What is a neighborhood (or you say SoHo, I say NoHo)?

Two startups ago (circa 2005) I created Urban Mapping. Its initial product was a database of spatially-referenced boundaries that define informal space. Since the utility of postal codes outside of delivering mail is near zero, neighborhoods are a smart way to organize and search when local matters. While I sold the company in 2015, some … Continue reading What is a neighborhood (or you say SoHo, I say NoHo)?

Recycled News/Whining: Illegal Fishing is Hampered by Data Gaps

Quartz reporting on an often ignored, but tragic issue in the world's oceans. The story is based on a report by the UK Overseas Development Institute, an independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues. The report, Fishing for data, should be lauded for surveying the landscape of actors combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. It … Continue reading Recycled News/Whining: Illegal Fishing is Hampered by Data Gaps

“Ground Truth” With Governmental Archives

Terrible title, I know, but the gist is to understand government 'perception v reality' with regard to public release of data. This project sought to look at public news accounts of world events and compare them to contemporaneous, but time-delayed government disclosure. In short, is a government 'hiding' anything from the pubic or are 'words … Continue reading “Ground Truth” With Governmental Archives

Idea Graveyard: Ground Truth Aggregation

[Note: this post is latest in my series of "startups that weren't." You can read more about other ideas I've (for now!) put in the idea graveyard.] Not too long ago quant research strategies employed by hedge funds were one of the few places time series data was analyzed at scale. But with the flood … Continue reading Idea Graveyard: Ground Truth Aggregation

Statistical Insignificance, Graphic Novel Edition

For those living under a rock [Ed: note irony, as it's doubtful this is on your mind], you may be unaware of the tremendous controversy brewing in academic circles on the topic of reproducibility of published research. For those who think this may be a silly intellectual argument, the truth is quite alarming. The whole … Continue reading Statistical Insignificance, Graphic Novel Edition

When Data Science Alone Won’t Cut it: Deriving Signal from Observations in the Maritime Domain

I recently read an article (paywall) in the WSJ about Paul Allen’s Vulcan initiative to curb illegal fishing. It's insightful and sheds light on Big Data techniques to address societal problems. After thinking on the story, it struck me that it could be used as a pedagogical tool to synthesize data science with domain knowledge. … Continue reading When Data Science Alone Won’t Cut it: Deriving Signal from Observations in the Maritime Domain

You Say Predicting, I say Reporting

The more the world of Big Data/novel analytic techniques/machine learning is internalized, the greater the likelihood assumptions move to presumptions and technical terms unwittingly become marketing terms. The Gartner Hype Cycle is a great illustration. In the context of "predictive analytics," it's worth knowing what people actually mean. First, predictions--obviously the term is about the future, … Continue reading You Say Predicting, I say Reporting

Government Stats Are Ready for Change (Book Review)

For those of you similarly interested (obsessed?) with the changing role of government statistics relative to the explosion of highly dimensional private sector data, I recommend having a look at Innovations in Federal Statistics: Combining Data Sources While Protecting Privacy from the National Academy of Sciences. It's an easy read and offers a solid foundation for those who seek a … Continue reading Government Stats Are Ready for Change (Book Review)

Proxy Indicators: beware of spurious claims

I recently stumbled across a research paper, Using Deep Learning and Google Street View to Estimate the Demographic Makeup of the US, which piqued my interest in derivative uses of data, an ongoing research interest of mine. A variety of deep learning techniques were used to draw conclusions about relationships of car ownership, political affiliation … Continue reading Proxy Indicators: beware of spurious claims

Fake Stats

With the recent spate of fake news (why can’t we just call them lies?), I started thinking about the growing chasm between statistical/fact creators and media consumers. Historically we have put our trust in the Fourth Estate to analyze, filter and present to an audience. For better or worse, today anybody can call themselves a journalist– … Continue reading Fake Stats

Data-derived Products

I love creating data-derived products. I’ve been saying one man’s metadata is another’s data for years, and now that we are in a golden age of data brought on by cheap cloud storage/compute, sensors/devices everywhere and the rise of data scientists, the age of data is upon us. However, getting past the high fives and … Continue reading Data-derived Products

RFF: Quantifying Municipal Growth

I’ve been pursuing several ideas as an independent researcher– some scratch an intellectual itch and others have the makings of new opportunities that require further exploration before they can be commercialized. I call this a request for feedback (RFF). Part of the exploration is throwing ideas onto the Internet and see what comes back, so … Continue reading RFF: Quantifying Municipal Growth

Prop Trading, Hedge Funds and Startups: Looking for Alpha in All the New Places

High-tech startups, hailing from Silicon Valley, and large, well-established banks, hailing from Wall St couldn’t be more different. Yet the golden opportunity of FinTech holds the promise of (somehow) bringing them closer together. This post isn’t about disruption, executive pay, alternative credit scoring models or other topics du jour. It’s about a possible future where … Continue reading Prop Trading, Hedge Funds and Startups: Looking for Alpha in All the New Places

Freedom of Information Act at 50 and Newly Improved

For those of you who care about access to government data for reasons of transparency, feel-good openness, competitive advantage or other, June 30 was an overall ok/good day.Obama signed the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 in an attempt to solidify his administration’s legacy as the most transparent in US history. Many are skeptical, including your author, … Continue reading Freedom of Information Act at 50 and Newly Improved

Finally, Skepticism in Open Data

Over the past 10ish years I’ve often spoken critically of the hand-wavy open data love fest. Stumbled across an article today that does a great job of putting into context the rhetoric v reality. Centering on toilet usability data, Giuseppe Sollazzo makes a solid argument for rethinking the definition of value in opening data to the … Continue reading Finally, Skepticism in Open Data

Derivative Data

Since selling Urban Mapping last year, I’ve spent more time thinking about how data is can be and is used for alternative purposes. To me, the idea of packaging up organisational data exhaust and redirecting it to non-adjacent markets is an opportunity hidden in plain sight. I’ve been whining that one person’s metadata is another … Continue reading Derivative Data


When The Guardian broke the story about the NSA demanding 'telephony metadata' from Verizon, a new word was introduced into the public lexicon. In the world of enterprise data management, metadata gets a bad rap. It's generally perceived as a pain in the ass-- something that must be tended to, like a perpetually leaky tire or cleaning up … Continue reading “Metadata”

The Long and Short of Geo (Part 1)

In my 10+ years growing Urban Mapping, the web-mapping business I started in 2005, I've seen history repeat itself. A lot. As a self-proclaimed member of the georatti, this current wave of geotech euphoria is nothing new, but product and corporate development tend to go through the same cycles over and over again, choosing to … Continue reading The Long and Short of Geo (Part 1)

Postcode Blues

Get ready for change in postal delivery in mid-2015 in Ireland!! How can a country live without a postal code system, you ask? The US didn’t have a nationwide program until the early 1960s and change is a hard thing to achieve in government. Ireland is the last of the OECD countries to get a … Continue reading Postcode Blues