Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Trailing the Tiger Trade


You can learn how stealth cameras work in the tiger exhibit at the Bronx Zoo. In at least one case, the picture recorded by the stealth cam   sealed the conviction for tiger poachers in Thailand last year.  Just like fingerprints, the patterns of tiger stripes are individually distinctive.  Consequently, the poacher’s picture proved that they did break the law. Thanks to the laws and enforcement that EIA works for, one was sentenced to four years and another to five, the longest such sentence yet for this sort of crime.  Read more about the efforts to save big cats with big data in

Trailing the Tiger Trade With Big Data

A cell phone image of one of the poachers posing with the dead tiger that led to their conviction. Photo courtesy of the WCS Thailand Program.

.The tiger from the cell phone images was identified as the same tiger captured by a camera trap image by WCS the year before, adding to the evidence against the poachers.

A cell p

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Writer's homework

When I read articles by people who didn't bother to investigate the subject properly, I really wonder, why are they getting paid for this? I just read a Guardian piece on the advantages and drawbacks of  massive open online course AKA MOOCs.  Iit includes an assertion that the courses only can be given for subjects that involve multiple choice tests: 
Moocs are limited to subjects that can be assessed with multiple choice exams, marked automatically.Written any essays in your degree? Your professor's critique of them can't be replicated by a mooc – yet.
First of all, MOOCs like Coursera have come up with a way around that, as I explained in a blog posted last year:
Another innovative aspect to Coursera is the way it assesses student work in courses that are not limited to technology or mathematics.
As founder Ng observes, "Multiple choice doesn't really work for a poetry class." Also, with thousands enrolled in a single class, instructors would find it impossible to personalize responses to student work.
Coursera's solution to that problem is the introduction of "a system for peer grading, in which students will be trained to evaluate each other's work based on a grading rubric provided by the professor." This is not all that different from peer reviews encouraged in writers' groups, which some teachers employ in their own classroom, though the Coursera system is designed to ascertain that the students comprehend the instructor's standards before being allowed to grade another's work.

 Second of all, there are already some systems to automate grading for written work as I explained here:

For example, Pearson’s Write to Learn is designed to offer instant feedback and personalized direction on student writing. The software can be accessed at computers in the school or through an Internet connection remotely. Teachers using the software are happy to have much of the grunt work associated with guiding students through revision and editing lifted from their shoulders.  The automated critique also reduces personal confrontations. As one teacher featured in a Write to Learn case study says, there's no "evil professor" who delights in finding fault in student work.
Educational Testing Service's e-rater is another automated assessment tool. It can score 16,000 essays in 20 seconds, a breathtaking rate of productivity when compared to the one to two minutes per essay typically allotted to human scorers.
Students responded positively when the New Jersey Institute of Technology introduced e-raters. An assistant professor there, Andrew Klobucar, observes that whereas students see drafting and revising multiple times as "corrective, even punitive," when assigned by evil professors, they do not have the same negative view when doing it for an e-rater.

I do wish writers would do their own homework when offering an opinion on the current state of educational technology.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Big Bow-Wow & a Bit of Ivory

Sir Walter Scott contrasted his style of writing with that of Jane Austen: "The big Bow-Wow strain I can do myself like any now going; but the exquisite touch which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting from the truth of the description and the sentiment is denied to me". While he characterized his work as large, Jane Austen called her own small, a "little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush."

The two are married together, so to speak, by Mathew Jockers, who declares them the literary equivalent of Homo erectus, or, if you prefer, Adam and Eve,"

Read more about the humanities going Google, as one article put it in my Big Data Republic blog, The Big Bow-Wow & a Bit of Ivory

DNA data storage

The latest developments in data storage turn to biology. DNA sequencing, not only allows for big data to be stored for thousands of years, but allows for a more compact encoding system based on the 4 letters in the DNA bases rather than than binary zeros and ones that have been used until now. Still, the cost makes it prohibitive for now, and the fact that the sequencing make the data impossible to update within DNA make it not quite the same as a flash drive.  Read about it in  Big Data: Tiny Storage

Friday, February 1, 2013

Smartphone signals for retail analytics


Shopping online offers customers convenience and price transparency, but it offers retailers even more. As Amazon has demonstrated in its successful model, the information it derives from its customer behavior online gives it insight that it uses to tailor its marketing to the individual. As your online browsing tracks, not only what you buy, but what you considered buying, the retailer gets to learn a lot more about you than the person who rings up your purchase at a store. How can a bricks-and-mortar establishment compete with that kind of analytic edge?

Post-Sandy Street Views

One thing about big data: it is not static. As there is always changes in a situation, what reflected reality one day can be out of date the next. That is especially true when a hurricane of the likes of Sandy sweeps through and alters the landscape and the structures built on it. 

But not everyone is pleased about updates that include images of their hurricane-ravaged homes. Read more at New Maps After Sandy