Sunday, July 26, 2009

Twittering Foodies

Given these difficult economic times, the latest trend in San Francisco dining is the unresturant, according to San Francisco Magazine. That is a posh way of describing eating from a food cart or truck. For example: Spenser-On-The-Go serves Caper Braised Skate Cheeks or Frogs Legs and Curry from a converted Taco truck; Boccalone serves exquisite pulled pork sandwiches from a bicycle; the Creme Brulee Cart and Magic Curry Kart are just street carts.

As the vendors come and go and many of them are not properly licensed, the only way to find out where they are going to be serving is to follow them on Twitter. At last! a purpose for Twitter, if you are a committed foodie. As I have not quite gotten to the Escargot Puffs level yet, I have not yet joined Twitter, although I can see a glimmer of hope. On the other hand David Letterman is still firmly in the camp that twitter is a colossal waste of time as this hilarious segment with Kevin Spacey shows.

LinkedIn's Data

LinkedIn has an extraordinary data resource. They have more than 40 million members and a complete job history of each member, in some cases going back 30 or 40 years. DJ Patil, Chief Scientist and Senior Director of Product Analytics at LinkedIn showed us some examples of their data when he spoke to a packed meeting of the SDForum Business Intelligence SIG on "The Analytics Behind LinkedIn" last week. Paul O'Rorke has written an excellent account of the meeting and here I am just adding my impression to that record.

DJ believes in the growing importance of the "data analyst" as a profession. He backed up that belief with some hard data when he shows us the growing importance of the job title over the last 35 years. Up to the mid 90's the appearance of that job title as a percentage of all job titles was flat, but since then it has been growing at a steady pace. As an aside, DJ told us that they use the Amazon Mechanical Turk service to do data cleansing of things like job titles. This is the first time I have heard of the service being used for this purpose.

We were shown other interesting examples of LinkedIn analytics including the change in the top five job titles over the Dot Com bust and an excellent display of the volume of cross country links between LinkedIn members. The big problem with this data is that we cannot have access to it because it is private to LinkedIn and they will keep it private to protect the privacy of their members.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Graphs That Suck

Many years ago in the early days of the web, I learned about web site design by reading "Web Pages That Suck: Learn Good Design by Looking at Bad Design". It is a delightfully easy beginner level crawl through web site design, filled with examples ranging from excellent to awful with a capital 'A'. I would recommend the book today except that the examples that make up the bulk of the book are way out of date.

For Business Intelligence the equivalent would be a book called something like "Graphs that Suck", and Stephen Few's Perceptual Edge blog is a good place to find examples of this genre. Recently they posted a spectacularly bad example, a pie chart put out by Business Objects to promote a user conference. I will not repeat the critique, however I will say that if this is an example of what Business Objects thinks their software should be used for, I would be leery of using it!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Musician Uses Twitter to Her Advantage, Shock Horror Probe

Technology is turning the music business upside down, like any other media business. Some people embrace the change and some people decry it. When I read a post like this one about using Twitter to make money, I always read the comments. Whether the post is at the Berklee School of Music or TechCrunch, the range of responses is wide and consistent. Some commenters accept the new world and cheer it on, while others complain bitterly. Typical complaints range from: "I cannot do that because I do not have any fans" through "people should respect copyright and give me the money I am due" to "the record company put you there so you should give it all back to them".

The most ridiculous response is the complaint that a musician who spends time developing their fan base is wasting time that could be better spend on creative activities. The point of the Amanda Palmer post is that if you are properly organized, it does not take a lot of time or effort to keep in contact with your fans, particularly when using new instant communication tools like Twitter.

Technology changes. Music is no longer distributed as sheets of paper or by stamping it on 5, 7 or 12 inch pieces of plastic. The business model must change with the times.
The moving finger [of technology change] writes; and having writ,
Moves on: nor all your piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.
HT to Roger for the Berklee post.