Category Archives: Products

Definitive Guides to Data Science and Analytics Things

The Definitive Guide to anything should be a helpful, informative road map to that topic, including visualizations, lessons learned, best practices, application areas, success stories, suggested reading, and more.  I don’t know if all such “definitive guides” can meet all of those qualifications, but here are some that do a good job:

  1. The Field Guide to Data Science (big data analytics by Booz Allen Hamilton)
  2. The Data Science Capability Handbook (big data analytics by Booz Allen Hamilton)
  3. The Definitive Guide to Becoming a Data Scientist (big data analytics)
  4. The Definitive Guide to Data Science – The Data Science Handbook (analytics)
  5. The Definitive Guide to doing Data Science for Social Good (big data analytics, data4good)
  6. The Definitive Q&A Guide for Aspiring Data Scientists (big data analytics, data science)
  7. The Definitive Guide to Data Literacy for all (analytics, data science)
  8. The Data Analytics Handbook Series (big data, data science, data literacy by Leada)
  9. The Big Analytics Book (big data, data science)
  10. The Definitive Guide to Big Data (analytics, data science)
  11. The Definitive Guide to the Data Lake (big data analytics by MapR)
  12. The Definitive Guide to Business Intelligence (big data, business analytics)
  13. The Definitive Guide to Natural Language Processing (text analytics, data science)
  14. A Gentle Guide to Machine Learning (analytics, data science)
  15. Building Machine Learning Systems with Python (a non-definitive guide) (data analytics)
  16. The Definitive Guide to Data Journalism (journalism analytics, data storytelling)
  17. The Definitive “Getting Started with Apache Spark” ebook (big data analytics by MapR)
  18. The Definitive Guide to Getting Started with Apache Spark (big data analytics, data science)
  19. The Definitive Guide to Hadoop (big data analytics)
  20. The Definitive Guide to the Internet of Things for Business (IoT, big data analytics)
  21. The Definitive Guide to Retail Analytics (customer analytics, digital marketing)
  22. The Definitive Guide to Personalization Maturity in Digital Marketing Analytics (by SYNTASA)
  23. The Definitive Guide to Nonprofit Analytics (business intelligence, data mining, big data)
  24. The Definitive Guide to Marketing Metrics & Analytics
  25. The Definitive Guide to Campaign Tagging in Google Analytics (marketing, SEO)
  26. The Definitive Guide to Channels in Google Analytics (SEO)
  27. A Definitive Roadmap to the Future of Analytics (marketing, machine learning)
  28. The Definitive Guide to Data-Driven Attribution (digital marketing, customer analytics)
  29. The Definitive Guide to Content Curation (content-based marketing, SEO analytics)
  30. The Definitive Guide to Collecting and Storing Social Profile Data (social big data analytics)
  31. The Definitive Guide to Data-Driven API Testing (analytics automation, analytics-as-a-service)
  32. The Definitive Guide to the World’s Biggest Data Breaches (visual analytics, privacy analytics)

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Just-in-Time Supply Chain Management with Data Analytics

A common phrase in SCM (Supply Chain Management) is Just-In-Time (JIT) inventory. JIT refers to a management strategy in which raw materials, products, or services are delivered to the right place, at the right time, as demand requires. This has always been an excellent business goal, but the power to excel at JIT inventory management is now improving dramatically with the increased use of data analytics across the supply chain.

In the article “Operational Analytics and Droning About Big Data“, we discussed two examples of JIT: (1) a just-in-time supply replenishment system for human bases on the Moon, and (2) the proposal by Amazon to use drones to deliver products to your front door “just in time”! The Internet of Things will almost certainly generate similar use cases and benefits.

Descriptive analytics (hindsight) tells you what has already happened in your supply chain. If there was a deficiency or problem somewhere, then you can react to that event. But, that is “old school” supply chain management. Modern analytics is predictive (foresight), allowing you to predict where the need will occur (in advance) so that you can proactively deliver products and services at the point of need, just in time.

The next advance in analytics is prescriptive (insight), which uses optimization techniques (from operations research) in combination with insights and knowledge of your business (systems, processes, and resources) in order to optimize your delivery systems, for the best possible outcome (greater sales, fewer losses, reduced inventory, etc.). Just-in-time supply chain management then becomes something more than a reality — it now becomes an enabler of increased efficiency and productivity.

Many more examples of use cases in the manufacturing and retail industries (and elsewhere) where just-in-time analytics is important (and what you can do about it) have been enumerated by the fast Automatic Modeling folks from Soft10, Inc. Check out their fast predictive analytics products at

(Read more about these ideas at:

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Drilling Through Data Silos with Apache Drill

Enterprise data collections are typically stored in silos belonging to different business divisions. Sometimes these silos belong to different projects within the same division. These silos may be further segmented by services/products and functions. Silos (which stifle data-sharing and innovation) are often identified as a primary impediment (both practically and culturally) to business progress and thus they may be the cause of numerous difficulties. For example, streamlining important business processes are rendered more challenging, ranging from compliance to data discovery. But, breaking down the silos may not be so easy to accomplish. In fact, it is often infeasible due to ownership issues, governance practices, and regulatory concerns.

Big Data silos create additional complications including data duplication (and associated increased costs), complicated data replication solutions, high data latency, and data quality concerns, not to mention being an enabler of the real problematic situation where your data repositories could hold different versions of the truth. The silos also put a limit on business intelligence (discovery and actionable insights). As big data best practices rise above the hype and noise, we now know that actionable value is more easily extracted when multiple data sets can be integrated and viewed holistically.

Data analysts naturally want to break down silos to combine data from multiple data sources. Unfortunately, this can create its own bottleneck: a complex integration labyrinth—which is costly to maintain, rarely performs well, and can’t be guaranteed to provide consistent results.

In response, many companies have deployed Apache Hadoop to address the problem of segregated data. Hadoop enables multiple types of data to be directly processed in place, and it fully supports data integration from multiple sources across different data storage technologies.

Organizations that use Hadoop are finding additional benefits with Apache Drill, which is the open source version of Google’s Dremel system…

(continue reading here

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Clear and Obvious Analytics for Clear and Present Dangers

Not every industry has found their clear and obvious applications of big data analytics. But the clear and present dangers of risk and fraud in financial transactions demand fast predictive modeling. Precisely because we live in the ubiquitous digital era, where most business (and non-business) transactions are rarely (if ever) in analog form and those transactions no longer move at the pace of humans (but at the speed of light), consequently the volume of digital signals as well as lurking dangers is enormous.

Digital signals (from sensors everywhere in our operational business systems) carry transactional information (what happened to what?), as well as metadata (descriptors) and analytics information (data-encoded knowledge and insights).  These analytics can be behavioral (providing insights into the interests, intentions, and preferences of the actors in a given transaction) as well as functional (providing insights into the actions or events associated with the transaction).

Behavioral analytics is developing into a major component of digital marketing, as firms seek to sell, cross-sell, and up-sell their products to the right customer at the right time.  Behavioral analytics is also critical in risk mitigation of all sorts: financial, cybersecurity, health (individual and population), supply chain, machine performance, and so on.

Here are 10 examples of where fast predictive analytics can play a vital role in most industries (with a focus on financial):

  1. Predict credit risk and fraud in real-time!
  2. Use Social Media for deeper understanding (likes and dislikes) of your customers.
  3. Personalize customer interactions in real-time, across multiple channels.
  4. Stop improper insurance payments before claims are paid!
  5. Spot insurance rate evasion tactics during the quote process – before you issue a policy!
  6. Predict High Health Risk versus Low Health Risk to better manage healthcare decision-making.
  7. Generate better predictive models of health, car, and home insurance eligibility fraud, underwriting fraud, and improper payments.
  8. Spot adversarial and anomalous behavior in cyber networks – stop the data breach or illegal funds transfer before it happens!
  9. Eliminate your Supply Chain hiccups – move the right products to the right locations in the right quantities – and at the right time!
  10. Make better business decisions regarding merchandising, demand forecasting, and pricing – don’t leave money on the table, or products in your warehouse.

Let us look a little more closely at the financial services industry…

One of the common conditions in traditional financial services (including home, health, and auto insurance) has been the “pay and chase” — i.e., you make the payment to the claimant, and then (after making the payment) you find out that the claim is fraudulent, thus beginning the chase to get your money back.

The new world of predictive modeling and advanced analytics allows for a new mantra in the financial and insurance industries: “Do Not Pay!” — i.e., you do not pay the claim until you have analyzed its likelihood for claim fraud, extraordinary financial risk, or payment anomalies (e.g., duplicate payments).

Predictive analytics modeling delivers a better financial risk posture for your organization than the “pay and chase”. With access to greater and more diverse data sources, it is now possible to develop better models of your customers’ credit risk regardless of the industry. This is certainly true in the financial services industry where there is so much data available: credit scores, credit history, court records, tax records, health records, insurance claims, and more. There is no excuse for not examining as much “public data” as you can in conjunction with other data sources that are available to you internally within your organization. Moderate outlays of your organization’s funds that are incurred in acquiring access to diverse external data sources should be offset by the savings accrued by “not sending your funds out the door” erroneously (either to intentional fraudsters or in unintentional duplicate claims).

An analytics-driven predictive model can predict fraud more efficiently (with fast automatic statistical software packages) and more effectively (with higher precision and higher recall: fewer false positives and false negatives) than traditional business processes. A good predictive analytics model should: (a) detect claims that “smell funny”, (b) prevent the “pay and chase” mode of operations, and (c) stop claims fraud abruptly by empowering a “do not pay” mode of operations. Predictive analytics modeling should aim to satisfy the following business requirements:

  • Detect and prevent both opportunistic and professional fraud throughout the claims process.
  • Detect underwriting fraud, to prevent premium leakage at the point of sale and renewal.
  • Spot rate evasion tactics during the quote process – before you issue a policy.

Many more examples of use cases in the financial services industry (and elsewhere) where fast predictive analytics is important (and what you can do about it) have been expertly enumerated by the fast statistical modeling folks from Soft10, Inc. Check out their fast analytics products (including the Instant Online Overbilling Claims Detector) at

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Where to get your Data Science Training or Apprenticeship

I am frequently asked for suggestions regarding academic institutions, professional organizations, or MOOCs that provide Data Science training.  The following list will be updated occasionally (LAST UPDATED: 2016 August 16) .

Also, be sure to check out The Definitive Q&A for Aspiring Data Scientists and the story of my journey from Astrophysics to Data Science. If the latter story interests you, then here are a couple of related interviews: “Data Mining at NASA to Teaching Data Science at GMU“, and “Interview with Leading Data Science Expert“.

Here are a few places to check out:

  1. The Booz Allen Field Guide to Data Science
  2. Do you have what it takes to be a Data Scientist? (get the Booz Allen Data Science Capability Handbook)
  3. (formerly at Booz-Allen)
  6. MapR Academy (offering Free Hadoop, Spark, HBase, Drill, Hive training and certifications at MapR)
  7. Data Science Apprenticeship at
  8. (500+) Colleges and Universities with Data Science Degrees
  9. List of Machine Learning Certifications and Best Data Science Bootcamps
  10. NYC Data Science Academy
  11. NCSU Institute for Advanced Analytics
  12. Master of Science in Analytics at Bellarmine University
  13. (District Data Labs)
  16. (formerly Zipfian Academy) includes (Data Science, Statistics, Machine Learning, Python)
  21. Data Science Master Classes (at Datafloq)
  25. (Hadoop training, and more)
  26. O’Reilly Media Learning Paths
  28. Courses for Data Pros at Microsoft Virtual Academy
  29. 18 Resources to Learn Data Science Online (by Simplilearn)


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Variety is the Spice of Life for Data Scientists

“Variety is the spice of life,” they say.  And variety is the spice of data also: adding rich texture and flavor to otherwise dull numbers. Variety ranks among the most exciting, interesting, and challenging aspects of big data.  Variety is one of the original “3 V’s of Big Data” and is frequently mentioned in Big Data discussions, which focus too much attention on Volume.

A short conversation with many “old school technologists” these days too often involves them making the declaration: We’ve always done big data.”  That statement really irks me… for lots of reasons.  I summarize in the following article some of those reasons:  “Today’s Big Data is Not Yesterday’s Big Data.” In a nutshell, those statements focus almost entirely on Volume, which is really missing the whole point of big data (in my humble opinion)… here comes the Internet of Things… hold onto your bits!

The greatest challenges and the most interesting aspects of big data appear in high-Velocity Big Data (requiring fast real-time analytics) and high-Variety Big Data (enabling the discovery of interesting patterns, trends, correlations, and features in high-dimensional spaces). Maybe because of my training as an astrophysicist, or maybe because scientific curiosity is a natural human characteristic, I love exploring features in multi-dimensional parameter spaces for interesting discoveries, and so should you!

Dimension reduction is a critical component of any solution dealing with high-variety (high-dimensional) data. Being able to sift through a mountain of data efficiently in order to find the key predictive, descriptive, and indicative features of the collection is a fundamental required data science capability for coping with Big Data.

Identifying the most interesting dimensions of the data is especially valuable when visualizing high-dimensional data. There is a “good news, bad news” perspective here. First, the bad news: the human capacity for seeing multiple dimensions is very limited: 3 or 4 dimensions are manageable; and 5 or 6 dimensions are possible; but more dimensions are difficult-to-impossible to assimilate. Now for the good news: the human cognitive ability to detect patterns, anomalies, changes, or other “features” in a large complex “scene” surpasses most computer algorithms for speed and effectiveness. In this case, a “scene” refers to any small-n projection of a larger-N parameter space of variables.

In data visualization, a systematic ordered parameter sweep through an ensemble of small-n projections (scenes) is often referred to as a “grand tour”, which allows a human viewer of the visualization sequence to see quickly any patterns or trends or anomalies in the large-N parameter space. Even such “grand tours” can miss salient (explanatory) features of the data, especially when the ratio N/n is large. Consequently, a data analytics approach that combines the best of both worlds (machine vision algorithms and human perception) will enable efficient and effective exploration of large high-dimensional data.

One such approach is to use statistical and machine learning techniques to develop “interestingness metrics” for high-variety data sets.  As such algorithms are applied to the data (in parameter sweeps or grand tours), they can discover and then present to the data end-user the most interesting and informative features (or combinations of features) in high-dimensional data: “Numbers are powerful, especially in interesting combinations.”

The outcomes of such exploratory data analyses are even more enhanced when the analytics tool ranks the output models (e.g., the data’s “most interesting parameters”) in order of significance and explanatory power (i.e., their ability to “explain” the complex high-dimensional patterns in the data).  Soft10’s “automatic statistician” Dr. Mo is a fast predictive analytics software package for exploring complex high-dimensional (high-variety) data.  Dr. Mo’s proprietary modeling and analytics techniques have been applied across many application domains, including medicine and health, finance, customer analytics, target marketing, nonprofits, membership services, and more. Check out Dr. Mo at and read more here

Kirk Borne is a member of the Soft10, Inc. Board of Advisors.

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Numbers are Powerful, Especially in Combination

The phrase “Big Data” refers to a set of serious analytical challenges that arise when the data increase in quantity, real-time speed, and complexity.  The three V’s of big data (Volume, Velocity, and Variety) are now well known and well worn. Their familiarity and frequent association with “big data hype” may numb us to the important data challenges that they are meant to represent. These three characterizations have their counterparts in tools and technologies.  For example, Hadoop (Apache’s open source implementation of the MapReduce programming model) is the technology du jour for management and analysis of high-volume data.  The Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) is the file system for big data storage and access in Hadoop clusters.  Apache Spark is a computing framework (built on HDFS) for fast processing of high-velocity data.

But, what about high-variety data?  The storage and management challenges of such data are already addressed (see above), but the real challenge is in performing effective and efficient statistical modeling, data mining, and discovery across high-dimensional (complex) data sets.  Software tools like Soft10 Inc.‘s “automatic statistician” Dr. Mo are designed to address that specific challenge.

When considering complex (high-variety) data, it is important to note that even relatively small-volume data sets can pose huge challenges to modeling, mining, and analysis algorithms and tools. For example, consider a gigabyte data table with a billion entries. If those entries correspond to 500 million rows and 2 columns, then some relatively simple “textbook” techniques can be applied: e.g., correlation analysis, regression analysis, Naïve Bayes, etc. However, if those entries correspond to one million rows and 1000 columns, then the complexity of the data analysis explodes exponentially.

It is not hard to find data sets that are at least this complex, if not much worse.  For example, the human genome consists of 3 billion base pairs (of just four bases: A, C, G, T) – the number of possible sequences of length 3 billion that can be formed from just four items is 4 to the power of 3 billion (limited of course by various genetic constraints). Another example will be the astronomical database to be obtained in the 10-year survey of the sky by the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope ( – the final source table will consist of approximately 20 trillion rows and over 200 columns of scientific information per source.  Analyses of all possible combinations of these scientific parameters (to discover new correlations, patterns, associations, clusters, etc.) would be prohibitive.

The combinatorial theorem in mathematics tells us that there are (2^N – 1) possible combinations of N things. For example, a statistical analysis of a data table with just 3 columns (A,B,C) would require 7 distinct analyses (statistical models) of the behavior of the data: A, B, C, A with B, B with C, A with C, and with all three taken at once.  A data table with 5 columns would require 31 distinct analyses; and a table with 25 columns would require over 33 million distinct analyses. My calculator tells me that the number of distinct combinations of 200 variables is greater than 10^60.  This extraordinarily rapid growth rate is called the “combinatorial explosion”.  While no software package could ever perform that many variations of high-dimensional data analysis, it is common to focus on joint combinations of fewer parameters.  Even pairs, triples, and similar small-number combinations can have significant correlation and covariance, consequently yielding important discoveries.

Therefore, in order to meet the challenge of big data complexity (high variety), fast modeling technology is needed.  Such tools provide big benefits to both statisticians and non-statisticians.  These benefits multiply favorably when the technology can automatically build and test a large number of models (different combinations of parameters) in parallel.  Furthermore, the power of the technology is even more enhanced when it ranks the output models and parameter selection in order of significance and correlation strength.  Soft10’s “automatic statistician” Dr. Mo does these things and more. Dr. Mo models complex high-dimensional data both row-wise and column-wise. Dr. Mo produces high-accuracy predictions.  Dr. Mo’s proprietary multi-model technology is a powerful tool for predictive modeling and analytics across many application domains, including medicine and health, finance, customer analytics, target marketing, nonprofits, membership services, and more. Check out Dr. Mo at and read more here

Kirk Borne is a member of the Soft10, Inc. Board of Advisors.

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IBM Insight 2014 – Day 2: The “One Thing” – Watson Analytics

The highlight of Day 2 at IBM Insight 2014 was the presentation of numerous examples, new features, powerful capabilities, and strategic vision for Watson Analytics.  This was the “one thing” – (to borrow the phrase from the movie “City Slickers”) – the one thing that seems to matter the most, that will make the biggest impact, and that has captured the essence of big data and analytics technologies for the future, rapidly approaching world of data everywhere, sensors everywhere, and the Internet of Things.

(continue reading more about Watson Analytics here:

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Apervi’s Conflux Gives a Big Boost to a Confluence of Big Data Workflows

Data-driven workflows are the life and existence of big data professionals everywhere: data scientists, data analysts, and data engineers. We perform all types of data functions in these workflow processes: archive, discover, access, visualize, mine, manipulate, fuse, integrate, transform, feed models, learn models, validate models, deploy models, etc. It is a dizzying day’s work. We start manually in our workflow development, identifying what needs to happen at each stage of the process, what data are needed, when they are needed, where data needs to be staged, what are the inputs and outputs, and more.  If we are really good, we can improve our efficiency in performing these workflows manually, but not substantially. A better path to success is to employ a workflow platform that is scalable (to larger data), extensible (to more tasks), more efficient (shorter time-to-solution), more effective (better solutions), adaptable (to different user skill levels and to different business requirements), comprehensive (providing a wide scope of functionality), and automated (to break the time barrier of manual workflow activities).

(continue reading here

Apervi Conflux


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Visual Cues in Big Data for Analytics and Discovery

One of the most fun outcomes that you can achieve with your data is to discover new and interesting things.  Sometimes, the most interesting thing is the detection of a novel, unexpected, surprising object, event, or behavior – i.e., the outlier, the thing that falls outside the bounds of your original expectations, the thing that signals something new about your data domain (a new class of behavior, an anomaly in the data processing pipeline, or an error in the data collection activity).  The more quickly that you can find the interesting features and characteristics within your data collection, consequently the more likely you are to improve decision-making and responsiveness in your data-driven workflows.

Tapping into the human natural cognitive ability to see patterns quickly and to detect anomalies readily is powerful medicine for big data analytics headaches.  That’s where data visualization shines most brightly in the big data firmament!

(continue reading here …


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