My Favorite Techie, Business, Social, Big Data/Big Analytics Things

December 23, 2010 at 5:48 pm Leave a comment

By Mary Ludloff

Well, it’s that time of year and in keeping with the “holiday” spirit, I thought that I would post about some of my favorite things—some are business-related and others are simply fun. And before I start, I want to say upfront that I was not paid by anyone for my plugs! So here goes.

Favorite Data Visualization Site

I happened to be traveling home from London as the Rodney King riots were going on in Los Angeles. When I got into the cab and told the cabbie that I was headed for Heathrow, he asked me where I was headed. “San Francisco,” I said. “Oh luv,” he said, “you know they’re rioting over there. You should stay here until that’s all over with.” I was equal parts amazed (my cabbie was dialed into events across the pond in California no less) and amused (there’s over 400 miles between the two cities).

That’s why I like BBC Dimensions. It reinterprets “size” so that we can understand the “human scale” of historical events and places. To get an idea of exactly how big is “big,” just enter your zip code and have the event (like the Pakistan flood area) superimposed over a map of where you are located. It’s fun and allows you to “engage” with the data itself while giving you a much better idea of physical distance.

Favorite Sort of “Analytics” Book

Now, I am betting that you are thinking this one’s a no brainer—she’s going to pick one of the Tufte books or maybe SuperCrunchers (by Ian Ayres). But note  the “sort of” modifier in the header. I was an economics major in college and let me tell you, people’s eyes would glaze over (they were bored to tears) when I began to wax lyrical on a subject near and dear to my heart. And then Freakonomics came out and suddenly economics was fun! Well, drum roll please, SuperFreakonomics was released this year and it’s better than its predecessor, chock full of different takes on just what that data means. I recommend getting the hardcover edition because I simply cannot imagine how they are going to be able to “show” all the illustrations and charts in paperback.

Favorite Book Period

I am a voracious reader and am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, The Tipping Point, and Outliers but What the Dog Saw is my absolute favorite. This book is really a collection of some of Gladwell’s best (in my opinion) New Yorker articles over the past decade. Its equal parts informative, funny, witty, and bittersweet. Take it with you on your next plane trip—I guarantee that the time will fly (pun intended).

Favorite Google Thing

Considering the reach of Google today, it stands to reason that it would have its own category on my list. Since I am in marketing, I spend a great deal of my time “trying” to keep my finger on the pulse of all things “big” (in terms of data and analytics). I used to rely on my RSS feeds and blog search engines (like Technorati) to serve up the news, posts, etc., that I was interested in, but I’ve now simplified my life enormously using Google Alerts. Now I simply create an alert based on the term I am interested in and receive email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, blogs, video, etc.). I also can determine the frequency and the volume of the alerts. Yes, I still occasionally look at my feeds and other search engines, but I’ve got to say that I have dramatically reduced the amount of time I spend trying to sort through all the “noise.”

Favorite Desktop Tool

I am going to admit upfront that I used to have an adversarial relationship with Skype. I dislike IM and anything to do with video on principle and Skype seemed to take it to another level. But they won me over with easy conference calling (now with conference call video—oh well) and sharing the desktop. Clever of you Skype, to figure out what a marketing dinosaur like me might find truly valuable and then dangle it right in front of my nose. There is nothing better than being able to share your desktop with the techno-geek on the other end to help you figure out why—in real-time, no less—you cannot access the application, login to your email account, etc., etc., etc. I hope the person who thought of this great feature got a big fat raise! And yes, it’s still on my list AFTER the very long Skype outage. (By the way, I was one of the lucky ones who remained on—of course, pretty much everyone I knew was unavailable!)

Favorite Cell Phone

Please do not email me about how superior the Apple’s iPhone is. I am going to admit upfront that I do not own anything with the Apple logo although I have a great appreciation for Apple’s business strategy and its fantastic marketing machine. That being said, I love my Windows 7 phone. Not only am I a marketing dinosaur but I am a cell phone dinosaur as well. The simpler the better and for the past decade, whenever I needed to upgrade my phone, I would pick the phone that was most similar to the one I had. Translation: my phone only enabled calls and texting (and I never used the texting functionality). Well, my husband decided that it was time for me to join the 21st century and got me a Win 7 phone. And I have to say, once I got over the initial confusion as to how to answer a call (much yelling and screaming ensued to the amusement of the caller on the other end), I love the user interface. In marketing we tend to throw the “intuitive” word around far too often to be believed, but Microsoft got it right on this one. It’s so easy to use AND for those of us who now use reading glasses on a regular basis, the text size is large enough to read!

And there you have it. Some of my favorite things. Here’s hoping that your favorite things keep you humming along in 2011!

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