Information Is Power

Just wanted to share something I heard and liked about data and information:

“Everything is a record, record, record
in a table, table, table.”

Can everything in life really be reduced to lines of records, with fields of data in tables of information?


This is the information age!


Analytics and Big Data rule!


Knowledge is power!


In any conflict, we seek information dominance and supremacy!


Artificial intelligence is the future!


Records are unique with their own sys.id.


Creativity and innovation are also records in the table–even if they are the one in a million. 


The more records and tables–the more dots and connections between them–the more intelligence we can glean. 


Yes, everything is a record, record, record in a table, table, table. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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A Mountain Of Data

Turtle .jpeg

So I heard this interesting perspective on information and data analytics…


Basically, it comes down to this: 

“Most organizations are data rich, but information/insight poor.”


Or put another way:

“Data is collected, but not used.”


Hence we don’t know what we don’t know and we end up making bad decisions based on poor information. 


Just imagine if we could actually make sense of all the data points, connect them, visualize them, and get good information from them.


How much better than a pile of rocks is that? 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Twitter BESTS Facebook

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Here are six reasons why Twitter bests Facebook and we ain’t seen nothing yet:


Unadulterated News & Messaging 

Twitter is where you can hear it from the President’s mouth or the Kardashians or anyone else for that matter with no media bias and filtering (their very mission is information sharing), while Facebook is often about reposting stories, pictures, and videos that we find of interest already on the web. What’s even more amazing is that anyone of us can tweet back to @realDonaldTrump or @SpeakerRyan…that is some unbelievable access we now have. 


Speed of Information To Market

Twitter is now considered the fastest way to get the latest (and greatest) on what’s happening.  From the US Airways jet crash into the Hudson River to up-to-the-minute updates on the Mumbai terrorist attackYou could even watch the election debates or the Walking Dead and get a real-time running commentary. 


Our Very Social Identity

Twitter is now part of our very social identity, so that everything from our blog writings to our resume has our Twitter handle. Mine is @AndyBlumenthal.  


It’s Populism As A Movement

Twitter, while not technically as popular in terms of number of users as Facebook, is more popular in terms of the cultural impact. Politicians are putting out policy debates online and fighting it out there too, while celebrities and athletes are sharing personal updates, and the world is truly communicating directly and succinctly in 140 characters or less what’s really important to them. 


Operating On A Global Open Platform 

Twitter feeds are open to anyone who follows them and tweets are searchable on the web as opposed to Facebook which is predominantly a closed system to the web and you’ve got to be “friends” to get the real scoop with someone. Whether the Iranian Green Revolution or the Syrians Being Bombarded in Aleppo it’s open and on Twitter. 


Get Your BIG Data and Feed Your Artificial Intelligence

Twitter has about 500 million tweets a day or about 200 billion a year.  Even pulling out the ridiculous “What I had for lunch today” tweets, there is still an unbelievable amount of data to mine for analysis and artificial intelligence. Talking about a potential treasure trove of information and sentiment from over 317 million users, and computer algorithms are already churning through it to make the big data intelligible and usable for decision making. 


Certainly Twitter (and Facebook) need to get their virtual arms around fake news and profiles, but the good thing about it is that others can call b.s. as soon as they see it in 140 characters or less. 😉


(Note: I am so impressed with Twitter’s prospects, I am putting my own money where my mouth is.)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Make Up Your Mind

Yes No Maybe

It all started with the Staples “Easy” button that says robotically when pressed, “That was easy!” 

Then came the “B.S.” button that yells out, “That was bullsh*t!”

Now we have the decision and indecisional buttons for “Sorry,” “Yes,” “Maybe,” and “No.”

Very much like organizational decision-making and politics where either we can’t make up our minds, hedge our bets because we simply don’t know, or make decisions on imperfect knowledge or with plenty of biases.

It’s funny-sad how instead of decisions and progress, some people lie and pretend that what they are saying has any reality or basis to it despite proof to the compelte opposite. 

For example, over and over again, we hear some politicians say there is no military solution in Syria, yet Russia has proved that completely false turning the tides of the war in Assad’s favor and driving back the U.S.-backed rebels and recapturing dozens of towns and cities.

You can probably think of plenty more examples as this is the germy spin that we all must swim and navigate in. 

If only, we could just press a “truth” button to get past all the garbage thrown at us then maybe we could get down to business and really get something done. 😉

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

Big Data, Small Moments

Days Of Our Lives

There is a definite rhythm to our lives. 

And by analyzing the peak times of Google search terms, we can get a good picture of what it is (as Seth Stephens-Davidowitz notes in the New York Times Sunday Review).

– From starting a new day to taking care of bathroom business, looking for healing, and even goofing off. 

– Midday is some personal time for shopping, travel plans, and a news update. 

– The evening is a nice dinner and maybe some sexual intimacy.

– The night time is scariest with anxiety about health, leading to panic and thoughts of suicide, and easing off with drugs and pornography. 

– As we roll towards the early hours of the next day, we have a philosophical reawakening with contemplation about the meaning of life and our place in it. 

If we can get all this just from some data analytics of Google search terms, can you imagine what else we can learn about the masses and YOU, the individuals that make it up. 😉

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

Size And Smell

Sex
So apparently data mining can be used for all sorts of research…



In the New York Times today, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz tries his hand with google search results to better understand people’s feelings about sex. 



Though Stephens-Davidowitz doesn’t explain how he gets these google statistics…here are some standouts:



As you might have guessed, the biggest complaint from men–and women–is that they don’t get/have enough sex. 



For both (as you might imagine in a primarily–95%–heterosexual world), traditional surveys show that it’s about once a week.



However, the author says this is exaggerated (yeah, is it surprising that people exaggerate about this?) and it’s actually only about 30 times a year–or once every 12 days.



So there are a lot of search on “sexless” or “won’t have sex with me.”



Observing that “sex can be quite fun,” he questions, “why do we have so little of it?”



And he concludes that it’s because we have “enormous anxiety” and insecurity about our bodies and sexuality.



Again, you probably wouldn’t need data mining to guess the results, but men’s biggest worry is about their penis size, and one of women’s most toxic worries–a “strikingly common concern”–is about the smell of their vagina.



For men, they actually google questions about genital size more often than they have questions about any other body part; in fact, more than “about their lungs, liver, feet, ears, nose, throat, and brain combined.”



So much for health consciousness versus machismo pride. 



The funny thing is apparently women don’t seem to care so much about this with only about 1 search on this topic for every 170 searches that men do on this. 



Surprising to most men, about 40% of the searches women do conduct on this topic is “complaints” that it is too big!



Not that size doesn’t matter to women, but for them it’s about the size of their breasts and butts–and again, bigger being generally considered better.



In this case, most men seem to agree. 



Another issue men are concerned about is premature ejaculation and how to make the experience last longer.



However, here women seem to be looking for information about half and half on how to make men climax more quickly on one hand, and more slowly on the other. 



Overall, men are from Mars and women from Venus, with lot’s of misunderstanding between the sexes.



The conclusion from this big data study…everyone calm down and just try to enjoy each other more.



Amazing the insights we can get from data mining! 😉



(Source Photo: here with attribution to Daniel)

Parole By Analytics

Parole By Analytics

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about parole boards using software to predict repeat offenders before letting someone go free.

What used to be a decision based on good behavior during time served, showing remorse to the parole board, and intuition is being augmented with “automated assessments” that include inmate interviews, age of first arrest, type of crime, and so forth.

At least 15 states have adopted “modern risk assessment methods” to determine the potential for recidivism.

Individuals are marked as higher risk if they are:

– Young–age 18-23 (and impulsive)
– Offense was drug-related
– Suspended or expelled from school
– Quit a job prior to having another one
– Single or separated
– Diagnosed with a mental disorder
– Believes that it’s not possible to overcome their past.

Surprisingly, violent criminals (rapists and murders) are actually considered lower risk those guilty of nonviolent property crimes–the thinking being the someone convicted of robbery is more likely to repeat the criminal behavior because the crime is one that “reflects planning and intent.”

Honestly, I think it is more than ridiculous that we should rank violent criminals less risky than thieves and release them because they had what is considered an “emotional outburst.”

Would you rather have some thieves back on the street or murders and rapists–rhetorical question!

But it just shows that even the best of systems that are supposed to help make better decisions–can instead be misused or abused.

This happens when there is either bad data (such as from data-entry mistakes, deceptive responses, and missing relevant information) or from poorly designed decision rules/algorithms are applied.

The Compas system is one of the main correctional software suites being used, and the company Northpointe (a unit of Volaris) themselves advise that officials should “override the system’s decisions at rates of 8% to 15%.”

While even a 1/7 error rate may be an improvement over intuition, we need to still do better, especially if that 1 person commits a violent hideous crime that hurts someone else in society, and this could’ve been prevented.

It’s certainly not easy to expect a parole board to make a decision of whether to let someone out/free in 20 minutes, but think about the impact to someone hurt or killed or to their family, if the wrong decision is made.

This is a critical governance process that needs:

– Sufficient time to make important decisions
– More investment in tools to aid the decision process
– Refinement of the rules that support release or imprisonment
– Collection of a broad base of interviews, history, and relevant data points tied to repeat behavior
– Validation of information to limit deception or error.

Aside from predicting whether someone is likely to be repeat offenders, parole boards also need to consider whether the person has been both punished in accordance with the severity of the crime and rehabilitated to lead a productive life going forward.

We need to decide people’s fates fairly for them, justly for the victims, and safely for society–systems can help, but it’s not enough to just “have faith in the computer.” 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)