Ron Miller

Ron Miller is a freelance technology journalist, blogger, FierceContentManagement editor and Contributing Editor at EContent Magazine where he writes the Media Redux column. He also blogs regularly for Internet Evolution and TechTarget where he writes the View from Above blog. He co-founded (originally in 2009. You can learn more by visiting his blog, by Ron Miller.

Data journalism: From eccentric to mainstream in five years

The Guardian's Simon Rogers on why data journalism caught on and where it goes from here.

Simon Rogers (@smfrogers), editor of The Guardian’s Datablog and Datastore, and a speaker at the upcoming Strata Conference in California, was one of the first data journalists at The Guardian.

In the following interview, Rogers discusses the changes he’s seen in data journalism over the last five years and how new tools and increased notoriety will shape the data journalism space.

Why has data become the story for some journalists like yourself?

Simon Rogers: It’s a big change for reporters, to go from being suspicious of numbers to noticing that often data journalism is the only way to get stories from them. I think it’s a combination — the huge growth in published data out there combining with things like WikiLeaks, which changed the game for news editors to realize this was a new way to get stories. Read more…

Big data is helping EA level up

Electronic Arts CTO Rajat Taneja on big data's growing role in the video game world.

Electronic Arts (EA) isn’t the first company that comes to mind when you think of big data. Yet the gaming company is collecting increasing amounts of data about its online players, and as this data accumulates and gains steam, it falls under the big data category.

If a game maker like EA is considered a big data company, it could have implications for other companies we might not think of as typical big data generators. With that in mind, I got in touch with Rajat Taneja, chief technology officer at EA and a keynote speaker at the upcoming Strata Conference in California. Since Taneja came on board with EA in 2011, he’s helped steer the company’s technological initiatives, including understanding the impact this growing data store will have on the firm — both from a processing standpoint and how to use it to provide games and services customers want most. He says no matter what your company does, if you have constantly connected online services, you are very likely going to be dealing with lots of data.

Our interview follows. Read more…

Every company has a big data issue

GoodData's Roman Stanek on how big data applies to all businesses, including the small ones.

When you bandy about a term like “big data” often enough, it tends to lose its meaning. But big data is much more than a marketing term, although it is that, too — it’s a means of trying to understand and control the sheer volume of information we are seeing inside and outside our organizations.

It’s easy to dismiss this as a problem for companies like Google and Facebook, which are gathering mountains of data from users. However, as GoodData CEO Roman Stanek (@RomanStanek) points out in the following interview, the growing amounts of data from a variety of sources makes big data an issue that has an impact on every company, regardless of size.

Stanek, who has been an entrepreneur for more than 20 years, started GoodData in 2007 as a way to simplify business intelligence by putting it in the cloud. Today, he sees big data as more than a business intelligence problem, and as he has watched his business evolve, he believes companies like his can take big data out of the realm of data scientists and put it into the hands of ordinary business users.

There is a perception that big data is a big company problem. What role does big data have in small- to medium-size organizations?

Roman StanekRoman Stanek: Big data comes from hundreds of sources, most of which are outside a company’s firewalls, such as customer interactions, social media and emails. A company’s size is irrelevant to the volume of big data it has to manage and understand. For example, a company with 100 employees may have to answer thousands of customer-support calls coming in from Facebook, Twitter, email and telephone. That’s a massive amount of data it has to deal with.

In addition, big data represents tremendous potential wealth for all companies, no matter how small or large those enterprises are. When businesses are smart about leveraging data, they can make better and faster business decisions. Read more…

A search for balance between the “wow” and “aha” in visualizations

Bitsy Bentley on the work behind a good visualization and why she hopes users will take data interactions for granted.

Because of the size, complexity and density of big data, it’s not always easy to find the important insights hiding in all that information. That’s where data visualization comes into play. A great visualization creates meaning where none existed.

Bitsy Bentley (@bitsybot) is the director of data visualization at GfK Custom Research, where she works with information designers to craft meaningful data experiences for a variety of business audiences. In the following interview, she discusses the space between a “wow” response and an “aha” moment, how her team addresses privacy concerns, and why practice is vital for both visualization creators and viewers.

Bentley will explore related visualization topics during her presentation at Strata Conference + Hadoop World in New York City later this month.

Why are data visualizations an effective way to understand the underlying data?

Bitsy BentleyBitsy Bentley: There is so much beauty and richness in big datasets, and now that we have enough processing power to harness that richness, it’s little wonder that interest in data visualization is exploding. To quote John Tukey: “The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see.” My clients find that, whether they’re more concerned with numbers or more concerned with stories, an appropriate visual is integral to their understanding of the data.

Visualization unlocks the serendipity of data analysis. It provides a language that is less intimidating than an overwhelming array of digits. Something as simple as a set of histograms breaking down the distribution of a data store makes it easy to find irregularities and outliers in the data. Read more…

Data is the real business model for social

IBM's Marie Wallace on the unrealized potential of social data.

As social media websites gather ever-growing data stores, they might be better served by finding ways to make profitable use of that data instead serving ads as their chief means of raising revenue. While the data might give them the information they need to serve more targeted ads — although in my experience they still have a ways to go with that — the real value in the site could be the data itself.

Of course, if social sites start selling data to the highest bidder that leaves open questions of data ownership and privacy and finding ways to strip personal identifiers.

Marie Wallace (@marie_wallace) is social analytics strategist for the IBM Collaboration Solutions division. She has spent more than a decade at IBM working on content analytics, and her experience uniquely positions her to address questions regarding big data, social media and analytics. Our interview follows.

Social media’s real value might not be in selling ads, but in the data they are collecting. Why do you think that is?

Marie Wallace: The reason ad targeting has worked so well for search is because it’s aligned and supportive to that particular activity; when I am searching for information about products or services I am happy to get ads that may help direct my search. Ads are somewhat analogous to a value-added service and social search makes the ads more personalized and relevant, which is why Google has invested so heavily in Google+.

The key is that in most cases ads only work in a search-like context, however with most social media sites people are not going there to search. They are going to converse with friends and family, which makes ads interruptive and frequently invasive. This is further exacerbated by mobile, where limited real estate makes ads even more offensive as they are distracting and clutter the screen. Social search is one example of a service that sits on top of social data, but there are a whole plethora of other services that social data can drive — from market research to consumer/brand engagement, social recommenders, information filtering, or expertise location. Read more…