datacloud formations

Information Engineer
Salary range: $70,000-$120,000

Experience/skills: Data analytics, network administrator experience, writing skills

Perks: Stock options, free food

Who's hiring? PayPal, Slide, and other Web 2.0 startups unable to stay on top of the data

Every Sunday the three 20-something founders of Meebo, an instant-messaging startup based in San Francisco, meet to talk strategy and almost always end up wanting new data before making any decision. "We'd walk away wanting to know things like where is our churn rate the greatest, or how are the users in Brazil different from those in India with regard to how they navigate the site," says CEO Seth Sternberg.

So Sternberg created a new position--"information engineer"--dedicated exclusively to digging up the answers. The first person to fill it: Bob Lee, 34, a former network engineer at Apple, who now sits in front of three monitors poring over an estimated 200 gigabytes of data every day from more than 5 million users. It's Lee's job, using a combination of networking chops and statistical analysis, to point out trends, explain network hiccups, and reveal what new features are hits or duds.

Other Web 2.0 companies, like PayPal and Slide, have begun adding similar positions to answer queries that off-the-shelf analytics tools can't handle, such as calculating churn rates. "There's all this data available to help make decisions," Sternberg says. "But it takes someone really focusing on it to get the benefit."



I know I have a lot of lurkers (from many continents, actually) out there. While this blog surrpetitiously approves of lurking at this particular surf spot, I have a favor to ask.

One of my former colleagues at Bowling Green just sent me this:

A little off-topic, and I apologize. But your friends at BGSu's English Dept have a new blog; it's in the beta testing stage right now, but check it out and let us know what you think. Suggestions always welcome.


While I personally think it is a fabulous idea, the cool folks at BG would benefit MORE from you lurkers going over there and giving them your perspecives. So, paddle on over and see how the surf conditions are over at "Great Expectations" (how Dickensian!).


Heroic Professors and Students

Thank you to Pandagon for this roundup.

From Ohio’s Chronicle-Telegram:

Kevin P. Granata, a professor of biomechanics, was working in his office, where he had developed some the country’s most advanced thinking on movement dynamics and cerebral palsy. And down on the first floor, his brother-in-law, Michael Diersing, whose wife was the identical twin sister of Granata’s wife, was chatting and checking e-mail alongside Granata’s doctoral assistant, Gregory Slota… Granata had heard the commotion in his third-floor office and ran downstairs. He was a military veteran, very protective of his students. He was gunned down trying to confront the shooter.

From the Indy Star:

Paul Granata said details are still fuzzy, but family members who traveled to the school were told Kevin Granata went to his office early to work on research and heard the shots being fired. He had an office near the shooting rampage.
“I was told he came out of his office to see what was going on and he was trying to help people,” Paul Granata said. “Unfortunately, in the process of trying to help people, he was shot.”

From the Washington Post:

[W]hen the gunshots rang out on the second floor, Granata, a military veteran, was in his office on the third floor. He walked out and across the hall to a classroom, where 20 frightened students were wondering what to do. He directed them into his office, where he ushered them to safety — in close quarters but behind the locked doors. Then, aware that other students might be in danger on the second floor, he and another professor, Wally Grant, went downstairs to investigate, Slota said.

Cho spotted them and shot them both. Grant was wounded but survived; Granata was killed. If the students in the classroom had tried to run out, they would have confronted the killer, too, Slota said.

“All those in that class, they all made it,” Slota said. “They were locked up until the police came. [Granata] couldn’t sit around and do nothing. He had to help out, find out what was going on.”

And then of course there’s the gallantry of Engineering professor Liviu Librescu, already much noted in the media coverage, but here’s a little detail I hadn’t seen before, from the Gulf News:

With bursts of gunfire rattling through the second floor of Norris Hall, Librescu, 76, closed his classroom door and urged his students to escape out the windows, recalled senior Caroline Merrey of Baltimore, the third student to jump.

As they fled, Librescu held the door shut with his body as the gunman, 23-year-old senior Cho Seung-Hui, tried to force his way in. Moments after the last student leapt to safety, Cho apparently succeeded in forcing the door open and shot Librescu to death.

With the Graves Not Even Cold

We've got some real ghouls on the right fringe. I hope that the Hokies collectively see these pundits for the cowards they are.

Boortz, others blame VA Tech victims for not fighting back.

In the April 18 edition of his daily program notes, called Nealz Nuze and posted on his website, nationally syndicated radio host Neal Boortz asked: "How far have we advanced in the wussification of America?" Boortz was responding to criticism of comments he made on the April 17 broadcast of his radio show regarding the mass shooting at Virginia Tech. During that broadcast, Boortz asked: "How the hell do 25 students allow themselves to be lined up against the wall in a classroom and picked off one by one? How does that happen, when they could have rushed the gunman, the shooter, and most of them would have survived?" In his April 18 program notes, Boortz added: "It seems that standing in terror waiting for your turn to be executed was the right thing to do, and any questions as to why 25 students didn't try to rush and overpower Cho Seung-Hui are just examples of right wing maniacal bias. Surrender -- comply -- adjust. The doctrine of the left. ... Even the suggestion that young adults should actually engage in an act of self defense brings howls of protest."

In the April 17 edition of his program notes, Boortz had similarly asked: "Why didn't some of these students fight back? How in the hell do you line students up against a wall (if that's the way it played out) and start picking them off one by one without the students turning on you? You have a choice. Try to rush the killer and get his gun, or stand there and wait to be shot. I would love to hear from some of you who have insight into situations such as this. Was there just not enough time to react? Were they paralyzed with fear? Were they waiting for someone else to take action? Sorry ... I just don't understand."

In questioning the actions of Virginia Tech students involved in the April 16 incident, Boortz joined the ranks of various commentators, including National Review Online contributor John Derbyshire, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Steyn, who also writes for the National Review, and right-wing pundit and Fox News analyst Michelle Malkin.

In an April 17 weblog post on National Review Online's The Corner, Derbyshire asked: "Where was the spirit of self-defense here? Setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn't anyone rush the guy? It's not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness' sake -- one of them reportedly a .22." Time.com Washington editor Ana Marie Cox criticized Derbyshire in an April 17 post on Time magazine's political weblog, Swampland.

Steyn and Malkin have made similar statements. In her April 18 syndicated column, Malkin wrote: "Instead of encouraging autonomy, our higher institutions of learning stoke passivity and conflict-avoidance. And as the erosion of intellectual self-defense goes, so goes the erosion of physical self-defense." In his April 18 National Review column, Steyn suggested that Virginia Tech students were guilty of an "awful corrosive passivity" that is "an existential threat to a functioning society."

Thirty-two people were killed in the Virginia Tech shooting, described by the Associated Press as "the worst mass shooting in U.S. history."

From the April 17 broadcast of Cox Radio Syndication's The Neal Boortz Show:

BOORTZ: There are several questions about the Virginia Tech situation yesterday. One of them is the blame game. The other one is gun control. The other one is -- and this is one that I've been reading up on a little bit this morning and have gained some insight, and I'm hoping -- I would love to get some psychological or somebody in the business that can answer this question: How the hell do 25 students allow themselves to be lined up against the wall in a classroom and picked off one by one? How does that happen, when they could have rushed the gunman, the shooter, and most of them would have survived?


A Tragedy

My prayers are with the victims and families of the victims at Virginia Tech. Period. This is a sad, terrible, no-good, tragic day.


Ode To My Old Bowling Green Friends

As my friends from Bowling Green gather to clean Candace's creek during their fourth annual "Creek Day," I thought I would add to the festivities with a satirical take on Pat Benetar's "Love is a Battlefield"

Creek Day’s a Battlefield (lyrics sung to Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield).

There is mud!
Knee-deep in creek muck we stand.
No promises, just demands
Creek Day’s a battlefield.

We’ve got rakes!
No one can put on the brakes
Creek crap piling up for so long, all of us knowing
Creek Day’s a battlefield.

You’re beggin’ me to mow, you’re askin’ me to rake.
Why does my stomach ache?
It would help me to know
Do I get me a dog, or the best burger made?
Believe me, believe me, I can’t describe the thrill
When I’m sittin on your porch, and I’m standin’ by your grill.

There is mud!
Knee-deep in creek muck we stand.
No promises, just demands
Creek Day’s a battlefield.

We’ve got saws!
No stopping serrated claws.
Creek junk piles up for so long, all of us knowing
Creek Day’s a battlefield.

Were losing control
Will you let me spit or stoke the fire pit?
And before this gets old, will Creek Day feel the same?
There’s no way this will die
But if we clean much closer, we could lose control
And if Candace surrenders, you’ll need rakes to hold

There is mud!
Knee-deep in creek much we stand.
No promises, just demands
Creek Day’s a battlefield.

We’ve got pails!
Cleaning can solve all that ails
Scouring the creek for so long, all of us knowing
Creek Day’s a battlefield.

There is mud!
Knee-deep in creek much we stand.
No promises, just demands
Creek Day’s a battlefield.

We are strong!
No one can tell us were wrong
Cleanin’ the creek for so long, all of us knowing
Creek Day’s a battlefield.


Norbert Wiener's Vision

Norbert Weiner, in his Article "Men, Machines, and the World About," (published, interestingly in Medicine and Science in 1954) makes what amounts to an economic argument. In this essay, Weiner sets up the principle of homeostasis, which N. Katherine Hayles notes in How We Became Posthuman, would emerge and then eventually ebb as a central principle in the pursuit of Cybernetics. The real meat in the article, however is how Weiner focuses in upon the implications of microcomputing:
I want to say that we are facing a new industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution represented the replacement of the energy of man and of animals by the energy of the machine....The new industrial revolution which is taking place now consists primarily in replacing human judgment and discrimination at low levels by the discrimination of the machine. (New Media Reader, p. 71)

Central to this claim is the fungibility of the notions of judgment and discrimination. The idea of a moment of pause and reflection, however brief, is crucial to the economic argument, because it is that pause and reflection that can be used repeatedly and more quickly through the use of automation. The fixing of the conditions around that useful pause and reflection becomes the quixotic quest launched (or at least commemorated) by this article. If external/ecological conditions give rise to this moment of judgment and discrimination, OR if the moment is just too darn complicated, OR if this judgment is not as cut-and-dried (involving indecipherable combinations of electrical, chemical, physiological, ecological, etiological interactions that cannot be isolated and ordered), then this dream of automation becomes the "brass calf, the idol" he warns us against. If we cannot isolate and control elements of our universe fully enough to prevent them from ripping apart a useful and life-sustaining ecological (small e) fabric, then it isn't the gadget that becomes our idol, but rather the very obsessive-compulsive dream of an automated world.


Astro Blogging

Charles Simonyi, a 58-year-old Hungarian-born software programmer, paid more than $20 million for a 13-day trip to the orbiting station and back. He is the fifth paying passenger to make the trip....In a posting on the blog he intends to maintain while in orbit, Simonyi said he spent his final day getting a haircut and a therapeutic massage and watched a traditional showing of a classic Soviet-era war film.

You can read about his adventures on the space station over the next few weeks at his blog Charles in Space.


Curling Video Blogging (Curlvlogging)

My skip decided to video blog our final match. Unfortunately, the other team decided to forfeit. Madness ensued (I'm the one on the team not wearing glasses--sport was nice enough to do most of the filming).

"That's good sweeping!"


World Remote Control

The NY Times (free subscription required) has an interesting article on the newish use of cellphones to read codes to download data.
It sounds like something straight out of a futuristic film: House hunters, driving past a for-sale sign, stop and point their cellphone at the sign. With a click, their cellphone screen displays the asking price, the number of bedrooms and baths and lots of other details about the house....In Japan, McDonald’s customers can already point their cellphones at the wrapping on their hamburgers and get nutrition information on their screens. Users there can also point their phones at magazine ads to receive insurance quotes, and board airplanes using their phones rather than paper tickets. And film promoters can send their movie trailers from billboards.

I have hoped that this kind of thing would take hold. Rather than spimes that use RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, this uses the photo recognition abilities of cell phones to enact more voluntary downloading practice (RFIDs can and will alert everybody around you certain identifying information). This technology has a huge upside. Just think how cool it would be if you could go to the grocery store and buy food that was grown closer to home using more sustainable techniques just by downloading an algorithm to your cell phone and then pointing it at a code on the product. No bizarre lifehacking necessary. There is also a huge possibility for abuse (as there is in all communications technology deployed so nimbly). Marketers would have unparalleled access to your affinities, eyeball share, and mind share. Think Vennevar Bush's walnut-sized headcam streaming directly to Verizon and Cingular. As this techology takes off (and I think it will), we should demand particular firewalls between individual access and personal identities (beyond what we have for computers currently, since this data would attach all sorts of locality information with this affinity information).


Rear-View Cs

A few odds and ends from my experience at the Cs:

1. I had a felafel sandwich at one of the street vendors outside of the Cs. The guy who was running the cart promised me it would be the best felafel sandwich I have ever had. If it wasn't the best, it was close. The man was a study in systems theory. He adjusted his social interactions to increase or decrease timing on dozens of things that were happening in his cart (while the chicken was cooking, he discussed the weather with the people who ordered chicken kebabs and then used the extra grease to quick-fry gyros for his other customers). I hope Johndan discusses one of these cart virtuosos in his work/space project.

2. I feel bad that I couldn't afford to stay Saturday night, if only because I missed this talk. I got to say "hey" in the hall, but that is no substitute for seeing a talk. Of course, he didn't come to see mine...

3. Didn't go to any of the publisher parties. Didn't miss them in the least.

4. Tried like hell to get to some of the "cheap eats" places that Mike Salvo so kindly provided a link to. No dice. I just have bad luck guessing when these places will be open.

5. Got a free ticket to Wicked (Thanks Carly!). Unfortunately, I thought the end of Act I was the end of the play. I'm just too damn subtle to know that when Elpheba gets on her broom and starts to cackle, the transformation isn't complete. As soon as I got out the front door and realized that it. Was. Just. Me. I had to shrug and laugh. Broadway ain't Joyce. Denouements and climaxes look pretty much the same with ten-million watt sets and songster accidentals.

6. I WILL meet more of the bloggers next conference. I WILL meet more of the bloggers next conference.

7. New York has some GREAT comic book stores. I'm not a comics guy, but I could not drag myself out of those stores. Truly amazing.

8. My favorite part of the entire conference was sitting at the counter of Cosmo's Diner and watching the counter attendant work the counter like a keyboard. He recalled people who had not been there for years, made bargains with regulars, and introduced some Australians to the concept of Texas Toast for breakfast. The guy code switched with some of his Cenral American co-workers and an amazing range of customers over and over. I think one of the reasons I love New Yorkers (other than the fact that they hosted the best marathon I have ever run) is that they find a corner and defend it more fiercely than anybody. This strikes many as "attitude," but I think of it as a type of forced excellence. I have always gotten along with New Yorkers once I recognize what it is they are defending. In fact, I have come to lean on these fierce loyalties and fiercely-defended islands of expertise while I visit their fair city.