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Trends and Outliers

TIBCO Spotfire's Business Intelligence Blog

Monthly Archives: October 2011


The Data Analytics of Halloween – Infographic

Happy Halloween! This year, data geeks can rejoice because “geeky chic” is the top costume of Halloween. According to today’s infographic, the hottest costume in the “geek” category is a costume of the late Apple leader Steve Jobs. A distant, but popular follower, are the Angry Birds characters from mobile tech company Rovio (@AngryBirds).

Webtrends Halloween Buzz V2 303x1024 The Data Analytics of Halloween   InfographicThe data collected in this infographic comes from web analytics firm Webtrends (@Webtrends) as well as from a collection of social data garnered between October 1-24, including Twitter, blogs, online news sites and other social media sources, writes’s senior editor Charlie White (@charlie_white).

Zombies Top “Traditional” Halloween Attire and Rake in $5 Billion/Year

The Walking Dead, a popular series now in its second season on AMC, is an inspiration for one of the most popular Halloween costumes of 2011. Thirty-five percent of “classic costumes” will be zombie-inspired this All Hallow’s Eve. The show is based on a highly popular comic book series by Robert Kirkman (@RobertKirkman). And did you know that zombies have a $5 billion dollar economic impact?

Consumers Go “Gaga” for Pop-Inspired Costumes

With her atypical appearance, pop singer Lady Gaga tops the list of pop-culture inspired costumes and rounds out the data analytics of Halloween costumes.

Trivia Tidbit: Did you know that the tradition of Halloween costumes is thought to stem from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain? According to, this ancient festival involved bonfires and the wearing of costumes “to ward off roaming ghosts.”

The Analytics of Candy Corn and Other Sweet Treats

The most popular sweet treat of the spookiest night of the year just happens to be candy corn. The tiny kernels are the most popular candy by a long shot – taking 77% of the online mentions.

Chocolate is another Halloween staple, according to our analytics. The chocolate stats are a little less divisive than those without cocoa as a main ingredient. Hershey’s milk chocolate is most popular, followed closely by Snickers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

The most “unpopular” candy of Halloween and of all time – peanut butter taffy.

Here is some context around candy analytics not mentioned in the infographic from the Huffington Post:

  • Americans consume 158 trillion candy corn per year
  • Chocolate sales are at their highest on Halloween at a whopping 90 million pounds
  • Halloween candy is a $2 billion money maker and 10% of the candy industry’s annual sales happen this week

Next steps: We’d like to know – do you dress up for Halloween and what’s your favorite Halloween treat? Share in the comments below, subscribe or tweet us.

Amanda Brandon
Spotfire Blogging Team

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How Big Data Will Change the Travel Industry

big data changes travel 300x203 How Big Data Will Change the Travel IndustryThe words “useless information” should strike fear in the hearts (actually the wallets) of every company trying to increase revenue and profits.

After all, what’s the point of stockpiling vast amounts of data if you’re not going to do anything with it? Kind of a waste, don’t you think?

Well, it seems the travel industry folks agree because they’re trying to tackle the problem and turn useless information into data that can improve the customer experience, and ergo, boost revenue and profits.

For example, Hopper (@hoppertravel), a startup founded by a team of former Expedia employees is developing a website for consumer travel discovery, and harnessing a new generation of big data analysis tools to “fix” the data in order to “fix” the customer experience. Hopper’s travel-oriented search engine lets users search using just keywords to discover destinations and products.

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Filed under: Big Data


A Call to Free Up Public Data

open data 300x76 A Call to Free Up Public DataAlthough summer has been over for quite some time, people from all over the world went to camp in Warsaw, Poland last week. But it wasn’t just any camp—it was the Open Government Data Camp 2011.

An annual event, the camp drew, well, everyone involved in the open data community, to a converted factory building in Warsaw, Poland to toss around ideas, write code and meet the folks behind open data projects in a number of countries around the world.

Since the Guardian newspaper launched its Free Our Data campaign over five years ago, open data has made its way into “digital policy packages and transparency initiatives all over the place—from city administrations in Berlin, Paris and New York, to the corridors of institutions like the European Commission or the World Bank,” according to this article.

The aim of the Free Our Data campaign is to make taxpayers’ data available to taxpayers for free because government works best when it’s open and transparent.

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Filed under: Open data, Public data


A Cautious Approach to Big Data

big data opportunities and challenges A Cautious Approach to Big DataBig data can provide companies with powerful insights about everything from customer behaviors and preferences to new product opportunities. As cited in a recent article featured in MIT’s Technology Review, big data is used by companies such as Netflix to predict customer behavior, recommend products and deliver social media ads. But as the Technology Review article also mentions, big data can “have dangerous results.”

For instance, a new paper cited by Technology Review, entitled “Six Provocations for Big Data,” presented at a recent Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society, lists some of the reasons that businesses and other organizations should take a cautious approach to using big data. While consumer privacy issues are among the most evident issues decision makers should concern themselves with, big data can also provide organizations with distorted or incomplete views of customer and market trends.

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Big Data and the Call for Evidence-based Management

big data opportunities and challenges Big Data and the Call for Evidence based ManagementMany discussions around big data are often centered on the sheer volume of the information involved, including the massive quantities of unstructured data that’s being generated in social media and other channels. This includes text, images, emails, tweets, videos, voice messages and other information that people share on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums, etc.

Unstructured data is expanding exponentially. As John Myers (@johnlmyers44) notes in a recent Enterprise Management blog, “often times what is missed are the analysis goals of the big-data environment.” In other words, not seeing the forest for the trees.

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How to Speak Like a Data Scientist

how to speak like a data scientist How to Speak Like a Data ScientistA recent blog posted in MIT’s Technology Review explores how organizations are drowning in a sea of data and why it’s critical for data scientists to not only be able to “extract actionable information from this mass of numbers” but also make the results of that data visual for decision makers.

That’s absolutely true, but let’s take the discussion a step further. Business leaders and other executives who are ultimately responsible for acting on these insights need the data to be relevant and to pop out at them. “As the late Steve Jobs showed us, presentation and communication are key factors to putting an idea to work and winning mass adoption. Data scientists, too, need to have some verbal and visual communication skills, lest their insights wither away in the lab.”

Columns of numbers don’t mean a thing unless they’re placed in some context. And visual context means little even you don’t have the ability to identify the business need and communicate a story.

In order to succeed, analytics professionals must be proficient in three types of skills: technical, business thinking and “intangibles,” according to Kaiser Fung (@junkcharts), Vice President of Strategic Analytics at Sirius XM Radio, and the author of Numbers Rule Your World: The Hidden Influence of Probability and Statistics on Everything You Do.

Fung makes the case that people who aren’t statisticians still have to understand what analytics can accomplish – and it’s up to the data analysts to help them by speaking to them in language they understand. (Editor’s Note: Fung further clarifies his position in a response to this post. )

Meta Brown (@metabrown312) agrees, saying that you have to present the information to decision makers in the right way. If you want more power to engage executives with analytics you have to speak to them the way they like, the way that makes them feel important, confident and above all, powerful.

To do that you have to understand these four things, which she details in this article:

  1. The only numbers that interest executives are numbers with dollar signs in front.
  2. Executives have very short attention spans: get to the point
  3. Beware of details
  4. Strip tease holds attention better than full disclosure

One way for data scientists to “speak” to the business executives is by constructing compelling infographics that tell stories or reveal new trends that are relevant to their businesses. These tools and techniques are more likely to engage business leaders. In fact, decision makers who are able to more easily grasp this information are also more likely to act on it.

Let’s face it: one of the biggest frustrations for analytics professionals is going from the “Aha!” moment of drawing meaningful correlations with data only to later discover that the recipients of that information never bothered to act on it. Some executives are more inclined to process information visually.

Tell a story

Data professionals can use data visualization techniques to tell convincing stories quickly. While creative graphics can be used to help engage and enlighten readers, it’s also important to keep them simple: don’t try to over-engineer the graphics or make the visualization so complicated to follow that you end up confusing the recipient. Data visualization provides data scientists opportunities to shed new light on correlations or the casual relationships among a wide range of variables. Making those types of connections for organizational leaders can lead to significant discoveries and powerful business outcomes.

The effective use of bar charts, scatter graphs, maps and other visual representations can be an imaginative blend of art and science. There’s a massive amount of data that’s now accessible to data scientists. With the tools that are now available, there’s no reason why you can’t be creative with them.

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How to Become a Data Scientist

How to become a data scientist How to Become a Data Scientist

Steven Hillion, Vice President of Analytics at EMC Greenplum

OK, so remember when we told you data analyst jobs are hotter than hot? Or that by 2018,  as demand for data analysts continues to skyrocket, there won’t be enough qualified people to go around.

Well, turns out, we were on the right track.

According to an article in Forbes magazine, businesses are going to need data scientists to make sense of the mounds of data piled up from every direction, if they want to beat out their competitors. In fact, the skills of the data analyst are essential to the 21st century enterprise.

Dan Woods (@danwoodscito), the author of the Forbes piece, turned to Steven Hillion, vice president of analytics at EMC Greenplum, to get some insight into the importance of the role of the data scientist.

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Predictive Analytics on Big Data – What Does the Future Hold?

predictive analytics world Predictive Analytics on Big Data   What Does the Future Hold?The future of targeting and online marketing begins with predictive analytics on big data, according to today’s Predictive Analytics World Session presented by Dr. Usama Fayyad.

Known as the industry’s first chief data officer (his former position at Yahoo!), Fayyad is the current chairman & CTO of ChoozOn Corporation, a consumer deals search engine.

Fayyad really knows big data because he’s been developing technologies and research to harness, process and elicit insights from it for the past 20 years. More specifically, he has helped organizations including NASA, Audience Science, Microsoft and Yahoo! develop data mining technologies and data strategies.

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Filed under: Big Data, Data Mining


An Overview of Predictive Analytics World

predictive analytics world An Overview of Predictive Analytics World  As of yesterday, all of the heavyweights in predictive analytics are gathering to talk, learn and make predictions about the future of analytics at the Predictive Analytics World Conference in New York City.

Attendees can pick from three levels of predictive analytics tracks including beginner/everyone, analytics expert and a special emphasis for people interested in financial services applications. The goal of the conference is to showcase the impact that predictive analytics can have on business, according to a conference press release.

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Predictive Analytics Aims for the Data Center

Predictive Analytics Data Center 300x225 Predictive Analytics Aims for the Data CenterSometimes the most natural path forward is the least expected. One example is predictive analytics, a powerful IT-based tool that is finding a new home … right at home, in IT. As reported at InformationWeek, predictive analytics is being applied to data from a network and systems management (NSM) to predict and head off data traffic slowdowns.

Predictive analytics is the branch of data mining that analyzes current and historical facts to make predictions about future events. And such is the mystique of predicting the future that people tend to think about predictive analytics on the grandest scale. Thus a notice for an upcoming conference on predictive analytics talks about the ongoing recession and how predictive analytics might conceivably have foreseen and thus forestalled it.

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Filed under: Predictive Analytics