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.

PAWCON Bay Area March

The biggest Predictive Analytics Conference comes back to the SF Bay in March next year.

From

http://www.predictiveanalyticsworld.com/sanfrancisco/2011/

Predictive Analytics World March 2011 in San Francisco is packed with the top predictive analytics experts, practitioners, authors and business thought leaders, including keynote speakers:


Sugato Basu, Ph.D.
Senior Research Scientist
Google
Lessons Learned in Predictive Modeling 
for Ad Targeting

Eric Siegel, Ph.D.
Conference Chair
Predictive Analytics World
Five Ways Predictive Analytics
Cuts Enterprise Risk




Plus special plenary sessions from industry heavy-weights:


Andreas S. Weigend, Ph.D.
weigend.com
Former Chief Scientist, Amazon.com
The State of the Social Data Revoltion

John F. Elder, Ph.D.
CEO and Founder
Elder Research
Data Mining Lessons Learned




Predictive Analytics World focuses on concrete examples of deployed predictive analytics. Hear from the horse’s mouth precisely how Fortune 500 analytics competitors and other top practitioners deploy predictive modeling, and what kind of business impact it delivers. Click here to view the agenda at-a-glance.

PAW SF 2011 will feature speakers with case studies from leading enterprises. such as:

PAW’s March agenda covers hot topics and advanced methods such as uplift (net lift) modeling, ensemble models, social data, search marketing, crowdsourcing, blackbox trading, fraud detection, risk management, survey analysis and otherinnovative applications that benefit organizations in new and creative ways.

Join PAW and access the best keynotes, sessions, workshops, exposition, expert panel, live demos, networking coffee breaks, reception, birds-of-a-feather lunches, brand-name enterprise leaders, and industry heavyweights in the business.

 

Interview Jamie Nunnelly NISS

An interview with Jamie Nunnelly, Communications Director of National Institute of Statistical Sciences

Ajay– What does NISS do? And What does SAMSI do?

Jamie– The National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS) was established in 1990 by the national statistics societies and the Research Triangle universities and organizations, with the mission to identify, catalyze and foster high-impact, cross-disciplinary and cross-sector research involving the statistical sciences.

NISS is dedicated to strengthening and serving the national statistics community, most notably by catalyzing community members’ participation in applied research driven by challenges facing government and industry. NISS also provides career development opportunities for statisticians and scientists, especially those in the formative stages of their careers.

The Institute identifies emerging issues to which members of the statistics community can make key contributions, and then catalyzes the right combinations of researchers from multiple disciplines and sectors to tackle each problem. More than 300 researchers from over 100 institutions have worked on our projects.

The Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI) is a partnership of Duke University,  North Carolina State University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and NISS in collaboration with the William Kenan Jr. Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science and is part of the Mathematical Sciences Institutes of the NSF.

SAMSI focuses on 1-2 programs of research interest in the statistical and/or applied mathematical area and visitors from around the world are involved with the programs and come from a variety of disciplines in addition to mathematics and statistics.

Many come to SAMSI to attend workshops, and also participate in working groups throughout the academic year. Many of the working groups communicate via WebEx so people can be involved with the research remotely. SAMSI also has a robust education and outreach program to help undergraduate and graduate students learn about cutting edge research in applied mathematics and statistics.

Ajay– What successes have you had in 2010- and what do you need to succeed in 2011. Whats planned for 2011 anyway

Jamie– NISS has had a very successful collaboration with the National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) over the past two years that was just renewed for the next two years. NISS & NASS had three teams consisting of a faculty researcher in statistics, a NASS researcher, a NISS mentor, a postdoctoral fellow and a graduate student working on statistical modeling and other areas of research for NASS.

NISS is also working on a syndromic surveillance project with Clemson University, Duke University, The University of Georgia, The University of South Carolina. The group is currently working with some hospitals to test out a model they have been developing to help predict disease outbreak.

SAMSI had a very successful year with two programs ending this past summer, which were the Stochastic Dynamics program and the Space-time Analysis for Environmental Mapping, Epidemiology and Climate Change. Several papers were written and published and many presentations have been made at various conferences around the world regarding the work that was conducted as SAMSI last year.

Next year’s program is so big that the institute has decided to devote all it’s time and energy around it, which is uncertainty quantification. The opening workshop, in addition to the main methodological theme, will be broken down into three areas of interest under this broad umbrella of research: climate change, engineering and renewable energy, and geosciences.

Ajay– Describe your career in science and communication.

Jamie– I have been in communications since 1985, working for large Fortune 500 companies such as General Motors and Tropicana Products. I moved to the Research Triangle region of North Carolina after graduate school and got into economic development and science communications first working for the Research Triangle Regional Partnership in 1994.

From 1996-2005 I was the communications director for the Research Triangle Park, working for the Research Triangle Foundation of NC. I published a quarterly magazine called The Park Guide for awhile, then came to work for NISS and SAMSI in 2008.

I really enjoy working with the mathematicians and statisticians. I always joke that I am the least educated person working here and that is not far from the truth! I am honored to help get the message out about all of the important research that is conducted here each day that is helping to improve the lives of so many people out there.

Ajay– Research Triangle or Silicon Valley– Which is better for tech people and why? Your opinion

Jamie– Both the Silicon Valley and Research Triangle are great regions for tech people to locate, but of course, I have to be biased and choose Research Triangle!

Really any place in the world that you find many universities working together with businesses and government, you have an area that will grow and thrive, because the collaborations help all of us generate new ideas, many of which blossom into new businesses, or new endeavors of research.

The quality of life in places such as the Research Triangle is great because you have people from around the world moving to a place, each bringing his/her culture, food, and uniqueness to this place, and enriching everyone else as a result.

Two advantages the Research Triangle has over Silicon Valley are that the Research Triangle has a bigger diversity of industries, so when the telecommunications industry busted back in 2001-02, the region took a hit, but the biotechnology industry was still growing, so unemployment rose, but not to the extent that other areas might have experienced.

The latest recession has hit us all very hard, so even this strategy has not made us immune to having high unemployment, but the Research Triangle region has been pegged by experts to be one of the first regions to emerge out of the Great Recession.

The other advantage I think we have is that our cost of living is still much more reasonable than Silicon Valley. It’s still possible to get a nice sized home, some land and not break the bank!

Ajay– How do you manage an active online social media presence, your job and your family. How important is balance in professional life and when young professional should realize this?

Jamie– Balance is everything, isn’t it? When I leave the office, I turn off my iPhone and disconnect from Twitter/Facebook etc.

I know that is not recommended by some folks, but I am a one person communications department and I love my family and friends and feel its important to devote time to them as well as to my career.

I think it is very important for young people to establish this early in their careers because if they don’t they will fall victim to working way too many hours and really, who loves you at the end of the day?

Your company may appreciate all you do for them, but if you leave, or you get sick and cannot work for them, you will be replaced

. Lee Iacocca, former CEO of Chrystler, said, “No matter what you’ve done for yourself or for humanity, if you can’t look back on having given love and attention to your own family, what have you really accomplished?” I think that is what is really most important in life.

About-

Jamie Nunnelly has been in communications for 25 years. She is currently on the board of directors for Chatham County Economic Development Corporation and Leadership Triangle & is a member of the International Association of Business Communicators and the Public Relations Society of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree in interpersonal and public communications at Bowling Green State University and a master’s degree in mass communications at the University of South Florida.

You can contact Jamie at http://niss.org/content/jamie-nunnelly or on twitter at

Bruno Aziza, Microsoft Global BI Lead joins PAW Keynote

By Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) 2007. Lambda rep...
Image via Wikipedia

 

An interesting development, Bruno Aziza, Director, Worldwide Strategy Lead, Business Intelligence, Microsoft has joined Predictive Analytics World as a keynote speaker.

http://www.predictiveanalyticsworld.com/dc/2010/agenda.php#day2-2

Keynote
Predictive Analytics and Business Performance

In this session, Bruno Aziza will discuss the challenges organizations face with Analytics and Performance. This participative session will provide first-hand accounts from Fortune 500 companies who are winning by building accountability, intelligence, and informed decision-making into their organizational DNA.

Speaker: Bruno Aziza, Director, Worldwide Strategy Lead, Business Intelligence, Microsoft

Some info about Mr Aziza,

http://www.predictiveanalyticsworld.com/dc/2010/speakers.php#aziza

Bruno Aziza, Director, Worldwide Strategy Lead, Business Intelligence,Microsoft

Bruno AzizaBruno Aziza is a recognized authority on Strategy Execution, Business Intelligence and Information Management. He is the co-author of best-selling book, “Drive Business Performance: Enabling a Culture of Intelligent Execution” and a Fellow at the Advanced Performance Institute, a world-leading and independent advisory group specialized in organizational performance. Drs. Kaplan & Norton, of Balanced Scorecard fame, praise Aziza for moving “the field of performance management forward in important new directions.”

Aziza’s work has been featured in publications across North America, Europe and Asia such as Business Finance magazine, Intelligent Enterprise, CRM magazine and others.

Aziza has held management positions at Apple Inc.Business Objects (SAP), AppStream(Symantec) and Decathlon SA. He currently works on Microsoft Business Intelligence go-to-market strategy and execution for partners, services, sales and marketing. Aziza lives in Seattle with his family and enjoys sports and travelling.

He regularly provides views on leadership and performance on the SuccessFactors thought leader Network , the CIO Network and Forbes Magazine. Aziza is the host ofBizIntelligence.TV – a leading weekly show on Business Intelligence and Analytics. An award-winning speaker, Aziza frequently keynotes international events and has shared the stage with executives and thought leaders such as Dr. Kaplan. Aziza’s biggest crowd to date is 5,000 people.

Follow or contact Bruno via:
•Twitter @ http://twitter.com/brunoaziza
•Facebook @ http://tinyurl.com/bruno-on-facebook
•Linkedin @ http://www.linkedin.com/in/brunoaziza
•YouTube @ http://tinyurl.com/bruno-on-tv
•Kindle blog @ http://tinyurl.com/culture-blog
•Forbes blog @ http://tinyurl.com/culture-blog

That makes it an interesting Pow Wow between the big players at the conference Oracle,SAP, IBM, SAS and now MS –all seem to be there.

Truly a Predictive Analytics World.

 

The SEO mess on joining blog aggregators

 

Mug shot of Paris Hilton.
Image via Wikipedia

 

If you are an analytics blogger who writes, and is aggregated on an analytical community- read on- Here’s how blog aggregation communities can help you lose 30% of all future traffic long term, while giving you a short term.

The problem is not created by Blogging Communities (like R-Bloggers, or PlanteR, or Smart Data Collective or AnalyticBridge or even BeyeBlogs )

It is created by the way Google Page Rank is structured- you see given exactly the same content on two different we pages- Google Page Rank will place the higher Page Rank results higher. This is counter intutive and quite simple to rectify- The Google Spider can just use the Time Stamp for choosing which article was published where first (Obviously on your blog, AND then later to the aggregator).

How bad is the mess? Well joining ANY blog aggregation will lead to an instant lift of upto 10-50 % of your current traffic as similar bloggers try and read about you. However you can lose the long term 30% proportion which is a benchmark of search engine created traffic for you.

So do you opt out of blog aggregation? No. It’s a SEO mess and it’s unfair to punish your blog aggregator, most of whom are running on ad-supported sponsors or their own funds on dry fumes to publish your content. Most of the fore mentioned communities are created by excellent people I interacted with heavily- and they are genuinely motivated to give readers an easy way to keep up with blogs. Especially Smart Data Collective, Analyticbridge and R-bloggers whose founders I have known personally.

You can do one thing- create manual summaries in the excerpt feature of your blog posts- it’s just below the WordPress page. And switch your RSS feed to summary rather than full. It avoids losing keyword rank to other websites, it prevents the Blog Aggregation from gaining too much influence in key word related searches, and it keeps your whole eco system happy, Best of All it helps readers of Blog Aggregators- since most of them use a summary on the front page anyways.

An additional thought on Google Page Rank- something I have sulked over but not spoken for a long long time.  It ignores the value of reader- If Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and 500 ceos from Fortune 500 companies read my blog but do not link to it- it will count daily traffic as 500. Probably it will give more weightage to Paris Hilton fans.

A suggestion-humbly- you can use IP Address lookup of visitors to see if traffic is coming from corporate sources or retail sources -Clicky from GetClicky does this. Use it as feedback in Google Analytics as well as Google Trends.

And maybe PageRank needs to add quantity and quality of visitors as additional variables . Do a A/B test guys some Chi Square juice- its not quite Mad Men Adverting but its still good fun.

 

PageRank
Image via Wikipedia

 

and the world is one big community as per xkcd