Nov 7 2012

Welcome the Data Era: How 2012 shows the future of all elections, and sports, and business…

Nate Silver's Election Map

Nate Silver's Election Map

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.

Moneyball Poster

Statistics with a relatable face

The signs
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.

Naters gonna Nate

Nate Silver meme

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.

For Today’s Graduate, Just One Word: Statistics By STEVE LOHR

Pundit Forecasts All Wrong, Silver Perfectly Right. Is Punditry Dead?

Meme from: @riondotnu

Jan 13 2010

Congratulations new student digital entrepreneurs

digentDigital 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: to learn more.

Sep 9 2009

From Kevin Kelly’s The Technium

From Kevin Kelly’s The Technium

Martin Heidegger: “No one can foresee the radical changes to come.  But technological advance will move faster and faster and can never be stopped.  In all areas of his existence, man will be encircled ever more tightly by the forces of technology.  These forces, which everywhere and every minute claim, enchain and drag along, press and impose upon man under the form of some technical contrivance or other–these forces…have moved long since beyond his will and have outgrown his capacity for decision… Technology is in no sense an instrument of man’s making or in his control. It is rather that a phenomenon that is centrally determining all of Western history.”

These technophobes are right about so many things. The technium is the phenomenon that is centrally determining all of Western history. It is outgrowing our capacity of understanding. It is advancing faster and faster without end. It is proceeding on an autonomous course. It is an end in itself. It is a kind of fate.

This is scary. We have birthed a child more powerful than us, rocketing off to remake our essential nature, yet it zooms beyond our capacity to understand or control, accelerating in power, yet biased in its direction. No wonder the autonomy of the technium provokes such genuine concern.

Yet the very same innate forces of extropy and self-organization that nurture the technological imperative, also are responsible for real progress. We have birthed a child more powerful than us, rocketing the advance of diversity and intelligence,  it multiples on its own, yet it is headed in the direction we’d all like to go — more options, choices, possibilities and free-will.

Aug 4 2009

On reconnecting with the MIS community

I am off for AMCIS Thursday and looking forward to a fun few days. It has been some time for me to visit an “MIS” conference. In the mean-time I have been working on:

founding the digital business group, digital entrepreneurship

future internet economics

social network monetization and value

I am very interested in where this discipline that took me in has come since last I checked in. I will also be recruiting for the Saunders MIS group, which is one of a variety of disciplines in the College that fit together nicely. Can’t wait to see how it all comes together!

If you want to meet up in San Fran, try or twitter message me @vicperotti

Jun 13 2009

netbook OS- Samsung N110+UNR

Day 1 with the Samsung N110 has been relatively great. I knew that a netbook would likely be a great solution for me-since I am constantly moving between meetings and locations. My initial research suggested that this one would be a decent choice, and some Saunders students have already demonstrated Samsung netbooks to me.

I am equally or more impressed with Ubuntu Netbook Remix, an OS made expecially for netobooks out of the latest Linux distribution. What’s great about this OS is that it is always current. Ubuntu is released continously, and it updates in a really simple manner.

Day 1 with the Samsung N110 has been relatively great. I knew that a netbook would likely be a great solution for me-since I am constantly moving between meetings and locations. My initial research suggested that this one would be a decent choice, and some Saunders students have already demonstrated Samsung netbooks to me.

I am equally or more impressed with Ubuntu Netbook Remix, an OS made especially for netbooks out of the latest Linux distribution. What’s great about this OS is that it is always current. Ubuntu is released continously, and it updates in a really simple manner.

The trend toward simple interfaces is strong now, with some Google Android OS (that for phones!) netbooks now available. Given the huge number of developers, the fast boot time, the ease of use. I have to believe that this is one of the best combinations of hardware and software currently available.

Jun 9 2009

The Best Smart Phone Today

Smartphone #3: On Choosing iPhone 3GS over the Palm Pre and others

I wanted to document my decision, because I made it with a lot of research and care.  As you may know, I am very interested in mobile computing, both for my personal use and as a research topic. I was an early adopter of smartphone technology, signing up for the $400 Palm Treo 600 WAY back in the day (November 2003) on Sprint. After years and years of this phone, I bought its successor, the Palm Treo 700P in Summer 2006 on Verizon. Again, pricey! BOTH of these phones have been terrific, and the name “Treo-man” has been applied to me and my superhero abilities using these smartphones. I knew from early on that smartphones would change the nature of computing and work.

What the Treos have had right from the beginning is: responsiveness, qwerty keyboard and support for one-handed use.  What they have lacked is: a decent camera, wifi, an attractive UI and capacity to hold lots of music/apps.  The Treos really helped to start the smartphone landscape, and the current leader, iPhone owes a lot to their design: touchscreen, and open applications. Unfortunately, the Palm company has been unable to innovate as quickly as RIM and Apple. They were overtaken and surpassed over the last few years.

Saturday, however, may have marked a new beginning for Palm. The MUCH-anticipated Pre reminds me of the best of Palm’s creativity- new form factor, nice keyboard, great display and best of all WebOS. The new Palm OS promises integration of  a lot of the tools I already use.  There is no doubt it is cool. I wanted it, badly, and my contract with Verizon is up.

But, there is a problem- Palm has made an exclusive agreement with Sprint to sell this phone. Because it runs CDMA, it could potentially only work under Sprint and Verizon. The rumors suggest it may be out on Verizon late, late this year and/or a simpler candybar version (Eos) on GSM networks (AT&T, etc) coming out later this year. Sprint was never my favorite back in the day, and the thought of returning was not attractive, but I still considered it.

And then there is the fact that I am part of a family, and soon all the contracts will be up. Staying with Verizon would be fine (and I like the early renewal options) BUT the choice of phones is much much worse than AT&T. The fam simply could not find good alternatives to stay with Verizon, and honestly neither could I! I could downgrade/lateral move to the Palm Centro. I considered lots of different Blackberries, but I don’t care for their user interface (especially moving the cursor).

In the end, I discovered that AT&T offers the same discount for me as Verizon, so I took a look and found MUCH better choices not only for me but for the whole family. Now, I could choose the Nokia E71X, or even the N97. But I looked and looked and read and researched (thanks especially). I almost bought an iPhone 3G last week (HUGE POTENTIAL MISTAKE!) after asking lots of friends about theirs.

Yesterday, I watched the liveblog of the Apple WWDC, and I was sold on the iPhone 3GS with iPhone OS 3.0.  It definitely will lead the pack in terms of hardware, and the applications are unrivaled. The interface I will just get used to like the millions of others.

My conclusion has been echoed all over the place: The Best Smart Phone Today is Apple iPhone 3GS.

Mar 19 2009

Future of the Internet

NSF logo The Future of the Internet SWITCHNET project is actively underway with new graduate and undergraduate students participating. You can learn more about this project at my RIT website:

My group will be in Washington, DC on April 6 and 7 for the latest FIND meeting.

Jan 28 2009

DigEnt social network reaches 400 Members!

The DigEnt social network, once just courseware for the 24 people enrolled in the Digital Entrepreneurship class at RIT, has now achieved Membership of over 400 people.  I find this a truly great achievement by the contributors!

Along the way, we have received local and national media attention, benefitted from the wisdom of individuals throughout the world, and created connections that are today advancing new business ideas, while creating great educational experiences for students.