Interview John Myles White , Machine Learning for Hackers

Here is an interview with one of the younger researchers  and rock stars of the R Project, John Myles White,  co-author of Machine Learning for Hackers.

Ajay- What inspired you guys to write Machine Learning for Hackers. What has been the public response to the book. Are you planning to write a second edition or a next book?

John-We decided to write Machine Learning for Hackers because there were so many people interested in learning more about Machine Learning who found the standard textbooks a little difficult to understand, either because they lacked the mathematical background expected of readers or because it wasn’t clear how to translate the mathematical definitions in those books into usable programs. Most Machine Learning books are written for audiences who will not only be using Machine Learning techniques in their applied work, but also actively inventing new Machine Learning algorithms. The amount of information needed to do both can be daunting, because, as one friend pointed out, it’s similar to insisting that everyone learn how to build a compiler before they can start to program. For most people, it’s better to let them try out programming and get a taste for it before you teach them about the nuts and bolts of compiler design. If they like programming, they can delve into the details later.

We once said that Machine Learning for Hackers  is supposed to be a chemistry set for Machine Learning and I still think that’s the right description: it’s meant to get readers excited about Machine Learning and hopefully expose them to enough ideas and tools that they can start to explore on their own more effectively. It’s like a warmup for standard academic books like Bishop’s.
The public response to the book has been phenomenal. It’s been amazing to see how many people have bought the book and how many people have told us they found it helpful. Even friends with substantial expertise in statistics have said they’ve found a few nuggets of new information in the book, especially regarding text analysis and social network analysis — topics that Drew and I spend a lot of time thinking about, but are not thoroughly covered in standard statistics and Machine Learning  undergraduate curricula.
I hope we write a second edition. It was our first book and we learned a ton about how to write at length from the experience. I’m about to announce later this week that I’m writing a second book, which will be a very short eBook for O’Reilly. Stay tuned for details.

Ajay-  What are the key things that a potential reader can learn from this book?

John- We cover most of the nuts and bolts of introductory statistics in our book: summary statistics, regression and classification using linear and logistic regression, PCA and k-Nearest Neighbors. We also cover topics that are less well known, but are as important: density plots vs. histograms, regularization, cross-validation, MDS, social network analysis and SVM’s. I hope a reader walks away from the book having a feel for what different basic algorithms do and why they work for some problems and not others. I also hope we do just a little to shift a future generation of modeling culture towards regularization and cross-validation.

Ajay- Describe your journey as a science student up till your Phd. What are you current research interests and what initiatives have you done with them?

John-As an undergraduate I studied math and neuroscience. I then took some time off and came back to do a Ph.D. in psychology, focusing on mathematical modeling of both the brain and behavior. There’s a rich tradition of machine learning and statistics in psychology, so I got increasingly interested in ML methods during my years as a grad student. I’m about to finish my Ph.D. this year. My research interests all fall under one heading: decision theory. I want to understand both how people make decisions (which is what psychology teaches us) and how they should make decisions (which is what statistics and ML teach us). My thesis is focused on how people make decisions when there are both short-term and long-term consequences to be considered. For non-psychologists, the classic example is probably the explore-exploit dilemma. I’ve been working to import more of the main ideas from stats and ML into psychology for modeling how real people handle that trade-off. For psychologists, the classic example is the Marshmallow experiment. Most of my research work has focused on the latter: what makes us patient and how can we measure patience?

Ajay- How can academia and private sector solve the shortage of trained data scientists (assuming there is one)?

John- There’s definitely a shortage of trained data scientists: most companies are finding it difficult to hire someone with the real chops needed to do useful work with Big Data. The skill set required to be useful at a company like Facebook or Twitter is much more advanced than many people realize, so I think it will be some time until there are undergraduates coming out with the right stuff. But there’s huge demand, so I’m sure the market will clear sooner or later.

The changes that are required in academia to prepare students for this kind of work are pretty numerous, but the most obvious required change is that quantitative people need to be learning how to program properly, which is rare in academia, even in many CS departments. Writing one-off programs that no one will ever have to reuse and that only work on toy data sets doesn’t prepare you for working with huge amounts of messy data that exhibit shifting patterns. If you need to learn how to program seriously before you can do useful work, you’re not very valuable to companies who need employees that can hit the ground running. The companies that have done best in building up data teams, like LinkedIn, have learned to train people as they come in since the proper training isn’t typically available outside those companies.
Of course, on the flipside, the people who do know how to program well need to start learning more about theory and need to start to have a better grasp of basic mathematical models like linear and logistic regressions. Lots of CS students seem not to enjoy their theory classes, but theory really does prepare you for thinking about what you can learn from data. You may not use automata theory if you work at Foursquare, but you will need to be able to reason carefully and analytically. Doing math is just like lifting weights: if you’re not good at it right now, you just need to dig in and get yourself in shape.
About-
John Myles White is a Phd Student in  Ph.D. student in the Princeton Psychology Department, where he studies human decision-making both theoretically and experimentally. Along with the political scientist Drew Conway, he is  the author of a book published by O’Reilly Media entitled “Machine Learning for Hackers”, which is meant to introduce experienced programmers to the machine learning toolkit. He is also working with Mark Hansenon a book for laypeople about exploratory data analysis.John is the lead maintainer for several R packages, including ProjectTemplate and log4r.

(TIL he has played in several rock bands!)

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You can read more in his own words at his blog at http://www.johnmyleswhite.com/about/
He can be contacted via social media at Google Plus at https://plus.google.com/109658960610931658914 or twitter at twitter.com/johnmyleswhite/

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.

Oracle R Updated!

Interesting message from https://blogs.oracle.com/R/ the latest R blog

 

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Oracle just released the latest update to Oracle R Enterprise, version 1.1. This release includes the Oracle R Distribution (based on open source R, version 2.13.2), an improved server installation, and much more.  The key new features include:

  • Extended Server Support: New support for Windows 32 and 64-bit server components, as well as continuing support for Linux 64-bit server components
  • Improved Installation: Linux 64-bit server installation now provides robust status updates and prerequisite checks
  • Performance Improvements: Improved performance for embedded R script execution calculations

In addition, the updated ROracle package, which is used with Oracle R Enterprise, now reads date data by conversion to character strings.

We encourage you download Oracle software for evaluation from the Oracle Technology Network. See these links for R-related software: Oracle R DistributionOracle R EnterpriseROracleOracle R Connector for Hadoop.  As always, we welcome comments and questions on the Oracle R Forum.

 

 

Oracle R Distribution 2-13.2 Update Available

Oracle has released an update to the Oracle R Distribution, an Oracle-supported distribution of open source R. Oracle R Distribution 2-13.2 now contains the ability to dynamically link the following libraries on both Windows and Linux:

  • The Intel Math Kernel Library (MKL) on Intel chips
  • The AMD Core Math Library (ACML) on AMD chips

 

To take advantage of the performance enhancements provided by Intel MKL or AMD ACML in Oracle R Distribution, simply add the MKL or ACML shared library directory to the LD_LIBRARY_PATH system environment variable. This automatically enables MKL or ACML to make use of all available processors, vastly speeding up linear algebra computations and eliminating the need to recompile R.  Even on a single core, the optimized algorithms in the Intel MKL libraries are faster than using R’s standard BLAS library.

Open-source R is linked to NetLib’s BLAS libraries, but they are not multi-threaded and only use one core. While R’s internal BLAS are efficient for most computations, it’s possible to recompile R to link to a different, multi-threaded BLAS library to improve performance on eligible calculations. Compiling and linking to R yourself can be involved, but for many, the significantly improved calculation speed justifies the effort. Oracle R Distribution notably simplifies the process of using external math libraries by enabling R to auto-load MKL orACML. For R commands that don’t link to BLAS code, taking advantage of database parallelism usingembedded R execution in Oracle R Enterprise is the route to improved performance.

For more information about rebuilding R with different BLAS libraries, see the linear algebra section in the R Installation and Administration manual. As always, the Oracle R Distribution is available as a free download to anyone. Questions and comments are welcome on the Oracle R Forum.

Search Engine Advertising sweet spot for arbitrage.

Assume I am a blogger using both Adsense and Adwords.

Suppose Adwords costs me X dollars per click, and Adsense pays me Y dollars per click.

Then a unique arbitrage opportunity would arise if

Y times CTR on my blog > X times CTR on my Ad Campaign

Is it possible. Theoretically yes? Long Tail of Internet yes.

However since there is a lag of time in which the Rates would converge , the Adsense rate would go lower or Adwords rate would go higher

Is there a tool that you can use to pump keywords with short times arbitrage opportunities , much like trading algols and quants do in finance.

Just asking !

 Hint- Its a trick math puzzle 🙂

 

Interview Jaime Fitzgerald President Fitzgerald Analytics

Here is an interview with noted analytics expert Jaime Fitzgerald, of Fitzgerald Analytics.

Ajay-Describe your career journey from being a Harvard economist to being a text analytics thought leader.

 Jaime- I was attracted to economics because of the logic, the structured and systematic approach to understanding the world and to solving problems. In retrospect, this is the same passion for logic in problem solving that drives my business today.

About 15 years ago, I began working in consulting and initially took a traditional career path. I worked for well-known strategy consulting firms including First Manhattan Consulting Group, Novantas LLC, Braun Consulting, and for the former Japan-focused division of Deloitte Consulting, which had spun off as an independent entity. I was the only person in their New York City office for whom Japanese was not the first language.

While I enjoyed traditional consulting, I was especially passionate about the role of data, analytics, and process improvement. In traditional strategy consulting, these are important factors, but I had a vision for a “next generation” approach to strategy consulting that would be more transparent, more robust, and more focused on the role that information, analysis, and process plays in improving business results. I often explain that while my firm is “not your father’s consulting model,” we have incorporated key best practices from traditional consulting, and combined them with an approach that is more data-centric, technology-centric, and process-centric.

At the most fundamental level, I was compelled to found Fitzgerald Analytics more than six years ago by my passion for the role information plays in improving results, and ultimately improving lives. In my vision, data is an asset waiting to be transformed into results, including profit as well as other results that matter deeply to people. For example,one of the most fulfilling aspects of our work at Fitzgerald Analytics is our support of non-profits and social entrepreneurs, who we help increase their scale and their success in achieving their goals.

Ajay- How would you describe analytics as a career option to future students. What do you think are the most essential qualities an analytics career requires.

Jaime- My belief is that analytics will be a major driver of job-growth and career growth for decades. We are just beginning to unlock the full potential of analytics, and already the demand for analytic talent far exceeds the supply.

To succeed in analytics, the most important quality is logic. Many people believe that math or statistical skills are the most important quality, but in my experience, the most essential trait is what I call “ThoughtStyle” — critical thinking, logic, an ability to break down a problem into components, into sub-parts.

Ajay -What are your favorite techniques and methodologies in text analytics. How do you see social media and Big Data analytics as components of text analytics

 Jaime-We do a lot of work for our clients measuring Customer Experience, by which I mean the experience customers have when interacting with our clients. For example, we helped a major brokerage firm to measure 12 key “Moments that Matter,” including the operational aspects of customer service, customer satisfaction and sentiment, and ultimately customer behavior. Clients care about this a lot, because customer experience drives customer loyalty, which in turn drives customer behavior, customer loyalty, and customer profitability.

Text analytics plays a key role in these projects because much of our data on customer sentiment comes via unstructured text data. For example, we have access to call center transcripts and notes, to survey responses, and to social media comments.

We use a variety of methods, some of which I’m not in a position to describe in great detail. But at a high level, I would say that our favorite text analytics methodologies are “hybrid solutions” which use a two-step process to answer key questions for clients:

Step 1: convert unstructured data into key categorical variables (for example, using contextual analysis to flag users who are critical vs. neutral vs. advocates)

Step 2: linking sentiment categories to customer behavior and profitability (for example, linking customer advocacy and loyalty with customer profits as well as referral volume, to define the ROI that clients accrue for customer satisfaction improvements)

Ajay- Describe your consulting company- Fitzgerald Analytics and some of the work that you have been engaged in.

 Jaime- Our mission is to “illuminate reality” using data and to convert Data to Dollars for our clients. We have a track record of doing this well, with concrete and measurable results in the millions of dollars. As a result, 100% of our clients have engaged us for more than one project: a 100% client loyalty rate.

Our specialties–and most frequent projects–include customer profitability management projects, customer segmentation, customer experience management, balanced scorecards, and predictive analytics. We are often engaged to address high-stakes analytic questions, including issues that help to set long-term strategy. In other cases, clients hire us to help them build their internal capabilities. We have helped build several brand new analytic teams for clients, which continue to generate millions of dollars of profits with their fact-based recommendations.

Our methodology is based on Steven Covey’s principle: “begin with the end in mind,” the concept of starting with the client’s goal and working backwards from there. I often explain that our methods are what you would have gotten if Steven Covey had been a data analyst…we are applying his principles to the world of data analytics.

Ajay- Analytics requires more and more data while privacy requires the least possible data. What do you think are the guidelines that need to be built in sharing internet browsing and user activity data and do we need regulations just like we do for sharing financial data.

 Jaime- Great question. This is an essential challenge of the big data era. My perspective is that firms who depend on user data for their analysis need to take responsibility for protecting privacy by using data management best practices. Best practices to adequately “mask” or remove private data exist…the problem is that these best practices are often not applied. For example, Facebook’s practice of sharing unique user IDs with third-party application companies has generated a lot of criticism, and could have been avoided by applying data management best practices which are well known among the data management community.

If I were able to influence public policy, my recommendation would be to adopt a core set of simple but powerful data management standards that would protect consumers from perhaps 95% of the privacy risks they face today. The number one standard would be to prohibit sharing of static, personally identifiable user IDs between companies in a manner that creates “privacy risk.” Companies can track unique customers without using a static ID…they need to step up and do that.

Ajay- What are your favorite text analytics software that you like to work with.

 Jaime- Because much of our work in deeply embedded into client operations and systems, we often use the software our clients already prefer. We avoid recommending specific vendors unless our client requests it. In tandem with our clients and alliance partners, we have particular respect for Autonomy, Open Text, Clarabridge, and Attensity.

Biography-

http://www.fitzgerald-analytics.com/jaime_fitzgerald.html

The Founder and President of Fitzgerald Analytics, Jaime has developed a distinctively quantitative, fact-based, and transparent approach to solving high stakes problems and improving results.  His approach enables translation of Data to Dollars™ using methodologies clients can repeat again and again.  He is equally passionate about the “human side of the equation,” and is known for his ability to link the human and the quantitative, both of which are needed to achieve optimal results.

Experience: During more than 15 years serving clients as a management strategy consultant, Jaime has focused on customer experience and loyalty, customer profitability, technology strategy, information management, and business process improvement.  Jaime has advised market-leading banks, retailers, manufacturers, media companies, and non-profit organizations in the United States, Canada, and Singapore, combining strategic analysis with hands-on implementation of technology and operations enhancements.

Career History: Jaime began his career at First Manhattan Consulting Group, specialists in financial services, and was later a Co-Founder at Novantas, the strategy consultancy based in New York City.  Jaime was also a Manager for Braun Consulting, now part of Fair Isaac Corporation, and for Japan-based Abeam Consulting, now part of NEC.

Background: Jaime is a graduate of Harvard University with a B.A. in Economics.  He is passionate and supportive of innovative non-profit organizations, their effectiveness, and the benefits they bring to our society.

Upcoming Speaking Engagements:   Jaime is a frequent speaker on analytics, information management strategy, and data-driven profit improvement.  He recently gave keynote presentations on Analytics in Financial Services for The Data Warehousing Institute, the New York Technology Council, and the Oracle Financial Services Industry User Group. A list of Jaime’s most interesting presentations on analyticscan be found here.

He will be presenting a client case study this fall at Text Analytics World re:   “New Insights from ‘Big Legacy Data’: The Role of Text Analytics” 

Connecting with Jaime:  Jaime can be found at Linkedin,  and Twitter.  He edits the Fitzgerald Analytics Blog.

Updated Interview Elissa Fink -VP Tableau Software

Here is an interview with Elissa Fink, VP Marketing of that new wonderful software called Tableau that makes data visualization so nice and easy to learn and work with.

Elissa Fink, VP, Marketing

Ajay-  Describe your career journey from high school to over 20 plus years in marketing. What are the various trends that you have seen come and go in marketing.

Elissa- I studied literature and linguistics in college and didn’t discover analytics until my first job selling advertising for the Wall Street Journal. Oddly enough, the study of linguistics is not that far from decision analytics: they both are about taking a structured view of information and trying to see and understand common patterns. At the Journal, I was completely captivated analyzing and comparing readership data. At the same time, the idea of using computers in marketing was becoming more common. I knew that the intersection of technology and marketing was going to radically change things – how we understand consumers, how we market and sell products, and how we engage with customers. So from that point on, I’ve always been focused on technology and marketing, whether it’s working as a marketer at technology companies or applying technology to marketing problems for other types of companies.  There have been so many interesting trends. Taking a long view, a key trend I’ve noticed is how marketers work to understand, influence and motivate consumer behavior. We’ve moved marketing from where it was primarily unpredictable, qualitative and aimed at talking to mass audiences, where the advertising agency was king. Now it’s a discipline that is more data-driven, quantitative and aimed at conversations with individuals, where the best analytics wins. As with any trend, the pendulum swings far too much to either side causing backlashes but overall, I think we are in a great place now. We are using data-driven analytics to understand consumer behavior. But pure analytics is not the be-all, end-all; good marketing has to rely on understanding human emotions, intuition and gut feel – consumers are far from rational so taking only a rational or analytical view of them will never explain everything we need to know.

Ajay- Do you think technology companies are still predominantly dominated by men . How have you seen diversity evolve over the years. What initiatives has Tableau taken for both hiring and retaining great talent.

Elissa- The thing I love about the technology industry is that its key success metrics – inventing new products that rapidly gain mass adoption in pursuit of making profit – are fairly objective. There’s little subjective nature to the counting of dollars collected selling a product and dollars spent building a product. So if a female can deliver a better product and bigger profits faster and better, then that female is going to get the resources, jobs, power and authority to do exactly that. That’s not to say that the technology industry is gender-blind, race-blind, etc. It isn’t – technology is far from perfect. For example, the industry doesn’t have enough diversity in positions of power. But I think overall, in comparison to a lot of other industries, it’s pretty darn good at giving people with great ideas the opportunities to realize their visions regardless of their backgrounds or characteristics.

At Tableau, we are very serious about bringing in and developing talented people – they are the key to our growth and success. Hiring is our #1 initiative so we’ve spent a lot of time and energy both on finding great candidates and on making Tableau a place that they want to work. This includes things like special recruiting events, employee referral programs, a flexible work environment, fun social events, and the rewards of working for a start-up. Probably our biggest advantage is the company itself – working with people you respect on amazing, cutting-edge products that delight customers and are changing the world is all too rare in the industry but a reality at Tableau. One of our senior software developers put it best when he wrote “The emphasis is on working smarter rather than longer: family and friends are why we work, not the other way around. Tableau is all about happy, energized employees executing at the highest level and delivering a highly usable, high quality, useful product to our customers.” People who want to be at a place like that should check out our openings at http://www.tableausoftware.com/jobs.

Ajay- What are most notable features in tableau’s latest edition. What are the principal software that competes with Tableau Software products and how would you say Tableau compares with them.

Elissa- Tableau 6.1 will be out in July and we are really excited about it for 3 reasons.

First, we’re introducing our mobile business intelligence capabilities. Our customers can have Tableau anywhere they need it. When someone creates an interactive dashboard or analytical application with Tableau and it’s viewed on a mobile device, an iPad in particular, the viewer will have a native, touch-optimized experience. No trying to get your fingertips to act like a mouse. And the author didn’t have to create anything special for the iPad; she just creates her analytics the usual way in Tableau. Tableau knows the dashboard is being viewed on an iPad and presents an optimized experience.

Second, we’ve take our in-memory analytics engine up yet another level. Speed and performance are faster and now people can update data incrementally rapidly. Introduced in 6.0, our data engine makes any data fast in just a few clicks. We don’t run out of memory like other applications. So if I build an incredible dashboard on my 8-gig RAM PC and you try to use it on your 2-gig RAM laptop, no problem.

And, third, we’re introducing more features for the international markets – including French and German versions of Tableau Desktop along with more international mapping options.  It’s because we are constantly innovating particularly around user experience that we can compete so well in the market despite our relatively small size. Gartner’s seminal research study about the Business Intelligence market reported a massive market shift earlier this year: for the first time, the ease-of-use of a business intelligence platform was more important than depth of functionality. In other words, functionality that lots of people can actually use is more important than having sophisticated functionality that only specialists can use. Since we focus so heavily on making easy-to-use products that help people rapidly see and understand their data, this is good news for our customers and for us.

Ajay-  Cloud computing is the next big thing with everyone having a cloud version of their software. So how would you run Cloud versions of Tableau Server (say deploying it on an Amazon Ec2  or a private cloud)

Elissa- In addition to the usual benefits espoused about Cloud computing, the thing I love best is that it makes data and information more easily accessible to more people. Easy accessibility and scalability are completely aligned with Tableau’s mission. Our free product Tableau Public and our product for commercial websites Tableau Digital are two Cloud-based products that deliver data and interactive analytics anywhere. People often talk about large business intelligence deployments as having thousands of users. With Tableau Public and Tableau Digital, we literally have millions of users. We’re serving up tens of thousands of visualizations simultaneously – talk about accessibility and scalability!  We have lots of customers connecting to databases in the Cloud and running Tableau Server in the Cloud. It’s actually not complex to set up. In fact, we focus a lot of resources on making installation and deployment easy and fast, whether it’s in the cloud, on premise or what have you. We don’t want people to have spend weeks or months on massive roll-out projects. We want it to be minutes, hours, maybe a day or 2. With the Cloud, we see that people can get started and get results faster and easier than ever before. And that’s what we’re about.

Ajay- Describe some of the latest awards that Tableau has been wining. Also how is Tableau helping universities help address the shortage of Business Intelligence and Big Data professionals.

Elissa-Tableau has been very fortunate. Lately, we’ve been acknowledged by both Gartner and IDC as the fastest growing business intelligence software vendor in the world. In addition, our customers and Tableau have won multiple distinctions including InfoWorld Technology Leadership awards, Inc 500, Deloitte Fast 500, SQL Server Magazine Editors’ Choice and Community Choice awards, Data Hero awards, CODiEs, American Business Awards among others. One area we’re very passionate about is academia, participating with professors, students and universities to help build a new generation of professionals who understand how to use data. Data analysis should not be exclusively for specialists. Everyone should be able to see and understand data, whatever their background. We come from academic roots, having been spun out of a Stanford research project. Consequently, we strongly believe in supporting universities worldwide and offer 2 academic programs. The first is Tableau For Teaching, where any professor can request free term-length licenses of Tableau for academic instruction during his or her courses. And, we offer a low-cost Student Edition of Tableau so that students can choose to use Tableau in any of their courses at any time.

Elissa Fink, VP Marketing,Tableau Software

 

Elissa Fink is Tableau Software’s Vice President of Marketing. With 20+ years helping companies improve their marketing operations through applied data analysis, Elissa has held executive positions in marketing, business strategy, product management, and product development. Prior to Tableau, Elissa was EVP Marketing at IXI Corporation, now owned by Equifax. She has also served in executive positions at Tele Atlas (acquired by TomTom), TopTier Software (acquired by SAP), and Nielsen/Claritas. Elissa also sold national advertising for the Wall Street Journal. She’s a frequent speaker and has spoken at conferences including the DMA, the NCDM, Location Intelligence, the AIR National Forum and others. Elissa is a graduate of Santa Clara University and holds an MBA in Marketing and Decision Systems from the University of Southern California.

Elissa first discovered Tableau late one afternoon at her previous company. Three hours later, she was still “at play” with her data. “After just a few minutes using the product, I was getting answers to questions that were taking my company’s programmers weeks to create. It was instantly obvious that Tableau was on a special mission with something unique to offer the world. I just had to be a part of it.”

To know more – read at http://www.tableausoftware.com/

and existing data viz at http://www.tableausoftware.com/learn/gallery

Storm seasons: measuring and tracking key indicators
What’s happening with local real estate prices?
How are sales opportunities shaping up?
Identify your best performing products
Applying user-defined parameters to provide context
Not all tech companies are rocket ships
What’s really driving the economy?
Considering factors and industry influencers
The complete orbit along the inside, or around a fixed circle
How early do you have to be at the airport?
What happens if sales grow but so does customer churn?
What are the trends for new retail locations?
How have student choices changed?
Do patients who disclose their HIV status recover better?
Closer look at where gas prices swing in areas of the U.S.
U.S. Census data shows more women of greater age
Where do students come from and how does it affect their grades?
Tracking customer service effectiveness
Comparing national and local test scores
What factors correlate with high overall satisfaction ratings?
Fund inflows largely outweighed outflows well after the bubble
Which programs are competing for federal stimulus dollars?
Oil prices and volatility
A classic candlestick chart
How do oil, gold and CPI relate to the GDP growth rate?

 

#Rstats gets into Enterprise Cloud Software

Defense Agencies of the United States Departme...
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Here is an excellent example of how websites should help rather than hinder new customers take a demo of the software without being overwhelmed by sweet talking marketing guys who dont know the difference between heteroskedasticity, probability, odds and likelihood.

It is made by Zementis (Dr Michael Zeller has been a frequent guest here) and Revolution Analytics is still the best shot in Enterprise software for #Rstats

Now if only Revo could get into the lucrative Department of Energy or Department of Defense business- they could change the world AND earn some more revenue than they have been doing. But seriously.

Check out http://deployr.revolutionanalytics.com/zementis/ and play with it. or better still mash it with some data viz and ROC curves.- or extend it with some APIS 😉