitions with strong relevance to Big Data. One of them is Vivisimo (http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/37491.wss ).

Vivisimo provides federated Big Data discovery, search and profiling capabilities to help you figure out what data is out there,what is relevance of that data to your data science project- to help you answer the question which data should you bring in your Hadoop Cluster.

 We also did Varicent , which is more performance management and we did TeaLeaf , which is a customer experience solution provider where customer experience management and optimization is one of the hot killer apps for Hadoop in the cloud. We have done great many acquisitions that have a clear relevance to Big Data.

Netezza already had a massively parallel analytics database product with an embedded library of models called Netezza Analytics, and in-database capabilties to massively parallelize Map Reduce and other analytics management functions inside the database. In many ways, Netezza provided capabilities similar to that IBM had provided for many years under the Smart Analytics Platform (http://www-01.ibm.com/software/data/infosphere/what-is-advanced-analytics/ ) .

There is a differential between Netezza and ISAS.

ISAS was built predominantly in-house over several years . If you go back a decade ago IBM acquired Ascential Software , a product portfolio that was the heart and soul of IBM InfoSphere Information Manager that is core to our big Data platform. In addition to Netezza, IBM bought SPSS two years back. We already had data mining tools and predictive modeling in the InfoSphere portfolio, but we realized we needed to have the best of breed, SPSS provided that and so IBM acquired them.

 Cognos- We had some BI reporting capabilities in the InfoSphere portfolio that we had built ourselves and also acquired for various degrees from prior acquisitions. But clearly Cognos was one of the best BI vendors , and we were lacking such a rich tool set in our product in visualization and cubing and so for that reason we acquired Cognos.

There is also Unica – which is a marketing campaign optimization which in many ways is a killer app for Hadoop. Projects like that are driving many enterprises.

Ajay- How would you rank order these acquisitions in terms of strategic importance rather than data of acquisition or price paid.

Jim-Think of Big Data as an ecosystem that has components that are fitted to particular functions for data analytics and data management. Is the database the core, or the modeling tool the core, or the governance tools the core, or is the hardware platform the core. Everything is critically important. We would love to hear from you what you think have been most important. Each acquisition has helped play a critical role to build the deepest and broadest solution offering in Big Data. We offer the hardware, software, professional services, the hosting service. I don’t think there is any validity to a rank order system.

Ajay-What are the initiatives regarding open source that Big Data group have done or are planning?

Jim- What we are doing now- We are very much involved with the Apache Hadoop community. We continue to evolve the open source code that everyone leverages.. We have built BigInsights on Apache Hadoop. We have the closest, most up to date in terms of version number to Apache Hadoop ( Hbase,HDFS, Pig etc) of all commercial distributions with our BigInsights 1.4 .

We have an R library integrated with BigInsights . We have a R library integrated with Netezza Analytics. There is support for R Models within the SPSS portfolio. We already have a fair amount of support for R across the portfolio.

Ajay- What are some of the concerns (privacy,security,regulation) that you think can dampen the promise of Big Data.

Jim- There are no showstoppers, there is really a strong momentum. Some of the concerns within the Hadoop space are immaturity of the technology, the immaturity of some of the commercial offerings out there that implement Hadoop, the lack of standardization for formal sense for Hadoop.

There is no Open Standards Body that declares, ratifies the latest version of Mahout, Map Reduce, HDFS etc. There is no industry consensus reference framework for layering these different sub projects. There are no open APIs. There are no certifications or interoperability standards or organizations to certify different vendors interoperability around a common API or framework.

The lack of standardization is troubling in this whole market. That creates risks for users because users are adopting multiple Hadoop products. There are lots of Hadoop deployments in the corporate world built around Apache Hadoop (purely open source). There may be no assurance that these multiple platforms will interoperate seamlessly. That’s a huge issue in terms of just magnifying the risk. And it increases the need for the end user to develop their own custom integrated code if they want to move data between platforms, or move map-reduce jobs between multiple distributions.

Also governance is a consideration. Right now Hadoop is used for high volume ETL on multi structured and unstructured data sources, or Hadoop is used for exploratory sand boxes for data scientists. These are important applications that are a majority of the Hadoop deployments . Some Hadoop deployments are stand alone unstructured data marts for specific applications like sentiment analysis like.

Hadoop is not yet ready for data warehousing. We don’t see a lot of Hadoop being used as an alternative to data warehouses for managing the single version of truth of system or record data. That day will come but there needs to be out there in the marketplace a broader range of data governance mechanisms , master data management, data profiling products that are mature that enterprises can use to make sure their data inside their Hadoop clusters is clean and is the single version of truth. That day has not arrived yet.

One of the great things about IBM’s acquisition of Vivisimo is that a piece of that overall governance picture is discovery and profiling for unstructured data , and that is done very well by Vivisimo for several years.

What we will see is vendors such as IBM will continue to evolve security features inside of our Hadoop platform. We will beef up our data governance capabilities for this new world of Hadoop as the core of Big Data, and we will continue to build up our ability to integrate multiple databases in our Hadoop platform so that customers can use data from a bit of Hadoop,some data from a bit of traditional relational data warehouse, maybe some noSQL technology for different roles within a very complex Big Data environment.

That latter hybrid deployment model is becoming standard across many enterprises for Big Data. A cause for concern is when your Big Data deployment has a bit of Hadoop, bit of noSQL, bit of EDW, bit of in-memory , there are no open standards or frameworks for putting it all together for a unified framework not just for interoperability but also for deployment.

There needs to be a virtualization or abstraction layer for unified access to all these different Big Data platforms by the users/developers writing the queries, by administrators so they can manage data and resources and jobs across all these disparate platforms in a seamless unified way with visual tooling. That grand scenario, the virtualization layer is not there yet in any standard way across the big data market. It will evolve, it may take 5-10 years to evolve but it will evolve.

So, that’s the concern that can dampen some of the enthusiasm for Big Data Analytics.

About-

You can read more about Jim at http://www.linkedin.com/pub/james-kobielus/6/ab2/8b0 or

follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jameskobielus

You can read more about IBM Big Data at http://www-01.ibm.com/software/data/bigdata/

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.

Possible Digital Disruptions by Cyber Actors in USA Electoral Cycle

Some possible electronic disruptions  that threaten to disrupt the electoral cycle in United States of America currently underway is-

1) Limited Denial of Service Attacks (like for 5-8 minutes) on fund raising websites, trying to fly under the radar of network administrators to deny the targeted  fundraising website for a small percentage of funds . Money remains critical to the world’s most expensive political market. Even a 5% dropdown in online fund-raising capacity can cripple a candidate.

2)  Limited Man of the Middle  Attacks on ground volunteers to disrupt ,intercept and manipulate communication flows. Basically cyber attacks at vulnerable ground volunteers in critical counties /battleground /swing states (like Florida)

3) Electro-Magnetic Disruptions of Electronic Voting Machines in critical counties /swing states (like Florida) to either disrupt, manipulate or create an impression that some manipulation has been done.

4) Use search engine flooding (for search engine de-optimization of rival candidates keywords), and social media flooding for disrupting the listening capabilities of sentiment analysis.

5) Selected leaks (including using digital means to create authetntic, fake or edited collateral) timed to embarrass rivals or influence voters , this can be geo-coded and mass deployed.

6) using Internet communications to selectively spam or influence independent or opinionated voters through emails, short messaging service , chat channels, social media.

7) Disrupt the Hillary for President 2016 campaign by Anonymous-Wikileak sympathetic hacktivists.

 

 

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