Churn Analytics Contest at Crowd Analytix

Crowd Analytix- the Bangalore based Indian startup is moving fast in the

data scientist contest space (so watch out Kaggle!! )


Churn (loss of customers to competition) is a problem for telecom companies because it is more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep your existing one from leaving. This contest is about enabling churn reduction using analytics.

To join, go to – http://www.crowdanalytix.com/contests/why-customer-churn/

JSS launches special edition for GUI for #Rstats

I love GUIs (graphical user interfaces)- they might be TCL/TK based or GTK based or even QT based. As a researcher they help me with faster coding, as a consultant they help with faster transition of projects from startup to handover stage  and as an R  instructor helps me get people to learn R faster.

I wish Python had some GUIs though 😉

 

from the open access journal of statistical software-

JSS Special Volume 49: Graphical User Interfaces for R

Graphical User Interfaces for R
Pedro M. Valero-Mora, Ruben Ledesma
Vol. 49, Issue 1, Jun 2012
Submitted 2012-06-03, Accepted 2012-06-03
Integrated Degradation Models in R Using iDEMO
Ya-Shan Cheng, Chien-Yu Peng
Vol. 49, Issue 2, Jun 2012
Submitted 2010-12-31, Accepted 2011-06-29
Glotaran: A Java-Based Graphical User Interface for the R Package TIMP
Joris J. Snellenburg, Sergey Laptenok, Ralf Seger, Katharine M. Mullen, Ivo H. M. van Stokkum
Vol. 49, Issue 3, Jun 2012
Submitted 2011-01-20, Accepted 2011-09-16
A Graphical User Interface for R in a Rich Client Platform for Ecological Modeling
Marcel Austenfeld, Wolfram Beyschlag
Vol. 49, Issue 4, Jun 2012
Submitted 2011-01-05, Accepted 2012-02-20
Closing the Gap between Methodologists and End-Users: R as a Computational Back-End
Byron C. Wallace, Issa J. Dahabreh, Thomas A. Trikalinos, Joseph Lau, Paul Trow, Christopher H. Schmid
Vol. 49, Issue 5, Jun 2012
Submitted 2010-11-01, Accepted 2012-12-20
tourrGui: A gWidgets GUI for the Tour to Explore High-Dimensional Data Using Low-Dimensional Projections
Bei Huang, Dianne Cook, Hadley Wickham
Vol. 49, Issue 6, Jun 2012
Submitted 2011-01-20, Accepted 2012-04-16
The RcmdrPlugin.survival Package: Extending the R Commander Interface to Survival Analysis
John Fox, Marilia S. Carvalho
Vol. 49, Issue 7, Jun 2012
Submitted 2010-12-26, Accepted 2011-12-28
Deducer: A Data Analysis GUI for R
Ian Fellows
Vol. 49, Issue 8, Jun 2012
Submitted 2011-02-28, Accepted 2011-09-08
RKWard: A Comprehensive Graphical User Interface and Integrated Development Environment for Statistical Analysis with R
Stefan Rödiger, Thomas Friedrichsmeier, Prasenjit Kapat, Meik Michalke
Vol. 49, Issue 9, Jun 2012
Submitted 2010-12-28, Accepted 2011-05-06
gWidgetsWWW: Creating Interactive Web Pages within R
John Verzani
Vol. 49, Issue 10, Jun 2012
Submitted 2010-12-17, Accepted 2011-05-11
Oscars and Interfaces
Antony Unwin
Vol. 49, Issue 11, Jun 2012
Submitted 2010-12-08, Accepted 2011-07-15

Software Review- BigML.com – Machine Learning meets the Cloud

I had a chance to dekko the new startup BigML https://bigml.com/ and was suitably impressed by the briefing and my own puttering around the site. Here is my review-

1) The website is very intutively designed- You can create a dataset from an uploaded file in one click and you can create a Decision Tree model in one click as well. I wish other cloud computing websites like  Google Prediction API make design so intutive and easy to understand. Also unlike Google Prediction API, the models are not black box models, but have a description which can be understood.

2) It includes some well known data sources for people trying it out. They were kind enough to offer 5 invite codes for readers of Decisionstats ( if you want to check it yourself, use the codes below the post, note they are one time only , so the first five get the invites.

BigML is still invite only but plan to get into open release soon.

3) Data Sources can only be by uploading files (csv) but they plan to change this hopefully to get data from buckets (s3? or Google?) and from URLs.

4) The one click operation to convert data source into a dataset shows a histogram (distribution) of individual variables.The back end is clojure , because the team explained it made the easiest sense and fit with Java. The good news (?) is you would never see the clojure code at the back end. You can read about it from http://clojure.org/

As cloud computing takes off (someday) I expect clojure popularity to take off as well.

Clojure is a dynamic programming language that targets the Java Virtual Machine (and the CLR, and JavaScript). It is designed to be a general-purpose language, combining the approachability and interactive development of a scripting language with an efficient and robust infrastructure for multithreaded programming. Clojure is a compiled language – it compiles directly to JVM bytecode, yet remains completely dynamic. Every feature supported by Clojure is supported at runtime. Clojure provides easy access to the Java frameworks, with optional type hints and type inference, to ensure that calls to Java can avoid reflection.

Clojure is a dialect of Lisp

 

5) As of now decision trees is the only distributed algol, but they expect to roll out other machine learning stuff soon. Hopefully this includes regression (as logit and linear) and k means clustering. The trees are created and pruned in real time which gives a slightly animated (and impressive effect). and yes model building is an one click operation.

The real time -live pruning is really impressive and I wonder why /how it can ever be replicated in other software based on desktop, because of the sheer interactive nature.

 

Making the model is just half the work. Creating predictions and scoring the model is what is really the money-earner. It is one click and customization is quite intuitive. It is not quite PMML compliant yet so I hope some Zemanta like functionality can be added so huge amounts of models can be applied to predictions or score data in real time.

 

If you are a developer/data hacker, you should check out this section too- it is quite impressive that the designers of BigML have planned for API access so early.

https://bigml.com/developers

BigML.io gives you:

  • Secure programmatic access to all your BigML resources.
  • Fully white-box access to your datasets and models.
  • Asynchronous creation of datasets and models.
  • Near real-time predictions.

 

Note: For your convenience, some of the snippets below include your real username and API key.

Please keep them secret.

REST API

BigML.io conforms to the design principles of Representational State Transfer (REST)BigML.io is enterely HTTP-based.

BigML.io gives you access to four basic resources: SourceDatasetModel and Prediction. You cancreatereadupdate, and delete resources using the respective standard HTTP methods: POSTGET,PUT and DELETE.

All communication with BigML.io is JSON formatted except for source creation. Source creation is handled with a HTTP PUT using the “multipart/form-data” content-type

HTTPS

All access to BigML.io must be performed over HTTPS

and https://bigml.com/developers/quick_start ( In think an R package which uses JSON ,RCurl  would further help in enhancing ease of usage).

 

Summary-

Overall a welcome addition to make software in the real of cloud computing and statistical computation/business analytics both easy to use and easy to deploy with fail safe mechanisms built in.

Check out https://bigml.com/ for yourself to see.

The invite codes are here -one time use only- first five get the invites- so click and try your luck, machine learning on the cloud.

If you dont get an invite (or it is already used, just leave your email there and wait a couple of days to get approval)

  1. https://bigml.com/accounts/register/?code=E1FE7
  2. https://bigml.com/accounts/register/?code=09991
  3. https://bigml.com/accounts/register/?code=5367D
  4. https://bigml.com/accounts/register/?code=76EEF
  5. https://bigml.com/accounts/register/?code=742FD

Interview: Hjálmar Gíslason, CEO of DataMarket.com

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

9 things nobody told me about the start-up business

Ajay-

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About-

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

Management

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

hjalmar.gislason@datamarket.com

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

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

Jim Kobielus on 2012

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

 

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

 

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

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

The Year Ahead in Advanced Analytics? Advances on All Fronts!

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

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

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

 

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

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

About-

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

James G. Kobielus James G. Kobielus
Senior Analyst

RESEARCH FOCUS

 

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

 

PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCE

 

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

Contact –

Twitter: http://twitter.com/jameskobielus

Interview Zach Goldberg, Google Prediction API

Here is an interview with Zach Goldberg, who is the product manager of Google Prediction API, the next generation machine learning analytics-as-an-api service state of the art cloud computing model building browser app.
Ajay- Describe your journey in science and technology from high school to your current job at Google.

Zach- First, thanks so much for the opportunity to do this interview Ajay!  My personal journey started in college where I worked at a startup named Invite Media.   From there I transferred to the Associate Product Manager (APM) program at Google.  The APM program is a two year rotational program.  I did my first year working in display advertising.  After that I rotated to work on the Prediction API.

Ajay- How does the Google Prediction API help an average business analytics customer who is already using enterprise software , servers to generate his business forecasts. How does Google Prediction API fit in or complement other APIs in the Google API suite.

Zach- The Google Prediction API is a cloud based machine learning API.  We offer the ability for anybody to sign up and within a few minutes have their data uploaded to the cloud, a model built and an API to make predictions from anywhere. Traditionally the task of implementing predictive analytics inside an application required a fair amount of domain knowledge; you had to know a fair bit about machine learning to make it work.  With the Google Prediction API you only need to know how to use an online REST API to get started.

You can learn more about how we help businesses by watching our video and going to our project website.

Ajay-  What are the additional use cases of Google Prediction API that you think traditional enterprise software in business analytics ignore, or are not so strong on.  What use cases would you suggest NOT using Google Prediction API for an enterprise.

Zach- We are living in a world that is changing rapidly thanks to technology.  Storing, accessing, and managing information is much easier and more affordable than it was even a few years ago.  That creates exciting opportunities for companies, and we hope the Prediction API will help them derive value from their data.

The Prediction API focuses on providing predictive solutions to two types of problems: regression and classification. Businesses facing problems where there is sufficient data to describe an underlying pattern in either of these two areas can expect to derive value from using the Prediction API.

Ajay- What are your separate incentives to teach about Google APIs  to academic or researchers in universities globally.

Zach- I’d refer you to our university relations page

Google thrives on academic curiosity. While we do significant in-house research and engineering, we also maintain strong relations with leading academic institutions world-wide pursuing research in areas of common interest. As part of our mission to build the most advanced and usable methods for information access, we support university research, technological innovation and the teaching and learning experience through a variety of programs.

Ajay- What is the biggest challenge you face while communicating about Google Prediction API to traditional users of enterprise software.

Zach- Businesses often expect that implementing predictive analytics is going to be very expensive and require a lot of resources.  Many have already begun investing heavily in this area.  Quite often we’re faced with surprise, and even skepticism, when they see the simplicity of the Google Prediction API.  We work really hard to provide a very powerful solution and take care of the complexity of building high quality models behind the scenes so businesses can focus more on building their business and less on machine learning.