Interview Prof Benjamin Alamar , Sports Analytics

Here is an interview with Prof Benjamin Alamar, founding editor of the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sport, a professor of sports management at Menlo College and the Director of Basketball Analytics and Research for the Oklahoma City Thunder of the NBA.

Ajay – The movie Moneyball recently sparked out mainstream interest in analytics in sports.Describe the role of analytics in sports management

Benjamin- Analytics is impacting sports organizations on both the sport and business side.
On the Sport side, teams are using analytics, including advanced data management, predictive anlaytics, and information systems to gain a competitive edge. The use of analytics results in more accurate player valuations and projections, as well as determining effective strategies against specific opponents.
On the business side, teams are using the tools of analytics to increase revenue in a variety of ways including dynamic ticket pricing and optimizing of the placement of concession stands.
Ajay-  What are the ways analytics is used in specific sports that you have been part of?

Benjamin- A very typical first step for a team is to utilize the tools of predictive analytics to help inform their draft decisions.

Ajay- What are some of the tools, techniques and software that analytics in sports uses?
Benjamin- The tools of sports analytics do not differ much from the tools of business analytics. Regression analysis is fairly common as are other forms of data mining. In terms of software, R is a popular tool as is Excel and many of the other standard analysis tools.
Ajay- Describe your career journey and how you became involved in sports management. What are some of the tips you want to tell young students who wish to enter this field?

Benjamin- I got involved in sports through a company called Protrade Sports. Protrade initially was a fantasy sports company that was looking to develop a fantasy game based on advanced sports statistics and utilize a stock market concept instead of traditional drafting. I was hired due to my background in economics to develop the market aspect of the game.

There I met Roland Beech (who now works for the Mavericks) and Aaron Schatz (owner of footballoutsiders.com) and learned about the developing field of sports statistics. I then changed my research focus from economics to sports statistics and founded the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports. Through the journal and my published research, I was able to establish a reputation of doing quality, useable work.

For students, I recommend developing very strong data management skills (sql and the like) and thinking carefully about what sort of questions a general manager or coach would care about. Being able to demonstrate analytic skills around actionable research will generally attract the attention of pro teams.

About-

Benjamin Alamar, Professor of Sport Management, Menlo College

Benjamin Alamar

Professor Benjamin Alamar is the founding editor of the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sport, a professor of sports management at Menlo College and the Director of Basketball Analytics and Research for the Oklahoma City Thunder of the NBA. He has published academic research in football, basketball and baseball, has presented at numerous conferences on sports analytics. He is also a co-creator of ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating and a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal. He has consulted for teams in the NBA and NFL, provided statistical analysis for author Michael Lewis for his recent book The Blind Side, and worked with numerous startup companies in the field of sports analytics. Professor Alamar is also an award winning economist who has worked academically and professionally in intellectual property valuation, public finance and public health. He received his PhD in economics from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2001.

Prof Alamar is a speaker at Predictive Analytics World, San Fransisco and is doing a workshop there

http://www.predictiveanalyticsworld.com/sanfrancisco/2012/agenda.php#day2-17

2:55-3:15pm

All level tracks Track 1: Sports Analytics
Case Study: NFL, MLB, & NBA
Competing & Winning with Sports Analytics

The field of sports analytics ties together the tools of data management, predictive modeling and information systems to provide sports organization a competitive advantage. The field is rapidly developing based on new and expanded data sources, greater recognition of the value, and past success of a variety of sports organizations. Teams in the NFL, MLB, NBA, as well as other organizations have found a competitive edge with the application of sports analytics. The future of sports analytics can be seen through drawing on these past successes and the developments of new tools.

You can know more about Prof Alamar at his blog http://analyticfootball.blogspot.in/ or journal at http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/jqas. His detailed background can be seen at http://menlo.academia.edu/BenjaminAlamar/CurriculumVitae

Predictive Models Ain’t Easy to Deploy

 

This is a guest blog post by Carole Ann Matignon of Sparkling Logic. You can see more on Sparkling Logic at http://my.sparklinglogic.com/

Decision Management is about combining predictive models and business rules to automate decisions for your business. Insurance underwriting, loan origination or workout, claims processing are all very good use cases for that discipline… But there is a hiccup… It ain’t as easy you would expect…

What’s easy?

If you have a neat model, then most tools would allow you to export it as a PMML model – PMML stands for Predictive Model Markup Language and is a standard XML representation for predictive model formulas. Many model development tools let you export it without much effort. Many BRMS – Business rules Management Systems – let you import it. Tada… The model is ready for deployment.

What’s hard?

The problem that we keep seeing over and over in the industry is the issue around variables.

Those neat predictive models are formulas based on variables that may or may not exist as is in your object model. When the variable is itself a formula based on the object model, like the min, max or sum of Dollar amount spent in Groceries in the past 3 months, and the object model comes with transaction details, such that you can compute it by iterating through those transactions, then the problem is not “that” big. PMML 4 introduced some support for those variables.

The issue that is not easy to fix, and yet quite frequent, is when the model development data model does not resemble the operational one. Your Data Warehouse very likely flattened the object model, and pre-computed some aggregations that make the mapping very hard to restore.

It is clearly not an impossible project as many organizations do that today. It comes with a significant overhead though that forces modelers to involve IT resources to extract the right data for the model to be operationalized. It is a heavy process that is well justified for heavy-duty models that were developed over a period of time, with a significant ROI.

This is a show-stopper though for other initiatives which do not have the same ROI, or would require too frequent model refresh to be viable. Here, I refer to “real” model refresh that involves a model reengineering, not just a re-weighting of the same variables.

For those initiatives where time is of the essence, the challenge will be to bring closer those two worlds, the modelers and the business rules experts, in order to streamline the development AND deployment of analytics beyond the model formula. The great opportunity I see is the potential for a better and coordinated tuning of the cut-off rules in the context of the model refinement. In other words: the opportunity to refine the strategy as a whole. Very ambitious? I don’t think so.

About Carole Ann Matignon

http://my.sparklinglogic.com/index.php/company/management-team

Carole-Ann Matignon Print E-mail

Carole-Ann MatignonCarole-Ann Matignon – Co-Founder, President & Chief Executive Officer

She is a renowned guru in the Decision Management space. She created the vision for Decision Management that is widely adopted now in the industry.  Her claim to fame is managing the strategy and direction of Blaze Advisor, the leading BRMS product, while she also managed all the Decision Management tools at FICO (business rules, predictive analytics and optimization). She has a vision for Decision Management both as a technology and a discipline that can revolutionize the way corporations do business, and will never get tired of painting that vision for her audience.  She speaks often at Industry conferences and has conducted university classes in France and Washington DC.

She started her career building advanced systems using all kinds of technologies — expert systems, rules, optimization, dashboarding and cubes, web search, and beta version of database replication. At Cleversys (acquired by Kurt Salmon & Associates), she also conducted strategic consulting gigs around change management.

While playing with advanced software components, she found a passion for technology and joined ILOG (acquired by IBM). She developed a growing interest in Optimization as well as Business Rules. At ILOG, she coined the term BRMS while brainstorming with her Sales counterpart. She led the Presales organization for Telecom in the Americas up until 2000 when she joined Blaze Software (acquired by Brokat Technologies, HNC Software and finally FICO).

Her 360-degree experience allowed her to gain appreciation for all aspects of a software company, giving her a unique perspective on the business. Her technical background kept her very much in touch with technology as she advanced.

Interview JJ Allaire Founder, RStudio

Here is an interview with JJ Allaire, founder of RStudio. RStudio is the IDE that has overtaken other IDE within the R Community in terms of ease of usage. On the eve of their latest product launch, JJ talks to DecisionStats on RStudio and more.

Ajay-  So what is new in the latest version of RStudio and how exactly is it useful for people?

JJ- The initial release of RStudio as well as the two follow-up releases we did last year were focused on the core elements of using R: editing and running code, getting help, and managing files, history, workspaces, plots, and packages. In the meantime users have also been asking for some bigger features that would improve the overall work-flow of doing analysis with R. In this release (v0.95) we focused on three of these features:

Projects. R developers tend to have several (and often dozens) of working contexts associated with different clients, analyses, data sets, etc. RStudio projects make it easy to keep these contexts well separated (with distinct R sessions, working directories, environments, command histories, and active source documents), switch quickly between project contexts, and even work with multiple projects at once (using multiple running versions of RStudio).

Version Control. The benefits of using version control for collaboration are well known, but we also believe that solo data analysis can achieve significant productivity gains by using version control (this discussion on Stack Overflow talks about why). In this release we introduced integrated support for the two most popular open-source version control systems: Git and Subversion. This includes changelist management, file diffing, and browsing of project history, all right from within RStudio.

Code Navigation. When you look at how programmers work a surprisingly large amount of time is spent simply navigating from one context to another. Modern programming environments for general purpose languages like C++ and Java solve this problem using various forms of code navigation, and in this release we’ve brought these capabilities to R. The two main features here are the ability to type the name of any file or function in your project and go immediately to it; and the ability to navigate to the definition of any function under your cursor (including the definition of functions within packages) using a keystroke (F2) or mouse gesture (Ctrl+Click).

Ajay- What’s the product road map for RStudio? When can we expect the IDE to turn into a full fledged GUI?

JJ- Linus Torvalds has said that “Linux is evolution, not intelligent design.” RStudio tries to operate on a similar principle—the world of statistical computing is too deep, diverse, and ever-changing for any one person or vendor to map out in advance what is most important. So, our internal process is to ship a new release every few months, listen to what people are doing with the product (and hope to do with it), and then start from scratch again making the improvements that are considered most important.

Right now some of the things which seem to be top of mind for users are improved support for authoring and reproducible research, various editor enhancements including code folding, and debugging tools.

What you’ll see is us do in a given release is to work on a combination of frequently requested features, smaller improvements to usability and work-flow, bug fixes, and finally architectural changes required to support current or future feature requirements.

While we do try to base what we work on as closely as possible on direct user-feedback, we also adhere to some core principles concerning the overall philosophy and direction of the product. So for example the answer to the question about the IDE turning into a full-fledged GUI is: never. We believe that textual representations of computations provide fundamental advantages in transparency, reproducibility, collaboration, and re-usability. We believe that writing code is simply the right way to do complex technical work, so we’ll always look for ways to make coding better, faster, and easier rather than try to eliminate coding altogether.

Ajay -Describe your journey in science from a high school student to your present work in R. I noticed you have been very successful in making software products that have been mostly proprietary products or sold to companies.

Why did you get into open source products with RStudio? What are your plans for monetizing RStudio further down the line?

JJ- In high school and college my principal areas of study were Political Science and Economics. I also had a very strong parallel interest in both computing and quantitative analysis. My first job out of college was as a financial analyst at a government agency. The tools I used in that job were SAS and Excel. I had a dim notion that there must be a better way to marry computation and data analysis than those tools, but of course no concept of what this would look like.

From there I went more in the direction of general purpose computing, starting a couple of companies where I worked principally on programming languages and authoring tools for the Web. These companies produced proprietary software, which at the time (between 1995 and 2005) was a workable model because it allowed us to build the revenue required to fund development and to promote and distribute the software to a wider audience.

By 2005 it was however becoming clear that proprietary software would ultimately be overtaken by open source software in nearly all domains. The cost of development had shrunken dramatically thanks to both the availability of high-quality open source languages and tools as well as the scale of global collaboration possible on open source projects. The cost of promoting and distributing software had also collapsed thanks to efficiency of both distribution and information diffusion on the Web.

When I heard about R and learned more about it, I become very excited and inspired by what the project had accomplished. A group of extremely talented and dedicated users had created the software they needed for their work and then shared the fruits of that work with everyone. R was a platform that everyone could rally around because it worked so well, was extensible in all the right ways, and most importantly was free (as in speech) so users could depend upon it as a long-term foundation for their work.

So I started RStudio with the aim of making useful contributions to the R community. We started with building an IDE because it seemed like a first-rate development environment for R that was both powerful and easy to use was an unmet need. Being aware that many other companies had built successful businesses around open-source software, we were also convinced that we could make RStudio available under a free and open-source license (the AGPLv3) while still creating a viable business. At this point RStudio is exclusively focused on creating the best IDE for R that we can. As the core product gets where it needs to be over the next couple of years we’ll then also begin to sell other products and services related to R and RStudio.

About-

http://rstudio.org/docs/about

Jjallaire

JJ Allaire

JJ Allaire is a software engineer and entrepreneur who has created a wide variety of products including ColdFusion,Windows Live WriterLose It!, and RStudio.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_J._Allaire
In 1995 Joseph J. (JJ) Allaire co-founded Allaire Corporation with his brother Jeremy Allaire, creating the web development tool ColdFusion.[1] In March 2001, Allaire was sold to Macromedia where ColdFusion was integrated into the Macromedia MX product line. Macromedia was subsequently acquired by Adobe Systems, which continues to develop and market ColdFusion.
After the sale of his company, Allaire became frustrated at the difficulty of keeping track of research he was doing using Google. To address this problem, he co-founded Onfolio in 2004 with Adam Berrey, former Allaire co-founder and VP of Marketing at Macromedia.
On March 8, 2006, Onfolio was acquired by Microsoft where many of the features of the original product are being incorporated into the Windows Live Toolbar. On August 13, 2006, Microsoft released the public beta of a new desktop blogging client called Windows Live Writer that was created by Allaire’s team at Microsoft.
Starting in 2009, Allaire has been developing a web-based interface to the widely used R technical computing environment. A beta version of RStudio was publicly released on February 28, 2011.
JJ Allaire received his B.A. from Macalester College (St. Paul, MN) in 1991.
RStudio-

RStudio is an integrated development environment (IDE) for R which works with the standard version of R available from CRAN. Like R, RStudio is available under a free software license. RStudio is designed to be as straightforward and intuitive as possible to provide a friendly environment for new and experienced R users alike. RStudio is also a company, and they plan to sell services (support, training, consulting, hosting) related to the open-source software they distribute.

Should you buy Zynga or Wait for the FB IPO

I am going to make a case for whether to buy or not buy  Zynga, and waiting to buy Facebook instead. Of course if Mark Pincus offers you a deep discount, and Mark Zuckenberg totally goes over the top with his P/E multiple, all bets would be re-valuated.

In the interest of your time, and my personal happiness, I am going to use a fairly standard way to measure attractiveness of both these companies- notably the Porter’s Five Forces Model. I will also review the recent experiences of Groupon and LinkedIn valuation to underscore what subtle differences in culture, and reputation of founders can affect the eventual value creation or destruction in an IPO.

(to be continued)

Oracle adds R to Big Data Appliance -Use #Rstats

From the press release, Oracle gets on R and me too- NoSQL

http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/press/512001

The Oracle Big Data Appliance is a new engineered system that includes an open source distribution of Apache™ Hadoop™, Oracle NoSQL Database, Oracle Data Integrator Application Adapter for Hadoop, Oracle Loader for Hadoop, and an open source distribution of R.

From

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/10/03/oracle_big_data_appliance/

the Big Data Appliance also includes the R programming language, a popular open source statistical-analysis tool. This R engine will integrate with 11g R2, so presumably if you want to do statistical analysis on unstructured data stored in and chewed by Hadoop, you will have to move it to Oracle after the chewing has subsided.

This approach to R-Hadoop integration is different from that announced last week between Revolution Analytics, the so-called Red Hat for stats that is extending and commercializing the R language and its engine, and Cloudera, which sells a commercial Hadoop setup called CDH3 and which was one of the early companies to offer support for Hadoop. Both Revolution Analytics and Cloudera now have Oracle as their competitor, which was no doubt no surprise to either.

In any event, the way they do it, the R engine is put on each node in the Hadoop cluster, and those R engines just see the Hadoop data as a native format that they can do analysis on individually. As statisticians do analyses on data sets, the summary data from all the nodes in the Hadoop cluster is sent back to their R workstations; they have no idea that they are using MapReduce on unstructured data.

Oracle did not supply configuration and pricing information for the Big Data Appliance, and also did not say when it would be for sale or shipping to customers

From

http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/features/feature-oracle-nosql-database-505146.html

A Horizontally Scaled, Key-Value Database for the Enterprise
Oracle NoSQL Database is a commercial grade, general-purpose NoSQL database using a key/value paradigm. It allows you to manage massive quantities of data, cope with changing data formats, and submit simple queries. Complex queries are supported using Hadoop or Oracle Database operating upon Oracle NoSQL Database data.

Oracle NoSQL Database delivers scalable throughput with bounded latency, easy administration, and a simple programming model. It scales horizontally to hundreds of nodes with high availability and transparent load balancing. Customers might choose Oracle NoSQL Database to support Web applications, acquire sensor data, scale authentication services, or support online serves and social media.

and

from

http://siliconangle.com/blog/2011/09/30/oracle-adopting-open-source-r-to-connect-legacy-systems/

Oracle says it will integrate R with its Oracle Database. Other signs from Oracle show the deeper interest in using the statistical framework for integration with Hadoop to potentially speed statistical analysis. This has particular value with analyzing vast amounts of unstructured data, which has overwhelmed organizations, especially over the past year.

and

from

http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/features/features-oracle-r-enterprise-498732.html

Oracle R Enterprise

Integrates the Open-Source Statistical Environment R with Oracle Database 11g
Oracle R Enterprise allows analysts and statisticians to run existing R applications and use the R client directly against data stored in Oracle Database 11g—vastly increasing scalability, performance and security. The combination of Oracle Database 11g and R delivers an enterprise-ready, deeply integrated environment for advanced analytics. Users can also use analytical sandboxes, where they can analyze data and develop R scripts for deployment while results stay managed inside Oracle Database.

Use R for Business- Competition worth $ 20,000 #rstats

All you contest junkies, R lovers and general change the world people, here’s a new contest to use R in a business application

http://www.revolutionanalytics.com/news-events/news-room/2011/revolution-analytics-launches-applications-of-r-in-business-contest.php

REVOLUTION ANALYTICS LAUNCHES “APPLICATIONS OF R IN BUSINESS” CONTEST

$20,000 in Prizes for Users Solving Business Problems with R

 

PALO ALTO, Calif. – September 1, 2011 – Revolution Analytics, the leading commercial provider of R software, services and support, today announced the launch of its “Applications of R in Business” contest to demonstrate real-world uses of applying R to business problems. The competition is open to all R users worldwide and submissions will be accepted through October 31. The Grand Prize winner for the best application using R or Revolution R will receive $10,000.

The bonus-prize winner for the best application using features unique to Revolution R Enterprise – such as itsbig-data analytics capabilities or its Web Services API for R – will receive $5,000. A panel of independent judges drawn from the R and business community will select the grand and bonus prize winners. Revolution Analytics will present five honorable mention prize winners each with $1,000.

“We’ve designed this contest to highlight the most interesting use cases of applying R and Revolution R to solving key business problems, such as Big Data,” said Jeff Erhardt, COO of Revolution Analytics. “The ability to process higher-volume datasets will continue to be a critical need and we encourage the submission of applications using large datasets. Our goal is to grow the collection of online materials describing how to use R for business applications so our customers can better leverage Big Analytics to meet their analytical and organizational needs.”

To enter Revolution Analytics’ “Applications of R in Business” competition Continue reading “Use R for Business- Competition worth $ 20,000 #rstats”

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