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Interview Jeff Allen Trestle Technology #rstats #rshiny

Here is an interview with Jeff Allen who works with R and the new package Shiny in his technology startup. We featured his RGL Demo in our list of Shiny Demos- here

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Ajay- Describe how you started using R. What are some of the benefits you noticed on moving to R?

Jeff- I began using R in an internship while working on my undergraduate degree. I was provided with some unformatted R code and asked to modularize the code then wrap it up into an R package for distribution alongside a publication.

To be honest, as a Computer Science student with training more heavily emphasizing the big high-level languages, R took some getting used to for me. It wasn’t until after I concluded that initial project and began using R to do my own data analysis that I began to realize its potential and value. It was the first scripting language which really made interactive use appealing to me — the experience of exploring a dataset in R was unlike anything (more…)

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!

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.

Interview: Hjálmar Gíslason, CEO of DataMarket.com

Here is an interview with Hjálmar Gíslason, CEO of Datamarket.com  . DataMarket is an active marketplace for structured data and statistics. Through powerful search and visual data exploration, DataMarket connects data seekers with data providers.

 

Ajay-  Describe your journey as an entrepreneur and techie in Iceland. What are the 10 things that surprised you most as a tech entrepreneur.

HG- DataMarket is my fourth tech start-up since at age 20 in 1996. The previous ones have been in gaming, mobile and web search. I come from a technical background but have been moving more and more to the business side over the years. I can still prototype, but I hope there isn’t a single line of my code in production!

Funny you should ask about the 10 things that have surprised me the most on this journey, as I gave a presentation – literally yesterday – titled: “9 things nobody told me about the start-up business”

They are:
* Do NOT generalize – especially not to begin with
* Prioritize – and find a work-flow that works for you
* Meet people – face to face
* You are a sales person – whether you like it or not
* Technology is not a product – it’s the entire experience
* Sell the current version – no matter how amazing the next one is
* Learn from mistakes – preferably others’
* Pick the right people – good people is not enough
* Tell a good story – but don’t make them up

I obviously elaborate on each of these points in the talk, but the points illustrate roughly some of the things I believe I’ve learned … so far ;)

9 things nobody told me about the start-up business

Ajay-

Both Amazon  and Google  have entered the public datasets space. Infochimps  has 14,000+ public datasets. The US has http://www.data.gov/

So clearly the space is both competitive and yet the demand for public data repositories is clearly under served still. 

How does DataMarket intend to address this market in a unique way to differentiate itself from others.

HG- DataMarket is about delivering business data to decision makers. We help data seekers find the data they need for planning and informed decision making, and data publishers reaching this audience. DataMarket.com is the meeting point, where data seekers can come to find the best available data, and data publishers can make their data available whether for free or for a fee. We’ve populated the site with a wealth of data from public sources such as the UN, Eurostat, World Bank, IMF and others, but there is also premium data that is only available to those that subscribe to and pay for the access. For example we resell the entire data offering from the EIU (Economist Intelligence Unit) (link: http://datamarket.com/data/list/?q=provider:eiu)

DataMarket.com allows all this data to be searched, visualized, compared and downloaded in a single place in a standard, unified manner.

We see many of these efforts not as competition, but as valuable potential sources of data for our offering, while others may be competing with parts of our proposition, such as easy access to the public data sets.

 

Ajay- What are your views on data confidentiality and access to data owned by Governments funded by tax payer money.

HG- My views are very simple: Any data that is gathered or created for taxpayers’ money should be open and free of charge unless higher priorities such as privacy or national security indicate otherwise.

Reflecting that, any data that is originally open and free of charge is still open and free of charge on DataMarket.com, just easier to find and work with.

Ajay-  How is the technology entrepreneurship and venture capital scene in Iceland. What things work and what things can be improved?

HG- The scene is quite vibrant, given the small community. Good teams with promising concepts have been able to get the funding they need to get started and test their footing internationally. When the rapid growth phase is reached outside funding may still be needed.

There are positive and negative things about any location. Among the good things about Iceland from the stand point of a technology start-up are highly skilled tech people and a relatively simple corporate environment. Among the bad things are a tiny local market, lack of skills in international sales and marketing and capital controls that were put in place after the crash of the Icelandic economy in 2008.

I’ve jokingly said that if a company is hot in the eyes of VCs it would get funding even if it was located in the jungles of Congo, while if they’re only lukewarm towards you, they will be looking for any excuse not to invest. Location can certainly be one of them, and in that case being close to the investor communities – physically – can be very important.

We’re opening up our sales and marketing offices in Boston as we speak. Not to be close to investors though, but to be close to our market and current customers.

Ajay- Describe your hobbies when you are not founding amazing tech startups.

HG- Most of my time is spent working – which happens to by my number one hobby.

It is still important to step away from it all every now and then to see things in perspective and come back with a clear mind.

I *love* traveling to exotic places. Me and my wife have done quite a lot of traveling in Africa and S-America: safari, scuba diving, skiing, enjoying nature. When at home I try to do some sports activities 3-4 times a week at least, and – recently – play with my now 8 month old son as much as I can.

About-

http://datamarket.com/p/about/team/

Management

Hjalmar GislasonHjálmar Gíslason, Founder and CEO: Hjalmar is a successful entrepreneur, founder of three startups in the gaming, mobile and web sectors since 1996. Prior to launching DataMarket, Hjalmar worked on new media and business development for companies in the Skipti Group (owners of Iceland Telecom) after their acquisition of his search startup – Spurl. Hjalmar offers a mix of business, strategy and technical expertise. DataMarket is based largely on his vision of the need for a global exchange for structured data.

hjalmar.gislason@datamarket.com

To know more, have a quick  look at  http://datamarket.com/

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.

2011 Analytics Recap

Events in the field of data that impacted us in 2011

1) Oracle unveiled plans for R Enterprise. This is one of the strongest statements of its focus on in-database analytics. Oracle also unveiled plans for a Public Cloud

2) SAS Institute released version 9.3 , a major analytics software in industry use.

3) IBM acquired many companies in analytics and high tech. Again.However the expected benefits from Cognos-SPSS integration are yet to show a spectacular change in market share.

2011 Selected acquisitions

Emptoris Inc. December 2011

Cúram Software Ltd. December 2011

DemandTec December 2011

Platform Computing October 2011

 Q1 Labs October 2011

Algorithmics September 2011

 i2 August 2011

Tririga March 2011

 

4) SAP promised a lot with SAP HANA- again no major oohs and ahs in terms of market share fluctuations within analytics.

http://www.sap.com/india/news-reader/index.epx?articleID=17619

5) Amazon continued to lower prices of cloud computing and offer more options.

http://aws.amazon.com/about-aws/whats-new/2011/12/21/amazon-elastic-mapreduce-announces-support-for-cc2-8xlarge-instances/

6) Google continues to dilly -dally with its analytics and cloud based APIs. I do not expect all the APIs in the Google APIs suit to survive and be viable in the enterprise software space.  This includes Google Cloud Storage, Cloud SQL, Prediction API at https://code.google.com/apis/console/b/0/ Some of the location based , translation based APIs may have interesting spin offs that may be very very commercially lucrative.

7) Microsoft -did- hmm- I forgot. Except for its investment in Revolution Analytics round 1 many seasons ago- very little excitement has come from MS plans in data mining- The plugins for cloud based data mining from Excel remain promising yet , while Azure remains a stealth mode starter.

8) Revolution Analytics promised us a GUI and didnt deliver (till yet :) ) . But it did reveal a much better Enterprise software Revolution R 5.0 is one of the strongest enterprise software in the R /Stat Computing space and R’s memory handling problem is now an issue of perception than actual stuff thanks to newer advances in how it is used.

9) More conferences, more books and more news on analytics startups in 2011. Big Data analytics remained a strong buzzword. Expect more from this space including creative uses of Hadoop based infrastructure.

10) Data privacy issues continue to hamper and impede effective analytics usage. So does rational and balanced regulation in some of the most advanced economies. We expect more regulation and better guidelines in 2012.

Interview Markus Schmidberger ,Cloudnumbers.com

Here is an interview with Markus Schmidberger, Senior Community Manager for cloudnumbers.com. Cloudnumbers.com is the exciting new cloud startup for scientific computing. It basically enables transition to a R and other platforms in the cloud and makes it very easy and secure from the traditional desktop/server model of operation.

Ajay- Describe the startup story for setting up Cloudnumbers.com

Markus- In 2010 the company founders Erik Muttersbach (TU München), Markus Fensterer (TU München) and Moritz v. Petersdorff-Campen (WHU Vallendar) started with the development of the cloud computing environment. (more…)

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