A Mountain Of Data

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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)

Progressing From Data to Wisdom

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I liked this explanation (not verbatim) by Dr. Jim Chen of data, information, knowledge, and wisdom.
– DATA: This is an alphanumeric entity and/or symbol (ABC, 123, !@#…)- INFORMATION: This is when entities are related/associated to each other and thereby derive meaning. (Information = Data + Meaning)- KNOWLEDGE: This is information applied to context. (Knowledge = Data + Meaning + Context)

– WISDOM: This is knowledge applied to multiple contexts. (Wisdom = Data + Meaning + (Context x N cases)).

I’d like to end this blog with a short quote that I thought sort of sums it up:

“A man may be born to wealth, but wisdom comes only with length of days.” – Anonymous

(Source Photo: here)

Describing Meal Time

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The USDA released their new dietary guidelines yesterday (2 June). 

And while there is no surprise in the recommendations that we eat more fruits and vegetables; what was refreshing was the new imagery for conveying the information.
Gone is the Food Pyramid and in is the Food Plate. 
This new visualization overall makes a lot more sense since:
1) As the Wall Street Journal stated today (3 June 2011), “People don’t eat off a pyramid, they eat off a plate.”  In other words, this is something we can relate to at meal times.  
2) The plate here is used like a pie chart to easily show what portion of our meals should come from each food category. For example, you can clearly see that fruits and veggies makes up a full half of the plate. (Boy, I’m sure there are a lot of smiling moms and dads out there today, saying I told you so!) Also the role of protein in a healthy diet is reaffirmed with almost a full quadrant itself. 
I am not sure why this initiative, according to the WSJ, cost about $2.9 million and three years to accomplish, since the representation seems fairly straight forward (unless some of that went to modifying the nutritional guidelines themselves).
In any case, I think we can all be glad they got rid of the 2005 version of the food pyramid that “left many baffled” as to what they were trying to say.
Still even in this new visualization, there are confusing aspects, for example:
1) Greater than a Pie–The Dairy piece is separate and off to the right of the plate. I would imagine that this is supposed to represent something like a glass of milk, but it is odd in this picture, since it takes away from the pie chart presentation of the plate where theoretically all the food groups on the “pie plate” would add up to 100%.  Here, however, the Dairy plate (or glass) is off to the side, so we have something like 120% total–confusing!
2) Missing Percentages–The actual recommended percentages are not noted in the diagram. This type of information had previously been provided in the 1992 Food Pyramid through the recommended servings. Where did they go?  I would suggest they annotate the pie slices for each food group with the actual recommended percentages, so that we have the imagery of the slices, but also have a target number to go with. Helpful, if you are counting your calories (and food types) on a diet. 
In short, information visualization can be as important as the information itself–with information, having quality data is critical or else you have “garbage in, garbage out.”  Similarly, with information visualization, you can take perfectly good information and portray it poorly and confuse the heck out of folks–in essence making the resulting information into potential garbage again. 
This is why efforts such as the Choose MyPlate are important to help us communicate important information effectively to people, in this case so they can eat and live healthier lives. 
I think the new Food Plate is generally effective at presenting the information and I support this effort wholly, but I’m still looking forward to version 3.1.

>The Information Blanket

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On July 4, 1976–the 200th anniversary of our free and democratic nation, something incredible was happening in Uganda–Operation Entebbe, a rescue operation to free over a hundred hostages at Entebee Airport.

This rescue operation became the basis for the movie Operation Thunderbolt, one of of my favorite movies (aside from Rocky).

The movie portrays the heroic and miraculous raid at Entebbe Airport in Uganda by the IDF to save the hostages of Air France flight 139, with 248 passengers and 12 crew (the Jews were later upon landing separated from the non-Jews and held captive, while the others were released). IDF Commandos with only a week of planning and preparation, travelled 2,500 miles in a daring operation that resulted in the rescue of the 103 hostages in a 90 minutes raid. Only three hostages and the commander of the mission, Lt Col Yonatan Netanyahu (the older brother of the Prime Minister of Israel today) were killed in the battle.

Despite, Uganda’s support of the terrorists in this event 35 years ago (a long time yes, but still pretty awful), today to help innocent people of this country and others that can benefit, I write about…The Information Blanket.

BMB, an independent advertising consumer PR company launched The Information Blanket this month to fight infant mortality.

According to Fast Company (June 2011), the Blanket is targeted for a country like Uganda where “on average 77 of every 1,000 Ugandan babies will die before they reach their first birthday.”

The creative director of BMB worked with UNICEF to “determine which health facts would best educate mothers and hopefully prevent infant death” and then they designed The Information Blanket with easy to read and understand information such as:

1) Vaccinations–“Get your baby vaccinated: 6, 10, 14 weeks.”
2) Feeding–“Breast-feed 8-12 times a day.”
3) Doctors–“Don’t forget to schedule your doctor appointment.”
4) Temperature–“38 degrees Celsius.”
5) Growth–“Growth chart (months).”
6) Warnings–“Warning signs: unconsciousness, convulsions, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, eye discharge, poor appetite, fast breathing, dehydration.”

These days, when going paperless and making everything digital is practically a mantra, I find The Information Blanket not only an effort to help people save lives, but a refreshing reminder that information can be delivered in many ways. And whether on a rock, a tree, bits and bytes, or a blanket, getting information out there to people is education, growth, and life for humanity.

Also, the role of design in effective communications and information technology is critical. Apple gets it…heck, they practically invented it. The more we incorporate good design and innovation into our communications, the more effective they have a chance to be.

(Source Photo: BMB)

>Fixing The Information Flow

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Faucet

So check this out–H2Glow has an LED faucet light that it temperature sensitive and turns blue for cold water and red for hot.

When I saw this, I thought this would be a great metaphor for managing the information flow from our organizations–where we could quickly and simply see whether the information flowing was sharable and for public consumption (“blue”) or whether something was private and proprietary (“red”).

The Economist, 24 February 2011, in an article called “The Leaky Corporation” writes: “Digital information is easy not only to store, but also to leak. Companies must decide what they really need to keep secret, and how best to do so.”

Like a faucet that gushes water, our organizations are releasing information–some with intent (where we are in control) and much without (due is spillage and pilferage).

In the age of WikiLeaks, computer hackers, criminals, terrorists, and hostile nation states, as well as the insider threat, information is leaking out uncontrollably from our organizations and this puts our vital competitive information, national secrets, and personal privacy information at risk (i.e. health, financial, identity, and so on).

Of course, we want the proverbial blue light to go on and information to be shared appropriately for collaboration and transparency, but at the same time, we need to know that the light will turn red and the information will stop, when information is justifiably private and needs to be kept that way.

Being an open and progressive society, doesn’t mean that that there is only cold water and one color–blue. But rather, that we can discern the difference between cold and hot, blue and red, and turn the faucet on and off, accordingly.

Information is proliferating rapidly, and according to IDC, a market research firm, the “digital universe” is expected to “increase to 35 zettabytes by 2020.”–a zettabyte is 1 trillion gigabytes or the equivalent of 250 billion DVDs.

Therefore, the necessity of filtering all this digitally available information for inside use and outside consumption is going to become more and more critical.

According to The Economist article, we will need to employ the latest techniques and automation tools in:

Enterprise Content Management–to “keep tabs on digital content, classify it, and define who has access to it.”
Data Loss Prevention–using “software that sits at the edge of a firm’s network and inspects the outgoing data traffic.”
Network Forensics–“keep an eye on everything in the a corporate network and thus…detect a leaker.”

Of course, as the Ciso chief security officer says: “technology can’t solve the problem, just lower the probability of accidents.

In the end, we need to make sure people understand the vulnerability and the dangers of sharing the “red” information.

We can focus our employees on protecting the most critical information elements of the organization by a using a risk management approach, so that information with the high probability of a leak and with the greatest possible negative impact to the organization is filtered and protected the most.

The leaky faucet is a broken faucet and in this case we are all the plumbers.

>Needed: User-centric Enterprise Architecture Now!

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>Powerful Information Visualization Demo

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This is not an endorsement of any vendor or product, but rather just sharing a great example of how robust visualization and enabling technology can help us comb through myriads of data and get meaningful information quickly to the people of the front line.

This is the type of architecture that pulls together end-user mission requirements, the vital information to perform, and the system to meet those needs in an eliquent end to end solution.