I use this HDMI cable to watch laptop content on my TV…
I use this HDMI cable to watch laptop content on my TV…
President Obama’s reelection last night happened amidst a confluence of trends in our nation’s demographics, economics, even some-would-say our meteorology. The most important of these is not a trend, but a meta-trend: the true onset of the Data Era. Should Florida go to the President (as it is leaning), Nate Silver, long-time author of the fivethirtyeight blog, will have correctly predicted all 50 states’ presidential vote outcomes, and all but two of the senate races. This accuracy marks a triumph of Statistics and Data Science, and signals the future for our elections, and many other things.
Data Data everywhere
It is important to note that we have long honed our ability to analyze data, with required statistics classes for many different majors on a College campus (hello #RITEMBAStats!). In fact, Silver’s method includes analysis of error using sum of squares just the same as introductory stats students learn in their regression unit. Over the years, “Database Marketing”, “Data Science”, “Big Data”, “Business Intelligence”, “Data Analytics” and others terms have become catch phrases to refer to the trend of analyzing data to discover useful patterns.
While our attention to data has existed for decades, our ability to make such visible results on a grand scale is relatively recent. The biggest reason for this is the new availability of data to large audiences. The most obvious source of this new information is social media. Twitter, for example, hit a new peak of 66,019 tweets per minute around 9:30pm last night. This massive data set is continuously broadcast for anyone who is interested to read, or analyze it. Many commercial ventures study it closely. Dell Computer’s 1st Chief Listening Officer Susan Beebe uses a wide variety of analysis tools to track the vast array of social media data relevant to her company.
Another major source of this new information are the companies that actively collect, and then share, their data. In 2009, the $1 Million NetFlix prize was awarded to team BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos for their algorithm predicting how well a viewer will enjoy a movie based on their movie preferences. Since then, crowd-sourced data analysis has become mainstream with websites like Kaggleoffering new competitions as well as educational materials to enhance our ability to predict the future based on the past. A quick read of Kaggle’s forums provides a list of new analysis tools that are available (and inexpensive) like the programming language R, Wolfram Alpha or Orange.
But it is none of this that signals the new era of data. While some have argued how boring and uninteresting the details are, it is hard to miss how prevalent all of this has become. The opposite is in fact true: the advent of the Data Era is this moment when the data, the tools and people have created a user interface that everyone can see, understand and embrace. At its most mundane, we see this in an exploding number of “infographics” explaining all manner of information in a visual format that is appropriate for audiences with a short amount of time. We know we could present tables full of numbers but people won’t consume them. An election map is known to be the way to go.
But it goes much further than infographics. A 2009 NY Times article quotes Hal Varian, chief economist at Google as saying “I keep saying that the sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians…and I am not kidding.” Statisticians, or at least their output, have become increasingly visual and widely embraced. The recent hit movie, Moneyball, shows the impact of statistical thinking on baseball while providing Brad Pitt on the posters.
Nate Silver has effectively become a rock-star among the data-connoisseurs and others. He appeared this year on The Daily Show, the Colbert Report, and other television programs all the while authoring a bestselling book. His name was trending on Twitter during the election results coverage, and a search on the #natesilverfacts hashtag will show you how heroic he has become.
In the wake of the 2012 election, we enter a new era. Nate Silver has become a modern hero by predicting politics and baseball with remarkable accuracy, but it is the accessibility of his thinking that we should pay attention to. Having passed through this moment, there is no way back. The availability of data, tools and new people to work with them is only increasing going forward. All elections will have simulation-powered visual, interpretable results. Statisticians will be much more commonplace and seen as they explain sophisticated computer models.
It is our ability to make the esoteric details of an analysis clear through our charts, words and actions that has crossed through this threshhold.
Meme from: @riondotnu
Many of us have been influenced by far-thinker Kevin Kelly. “We are the web” inspired and was featured in M Wesch’s popular video. My colleague Sean Hansen and I have begun a discussion about what the new forms of neuroscience might look like on this global brain.
A key area to start would be to look at people’s behavior in the context of neural firing literature. We gotta Golgi stain the social media users.
I am VERY excited to reveal what has become a well-kept secret on RIT’s campus this Winter: Rise Above the Crowd is an interactive crowd experiment in live event journalism and community engagement that will take place during the Imagine RIT Innovation Festival on May 7th, 2011.
What is it? Rise Above the Crowd takes the digital conversations that a crowd of 25,000 people are having during an event and makes then visible on large screens and votable by cell phone throughout the campus. Your participation is rewarded with prizes based on the amount of your activity as well as the popularity and quality of your contributions. You can send text messages, tweets, and especially photos to the community and they will immediately be visible all over the campus. As the crowd votes up your contributions they will rise on our boards, giving you a greater and greater chance to win great prizes like iPads, web-enabled cameras and much more.
The system design has been a truly interdisciplinary effort with students and faculty from all over campus contributing. Journalism Prof Andrea Hickerson and I are the principal investigators and points of contact. Much, much more information is about to launch, but if you really want to know, I would be more than happy to tell you!
Again and again students tell me that they WOULD have chosen Saunders College’s MIS program for their major if only they knew more about it. Here is more fuel for the fire…
The new NACE salary survey is just released and again shows the demand for MIS, as they are among the BEST PAID graduates across all majors on a campus:
“NACE’s Winter 2010 Salary Survey shows that engineering disciplines account for eight of the 10 most highly paid degrees….The only non-engineering related degrees in the top 10 were computer science and information sciences and systems. ”
“As a group, graduates earning computer-related degrees saw their average salary offer soar in comparison to the other disciplines: Their average offer rose 5.8 percent to $58,746.”
|Mining & Mineral Engineering (incl. geological)||$64,552|
|Electrical/Electronics & Communications Engineering||$59,074|
|Information Sciences & Systems||$54,038|
|Source: Winter 2010 Salary Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers. Data represent offers to bachelor’s degree candidates where 10 or more offers were reported.|
Please pay your taxes!
Digital Entrepreneurship remains a passion of mine and an emerging strength for RIT. This Fall, students in “Building a Web Business” worked on and launched the following businesses online:
The list includes Ad-based content sites, Online retail, Amazon affiliates and others. This is very impressive work for just 10 weeks of class time. Our Digital Business minor supports students in learning about how new technologies like those deployed in this class are transforming traditional business practice!
Next up: the Digital Entrepreneurship class with students from around RIT’s campus. Last night’s team formation yielded 10 project teams creating business plans for new ideas that leverage these new technologies. Stop in at: http://digent.rit.edu to learn more.
I am honored to have been selected to attend the National Science Foundation’s Future Internet Summit. As I browse the list of attendees, I see lots of brilliant computer scientists and networking specialists, a few industry folks, and some economists and myself (in Business) rounding out the list.
This promises to be a fascinating experience interacting with some very bright people. KnowInnovation will facilitate our interactions. I’ll let you know more as the week unfolds.