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Trends and Outliers

TIBCO Spotfire's Business Intelligence Blog

Monthly Archives: December 2011


How BI and Data Analytics Pros Used Twitter in December

Analytics and BI on Twitter How BI and Data Analytics Pros Used Twitter in DecemberIt’s time for our last blast Twitter recap for BI and data analytics pros for 2011. This month we are featuring a new Twitter account looking for data geek love, a fast-track to data scientist stardom, a few trends, a little wisdom and a little data oops to round out 2011. Let’s start with our awards.

Best Twitter Handle(s)

We have a tie for this award this month. @lifeisdata wins best Twitter handle (maybe of the year), but we do have an honorable mention. See why below. But first things first, doesn’t a Twitter account focused on the consumerization of data and how it’s improving the quality of life and human services around the world just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? This account needs followers and your tweets so long as they are worthy of the #lifeisdata hashtag according to their profile. We also loved their very first Tweet: “Top 10 Cities Using Data to Improve the Quality of Life - #LifeisData #analytics #datamining #Boston #London.”

While our honorable mention’s Twitter handle is simple (@dpatil), it’s his name and his job that are cool. Plus, he shared some cool info on how to become a data scientist in about 15 months. DJ Patil, the data scientist in residence at Greylock Partners (a venture capital firm behind companies such as LinkedIn, Pandora and Facebook) tweeted that it’s going to be easier to become a data scientist with the new master’s program in analytics starting at Northwestern University in September.

He’s been featured on our roundup before, but Ben Lorica (@bigdata), a senior researcher at O’Reilly Media, was worthy of a mention on our roundup this month for this Tweet: “Medicare Fraud is a huge problem, which can be solved/controlled by data analytics (ask financial services companies)” Plus, big data seems to be the trend du jour, so this is a must follow for everyone interested in the explosion of data.

Social BI Expectations for 2012

Dion Hinchcliffe, executive VP of strategy at Danchis Group and author of the upcoming book Social Business by Design, made some compelling points related to social business intelligence in his post on social business trends for 2012. He says that “getting to ROI means getting to the information that matters inside time windows that matter to make business decisions and guide strategic activity.” And he says to “expect capable analytics and business intelligence features to be added as central elements to virtually all social media tools.”

The Business Comes First in BI

The #BI Wisdom Twitter chat for the week of December 23 featured a couple of gems from real data analytics pros on how the actual business knowledge affects BI.

Our wise words start with Vala Afshar, chief customer officer for Enterasys Networks, a Siemens enterprise communications company: “Experience is the best teacher. Vertical specialization requires acquiring thought leadership from the field: customer engagements #BIWisdom.”

And more #BIWisdom comes from Gregory Lewandowki, manager of BI systems at Cisco with his little quip: “#BIWisdom experience in the biz is critical to understanding…remember…ice cream sales are not a predictor of weather.”

Data … Oops

Let’s round out our December recap with a Tweet from a previous Spotfire blog Twitter award winner – Karen Lopez, an independent analytics consultant with “Five Common Statistical Analysis Mistakes: < #data #oops.”

As always, here’s your list of top people and organizations to follow for the end of 2011:


Amanda Brandon
Spotfire Blogging Team

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Top 10 Business Intelligence Posts of 2011 from Spotfire’s Blog

top 10 spotfire blog posts of 2011 300x141 Top 10 Business Intelligence Posts of 2011 from Spotfires BlogOn the Trends and Outliers blog, we’re into recaps of all the latest news, trends and research around BI and data analytics. We even bring you a recap of what’s happened in this space on Twitter each month. Today, we’re bringing you a recap of the top 10 posts from the Spotfire blog in 2011. Let’s rewind as this year winds down.

Number 10 – In-Memory Analytics and the Future of Business From Booz & Co.

In this post, we discussed several resources that support the importance of in-memory analytics. The key takeaway is “better business intelligence, at a lower cost, delivered in real-time to in-office and remote site workers is a powerful change in doing our daily work.”

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Top 2012 Resolution for Insurance Industry: Leverage Customer Data and Analytics

insurance industry analytics new year resolution 300x214 Top 2012 Resolution for Insurance Industry: Leverage Customer Data and AnalyticsAlthough insurance companies understand the importance of leveraging customer data and analytics to retain customers, maintain competitiveness and sustain growth, many seem to be playing catch-up on this front. Although more than 9 out of 10 major insurance companies recognize that future growth depends on providing customers with exceptional experiences, most insurers don’t see themselves as currently providing customers with differentiated products or support, according to a global survey of 119 major insurers conducted by Accenture.

According to the survey, insurers realize that they need to spend more money investing in analytics so they can better understand and anticipate the needs of their customers. That’s because having access to new sources of data, for instance from social media, as well as improvements in data consistency, allow for much richer insights and help insurers answer questions such as “how will my customer behave, what are his or her interests, and what will happen?”

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Top BI Technology Trends in 2012

Top BI Technology Trends 2012 Top BI Technology Trends in 2012 According to Information Week’s 2012 Business Intelligence, Analytics, and Information Management Survey, if there’s one dominant trend in BI and information management, “it’s the meteoric rise of analytics, particularly advanced statistical and predictive analytics.” For the third consecutive year, “survey respondents rate advanced analytics as the most compelling among a dozen leading-edge technologies.”

The report speculates that the high-priority status of analytics is closely related to the rising interest in big data as a tool for mitigating risk, predicting customer behavior, and developing new product or service offerings. So it’s not surprising that “advanced data visualization capabilities” (e.g., sparklines and heat maps) and “embedded BI” closely followed “advanced analytics” in the survey ranking. After all – easy access and effective delivery are key factors for getting the most out of analytics.

Trends and Outliers follows these top topics regularly – so if you want to catch up quickly, get a recap, or spark some new ideas, try these recent posts:

Risk and Decision Making Put Predictive Analytics Front and Center

How Does Predictive Analytics Work?

Executive Analytics:  The Path to Success

The ABCs of Enterprise Analytics

How to Speak Like a Data Scientist

The Power of Data Visualization in Four Minutes

There’s also an informative webcast on predictive analytics with Spotfire. (And if you want to stay on top of these top topics, subscribe to our blog!)

Two other interesting trends from the Information Week report:

“This year’s survey shows that resistance is ebbing and IT professionals are giving cloud-based BI, analysis and information management serious consideration.”

A new category added to the Information Week survey this year made a solid entrance: “analysis of big data, particularly unstructured/nonrelational data” debuted in a number three slot, garnering the same level of respondent enthusiasm as “collaborative BI.”

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The Data Analytics of Santa Claus

As Santa prepares for his big night, we thought it would be interesting to dig into the data analytics of the chief elf. Here’s a glimpse at how he determines who gets presents or coal, an inside look at whether Santa is paying his fair share and a couple of resources for tracking Santa’s flight around the world on Christmas Eve.

Santa Has a Tech-Staffing Problem

Dear old St. Nick has a complex process for deciding who’s been naughty or nice, at least according to the Portable North Pole website and mobile app (available on iPhone, iPad and Android.

You start the process by filling in the details about a nice or naughty child or adult and Santa will build a custom video revealing what sort of year he or she had and reveal the results of his or her profile through the “elf-built nice or naughty machine.”

The video (or data visualization for all you data geeks)  is very well done with a geolocation of the subject’s hometown and the present he or she wants the most. The naughty or nice machine resembles the data processors of yesteryear, but we can’t blame Santa as his elves have left for tech jobs over the North Sea as detailed in Office Max’s holiday radio ad campaign.

You can see the Portable North Pole demo below. And don’t forget to check out the Facebook app that allows grown-ups to score their friends on their behaviors this year.


Is Santa Really in the 1%?

SantaIndex2011 The Data Analytics of Santa Claus

If you’ve ever wondered how much money Santa Claus earns each year, his annual salary doesn’t fall into the 1% of people who earn the most money.

The good folks at dug up this data and charted the job description’s average hourly rate, the average number of hours and days worked per year to give Santa a salary of $132,942.’s net worth calculator was involved in this calculation. You’d think the guy would earn some royalties off all his merchandise and movie deals. He could be hiding those in Swiss bank accounts or giving them all to charity. Sadly, Santa’s financial statements are not public information, as he’s not technically a United States citizen or even considered a resident alien.

The estimated $132,500 he makes in a year was calculated based on a number of job descriptions and their average hourly rates as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Interestingly, the bulk of Santa’s duties fall under the job title “manufacturing executive” and his other duties as assigned include personal shopping, gift wrapping, labor sourcing and even private investigation.

However, the case was made back in 1993 by accountant Bill Leary and “has yet to be resolved 17 years later,” according to this blog post from MFR Accountants and Consultants in Houston. Some of the highlights of the IRS case against the jolly old elf include:

  • The North Pole has no income tax treaties to mitigate U.S. taxes.
  • Santa’s public appearances around the holidays may require that he register as a resident alien for tax purposes.
  • Mrs. Claus would probably not qualify for the “innocent spouse defense” as she is “an integral part of his Christmas thing and knows everything.”
Plotting Santa’s Christmas Eve Dash
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) utilizes a convergence of four super technologies to track Santa’s one-night trek around the world. They depend on radar, satellites, Santa cams and fighter jets who actually follow Rudolph and his reindeer crew to feed information into Google Maps and Google Earth. Today, kids of all ages can follow Santa on his magical voyage via computer or mobile device. Learn more about the NORAD Tracks Santa project here.
We hope you enjoyed this insight into the data analytics of Santa Claus. Happy holidays to you and yours!

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Last-Minute Holiday Shoppers Rejoice – Online Gift Finders Can Help

Spotfire Holiday Gift Finder 300x256 Last Minute Holiday Shoppers Rejoice – Online Gift Finders Can HelpIf you have a list and you’re still checking it twice – take heart, you’re not alone and there are online services and tools that can help.

Did you know that 41% of shoppers plan to shop for holiday gifts between December 21 and 24? A number of consumers (43%) say they think they can get the best deals in the days leading up to Christmas and Hanukkah. And data from the survey indicates that 26% of last-minute shoppers admit to procrastinating, 22% believe it’s fun to shop at the last minute, and 10% are waiting for a year-end work bonus to begin shopping.

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The Pros and Cons of Collaborative Data Modeling

collaboration data modeling 300x225 The Pros and Cons of Collaborative Data ModelingIn the field of analytics – as in life – there are often multiple ways to come up with a solution to a problem. Since the types of business problems companies attempt to solve in today’s fast-paced and increasingly complex business environment are often multi-layered and difficult to crack, brainstorming can frequently deliver the best set of options for tackling even the most vexing issues.

Just as shrewd business leaders have come to rely on the collective intelligence and experience of their top lieutenants for effective decision making, so too are enterprise analytics teams increasingly relying upon collaborative approaches to problem solving.

In its Gartner Predicts 2012 research reports, the research firm says organizations will increasingly include the vast amounts of data from social networking sites in their decision-making processes. However, Gartner also says that over half of the investments made by companies in analytics tools will be wasted, because of cultural immaturity, a lack of required skills and inappropriate training levels.

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Facebook Analyzes Big Data, Concludes World is Smaller

big data six degrees facebook 300x225 Facebook Analyzes Big Data, Concludes World is SmallerI’m sure you’ve heard of the “six degrees of separation” theory, which refers to the idea that it takes just six steps to connect any two people on earth.

For example: Person 1 has coffee with Person 2, who once worked with Person 3, who dated Person 4, who went to school with Person 5, who is Person 6’s mother, who used to babysit Person 1. (I think that works out.)

Pretty cool, right?

Well, now Facebook’s data analysis team contends that on the social networking site the average user is only 4.74 degrees away from any other Facebook user. “Thus, when considering even the most distant Facebook user in the Siberian tundra or the Peruvian rainforest, a friend of your friend probably knows a friend of their friend,” Facebook’s data team wrote in a blog post about its research.

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How the Consumerization of Data Leads to Quality of Life Improvements

consumerizaton of data and quality of life improvements 213x300 How the Consumerization of Data Leads to Quality of Life ImprovementsAs data and analytics tools become more prevalent and easier for people of all walks of life to access, this consumerization of data is opening up a glut of opportunities for quality of life improvements in different corners of the world.

For example, some Beijing residents have begun using small handheld devices that resemble old transistor radios to record pollution levels in and around the smog-shrouded city. Activist residents then post the information about the city’s air quality online—information that the Chinese government doesn’t readily share with inhabitants who are increasingly demanding to know just how polluted their city is.

Opportunities for people to share information for humanitarian purposes have also emerged. Ushahidi (@Ushahidi) is an open source platform that allows people to easily gather and share information about disasters or emergency situations, including reports about human trafficking and violence against women. Ushahidi, a Swahili word meaning “testimony” or “witness,” enabled Kenyans to keep current on information regarding post-election violence that broke out in 2008.

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Filed under: Consumerizaton of Data


The Top Challenges with Sentiment Analysis

Sentiment Analysis 300x199 The Top Challenges with Sentiment AnalysisDid you know that there are more than 200 tools and platforms that can help you track and assess how many times your business or brand has been mentioned in social media channels?

And many of these listening platforms do more than just the basic monitoring. In fact, they now offer integrated approaches to get the right information to the right parts of your business: product development; customer support; public outreach; lead generation; market research; and campaign measurement.

It’s a big responsibility and commitment to listen to your customers. That’s why businesses are making it a priority to enhance their social monitoring efforts and sentiment analytics to pick up and decipher what their customers are saying about them.

Analytics strategist, Seth Grimes (@SethGrimes) says sentiment analysis lets marketers et al., “get at root causes, at explanations of behaviors that are captured in transaction and tracking records.” Sentiment analysis lets you better target your marketing, detect opportunities and threats faster, protect the reputation of your brand, and most importantly, turn a profit.

Still, it’s important for data scientists to use caution when accepting customer statements at face value since context has such a great bearing on meaning. Analyzing natural language is difficult enough. Sarcasm or other forms of derisive language are extremely problematic for technologies to interpret.

For instance, let’s say Karen learns from a Facebook friend that an electronics company has just started charging customers a support fee for a popular product that had historically been free. Karen posts the following response on Facebook: “Oh, that’s just great.”

Taken literally, or by narrowing the analysis to positive or negative words that are made about the electronics company in social media, Karen’s statement would be interpreted to mean that she’s pleased by the change in the support policy. But more than likely, she’s simply being sarcastic.

In many cases, analytics teams are evaluating larger samples of customer statements to help spot potential product issues or indicators that could signal customer churn.

They also do this to help identify possible trends within different customer segments. It’s not cost effective nor efficient for data scientists to analyze the sentiments of individual customers, with the possible exception of companies that market a limit number of high-end products such as luxury shoes.

This also brings up the issue of scale. One of the biggest issues with analyzing tweets made on Twitter, based on research of the service, is that only about 60% of the people who use the service are actually tweeting. Forty percent of Twitter users don’t tweet or haven’t tweeted in 30 days. That means that more than one-third of the people on Twitter are simply observers.

Taking this a step further, let’s say an automotive maker uses Twitter to analyze comments that are made about its competitors. Taken on its own, such an analysis will capture the opinions of a subset of Twitter users. But it’s not necessarily a fair representation of the universe of Twitter users.

Sentiment analysis tools continue to evolve and will continue to improve over time. In the end, organizations that augment sentiment analysis with analysts who are able to interpret context in comments and take comprehensive approaches to sentiment analysis are those that are likely to benefit most.

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