Thursday, November 12, 2009

San Diego Forum on Analytics -- review

I just got back from the 1/2 day Forum on Analytics in San Diego, and included a keynote by Wayne Peacock (now with Inevit, bur formerly VP of BI at Netflix), who spoke on how pervasive analytics was and is at Netflix, covering areas as diverse as finance, customer service, marketing, network optimization, operations, and product development. It was particularly interesting to me that as of 2006, their data warehouse was not in place, but instead the had a "data landfill" (term of the day for me!). The other quote from his talk that I found provocative was related to their web site, "If the web site doesn't go down once a year, we aren't pushing hard enough." However, this is changing somewhat because of their online content delivery, where websites going down have a much bigger downside!

The rest of the morning contained 3 panel discussions, which was interesting in of itself to see what topics were considered most important: Mining Biodata, Web 3.0, and Job Opportunities in Analytics.

During the Biodata panel, Nancy Miller Latimer of Accelrys, Inc. mentioned in passing a software tool that ehy have developed to do essential visual programming of biodata; it looks like the typical Clementine/Enterprise Miner/Tibco Spotfire Miner/Polyanalyst (and in so many other tools, including Statistica and Weka) interface for doing data prep, but their tool is specific for biodata, including loading technical papers, chemical structure data, etc. I've been fascinated for years by the relatively parallel paths taken by the bioinformatics/cheminformatics world and the data mining world: very similar ideas, but very different toolsets because of the very different characteristics of the data. Much was said about the future of sequencing of the human genome: 2 humans in 2007, 6+ in 2008, perhaps 150 in 2009 and growing exponentially (faster than Moore's law). There was talk of the $1000 human sequence soon.

The Web 3.0 panel included 2 folks from Intuit touting a facebook campaign done to grow use of Turbotax virally. Interesting stuff, but I'm still dubious of the effect of social networking on all but the under 30 crowd. I think I'll finally begin to tweet, but only out of curiosity, not because I expect anything of business value from it. Is it inevitable that Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube will become mainstream ways to develop business? For me? I don't see how for me yet.

Lastly, on the analytics jobs in San Diego...there are over 100 analytics companies in San Diego (most of them undoubtedly small or micro, like me), and there was an evangelistic cry for San Diego to become an analytics cluster in the U.S. I think this is actually possible, and has been the case to some degree for some time now. I had forgotten about the Keylime (a San Diego web company) being purchased by Yahoo, and Websidestory being purchased by Omniture. Of course Fair Isaacs and HNC were discussed as well. Time will tell, and right now, things are tough all around, though Kanani Masterson of TriStaff Group said there were currently 225 analytics / web analytics job openings, so things aren't completely dead.

All in all, it was a lot to pack into a morning.

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