Data Can’t Prove Happiness

On a recent trip, I stand in line at an airport Starbucks to get a hit. In front of me is an older woman, fussily put together and a bit anxious. She turns around and asks, “Do you come to this airport often?” This is either the worst pick-up line ever or a precursor to a question that […]

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The Services Conundrum

Thomas Piketty’s doorstop, Capital In the Twenty-First Century, is so massive it gave a new name to a classic index of unreadness. But it’s actually really good. And, it includes the observation that, historically, the services sector has seen lower productivity gains than the industrialized goods sector because services tend to be less sensitive to technological advances. This is a big deal […]

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Happy Bloomsday, Big Data!

Around the world today the literati celebrate Bloomsday by drinking deep of James Joyce’s intoxicating prose. And beer. Lots of literary beer. I remember this day every year because James Joyce taught me to love big data. Bloomsday commemorates Joyce’s life and his masterwork Ulysses, a massive creation that captures the universal in the specifics of one […]

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Playing, The Numbers

E3, the biggest video game conference in the world, takes place this week in Los Angeles. In addition to raising questions about why violence and mayhem sell so well, it also offers insight into the datafication of play. Take Destiny, one of — if not the — most expensive games ever produced. If you’re not familiar […]

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Writer, Interrupted

My achievements as a procrastinauteur seem to know no bounds. On June 1st, I said I would write something on big data every day for the entire month of June. I managed to keep that up for five days and then fell off the wagon for nearly twice that, going on a non-writing bender. As penance, […]

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Data Is Not A Commodity

A common refrain among the digerati is that data is a commodity but insight is not. Or wisdom, or judgment — insert your favorite word for good thinking. It’s true that good thinking is in short supply. That’s why there are escape handles in the trunks of rental cars. And why Napoleon got his hat handed […]

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There Is No Such Thing As Metadata

The USA Freedom Act, just voted into law, ended the government’s bulk collection of phone call metadata. While people of good conscience can disagree on whether this is a good or bad thing, here’s an uncontestable fact: There is no such thing as metadata. David Weinberger, Internet polemicist, former joke writer for Woody Allen, and all around […]

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A Fireside Chat On Data Capital

Jason Pontin, publisher of MIT Technology Review, is a gentleman and a scholar. His Cambridge, MA office is decorated with meticulous stacks of books worth reading from the past few decades. He’s a man of letters in a world of bits. Totally my kind of guy.  Yesterday at MIT EmTech Digital we sat down for […]

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The Importance Of Being Vulgar

In French, there’s a great word for a person who popularizes ideas: vulgarisateur. A vulgarizer. It comes from the latin vulgo, “to spread among the multitude.” This is what events like TED and MiT EmTech Digital are all about — spreading ideas. But during the final afternoon of EmTech today, Jennifer Pahlka, CEO of Code for America gave vulgarization […]

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30 Posts In 30 Days

I’m a slow writer. A deliberate, plodding wordsmith. All of that is true except the wordsmith part. And the deliberate, plodding bit. I’m a procrastinator. To fix this, I’m going to write something about big data every day for the entire month of June. Not just working days, every day. It won’t be genius. Much […]

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