# Algorithms are everywhere

What  is an algorithm anyway?

As per Wikipedia- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algorithm

an algorithm  is a step-by-step procedure for calculations. Algorithms are used for calculation, data processing, and automated reasoning.

An algorithm is an effective method expressed as a finite list of well-defined instructions  for calculating a function.  Starting from an initial state and initial input (perhaps empty),  the instructions describe a computation that, when executed, proceeds through a finite  number of well-defined successive states, eventually producing “output” and terminating at a final ending state. The transition from one state to the next is not necessarily deterministic; some algorithms, known as randomized algorithms, incorporate random input

Where do I hear the word algorithm being used?  Or the wat er cooler version- algols

I hear it everywhere- in newspapers  especially GUARDIAN and NEW YORK TIMES

From search to security: the five most important algorithms in tech

1. Pagerank – how Google calculates search results
2. Public key cryptography – keeping credit card data secure
3. Correcting errors (in CDs)
4. Protecting passwords (cryptographic hash function)
5. Perlin noise: generating landscapes in games

In Presentations-

But Google NGrams thinks algorithms is flat in books

and Google Trends think the word is actually declining. But India remains a top user of searching for algorithms

But algorithms are increasing in ArXiv articles

and there is a bit of up and down in Algorithms Jobs

What do you think- do you hear the word too much or too little?

# WordPress.com Analytics

The Analytics (or stats) dashboard at WordPress.com continues to disappoint, and is a major reason for people to move out of WordPress.com hosting (since they need better analytics like that by Google Analytics which cant be enabled on the default mode)

Its not really beautiful unlike the rest of WordPress Universe!

It can be made better if people try harder! Analytics matters

Here are some points

1) Bar charts and Histograms are not really the best way to visualize trends across time

2) Location Analytics is limited to just country level analysis and the heatmap (?) is aweful in terms of distinguishing gradients

3) Referrers Tab needs to do a better job on distinguishing between mobile and non mobile traffic, social and non social traffic (and there are better ways to visualize than just a simple list)!

4)  I cant even export my traffic stats (and forget an api !) so I am stuck with the bad data viz here

# 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.

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.
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.
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.

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.

# Why the West needs China to start moving towards cyber conflict

Hypothesis-

Western countries are running out of people to fight their wars. This is even more acute given the traditional and current demographic trends in both armed forces and general populations.

A shift to cyber conflict can help the West maintain parity over Eastern methods of assymetrical warfare (by human attrition /cyber conflict).

Declining resources will lead to converging conflicts of interest and dynamics in balance of power in the 21 st century.

Assumed Facts

The launch of Sputnik by USSR led to the moon shot rush by the US.1960s

The proposed announcement of StarWars by USA led to unsustainable defence expenditure by USSR.1980s

The threat of cyber conflict and espionage by China (and Russian cyber actions in war with Georgia) has led to increasing budgets for cyber conflict research and defense in USA. -2010s

Assumptions

If we do not learn from history, we are condemned to repeat it.

Declining Populations in the West and Rising Populations in the East in the 21 st century. The difference in military age personnel would be even more severe, due to more rapid aging in the west.

Economic output will be proportional to number of people employed as economies reach similar stages of maturity (Factor-Manufacturing-Services-Innovation)

Data-

http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/unpp/panel_population.htm

http://www.census.gov/population/international/

GDP projections to 2050:
Summary-
Western defence forces would not be able to afford a human attrition intensive war by 2030 given current demographic trends  (both growth and aging). Existing balance of power could be maintained if resources are either shared or warfare is moved to cyber space. Technological advances can help augment resources reducing case for conflict scenarios.
Will the Internet be used by US against China in the 21 st century as Opium was used by GB in the 19th? Time will tell :)

# Jill Dyche on 2012

In part 3 of the series for predictions for 2012, here is Jill Dyche, Baseline Consulting/DataFlux.

Part 2 was Timo Elliot, SAP at http://www.decisionstats.com/timo-elliott-on-2012/ and Part 1 was Jim Kobielus, Forrester at http://www.decisionstats.com/jim-kobielus-on-2012/

Ajay: What are the top trends you saw happening in 2011?

Well, I hate to say I saw them coming, but I did. A lot of managers committed some pretty predictable mistakes in 2011. Here are a few we witnessed in 2011 live and up close:

1.       In the spirit of “size matters,” data warehouse teams continued to trumpet the volumes of stored data on their enterprise data warehouses. But a peek under the covers of these warehouses reveals that the data isn’t integrated. Essentially this means a variety of heterogeneous virtual data marts co-located on a single server. Neat. Big. Maybe even worthy of a magazine article about how many petabytes you’ve got. But it’s not efficient, and hardly the example of data standardization and re-use that everyone expects from analytical platforms these days.

2.       Development teams still didn’t factor data integration and provisioning into their project plans in 2011. So we saw multiple projects spawn duplicate efforts around data profiling, cleansing, and standardization, not to mention conflicting policies and business rules for the same information. Bummer, since IT managers should know better by now. The problem is that no one owns the problem. Which brings me to the next mistake…

3.       No one’s accountable for data governance. Yeah, there’s a council. And they meet. And they talk. Sometimes there’s lunch. And then nothing happens because no one’s really rewarded—or penalized for that matter—on data quality improvements or new policies. And so the reports spewing from the data mart are still fraught and no one trusts the resulting decisions.

But all is not lost since we’re seeing some encouraging signs already in 2012. And yes, I’d classify some of them as bona-fide trends.

Ajay: What are some of those trends?

Job descriptions for data stewards, data architects, Chief Data Officers, and other information-enabling roles are becoming crisper, and the KPIs for these roles are becoming more specific. Data management organizations are being divorced from specific lines of business and from IT, becoming specialty organizations—okay, COEs if you must—in their own rights. The value proposition for master data management now includes not just the reconciliation of heterogeneous data elements but the support of key business strategies. And C-level executives are holding the data people accountable for improving speed to market and driving down costs—not just delivering cleaner data. In short, data is becoming a business enabler. Which, I have to just say editorially, is better late than never!

Ajay: Anything surprise you, Jill?

I have to say that Obama mentioning data management in his State of the Union speech was an unexpected but pretty powerful endorsement of the importance of information in both the private and public sector.

I’m also sort of surprised that data governance isn’t being driven more frequently by the need for internal and external privacy policies. Our clients are constantly asking us about how to tightly-couple privacy policies into their applications and data sources. The need to protect PCI data and other highly-sensitive data elements has made executives twitchy. But they’re still not linking that need to data governance.

I should also mention that I’ve been impressed with the people who call me who’ve had their “aha!” moment and realize that data transcends analytic systems. It’s operational, it’s pervasive, and it’s dynamic. I figured this epiphany would happen in a few years once data quality tools became a commodity (they’re far from it). But it’s happening now. And that’s good for all types of businesses.

Jill Dyché has written three books and numerous articles on the business value of information technology. She advises clients and executive teams on leveraging technology and information to enable strategic business initiatives. Last year her company Baseline Consulting was acquired by DataFlux Corporation, where she is currently Vice President of Thought Leadership. Find her blog posts on www.dataroundtable.com.

# Jim Kobielus on 2012

Jim Kobielus revisits the predictions he made in 2011 (and a summary of 2010) , and makes some fresh ones for 2012. For technology watchers, this is an article by one of the gurus of enterprise software.

All of those trends predictions (at http://www.decisionstats.com/brief-interview-with-james-g-kobielus/ ) came true in 2011, and are in full force in 2012 as well.Here are my predictions for 2012, and the links to the 3 blogposts in which I made them last month:

The Year Ahead in Next Best Action? Here’s the Next Best Thing to a Crystal Ball!

• The next-best-action market will continue to coalesce around core solution capabilities.
• Data scientists will become the principal application developers for next best action.
• Real-world experiments will become the new development paradigm in next best action.

• Open-source platforms will expand their footprint in advanced analytics.
• Data science centers of excellence will spring up everywhere.
• Predictive analytics and interactive exploration will enter the mainstream BI user experience:

The Year Ahead In Big Data? Big, Cool, New Stuff Looms Large!

• Enterprise Hadoop deployments will expand at a rapid clip.
• In-memory analytics platforms will grow their footprint.
• Graph databases will come into vogue.

And in an exclusive and generous favor for DecisionStats, Jim does some crystal gazing for the cloud computing field in 2012-

Cloud/SaaS EDWs will cross the enterprise-adoption inflection point. In 2012, cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) enterprise data warehouses (EDWs), offered on a public subscription basis, will gain greater enterprise adoption as a complement or outright replacement for appliance- and software-based EDWs. A growing number of established and startup EDW vendors will roll out cloud/SaaS “Big Data” offerings. Many of these will supplement and extend RDBMS and columnar technologies with Hadoop, key-value, graph, document, and other new database architectures.

http://www.forrester.com/rb/analyst/james_kobielus

 James G. Kobielus Senior Analyst

### RESEARCH FOCUS

James serves Business Process & Application Development & Delivery Professionals. He is a leading expert on data warehousing, predictive analytics, data mining, and complex event processing. In addition to his core coverage areas, James contributes to Forrester’s research in business intelligence, data integration, data quality, and master data management.

### PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCE

James has a long history in IT research and consulting and has worked for both vendors and research firms. Most recently, he was at Current Analysis, an IT research firm, where he was a principal analyst covering topics ranging from data warehousing to data integration and the Semantic Web. Prior to that position, James was a senior technical systems analyst at Exostar (a hosted supply chain management and eBusiness hub for the aerospace and defense industry). In this capacity, James was responsible for identifying and specifying product/service requirements for federated identity, PKI, and other products. He also worked as an analyst for the Burton Group and was previously employed by LCC International, DynCorp, ADEENA, International Center for Information Technologies, and the North American Telecommunications Association. He is both well versed and experienced in product and market assessments. James is a widely published business/technology author and has spoken at many industry events.

Contact –

Business Metrics (a partial extract from my upcoming book “R for Business Analytics”

Business Metrics are important variables that are collected on a periodic basis to assess the health and sustainability of a business. They should have the following properties-

1) What is a Business Metric-The absence of collection of regular update of the business metric could cause business disruption by incorrect and incomplete decision making.

2) Cost of Business Metrics- The costs of collection, storage and updating of the business metric is less than the opportunity costs of wrong decision making cause by lack of information of that business metric.

3) Continuity in your Business Metrics- The business metrics are continuous in comparing across time periods and business units- if necessary the assumptions for smoothing the comparisons should be listed in the business metric presentation itself.

4) Simplify your Business Metrics– Business metrics can be derived as well from other business metrics. If necessary and to avoid clutter only the most important business metrics should be presented, or the metrics with the biggest deviation from past trends should be mentioned.

5) Normalize your Business Metrics- Scale of the business metric units should be comparable to other business metrics as well as significant to emphasize the difference in numbers.

6) Standardize your Business Metrics– Dimension of business metrics should be increased to enhance comparison and contrasts without enhancing complexity. This means adding an extra dimension for analysis rather than a 2 by 2 comparison, to add time /geography/ employee/business owner as a dimension .