VLAB: Data Exhaust Alchemy Event (January 19, 2010)

DATA, DATA EVERYWHERE: COOL PROBLEMS TO WORK ON

I attended the VLAB event “Data Exhaust Alchemy: Turning the Web’s Waste Into Solid Gold” at Stanford GSB today. It was great – Bishop Auditorium was packed. Here’s a very brief summary of what I learned from each speaker:

1. Roger Magoulas, Director of Market Research, O’Reilly Media: He related the story of how Amazon.com, by simply adding the popularity ranking of books, was able to add a lot of value for customers – a great example of using the data exhaust.

2. JB (Mike John-Baptiste), CEO, PeerSet: Peerset has developed algorithms that mine web data to help advertisers target the right audience.

3. Mark Breier, General Partner, In-Q-Tel: The venture arm of the CIA has invested in the following companies: Visible Technologies, Palantir and Fortius One. There are many security-related applications of the data exhaust.

4. Jeff Hammerbacher, Vice President of Products and Chief Scientist, Cloudera: He left Facebook because he felt that he did not understand consumer technologies such as online advertising. Cloudera makes the open source version of Hadoop, which uses the Mapreduce algorithm developed by Google.

5. Dr. DJ Patil, Chief Scientist and Sr. Director of Product, LinkedIn: He preferred the word “ecosystem”  (over the phrase “data exhaust”) to describe the data created on the web. He mentioned that with every passing day there are fewer people who are not on Linkedin.

6. Pablos Holman, Futurist, Inventor, Security Expert, and Notorious Hacker: He was AWESOME. He stressed that, from a security perspective, everything that we do online and using mobile devices is in the cloud. He showed a cool demo of how our credit cards are NOT that secure.

My overall opinion is that the speakers and their respective organizations were working on some very difficult and exciting problems related to the growing volume of data. A point that Richard made was that mining the social graph (e.g., our Facebook friends and the things we do, like etc. as recorded on Facebook) is very challenging. The good news is that companies like LinkedIn have been able to extract value from its data, and added cool capabilities such as recommending people we can connect to.

Bottom line:  did the meeting give me any ideas for products or services that I can sell to my enterprise customers? ….. Yes.

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