Friday, October 21, 2016

Data visualization: you have to C it to believe it

As a regular big data blogger for several years now, I’ve noticed that in the last couple of years, data visualization has become a major focal point.  The old maxim of “Seeing is believing” is the real driving force behind visualizations of data.  While not all of us relate to spreadsheets, we tend to respond well to graphs, charts, and other visually appealing renderings of those numbers.

As Brian Gentile, Senior VP and General Manager, TIBCO Analytics Product Group, TIBCO Software, wrote here there are business benefits to data visualizations.  They include making it easier to take in information, manipulating, data in various ways, and showing relationships.  On the latter, Gentile observes, thatfinding these correlations among the data has never been more important.”

Indeed, the demand for that kind of instant insight that data visualizations can deliver is what drove Google to build its own data visualization product (currently in beta) called Data Studio. I saw a presentation of the features, including a report on the effectiveness of Olympics ads. It was that particular visualization that made me think of the danger inherent in relying completely on the story presented graphically.

In that analysis of the effects of ads on consumers, the report stresses that it asked people who saw the ads of particular brands what effect it had on their perception of them. Of course, the graphs are what grab your attention and that show that that 34.9% of viewers recall seeing the Coke ad. The graph does not show what the text admits that overall “only about 8% of viewers can recall both the brand and product in a specific advertisement.” So the graph here implies a much more positive effect for ad recall than the overall data actually shows.

 The next bar graph shows you that “Consumers who saw the ads were 18% more positive about the brand and were 16% more likely to find out more or purchase the product in the ad.” These are fairly modest numbers that don’t necessarily promise much bang for sponsor bucks. So this is followed by a third graph with the title “Which ads showed the greatest response?” That shows really impressive numbers ranging from 112%- 142% for the top 3 brands.

A mere glance would make you think that these show amazing results for the marketing efforts. Then when you read a bit, you realize that they merely reflect the increase in search.  In other words, the graph does not show that the McDonald’s commercial resulted in an increase of 42% in sales, merely an increase of that amount in online search that includes the brand. Still, you may say that is a positive metric that could possibly translate into improved sales down the road. But the chain of causation here is missing a few links. 
I got to speak to the Google people about Data Studio and asked if they had even determined if the people who were doing the search were the ones who had seen the ads as was the case for the first two graphical presentations. They had not.  True, it doesn’t say that the graph refers to the people who had seen the ads, but the context would make the viewer think that it does, and not everyone would even think to ask annoying questions like I do.
Ultimately, what makes data visualization so effective at conveying a point is that they don’t require much analysis on the viewer’s end because they’ve already done that kind of thinking for you. That’s both seductive and potentially misleading.

That’s exactly why we have to be careful about not merely accepting the visually expressed story at face value. Any data visualization should be subjected to a triple C test
Read about it here.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Better tracking for better results

A nonprofit adopts a health information technology platform to decrease challenging conduct and restrictive residential living for people with behavioral issues.

Services for the UnderServed (SUS) is a New York City-based nonprofit organization that provides $185 million in services to individuals with disabilities, people living in poverty and those facing homelessness. The organization, which has a staff of close to 2,000, needed a way to track measurable results for people with behavioral issues, so it adopted a health information technology (HIT) platform.
HIT platforms make it much easier for health care organizations to gather and report results of value-based care delivery to governmental organizations and foundations. Proven success rates can also pave the way to get program funding
Read more in 

Health IT Platform Results in Better Patient Care

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Cost effective social media marketing

Reaching one's target market efficiently is one of the most appealing aspects about placing ads on social media. But to keep those ads effective takes a combination of accurate measurements and human creativity working together at a pace that keeps up with the demand for effective reach through new content. That's what ReFuel4, a Facebook 2016 Innovation Spotlight winner in the Creativity Category award, offers marketers.
Vernon Vasu, ReFUEL4's CMO says that two principle underlie the way the platform operates:
  1. The vast amount of data associated with marketing campaigns are best dealt with by machine learning and AI, but
  2. Creativity is still the province of humans.
Setting up a way for the two to work together with maximum impact and efficiency is what their Automated Creative Refresh platform is all about.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A smart solution for restoring independence to wouned veterans

Smart homes represent a new level of convenience with the added cool factor of “look what I can do with this technology.” But for people who have limited mobility or prosthetics in place of limbs it can mean reclaiming an independent life. That’s why the Gary Sinise Foundation, created by actor Gary Sinise, launched the RISE program.

Read more in 

Smart Homes Restore Independence for Veterans

Monday, September 19, 2016

Getting the healing power of music to more patients

 When Bob Marley said, "When good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain," he was on to something that researchers are now bringing to light.
In "Music as Medicine," the American Psychological Association named numerous studies that documented the benefits patients derive from music. It promotes healing in a number of ways: It can alleviate anxiety, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, mitigate pain, and even boost the immune system.
Given the obvious benefits to patients—as well as to caregivers and staff ,who also get a lift from hearing the music—Griffin says that hospitals want to be included in the organization's program. However, the organization's growth has been fairly slow due to the manual processes involved in recruiting volunteers and matching up musicians and guide volunteers with the hospitals.
Read more in Software Helps a Nonprofit Bring Music to Patients

Monday, August 29, 2016

Identifying the caterpillars the will become butterflies

Photo by Ariella Brown on
As Wayne Gretzky famously observed, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." What holds for sports also applies to business opportunities. If you don't look into new market areas, you won't disocver new areas for expansion. But how to do so intelligently? That's where predictive analytics comes into play.

Whereas almost all large companies are already using predictive analytics in some form, not all have tapped into the power of anticipatory analytics, which can identify changes in companies before they happen. Recent developments in the anticipatory analytics space fuel a business solution Dun & Bradstreet refers to as "material change"—the ability to identify "the caterpillars that will turn into butterflies," Nipa Basu, chief analytics officer at Dun & Bradstreet explains.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Location, location, location with a dash of analytics

"Location, location, location.” That’s the mantra of the real estate profession. It sounds simple enough, but the question is what is one looking for to identify a desirable location? Now data analytics can provide a clear answer for at least one type of market: those who seek homes within commuting distance of jobs that provide a living wage.

Opportunity Score is a data-driven tool built by the real estate company Redfin in partnership with the White House Opportunity Project. It identifies which residential areas offer affordable housing and are within a 30 minute carless commute of jobs that pay at least $40K a year.
In its blog, Redfin explained what went into powering Opportunity Score....
Considering a move, or just curious about how your own city ranks? You can plug it in to get the score. Just don’t expect to find a perfect 100. As Redfin explains, a city can start out with the 100 because of the number of jobs that meet the criteria, but then be knocked down due to the home prices. There’s also quite a difference between scores for cities in general and addresses in particular.
The highest score it assigned to a city is a 70, and that went to San Jose where 78% of jobs meet the criteria. But that’s not the only thing that counts. The same job percentage was found in Detroit, the city with the lowest score -- just 3%. Individual addresses around Detroit, though can reflect very high scores, with, for example, one address on Harrison Street earning the description “Job Seeker's Paradise” with a score of 94.
Read more in 

If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Up, up, and away the way it's done today,_1937.jpg
When we think of transport for cargo, we tend to picture metal planes, ships or trains. We don’t think of using lighter than air transport, which seemed to go up in flames nearly 80 years ago with the Hindenburg disaster. But this generation is seeing a whole new kind of airship capable of speeds of about 60 miles an hour that can carry cargo to places that might otherwise be unreachable.
The French have been advancing airships in the Flying Whalesa program. Airships are a key component of the “Nouvelle France Industrielle: plans for future transport. As explained here,  the concept behind the plans that were confirmed in April 2015 was to incorporate “nine strategic solutions” aimed at reindustrializing France, including the Disney Park-sounding “Transport of tomorrow.” As part of the national strategy, French airships are not just viewed as a novelty but as a practical solution “for developing a transport sector and other missions that are firmly focused on sustainable development.”
Read more in This Is Not Your Grandfather’s Airship