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IBM IOD Day 2 Opening Keynote: Transformation in the Era of Big Data and Analytics


Today’s morning keynote kicked off with Steve Mills talking about big data – “as if data weren’t big before”, he joked – and highlighted that the real challenge is not necessarily the volume of data, but what we need to do in order to make use of that data. A huge application for this is customer service and sentiment analysis: figuring out what your customers are saying to you (and about you), and using that to figure out how to deliver better service. Another significant application area is that of the smarter planet: sensing and responding to events triggered by instrumentation and physical devices. He discussed a number of customer examples, pointing out that no two situations are the same and that a variety of technologies are required, but there are reusable patterns across industries.

Doug Hunt was up next to talk about content analytics – another type of big data – and the impact on transforming business processes. He introduced Randy Sumrall, CIO of Education Service Center Region 10 (State of Texas), to talk about the impact of technology on education and the “no child left behind” policy. New technology can be overwhelming for teachers, who are often required to select what technologies are to be used without sufficient information or skills to do so; there needs to be better ways to empower the educator directly rather than just having information available at the administrative level. For example, they’ve developed an “early dropout warning” tool to be used by teachers, analyzing a variety of factors in order to alert the teachers about students who are at risk of dropping out of school. The idea is to create tools for completely customized learning for each student, covering assessment, design and delivery; this is more classical BI than big data. Some interesting solutions, but as some people pointed out on the Twitter stream, there’s a whole political and cultural element to education as well. Just as some doctors will resist diagnostic assistance from analytics, so too will some teachers resist student assessments based on analytics rather than their own judgment.

Next was Frank Kern to talk about organizations’ urgency to transform their businesses, for competitive differentiation but also for basic survival in today’s fast-moving, social, data-driven world. According to a recent MIT Sloan study, 60% of organizations are differentiating based on analytics, and outperform their competitors by 220%. It’s all about speed, risk and customers; much of the success is based on making decisions and taking actions in an automated fashion, based on the right analysis of the right data.

Some of IBM’s future of big data analytics is Watson, and Manoj Saxena presented on how Watson is being applied to healthcare – being demonstrated at IOD – as well as future applications in financial services and other industries. In healthcare, consider that medical information is doubling every five years, and about 20% of diagnoses in the US have some sort of preventable error. Using Watson as a diagnostic tool puts all healthcare information into the mix, not just what your doctor has learned (and remembers). Watson understands human speech, including puns, metaphors and other colloquial speech; it generates hypotheses based on the information that it absorbs; then it understands and learns from how the system is used. A medical diagnosis, then, can include information about symptoms and diseases, patient healthcare and treatment history, family healthcare history, and even patient lifestyle and travel choices to detect those nasty tropical bugs that your North American doctor is unlikely to know about. Watson’s not going to replace your doctor, but provide decision support during diagnosis and treatment.

When another scholar worries that if one begins with data, one can “go anywhere,” Ramsay makes it clear that going anywhere is exactly what he wants to encourage. The critical acts he values are not directed at achieving closure by arriving at a meaning; they are, he says, “ludic” and they are “distinguished … by a refusal to declare meaning in any form.” The right question to propose “is not ‘What does the text mean?’ but, rather, ‘How do we ensure that it keeps on meaning’ — how … can we ensure that our engagement with the text is deep, multifaceted, and prolonged?” (“Toward an Algorithmic Criticism,” in Literary and Linguistic Computing, vol. 18, No. 2, 2003)
The Digital Humanities and Interpretation -, via Tom A. (via new-aesthetic)
I feel confident that sooner rather than later, the American people will come to see [Obama’s] first term from the same calm, sane perspective. And decide to finish what they started.

Andrew Sullivan’s latest, a couple paragraphs after he calls liberals “deluded.”  

Yet I remain less interested in us finishing what we started, and more interested in Obama beginning what he has yet to start. Or better, still less interested. From the Nation, two years ago: 

Yet a year into the presidency of Barack Obama, it is already clear that this administration is an opportunity missed. Not because it is too conservative. Not because it is too liberal. But because it is too conventional. Obama has given up the rhetoric of his early campaign—a campaign that promised to “challenge the broken system in Washington” and to “fundamentally change the way Washington works.” Indeed, “fundamental change” is no longer even a hint.

Any liberal (or sane moderate for that matter) would be crazy to say that we’re not better off today than we would have been had Obama not been elected. Of course we are. But that fact doesn’t negate the (still ignored by Sullivan et al.) criticism of the President: That he baited us with the reform rhetoric, and then switched to the administration promised by H. Clinton. 

(via lessig)


“Great, now he’s going to turn back into Angelus. Nice going.”

Couples who didn’t kill their show - Temperance Brennan (Bones) and Booth.

“It’s a shipper’s dream, but at the same time it isn’t dreamily ever after…They haven’t let the relationship redefine the show, which is why it’s working. It’s still Bones at the end of the day, and that makes all the difference.”

(via @David_Boreanaz)

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