Ronny Kohavi (Microsoft) started out by telling a famous true story about Greg Linden’s experience moving a recommender to the shopping cart at Amazon. A Senior VP of Marketing vetoed Greg’s proposal fearing that it would distract customers from checking out and paying for the items already in their shopping basket reducing conversion. This is where the “HiPPO” in the title of Ronny’s presentation comes from. It stands for the “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion” and sometimes for the person (e.g., the VP) holding the opinion. The Amazon story had a happy ending because Jeff Bezos had established a corporate culture that allowed for experiments to be run so Greg was able to run an experiment to test the hypothesis of the HiPPO. It turned out that conversions did indeed drop but the increased revenue due to customers purchasing recommended items was substantially greater than the loss.
Peter Norvig focused on a major lesson learned at Google and elsewhere in recent years and gave a fascinating keynote presentation on “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data” at the SDForum conference on “The Analytics Revolution” April 9th, 2010. The lesson is that data can be surprisingly effective: it can be used to get better performance improvements than one can get from improvements in algorithms.
Jaap Suermondt (HP Labs) talked about how his lab uses analytics to support operations at HP. Jaap started with an example of procurement of disk drives. HP ships two PCs per second and buys more disk drives than anyone else so they have to have accurate estimates of demand. This is roughly equivalent to predicting how the economy and stock market will do. But by combining genetic algorithms and economic and statistical models, HP was able to predict that the economy would improve and demand would improve by five percentage points more than others predicted. This was the subject of a Business Week article and video in 2009 that talked about how earlier genetic algorithms work was revived and applied to this problem.
Jeffrey Kreulen emphasized the question “What is the business problem that you have to solve?” and noted that IBM likes to hire “T-shaped people,” with breadth and depth and also with experience in business as well as technology. Kreulen showed several interesting examples of the work of his group at IBM’s Almaden Research Center. One example involved corporate brand and reputation analysis implemented in a system called COBRA. The system is used by IBM’s global professional services group and parts of it will be included in Cognos. The system uses sentiment analysis and taxonomies and text analytics plus influence analysis to listen to how people are talking about brands.
Sanjay Poonen gave a presentation on how SAP is “Leading the Analytics Revolution” at the first SDForum conference on analytics: “The Analytics Revolution” on 4/9/2010. Sanjay claimed that although SAP is a large corporation, like Gerstner’s IBM, ”the elephant can dance.” SAP is a leader and the largest vendor in the analytics space and considered by Garner to be the most visionary. Their approach is to focus on helping businesses solve their business problems rather than focusing on technology. (continue reading…)
The “New Frontiers” panel at the SDForum Conference on Analytics on 4/9/2010 was moderated by Brett Sheppard (BigDataNews.com). The panelists included Jie Cheng (Acxiom), Vispi Daver (Sierra Ventures), Peter Farago (Flurry), Tom McLaughlin (Accept Software), and Jeff Minich (Calm Sea).
The “Investor Perspective” panel at the first SDForum conference on Analytics “The Analytics Revolution” on 4/9/2010 was moderated by Harold Yu (Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP). The panelists included Stacey Curry Bishop (Scale Ventures), Asheem Chandra (Greylock), Kevin Efrusy (Accel), Sumeet Jain (CMEA), and Lars Leckie (Hummer Winblad). The venture capital firms represented by the panelists have funded a number of analytics related companies including the web analytics firm Omniture and the infrastructure companies Cloudera and Northscale. Karmasphere, a company providing software for Hadoop, announced their funding by Hummer Winblad at the conference.
Damon Horowitz gave a casual, informal, “a cappella” presentation (sans slides) at the SDForum Search SIG’s monthly meeting on March 30th, 2010. He talked about Social Search and Aardvark, the company he cofounded that Google purchased for $50M last month. Now Dr. Horowitz’s title is “In House Philosopher” (and/or Director of Engineering) at Google.
David Newman, a Strategic Planning Manager at Wells Fargo Bank, gave a presentation on applications of “semantic technology” for financial services at a Meetup in San Francisco on January 14th, 2010. His presentation contradicted the stereotypes of financial institutions in general and of Wells Fargo in particular as being cautious, behind the times, and slow to adopt advanced information technology.
At the SF Freebase Meetup on January 13th, 2010, Jamie Taylor briefly described WordNet, the lexical database of words developed by George Miller and colleagues at Princeton. Jamie recently put WordNet 3.0 into Freebase, an open symantic database created by Metaweb Technologies. The aim of the Freebase project is to enlist a global community and to include much of the world’s knowledge in a relatively coherent and well-structured form in a huge database that everyone can access. The inclusion of WordNet is a powerful addition to the substantial body of information already in Freebase.