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A Foundation for Success in the Information Economy

The Briefing Room: Dr. Robin Bloor and Hewlett-Packard

Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 @ 4 ET

Live Webcast — WebEx Code 8520 

Success in today’s information economy rises and falls on the efficiency of data management. Companies that treat their information assets as mission-critical components of the business will find ways to better their competitors. The key is to ensure that the foundation of your information architecture can satisfy the wide range of user demands. Moreover, the ability to scale quickly and efficiently has become paramount. 

Register for this episode of The Briefing Room to hear veteran Analyst Robin Bloor who will explain the benefits of embracing a modern Information Oriented Architecture (IOA). He’ll also tout the purpose of using a flexible SQL engine in this era of NoSQL technologies. He will be briefed by Ajaya Gummadi of Hewlett-Packard, who will show how her company’s NonStop SQL has evolved to become a valuable solution for mission-critical data, mixed workloads and high volume databases.  




Storytelling in the Era of Big Data


From a torrential influx of information, data scientists and innovative designers inspire social change


Big Data can be harnessed for the public good, but storytelling is essential to reach a mass audience and inspire social change. Fortunately, the tools and very forms of storytelling are changing in real time, as data-driven approaches—such as visualizations and interactive maps—transcend traditional narrative, revealing the important truths that can be obscured by the torrential influx of data. To make that information intelligible to a broad audience, dedicated data scientists and designers and developers who share an inventive storytelling vision are equally important.

Both facets were explored at the first Big Data for the Public Good seminar in San Francisco on January 23, 2012. Hosted by Code for America and sponsored byGreenplum, a division of EMC, Big Data for the Public Good is a four-part seminar series focused on how the Big Data explosion can be harnessed to address the great opportunities and pressing challenges of our time. Michal Migurski, the technology head at Stamen, and the design studio’s founder and creative director Eric Rodenbeck, spoke to an audience of change agents about the ways that data can serve the public good.

Data Science: Where it all Begins

Roger Magoulas, Research Director at O’Reilly Media, kicked off the seminar with an examination of the role of Data Scientists. Revealing relevant insights from Big Data requires management, collection and parsing through scraping, feeds and APIs, integration through identification, association, deduplication, and finally, organization. Once these steps are taken, a world of possibilities opens for analysis.

There are many ways to examine the results, including natural language processing, statistical analysis, and the power of collective intelligence manifested in crowdsourcing tools such as Mechanical Turk. But to tell a rich and compelling story from this torrent of information, you need to draw a relation to the big picture and demonstrate how these facts directly effect people’s lives.

Data Visualizations and Change Agents

That’s where innovators, such Stamen, enter the picture. For the past decade, the San Francisco design and technology studio has created stunning data visualizations and interactive projects that redefine storytelling for both commercial profit and the public good. Stamen’s growing roster of collaborators includes news outlets, financial institutions, artists, museums, technology companies, political action committees, and many more.

Michal Migurski opened with an overview of some of Stamen’s most high-profile work, projects that make facts, figures and statistics relevant to a mass audience. One of the studio’s most notable commercial projects is the Live Hurricane Maps it developed with MSNBC, which harnessed real-time weather data and records spanning six decades to reveal live and historical hurricane paths, wind speeds, and forecasted routes through an interactive interface.

In 2007, frustrated with the existing crime mapping applications he considered “a UI crime”, Migurski launched Oakland Crimespotting. Migurski scraped publicly-accessible police data to build an interactive map that allows users to track instances of crime in their neighborhood, police beats, and examine larger trends with time-elapsed visualizations.

At first, Migurski experienced institutional resistance from the Oakland Police Department. But once Stamen established an arrangement with the city, they were given access to the master spreadsheet of crime data, ensuring a reliable and regularly-updated source of information for the service. Five years later, Oakland Crimespotting remains “relevant and stable” and has borne a sister site, San Francisco Crimespotting.

Beyond informing the public, such projects are examples the sort data-driven dialogue between the citizenry and the government that also drives Code for America’s efforts. Migurski identified four best practices for working with government data for the public good. Such efforts must demonstrate the impact by linking to truths shared within the communities served, be stable and reliable, refer to an official version that can be verified and supported (the original police data, in Crimespotting’s case) and remain contextually relevant by offering time-elapsed tools in the user interface.

“Data visualization change agent[s]” contend with a number of challenges, Eric Rodenbeck emphasized during his presentation. For Rodenbeck, providing context is key: Citing Hans Rosling’s TED talk, he stated that “narrative is critical” to setting the scene. Otherwise, you risk miscommunication due to issues of unshared cultural context.

One such example can be found in the initial response to Hindsight, a city growth visualization tool Stamen developed with residential real estate service Trulia. Early users feared that the UI made the cities look like they were targets, similar to those in the ’80s video game Missile Command. After a redesign, Hindsight became a valued resource for tracking housing prices, crime rates and other decades-spanning community trends. The experience revealed to Rodenbeck that “a town has a characteristic inherent in the data.”

Other challenges include identifying what data is relevant to a specific audience, and avoiding bad data inserted into maps by services intent on maintaining a competitive advantage. These fake streets “are the gotchas of online cartography,” Rodenbeck said, noting that accurate information is as important as context.

More than Maps

Stamen’s efforts have stimulated community engagement. A resident of the East Bay neighborhood Rockridge creates a weekly spreadsheet and newsletter from Crimespotting data that he sends to his neighbors to inform them about neighborhood crimes such as car break-ins. But it takes more than utilitarian maps to engage people, Rodenbeck noted. Stamen’s vivid watercolor maps are an example of how the studio is constantly re-imagining ways to communicate through data visualizations.

As a provocation, Rodenbeck closed with the statement that “there’s no such thing as raw data”—it is always scrubbed, filtered, and interpreted. The challenge—and great opportunity—is to analyze and interpret the data in service of the public good, and to communicate these insights to mass audiences in accessible ways that resonate and inspire action.

Bridging the Data Science Gap

Logo Codeforamerica

DataKind connects data scientists with social organizations to maximize their impact.


Data scientists want to contribute to the public good. Social organizations often boast large caches of data but neither the resources nor the skills to glean insights from them. In the worst case scenario, the information becomes data exhaust, lost to neglect, lack of space, or outdated formats. Jake Porway, Data Without Borders founder and The New York Times data scientist, explored how to bridge this gap during the second Big Data for the Public Good seminar, hosted by Code for America and sponsored by Greenplum, a division of EMC.

Code for America founder Jennifer Pahlka opened the seminar with an appeal to the data practitioners in the room to volunteer for social organizations and civic coding projects. She pointed to hackathons such the ones organized during the nationwide event Code Across America as being examples of the emergence of a new kind of “third place”, referencing sociologist Ray Oldenburg’s theory that the health of a civic society depends upon shared public spaces that are neither home nor work. Hackathons, civic action networks like the recently announced Code for America Brigade, and social organizations are all tangible third spaces where data scientists can connect with community while contributing to the public good.

These principles are core to the DataKind mission. “Anytime there’s a process, there’s data,” Porway emphasized to the audience. Yet much of what is generated is lost, particularly in the third world, where a great amount of information goes unrecorded. In some cases, the social organizations that often operate on shoestring budgets may not even appreciate the value of what they’re losing. Meanwhile, many data scientists working in the private sector want to contribute their skills for the social good in their off-time. “On the one hand, we have a group of people who are really good at looking at data, really good at analyzing things, but don’t have a lot of social outputs for it,” Porway said. “On the other hand, we have social organizations that are surrounded by data and are trying to do really good things for the world but don’t have anybody to look at it.”

To facilitate these connections, DataKind connects “expert data scientists with social organizations to maximize their impact” through collaborations with organizations in need, fellowships, and weekend data dives. To emphasize the vast disconnect between social organizations and the field of data science, Porway pointed to work DataKind did with New York Civil Liberties Union to analyze and visualize “stop-and-frisk” incidents recorded by the New York Police Department in 2010 to determine whether there was a trend of racial profiling. Displaying the resulting maps, Porway said to the data scientists in the room, “I know what you’re thinking: it’s just a map. But what’s easy for you guys to do is transformative for social organizations.”

Such collaborations can also bolster the job market for data scientists: Porway noted that as an increasing number of organizations recognize the value of deep data dives, organizations such as United Nations Global Pulse are hiring teams of dedicated researchers.

During his talk and the lively question-and-answer session following, Porway acknowledged the challenges ahead: in some cases, organizations may resist opening their data to outsiders, fearing that some internal information could be used against the them rather than to serve the organization’s mission. Porway stated that such non-profits need to be convinced that the information released will be leveraged to serve the greater good.

He warned that when “data and skills are silo’d from one another”—when organizations and those who can analyze data operate separately—the results often lack focus and discourage civic engagement. Pointing to the Obama Administration’s mandate for government agencies to release open data through Data.gov, Porway said that such data dumps are “like giving crude oil to people…open data is not useable data.” In a case like Data.gov, Porway explained, the issue is that the government agencies often have no idea who would want their data sets and how they could be used. This is a problem that can be addressed by engaging government agencies, social organizations, and data scientists in an ongoing dialogue. “By bridging these communities, you’re starting to make that data useable,” he said.

Looking ahead, Porway expressed a pragmatic but optimistic view of the future. He’s excited by the ever-increasing amount of clean and accessible global data generated by mobile devices, and advancements in sentiment analysis for audio and video. But the most fundamental cultural and civic shift is the network of “transformative communities” emerging from the breakdown of silos separating government data, social organizations, journalists, and data scientists. In Porway’s view, the top-down world of “big silos” is being replaced by “a bottom-up world” where “select groups within those communities are coming together for a common goal and sharing across those boundaries to do more.”

Row vs Columnar vs NoSQL Databases

Source: http://www.rosebt.com/1/post/2012/10/row-vs-columnar-vs-nosql-databases.html

Apache CloudStack Meetup- Hyderabad

Building IaaS clouds with Apache CloudStack

Apache Cloudstack is organizing a meetup on Thurday, 1st November 2012 4:30pm at the Lemon Tree Hotel, Hitec City in Hyderbad. Details can be found at


Lemon Tree Hotel, 
Plot No. 2, Survey No. 64, 
HITEC City, Madhapur
Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh 500081

Thursday, November 1, 2012 from 4:30 PM to 7:00 PM (IST)

If you are interested, please RSVP and also register on eventbrite site mentioned in above link.

For questions about the event, contact the event organizer at kishankavala@yahoo.co.in.