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July 2007
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April 2008

Information bad, information good

CBS' 60 Minutes had two fascinating stories tonight. The first about a German citizen wrongly imprisoned for five years, the second about baseball data wunderkind Bill James. The first demonstrates the combustible mix you get when "intelligence gathering" is led by people passionately out for facts that will fit a truth, even when no facts can be found. The second story shows the wondrous possibilities of information gathering when the same amount of passion is balanced with equal commitment to how facts do or don't add up to a truth. Murat Kurnaz is a German Muslim citizen whose parents had... Read more →

In the news

March 27, 2008, 9:27 pm Is China Really No. 1 in Internet Users? Part of a Wall Street Journal column written by Carl Bialek known as "The Numbers Guy," check out his archive of columns, many exploring the mix of clarity and confusion around data collection. SPY CELLS Phones Will Soon Tell Where You Are Looks at how mobile phone-based GPS software will let allow people to track each other. NTT DoCoMo Takes a Step toward Bio-Sensing Cellphones Japanese researchers bringing molecular system to phone technology, the vision for an end product being mobile devices that keep track of our... Read more →

Yet again, a riff on data

This morning read a Business Week online article titled "There's Gold in "Reality Mining," which details all the information social scientists and marketers think can be gleaned from tracking human behavior via the ever growing usage of electronic devices, whether online or mobile. Interesting piece. Yet it also leaves you feeling as a bit queezy about being tracked and questioning our emerging delight, indeed deep dive, into data. Earlier today had a meeting with clients interested in my firm's help selling a process designed to help businesses via a complex survey process directed at customers. What they were selling, again,... Read more →

Data smog

A few random headlines from the NYTimes late last week. A Company Promises the Deepest Data Mining Yet Push to Limit the Tracking of Web Surfers' Clicks States' Data Obscure How Few Finish High School So when my blog partner Titus, writing about addressing structural elements that impacted this latest economic crisis, said we need to really look into the data, my first thought was... yikes. What data do we start with? Our lives are saturated with data, principally because of the ubiquity of digital technology. At essence, such technology is composed of tool sets designed for organizing, analyzing and... Read more →

Data brilliance

Besides demonstrating the amazing value of YouTube, the video above is interesting on several levels. It's nearly six minutes that retains your attention around a simple back and forth dialog with a Barak Obama supporter. As the tenor of the questions show, the guy asking them seems intent to prove something: namely that Obama's platform - and by extension his supporters - are more fluff than substance. What happens though is surprising. He ends up, like many viewers, being struck by the depth of knowledge from his target, Derrick Ashong, a 32-year old Ghanian-American musician who lives in Los Angeles.... Read more →

Revisiting Recession

No sooner had I posted my note on recession over the weekend than I got a message from my friend and colleague Christopher Holmes Smith on, yes, the recession and the fraught economic times that we confront. I’m posting this because Chris makes some typically insightful points, and because in a fit of pique I supposed, I went into a fair bit of detail on some of the points that I touched on in the previous post. I hope this further illuminates what’s going on. Special thanks to the redoubtable Joshua Wallman for his prodding and conversations on economic matters.... Read more →

What's Next?

We had the internet bubble. Then the housing bubble. What's next on the horizon? How do we nurture the confidence that provides lines of credit, business growth, consumer saving without its opposite of hoarding, liquidity in both spending and interaction that characterize a healthy economy? There's a certain school of psychology that looks at all intense human emotion as trance states. Hatred, romantic love, and of course old-fashioned serenity. Each takes enormous energy but is satisfying because they generate even more energy, similar to the mindset that drives the intensity of certain economies. Thinking about last two makes me think... Read more →

Recession as Taboo

Because I’m an economist, my buddies call me and ask me about what the hell is going on with the economy these days. My partner on That's Capital Jonathan calls me. My pal Carroll Parrot Blue calls me. My buddy Lori Fontanes calls me. Steve Kramer. Gene Carl. It’s nice that folks keep in touch. But I tell them my best guesses. I also include a caveat: I’m not that kind of economist. I’m a microeconomist, not a macro-economist; this is outside of my area of expertise. But since folks keep calling, I thought I’d include my current take on... Read more →

Just take a break, would ya?

A few weeks ago, Starbucks closed its shops across America for a half day of training. In a fast paced Web 2.0 world, you can't forget your edge, especially quality control on the foam for those double non-fat frappuccinos. Now it seems that Chrysler is getting in on the espresso train to temporary closures. Bob "keep those shareholders guessing" Nardelli, formerly CEO of Home Depot, now gracing Chysler with his portly presence, has outdone Starbucks by 13 days and 20 hours, announcing a voluntary two week shutdown of auto plants around the nation, coming this summer. Free vacation for employees?... Read more →

Who you say that now?

Subject: Language changes. And it also changes who we are. For a colorful demonstration of that thought, listen to actor Viggo Mortensen, who grew up in Argentina until he was eleven, and last year played a Russian gangster. A few months ago he explained to NPR's Terry Gross how he prepared for his killer role by toying with language. He recounts that in moving from Spanish to English, on returning to his native language, people remarked that it was as if he became another person. It's a great story. And it succinctly describes how a person's relationship with inflection and... Read more →