ENTRIES TAGGED "strataconf"

Big data, cool kids

Making sense of the hype-cycle scuffle.

The big data world is a confusing place. We’re no longer in a market dominated mostly by relational databases, and the alternatives have multiplied in a baby boom of diversity.

My data is bigger than yours.

My data is bigger than yours.

These child prodigies of the data scene show great promise but spend a lot of time knocking each other around in the schoolyard. Their egos can sometimes be too big to accept that everybody has their place, and eyeball-seeking media certainly doesn’t help.

POPULAR KID: Look at me! Big data is the hotness!
HADOOP: My data’s bigger than yours!
SCIPY: Size isn’t everything, Hadoop! The bigger they come, the harder they fall. And aren’t you named after a toy elephant?
R: Backward sentences mine be, but great power contains large brain.
EVERYONE: Huh?
SQL: Oh, so you all want to be friends again now, eh?!
POPULAR KID: Yeah, what SQL said! Nobody really needs big data; it’s all about small data, dummy.

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On the importance of imagination in data science

Strata Community Profile on Amy Heineike, Director of Mathematics

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Amy Heineike

According to Amy Heineike, the Director of Mathematics at Quid, there’s nothing like having a fresh dataset in R and knowing how to use it. “You can add a few lines of code and discover all kinds of interesting information,” Heineike says. “One question leads to another, you get into a flow, and you can have an amazing exploration.”

Heineike started working with data several years ago at a consultancy in London, where “playing around” with data shed light on the impact of social networks on government policies. Part of her job was figuring out what types of data to use in order to find solutions to crucial problems, from public transportation to obesity. Her day-to-day work at Quid entails working with new data sets, prototyping analytics, and collaborating with an engineering team to improve data analysis and bring products into production.

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Pursuing data science as a second profession

Featured Strata Community Profile on Yogi Saxena

YogiSaxenaYogi Saxena is not one to back down from a challenge. The distance runner ran in his first marathon just two years ago in order to win a bet. Next month, he competes in another grueling marathon, his third. And if that were not enough, a friend’s Facebook post inspired him to train for a sprint triathalon. “I taught myself to swim when I was young,” Saxena says, revealing that his drive to learn new skills started early. “And if it wasn’t for the swim part, I’d have done an Olympic-distance triathlon instead.”

Saxena’s love of mastering new challenges is likely responsible for his decision to pursue data science as a second profession, after having a successful career as an electrical engineer. Currently at Boeing, he is responsible for developing a tool that would help visualize feeds from various classified and non-classified sources.

He is profiled here as part of the Strata community profiles.

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Tips and Tricks for Debugging Distributed Systems

Preview of upcoming session at the Strata Conference

By Philip Zeyliger

I’m talking on Wednesday at Strata about Tips and Tricks for Debugging Distributed Systems. You should come check it out.

As a preview, let’s talk about two pretty pictures.

Network Visualization

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I’m running some typical distributed systems (HDFS, MapReduce, Impala, HBase, Zookeeper) on a small, seven-node cluster. The diagram above has individual processes and the TCP connections they’ve established to each other. Some processes are “masters” and they end up talking to many other processes.

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How the world communicates in 2013

Sneak Peek at Upcoming Session at Strata Santa Clara 2013

By Robert Munro

Plain text is the world’s largest source of digital information. As the amount of unstructured text grows, so does the percentage of text that is not in English. The majority of the world’s data is now unstructured text outside of English. So unless you’re an exceptional polyglot, you can’t understand most of what’s out there, even if you want to.

Language technologies underlie many of our daily activities. Search engines, spam filtering, and news personalization (including your social media feeds) all employ smart, adaptive knowledge of how we communicate. We can automate many of these tasks well, but there are places where we fall short. For example, the world’s most spoken language, Mandarin Chinese, is typically written without spaces. “解放大道” can mean “Liberation Avenue” or “Solution Enlarged Road” depending on where you interpret the gaps. It’s a kind of ambiguity that we only need to worry about in English when we’re registering domain names and inventing hashtags (something the folk at “Who Represents” didn’t worry about enough). For Chinese, we still don’t get it right with automated systems: the best systems get an error every 20 words or so. We face similar problems for about a quarter of the world’s data. We can’t even reliably tell you what the words are, let alone extract complex information at scale.

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Sketching techniques for real-time big data

Preview of an upcoming session at Strata Santa Clara

By Bahman Bahmani

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Bahman Bahmani

In many modern web and big data applications the data arrives in a streaming fashion and needs to be processed on the fly. In these applications, the data is usually too large to fit in main memory, and the computations need to be done incrementally upon arrival of new pieces of data. Sketching techniques allow these applications to be realized with high levels of efficiency in memory, computation, and network communications.

In the algorithms research community, sketching techniques first appeared in the literature in 1980s, e.g., in the seminal work of Philippe Flajolet and G. Nigel Martin, then caught attentions in late 1990s, partially inspired by the award-winning work of Noga Alon, Yossi Matias, and Mario Szegedy, and were/are on fire in 2000’s/2010’s, when sketches got successfully designed not only for fundamental problems such as heavy hitters, but also for matrix computations, network algorithms, and machine learning. These techniques are now at an inflection point in the course of their history, due to the following factors:

1. Untapped potential: Being so new, their huge practical potential has been yet barely tapped into.

2. Breadth and maturity: They are now both broad and mature enough to start to be widely used across a variety of big data applications, and even act as basic building blocks for new highly efficient big data management systems.

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Who do you trust? You are surrounded by bots.

Preview of upcoming session "Who is Fake?" at the Strata Conference

By Lutz Finger 

In the Matrix, the idea of a computer algorithm determining what we think may seemed far-fetched. Really? Far-fetched? Let’s look at some numbers.

About half of all Americans get their news in digital form. This news is written up by journalists, half of whom at least partially source their stories from social media. They use tools to harvest the real time knowledge of 100,000 tweets per second and more.

But what if someone could influence those tools and create messages that look as though they were part of a common consensus? Or create the appearance of trending?

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Keep your data science efforts from derailing

Preview of upcoming session at Strata Santa Clara

By Marck Vaisman and Sean Murphy

Is your organization considering embracing data science? If so, we would like to give you some helpful advice on organizational and technical issues to consider before you embark on any initiatives or consider hiring data scientists. Join us, Sean Murphy and Marck Vaisman, two Washington, D.C. based data scientists and founding members of Data Community DC, as we walk you through the trials and tribulations of practicing data scientists at our upcoming talk at Strata.

We will discuss anecdotes and best practices, and finish by presenting the results of a survey we conducted last year to help understand the varieties of people, skills, and experiences that fall under the broad term of “Data Scientist”. We analyzed data from over 250 survey respondents, and are excited to share our findings, which will also be published soon by O’Reilly.

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Fruit or mobile device: learning concepts through connections

Preview of insights shared at upcoming session at Strata Santa Clara

Social media gives us the power to share content and engage with a wide range of internet users. As a person or brand, we are often concerned with who we are talking to and how we can better serve our viewers. Traditional demographics such as ‘female’ and ‘25-30’ are no longer sufficient in this arena. For example, Google is having a hard time getting gender and age correct for ad preferences. It is more interesting to observe what content is consumed and how attention changes over time.

Bitly, which is used to shorten and share links, can offer insight into this space. This means the data has an unprecedented view into what people are sharing and has a holistic view of what users are concerned about on the internet.

We use their data to look into how we can define the audience of different content. The simplest example of this is: given a group of users that click on “oreilly.com”, what other websites do they engage with. We now have what bitly calls a co-click graph. Domains are represented as nodes while edges between nodes represent the number of people that have clicked on each domain. A co-click graph can be made to represent any number of attributes, but for now we are going to remain interested in topics and keywords.

ASmithFig1

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That’s it — I’m taking my data and going home

We are simply not good at playing with others when it comes to data

Russia’s railway gauge is different from Western Europe’s. At the border of the former Soviet states, the Russian gauge of 1.524m meets the European & American ‘Standard’ gauge of 1.435m. The reasons for this literal disconnect arise from discussions between the Tsar and his War Minister. When asked the most effective way to prevent Russia’s own rail lines being used against them in times of invasion, the Minister suggested a different gauge to prevent supply trains rolling through the border. The artifact of this decision remains visible today at all rail crossings between Poland and Belarus or Slovakia and Ukraine. The rail cars are jacked up at the border, new wheels inserted underneath, and the car lowered again. It is about a 2-4 hour time burn for each crossing.

Per head, per crossing, over 170 years, is a heck of a lot of resource wasted. But to change it would entail changing the rail stock of the entire country and realigning about 225,000 km (140,000 mi) of track.

Talk about technical debt.

Data suffers from a similar disconnect. It really wasn’t until the advent of XML 15 years ago that we had an agreed (but not entirely satisfactory) mechanism for storing arbitrary data structures outside the application layer. This is as much a commentary on our technical priorities as it is a social indictment. We are simply not good at playing with others when it comes to data.

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