Eric McNulty on real-time disaster reponse and leadership beyond control

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: FEMA's Innovation Team and practicing leadership as if it's an Olympic sport.

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O’Reilly’s Jenn Webb chats with Eric McNulty, a consultant, writer, speaker, and catalyst for positive leadership. McNulty talks about real-time disaster response, the connections between disaster response and organizational leadership, and how today’s leaders can achieve order beyond control and influence beyond authority. McNulty will talk more about instituting effective leadership at the Cultivate leadership training at Strata + Hadoop World in San Jose in March.

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Here are a few highlights:

Right after Hurricane Sandy, I was here in New York and New Jersey, and FEMA deployed their first ever Innovation Team, which meant they were trying to innovate in the midst of disaster response. … They were coming together and building mesh networks in some cases. They were crowdsourcing evaluation of photographs. They would get the Civilian Air Patrol to do overviews of the effected areas. They’d upload that and people anywhere in the country could look at it and give it a basic evaluation of severe, moderate, or mild in terms of the damage. They were able to get situational awareness very quickly the way they never would have been able to otherwise. … They were able to innovate in real time in the field and see what worked and what didn’t; the then deputy administrator, who is now a colleague of mine at Harvard, said it fundamentally changed the way FEMA operates.

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Building a business that combines human experts and data science

The O’Reilly Data Show podcast: Eric Colson on algorithms, human computation, and building data science teams.

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In this episode of the O’Reilly Data Show, I spoke with Eric Colson, chief algorithms officer at Stitch Fix, and former VP of data science and engineering at Netflix. We talked about building and deploying mission-critical, human-in-the-loop systems for consumer Internet companies. Knowing that many companies are grappling with incorporating data science, I also asked Colson to share his experiences building, managing, and nurturing, large data science teams at both Netflix and Stitch Fix.

Augmented systems: “Active learning,” “human-in-the-loop,” and “human computation”

We use the term ‘human computation’ at Stitch Fix. We have a team dedicated to human computation. It’s a little bit coarse to say it that way because we do have more than 2,000 stylists, and these are very much human beings that are very passionate about fashion styling. What we can do is, we can abstract their talent into—you can think of it like an API; there’s certain tasks that only a human can do or we’re going to fail if we try this with machines, so we almost have programmatic access to human talent. We are allowed to route certain tasks to them, things that we could never get done with machines. … We have some of our own proprietary software that blends together two resources: machine learning and expert human judgment. The way I talk about it is, we have an algorithm that’s distributed across the resources. It’s a single algorithm, but it does some of the work through machine resources, and other parts of the work get done through humans.

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Four short links: 27 January 2016

Four short links: 27 January 2016

Generative Text, Open Source Agriculture, Becoming Better, and GA Slackbot

  1. Improva javascript library for generative text.
  2. The Food Computer (MIT) — open source controlled-environment agriculture technology platform that uses robotic systems to control and monitor climate, energy, and plant growth inside of a specialized growing chamber. Climate variables such as carbon dioxide, air temperature, humidity, dissolved oxygen, potential hydrogen, electrical conductivity, and root-zone temperature are among the many conditions that can be controlled and monitored within the growing chamber. Operational energy, water, and mineral consumption are monitored (and adjusted) through electrical meters, flow sensors, and controllable chemical dosers throughout the growth period. (via IEEE Spectrum)
  3. 10 Golden Rules for Becoming a Better Programmer — what are your 10 rules for being better in your field? If you haven’t built a list, then you aren’t thinking hard enough about what you do.
  4. Statsbot — Google Analytics bot for Slack from NewRelic.
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Matthew Berggren on making electronics accessible

The O’Reilly Hardware Podcast: Better ways to design electronics.

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In our new episode of the Hardware Podcast, David Cranor and I talk with Matthew Berggren, who at the time the interview was conducted last December was senior director of product at Supplyframe. (Berggren is now director of Autodesk Circuits at Autodesk.)

Our discussion focuses on the need for abstracted modules and better metadata in electronics. Berggren gets to the root of it here:

There are 30 software developers for every hardware engineer in the world. That’s not only a tremendous bottleneck, but if you accept the premise that the next generation of products are going to be some hybrid of hardware and software—and really, hardware is the means to interact with the real world, and I want to write software applications that will interact with the real world—then there is this massive blue ocean out there that should present tremendous opportunity to semiconductor manufacturers, or anyone else who wants to get into that space.

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Chrissie Brodigan on user research at GitHub

The O’Reilly Design Podcast: Product development, user research, and identifying blindspots.

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In this week’s Design Podcast episode, I sit down with Chrissie Brodigan, manager of user experience research at GitHub. Brodigan will be be speaking at OReilly’s inaugural Design Conference. In this episode, we talk about user research and product development at Github, and the blindspots in product development and organizational development.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Our internal philosophy around research is about when we make our design decisions, we come up with hypotheses about how that design change will impact behavior as well as user experience. We may need to add a particular control to the workflow, but if it has a negative consequence on the overall experience of our users, we may decide that that’s not the right decision for us. Even if it’s helpful in one area, it causes unhappiness in another. We measure impact with controlled experiments, which a lot of people would refer to as ‘AB testing.’ We do do some variance testing, which is short term, but we also do longitudinal analysis, which is to study a cohort over a longer period of time. Internally, we’re always asking ourselves ‘Why?’

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Roger Chen on hardware and robotics startups

The O’Reilly Hardware Podcast: Hardware from the venture capitalist’s point of view.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Hardware Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.

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In this new episode of the Hardware Podcast, David Cranor and I talk with Roger Chen, formerly a principal at O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, O’Reilly Media’s sister VC firm.

Discussion points:

  • Chen’s perspective as an investor on companies that are creating 3D robotics, drones, and satellites
  • The Maker movement’s impact on the hardware startups
  • Etsy’s influence on the new hardware movement
  • Trends in robotics, and the outlook for robotics startups

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