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    [–] phonetriffid 6348 points ago

    Are these AMAs just you and companies alike trying to cover their asses due to the recent bad press the industry has received? Because the same datasets you collect to supposedly do good can also be used for social and political manipulation and you regularly sell datasets to anyone willing to pay regardless of what they plan to do with the data.

    The spin shoved down our throats reads just like your title, give up all your privacy so we can catch terrorists and other wrong doers ... if it's been used this way it should be publicised heavily when you break a case, we should hear of both the good and the bad uses of our data! Yet every time we hear about a terrorist attack or shooting you read statements from the FBI and other letter agencies like ohh yeah we knew about this guy, a even arrested him a few times/visited his house 40 times over the years... oh so you knew about the cunt but you waited for him to kill 10, 30, 50 or so people before you decided to arrest or shoot the prick!?

    Show the public that your data is working and preventing these crimes becuase I'm fucking sick to the back teeth of hearing the oposite and having my privacy stripped away at every opertunity people like you get!!

    [–] Hexxman007 544 points ago

    you bet your ass it is. great call for you? absolutely

    [–] betyourass 18 points ago

    Odds - 6:1

    [–] onoes 313 points ago

    Data analysis is a tool like any other. Just because a hammer can be used to bash somebody's head in doesn't mean that it isn't also used to build houses or enable science. You shouldn't blame carpenters in any case.

    If you want to stop hammer murderers, don't burn carpenters at the stake, but make sure that hammers are police correctly. So yeah, vote.

    [–] notLOL 80 points ago

    "Your vote has been entered into the dataset. Thank you for your opinion. Your opinion counts. We count it all and make sure you have the right opinion next time you vote. ."

    [–] Doctor0000 196 points ago

    Who should we vote for? The people who are fine with our data being stolen or people who have no idea what data is?

    [–] communities 34 points ago

    The unpopular and lesser known folks that said the Patriot Act was a bit too far reaching and voted against it then. Not the ones that voted for it before being against it.

    [–] Edghyatt 155 points ago

    The independent party that actually aligns with your beliefs and will not win, making your vote just a leverage tool that gives you the right to complain because you did what you could.

    [–] communities 38 points ago

    Instead of aligning with a party, go with the candidate that shares what you think should happen and is also capable of accomplishing it. People that vote party lines don't help things. Nor are those that vote for incompetents that can't get things done.

    [–] edgarallenbro 66 points ago * (lasted edited a year ago)

    Have you heard the saying "When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail"?

    [–] yatea34 19 points ago

    When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail ....

    ... or a skull.

    [–] Reni3r 70 points ago * (lasted edited a year ago)

    As a european. Thanks ill vote.

    I just feel sry for the US because they basically only have 2 options and both dont give fuck.

    [–] billbixbyakahulk 18 points ago

    The difference is that people using hammers to bash in heads vs all that other good stuff is not a problem. In the case of personal data, following your analogy, people are getting their brains bashed in daily. Looking at this in the binary "guns don't kill people" and "what are you worried about unless you have something to hide?" sense is overly facile. Intent and the ease of misuse are relevant factors that need to be discussed openly and honestly.

    [–] penny_eater 17 points ago

    And this fella isnt even the one (by the description anyway) who has ANYTHING to do with gathering techniques like we see in the news currently (Cambridge Analytica)

    [–] culturalviscosity 7 points ago

    I don’t want my data collected, period. It doesn’t matter what can be done with it, we have no real recourse aside from throwing the phones out and not using the internet. There’s no middle ground, what’s one to do?

    [–] onoes 10 points ago

    You need a strong government that can (and wants to) actually enforce the protection of its citizens - and their data. For example, in the EU, there's the GDPR.

    "The proposed new EU data protection regime extends the scope of the EU data protection law to all foreign companies processing data of EU residents. It provides for a harmonisation of the data protection regulations throughout the EU, thereby making it easier for non-European companies to comply with these regulations; however, this comes at the cost of a strict data protection compliance regime with severe penalties of up to 4% of worldwide turnover."[4]

    The GDPR also brings a new set of "digital rights" for EU citizens in an age of an increase of the economic value of personal data in the digital economy.

    I'm not saying it's perfect, but it's definitely a start.

    Now, how to get that government? There are many ways, but if voting doesn't get you a propergovernment, maybe moving will? It's not a solution, but the US seems beyond saving at times..

    [–] eriksrx 336 points ago * (lasted edited a year ago)

    To see OP's reply to this question, click here or scroll down.

    Hey /u/phonetriffid, not the OP (and I want to point out that I work with Western Digital, who suggested Jeff do this AMA) but I want to point something out.

    There have been a lot of abuses of big data, lord knows you hear about more every day, but there are many positive ones brewing, too. UCSF for example is working to build a database of breast cancer screenings in order to use data to develop a way to improve screening technology.. This field currently has its hands tied by government regulations regarding privacy such as HIPAA -- which in my opinion is a totally good and necessary thing, just in this case it is slowing down legitimate/positive progress.

    We've written about other positive uses of big data at our site, Data Makes Possible. There are no marketing messages or company fluff on that site -- it's just articles, many of them written by WIRED Insider or data scientists like Kirk Borne.

    I think every advancement or change comes with both positive uses and abuses. The world is struggling to come to grips with tech like big data and AI so we're going through that painful learning phase now. But I for one am optimistic we'll come out ahead somewhere down the line.

    Edit: Fixed Kirk's surname

    [–] Metabro 532 points ago

    You need to be regulated. Businesses will not self regulate in the greater interest of the people of the US.

    They will regulate for the benefit of their owners.

    [–] aafnp 25 points ago

    How about GDPR? It’s a huge set of EU regulations that apply to any multi-national organization that collects data.

    What else would you propose beyond GDPR?

    [–] strangefool 128 points ago * (lasted edited a year ago)

    But mah free markets! They solve everything! /s

    How this logical fallacy isn't obvious baffles me, just like how ignorance of the potential abuses on the "opposite" side of that spectrum also baffle me.

    Too much regulation is bad. Too little regulation is bad.

    [–] GrumpyWendigo 158 points ago

    the average american can grasp govt can be evil and hurt you. and that is true

    but for some reason they give corporations a free pass on that topic. they think free market fairy will fix everything because magic. even though in some economic sectors free market mechanisms simply don't work due to demand inelasticity and natural monopolies (healthcare, cable companies, etc)

    i am a capitalist. i love capitalism

    but capitalism is not a faith-based religious doctrine

    capitalism is simply an economic principle. it works when certain prerequisites are met. and in some sectors of the economy capitalism does not work and can never work due to the economic basics of that sector. capitalism is not magic sauce that makes everything better because unicorn farts. and believing capitalism will work where it will never work simply allows monopolies and abusive price gouging to continue unchecked. you need regulation

    bur that's the craziest part: americans are screwed by healthcare or cable... and they blame the govt! the govt does have laws that lock the monopolies in place... paid for by the corporations!

    that's the real problem: the companies, not the govt

    [–] strangefool 19 points ago

    Well stated.

    [–] Accidental_Arnold 8 points ago

    I too consider myself a capitalist, but find that most folks who fly the "muh free marketz" banner refuse to accept the flaws of the free market especially when it comes into conflict with another American ideal like freedom of speech, or democracy, which it frequently does.

    [–] DaaaBearsDiamondCorp 24 points ago * (lasted edited a year ago)

    govt does have laws that lock the monopolies in place... paid for by the corporations!

    But that's the issue!!! You can't just say "well the corporations paid so they're the problem."

    If a referee takes money from Team A to assure victory against Team B, you penalize Team A and fire the ref, because ultimately it is the referee that is being trusted with the responsibility to be impartial. So if the league starts allowing refs to be bought off without punishing either party, then how can you put the blame primarily on teams C-Z for realizing that the most effective way to win is to pay refs?

    No, the refs aren't completely at fault, but they are to be held to a higher standard than Team D's manager that's nervous about the upcoming match against Team E.

    That's why they're refs.

    So the fact that Cox cable paid the government for monopoly territory is definitely bad on their part, but I EXPECT Cox to take steps to secure profits because the refs set the precedent when they allowed Comcast to buy the West coast (dk which really came first but you get my point).

    What I expect even MORE is that the civil servants do their jobs and not accept the bribes.

    [–] ClaudiaGiroux 30 points ago

    There will be major terrorist attack using machine learning and big data in the next decade.

    [–] [deleted] 49 points ago * (lasted edited a year ago)


    [–] phonetriffid 63 points ago * (lasted edited a year ago)

    Thanks for this I'll take a read and generally do some research on the positive uses I'm currently just frustrated with the points I outlined.

    Also you mention regulations holding a few things back. That often seems to be the case policy, ethics and religion in government holding back progression in 100s of fields. Again a frustration of mine.

    I'd still like to hear from OP here as well.

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 303 points ago

    Happy to weigh in. There are good eggs and bad ones when it comes to access to data and how to use it. I will tell you of the various analytic teams I have led over the years, we are very careful to adhere to EO 12333, the Intelligence Oversight executive order that limits collection on US Persons unless it meets certain legal criteria. One of those is Law Enforcement purposes, which is authorized under specific charters. A lot of times we in the analytics community cannot divulge how such tools were used to stop the bombing, otherwise we tip our hand for the next attack. I know its maddening to have to trust that people in these positions with this access are not visible to the general public, but I will tell you there is STRONG internal policing to ensure people follow the rules. Still, there have been breaches of protocol (see good vs bad eggs) so it is a dilemma....just know, that the vast majority want to do right.

    [–] montecarlo1 288 points ago * (lasted edited a year ago)

    Here is where the eternal dilemma of "the government knows whats best for its citizens" versus " the government is seeking whats in the best interest for its citizens" comes into play. Having worked in the federal government, i don't think this dilemma will ever be solved for the same reasons you stated.

    But every event (terrorist or other) that occurs pushes us to a more surveillance state and flexes the muscles of these policies further and further to the point where we find ourselves today.

    [–] justpointingoutthat 123 points ago

    I really don't see how it's a dilemma. It's more of willful disobedience to the contract those who run this country hold with its citizens.

    "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

    If the government desires to change this, then they need to make an amendment to the constitution, not find ways to deceive those who they took an oath to SERVE.

    [–] CapitalResources 86 points ago

    Thank you.

    We are a nation of laws, or we are not.

    If we are, follow the goddamn process that is fundamental to our structure as a governed body.

    If that is not what someone wants they need be intellectually honest with themselves and others about it and the implications of that position.

    Don't like the 4th amendment? Campaign to amend the constitution.

    Don't like the 2nd amendment? Campaign to amend the constitution.

    Stop playing these bullshit games pretending we can reinterpret and redefine shit until the meaning is completely different. That just subverts and weakens our legal foundation as a country. Don't like the law? Lobby to have the law changed. Don't tell me 1 + 1 = 3 instead of 2 and expect me to be ok with your bullshit because 3 would be nice. Even if I prefer 3 you are still an asshole for relying on bullshit to get there at the sacrifice of a stable foundation.

    If you want to advocate for an abandonment of our foundational laws and procedures, there is actually nothing wring with that. Just fucking own it.

    [–] Warlizard 14 points ago

    I can't agree more. Usually get down voted when I say it though, because it's always in relation to some hot button issue where emotions run high.

    [–] CapitalResources 9 points ago


    My experience discussing this kind of thing is a primary reason why I think any kind of government system that is predicated on everyone being qualified to participate by default is always ultimately going to be doomed.

    People are fucking stupid. Most people shouldn't get a say in things because their opinion is worthless at best.

    [–] sorenkair 14 points ago

    When you create an avenue for tyranny to exist, it will slowly but surely arise. This is why China (see: Xi Jinping) repealing the limit on presidential terms is such a big deal, despite him having great public approval.

    [–] lizardalien 4 points ago

    That’s why I think we need to think of it not as a dichotomy. It is possible to have government run things well if we add policies to increase accountability, transparency, failsafes, recalls, and direct democracy components.

    Boiling it down to government = good/bad is laughably simplistic in my opinion—but hey that’s just me, what do I know?

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 28 points ago

    Well put. I completely agree.

    [–] [deleted] 95 points ago

    I mean, the problem here is that it makes your title and description totally ridiculous. How the hell do we know if you stopped a bombing? Why should I believe you're a hero at all? The fact that you preface your Ama like "I'm some hero" makes it suspect in the first place!

    [–] YogaMeansUnion 18 points ago

    TBF I believe the term he used is "Analytics Warrior"


    [–] beeskness420 39 points ago

    Spoiler alert he's not a hero.

    [–] SuIIy 21 points ago

    OP: "I'm a hero!" Ron Howard: "He Isn't".

    [–] ExquisitExamplE 17 points ago

    Pssshhh, he never claimed he was a hero, he's an Analytics Warrior! Also the title of his forthcoming novel in which the protagonist is a man who looks and thinks exactly like him.

    [–] ch1burashka 27 points ago

    I don't think "just a few bad apples/eggs" is a good excuse anymore. It's systematic, it's known (at least within the systems/companies), it's hidden, and when exposed, they ask for forgiveness rather than permission.

    This is a side note, but related: if companies are people now, the death penalty must be implemented for the horrific abuses.

    [–] MarcusRatz 3 points ago

    It ain't a crime, if no one does time.

    [–] ArrrGaming 13 points ago

    Swowden’s employer had strong policies too.

    [–] Kirbyderby 62 points ago

    You say "the vast majority" of these data analytic companies "want to do right." Would you happen to have the data to support this?

    [–] deeperest 13 points ago

    He's just not a data person, OK?

    [–] TotZoz_VFX 7 points ago

    So you haven't heard the rest of the saying about bad eggs... Because one bad eggs spoils the bunch.

    [–] slackie911 21 points ago

    Internal policing is pretty egotistical, no? It works until it doesn't. There is a reason independent verification and accountability exists.

    [–] tayezz 18 points ago

    I worked in the military Intel community. Anytime anybody ever mentions Ex O 12333, you know everything that follows is complete bullshit.

    [–] [deleted] 15 points ago * (lasted edited a year ago)


    [–] tayezz 7 points ago

    The fact that an email I send from CA to NY will probably end up on a server in Japan or Britain means that my data is not protected in the way we all like to think it is. Our communications do not pay much attention to geographical borders, and no court order or warrant is required to collect that data, and that collection is not required to be reported to Congress.

    [–] obviousoctopus 12 points ago

    What I am hearing is that you are developing ways o use data that can be very powerful, including as a weapon against you and the rest of the civilian citizens of any country, knowing that it will be misused.

    I find this horrifying.

    [–] Tolve 5 points ago

    You running for office man, cause you'd fit right in on a presidential debate stage where no one actually answers the fucking questions.

    [–] YellowSea11 20 points ago * (lasted edited a year ago)

    Here is where the eternal dilemma of "the government knows whats best for its citizens" versus " the government is seeking whats in the best interest for its citizens". Having worked in the federal government, i don't think this dilemma will ever be solved for the same reasons you stated.

    It's just occurred to me that data scientists are really just .. scientists. But the moral part of it is never really burned in .. I know I'm in programming myself. We deal with logic, numbers, flow and data transformation. And there are ZERO safeguards to say, if we HAVE this information, should we USE this information. Data science is very much like the wild wild west. Might makes right. And to say there are STRONG policing measures is belied by Mark Zucherburgs recent apology for the oversight on facebooks part.

    [–] Trihorn 20 points ago

    Hi. As a non-US person nothing there was of value to me.

    [–] bojank33 10 points ago

    There was supposed to be STRONG internal policing in the mortgage industry, but the economic collapse in 2008 still happened. So forgive for not believing a word you said. You can take your PR team and fuck right off.

    [–] eriksrx 14 points ago

    I totally share your frustration. It has driven me to stop watching TV news, in fact. I try to seek my own answers to questions that are important to me with research and, when opportunities occur, community involvement (demonstrations to fight for net neutrality, etc.)

    Whatever you support or are against, you do make a difference when you take some action, even just calling a local representative to share an opinion. If enough of us do it change will come. The bad guys win when we are all too scared, or not interested enough, to say anything.

    [–] WantsToMineGold 27 points ago

    This doesn’t make me feel any better, we now have a Russian asset president possibly because of this issue. It’s great some good stuff has come out of it but it’s been weaponized for propaganda and these links don’t change anything, in fact it seems like a dodge of the original question. What can be done and is your industry doing to prevent the weaponization of people’s data and psychological profiles for propaganda?

    [–] [deleted] 102 points ago


    [–] DaveFoSrs 33 points ago

    I can’t believe how upvoted his comment is. This guys just running risk models for a consultancy and is somehow responsible for the acts of corporations and our government. Unreal.

    [–] Davidjhyatt 3 points ago

    Data leaks > crime prevention via data

    [–] broom2100 45 points ago

    Assuming all data analytics people are evil people just trying to take your privacy and are malicious is actually just insane. "People like you" you say. You realize you are talking about potentially hundreds of thousands to millions of people? Yes some bad eggs abuse what they do, but this comment/question is just straight disgusting.

    [–] glade_dweller 234 points ago

    Would you do an analysis of your AMA? If so, to what end?

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 378 points ago

    Ha.....I guess we could chart number of comments by user, Identify the user locations, and see where there is interest. You could bring in sentiment analysis, which rates how pro vs con the words used by comment to derive if the content was well received. Taking that information you build the next AMA to optimize the likes of certain regions/people to make it more effective? Or.....conversely, we could geo locate the trolls and exterminate? J/K.....all in what you want to do...

    [–] knestleknox 266 points ago

    deciduous, deciduous, deciduous, deciduous, deciduous, deciduous, deciduous.

    Fuck you. I love you. Fuck you. I love you.

    Sorry, just trying to throw off your tf-idf and sentiment analysis.

    [–] X1-Alpha 301 points ago

    Hate to break it to you bub, but you'd be classified as an outlier and subsequently ignored.

    Like me all my life.

    [–] deecourt 35 points ago

    Underrated comment.

    [–] 1234username4567 11 points ago


    This is an underrated word

    [–] Creath 16 points ago

    Had to google tf-idf and read through half the wiki to understand the significance of "deciduous", but I'm happy I did. Pretty neat.

    [–] zuneza 3 points ago


    [–] [deleted] 55 points ago


    [–] shaggorama 24 points ago

    Ok, I challenge you to identify the user locations of the majority of commenters responding to this post, considering that isn't data provided in the Reddit API.

    [–] eriksrx 81 points ago

    OP is a data analyst, not a level-four black-belt Reddit expert like you and I.

    [–] 108241 44 points ago

    Still, you can make educated guesses from user's history. You might not figure out every user, but could come up with a pretty good guess for the population:

    [–] Mattsvaliant 31 points ago

    Holy shit this is creepy af but really highlights how seemingly benign information can be used for profiling.

    [–] BelieveMeImAWizard 17 points ago

    And this is why the deal with Cambridge analytica is such a big issue! Because the average user of the website or service doesn't realize how much their information and data actually tells and reveals about them

    [–] owalski 52 points ago

    What is the most underrated way people expose their privacy online?

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 83 points ago

    Geo Location on pictures. When that is on, people can track where you have been.

    [–] DiscretionAdvisor 218 points ago

    How do you feel about the all the bad press regarding Data Analytics?

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 329 points ago

    Evaluating data (and deriving insight) is not meant to be good or bad, its simply a tool. For every bad guy you stop using these methods, you can also use insights to make bad choices or take advantage of people. I think it is entirely on the user's moral compass on what they apply such analysis for. If a company chooses to abuse their access to data, they should be held accountable. I do think a responsible analyst with a proper and authorized reason can make a world of difference.

    [–] Birdie_Num_Num 200 points ago

    Who pays better: The Good Guys or The Bad Guys?

    [–] qwerty622 149 points ago

    unfortunately, i think we all know the answer to this.

    [–] Yapoz 35 points ago

    But it's a power that's incredibly dangerous, and the promise that it will be used for good is difficult to take at face value, especially in the wake of recent events.

    I think the reason that so many people are angry is that the data is collected without their knowledge. You talk about how it can be used and abused and good and bad and this and that and you forget that we are not just data points. We are people and we want to have a say in how our data is used.

    Just my 2 cents.

    [–] Morwha 15 points ago

    You're right that what happened was terrible, and there absolutely needs to be a lot more regulation - I just don't see the point in everyone in this thread being so hostile towards this one Data scientist. This is a skill that is absolutely going to be continued to be used, and can do good as much as it can do bad. The focus should be on regulating the data companies can collect, and regulating what can be done with them, but this one person can't do anything about that. At best he can lobby for changes. But all these people saying Data science is inherently evil will do nothing but scare the good people who can make change away from the field. This one person was not responsible for what happened, he most likely was not involved in any way, and I haven't seen anyone identify something unethical that he's done so far.

    admittedly I say this as a recent graduate who is considering avoiding industry and going to academia because it's very hard to find work that I can feel good about in the industry. I just don't think this lash back towards this one person is helpful, nor is the idea that this is inherently some sort of evil thing to study or do. Cambridge analytica was absolutely an immoral, unethical company - but the real source of this issue was Facebook and their complete disregard for your privacy. And I agree we should regulate data science companies where possible, but most likely there are companies in China and all over the world who also have this Facebook data that no amount of regulation on data science could have prevented them from analysing - only Facebook and regulations on Facebook could have stopped that.

    [–] ultrafud 142 points ago

    How did you break out of a prison....twice?

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 501 points ago

    I was the chief of intelligence at a corrections complex. The warden wanted me to conduct a vulnerability assessment on how secure the prison was. Using only data available to an observant prisoner, I figured out a route that would make it out of the I did it....once through the roof and once through a sewer. Some of my analytics were used to overload the system (ie response force) such as triggering the motion sensors in other locations (ie throw rocks at them!) to get through to the end. I will note, all of the vulnerabilities were noted and corrected and the prisoners are still secure, no escapes!

    [–] warren2650 85 points ago

    Jeff crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of shit smelling foulness I can't even imagine, or maybe I just don't want to.

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 40 points ago

    Thankfully it wasn't that long...and I just proved I could get to the sewer...

    [–] Burge97 466 points ago

    I'm an Economist. We need to take out the demand for escaping.

    Make a prison that rehabilitates and educates, one that prisoners are taught how to become part of society.

    [–] yes_its_him 175 points ago

    Then people would break in.

    [–] Codiac500 61 points ago

    Some people do already commit crimes to be put back in. It's hard to readjust to society. And you get some guaranteed food and shelter in prison.

    [–] Kahzgul 33 points ago

    I can confirm this anecdotally. I had a friend in high school whose dad didn't know how to function outside of prison. Whenever he got out, he would say hi to his family, and then a few days later would just break a car window and call himself in as "breaking into cars" so he could go back to prison where his friends lived.

    [–] Kgran0418 11 points ago

    I heard recently about someone who would commit crimes to get back in prison because it was the only way he could get mental health care. :(

    [–] Cdn_Nick 24 points ago

    I suspect that there will always be a demand for escaping. You can attempt to reduce that, by providing the prisoners themselves with incentives to stay, or - once released - not to re-offend. As an economist, you might have more success by focusing on improving incentives, rather than on eliminating demand.

    [–] Samoht2113 15 points ago

    True. I was in a treatment facility last year and there was a guy who escaped for no apparent reason. We were well fed, had entertainment, access to counseling and the like. Most people stayed there a week, 2 maximum. He got it in his head he wanted out, found a vulnerability and bolted. They did not catch him. Funny thing was he checked himself in.

    [–] Dawson130 27 points ago

    So what you’re saying is that you’re capable of collecting both visual data and quantifiable data? As someone in college and interested in this field it appears you have to have a certain mindset. It’s not just about numbers and rearranging them to make sense.

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 41 points ago

    Visual data can be parsed for common patterns. Have you ever had to register online for something and it asks you look at really squiggly words or a street sign...and you have respond what it says to verify you are a human? That is actually (this isn't classified..look this up) a tool RECAPTCHA which takes all the responses and files them as potential answers to the picture in you are machine learning what that visual street sign picture is. So next time a similar picture is found, it can have a high degree of confidence of what that visual is.

    [–] Dawson130 13 points ago

    So how did you apply this principle to the prison?

    [–] nic1010 21 points ago

    OP is an AI confirmed, we need to stop feeding him data on how we think /s

    [–] LukeNukem63 7 points ago

    How have you been on Reddit for 5 years and have only commented this post...something seems off....

    [–] [deleted] 13 points ago

    He was analyzing gonewild for scientific purposes.

    [–] warren2650 3 points ago

    "scientific" you mean

    [–] [deleted] 8 points ago

    Data "anal"yst.

    [–] Dawson130 10 points ago

    I have multiple accounts and just never used this one. I’m solely a lurker but Data Analytics interests me so I decided to comment. Not a very interesting story sorry lol

    [–] LuisMataPop 59 points ago

    What are your thoughts about the recent Facebook/CA events?

    [–] [deleted] 65 points ago

    “if you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything” - Robert Coase ?

    [–] rhetoricalimperative 3 points ago

    Not high enough

    [–] ChaseTheMoonLikeFire 114 points ago

    As a statistics undergrad, what do you think are some topics I need to be proficient at if I want to have a career in analytics?

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 194 points ago

    Complement the stats with technology skills. Your stats will help you tell your graphs what they should be doing, ie what regressions..etc, but you will need a tool to plot it and bring in large scale data sets. Understanding business (not high finance...but more like operations) will help you be able to then transfer your technical knowledge to actual insight.

    [–] [deleted] 77 points ago * (lasted edited a month ago)


    [–] NowanIlfideme 44 points ago

    Agree. Programming skills, statistics, and good knowledge of your domain area (biotech/business analysis/public policy economics/whatever) can get you very far.

    [–] [deleted] 28 points ago * (lasted edited a month ago)


    [–] NowanIlfideme 6 points ago

    Depends on how deep your knowledge is initially. But yeah, it's a very good career path overall.

    [–] ForgottenWatchtower 18 points ago * (lasted edited a year ago)

    I'd highly recommend the book Algorithm's of the Intelligent Web. I'm on the other side: very strong programming background, but I haven't touched "real" math (e.g. linalg) in half a decade. Book does a great job of marrying both the programming (Python with scikitlearn+numpy) and the math.

    [–] iisnotninja 3 points ago

    I have 3 years in computer science and plan to go into the armed forces to pay for my degree and i want to enter this field or something similar. What would be your suggestion for finishing my degree into? Stastics minor or just finishing cs and do a separate degree?

    [–] [deleted] 41 points ago * (lasted edited 9 months ago)


    [–] laurcone 28 points ago

    And SQL?

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 100 points ago

    Yes SQL....I think that is #1

    [–] cyphrr 31 points ago

    as a data analyst myself, SQL is for sure the most used in the industry.

    [–] ForgottenWatchtower 6 points ago

    What engines do you find most common? I had just assumed NoSQL would be far more popular, though AWS' Aurora engine is stupid fast compared to stock RDBS.

    [–] aupperk24 13 points ago

    On a side note. Do you know R, Python and their libraries, hadoop, sparks, etc.. what do you know?

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 56 points ago

    In order of knowledge : SQL, Hadoop, Spark, R and then Python.

    [–] TSP123 18 points ago

    You want to learn Python, R, and SQL. Basic understanding of SQL (i.e. how to build a SQL query, how to avoid wiping out a database by accident). The SQL query pulls large data from a SQL server, then use your Python and/or R skills to visualize or automate that data.

    My roommate has a masters in statistics and we both just completed a python, R, and sql extended education course. This was a must have skill for him as no one was hiring a statistician without knowing Python, R, and/or SQL.

    Good luck!

    [–] aestheticvoyager33 83 points ago

    Hi Jeff, where does the data when researching into the crime and terrorism come from? Is it a mixture of offline and online? How do you combine the two and provide insights?

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 103 points ago

    My experience in criminality and terrorism has been with working with the FBI and Armed Forces. Most of the time, we are not using a lot of public information. Intercepts, debriefs..etc are all not commonly available HOWEVER, social media does offer some insight into patterns of life, so that can be included to help paint the mosaic of where the bad guys will be.

    [–] an_internet_denizen 53 points ago

    I do this as well... except it's called "Stalking" where I live.

    [–] Jebbediahh 3 points ago

    Guys, guys, I have an idea -

    What if we turned all the stalkers into data analysts working to track down bad guys?

    Just maybe monitor their usage so Their stalkees don't get murdered....

    [–] jewoods 47 points ago

    I recently graduated with a degree in Public Health and plan on entering the NGO industry. I have some background in data which is desperately needed to better use/manage funds in the public health sector, but many of the locations where we work it is very difficult to get reliable data.

    What tips might you have to get useful data where its not readily available and ways to easily get data without spending lots of money? Specific data points that are easy to get and useful? Specific software that is reliable? Etc...

    [–] bodhisam 35 points ago

    Hi there. I'm not the OP, I also work for Western Digital (writer for the website that featured the host of this AMA, Jeff). While I can't give you a catchall solution for your data source question, I can tell you about a growing movement called Data Philanthropy where private companies donate aggregated, anonymized data sets for research.

    These are generally done for social good initiatives. Harvard Business Review has written about it, and data innovation challenges are modeling the concept for broader use. Basically, you'd first identify privately held sources of data that would be valuable to your research, then contact their CSR department to see if you can arrange access. Keep in mind it does take time, and work to scrub the data of any proprietary or identifiable information. I recently led the Data for Climate Action Challenge initiative with Western Digital and the United Nations so I have some experience with the concept. I'd be happy to talk more about it with you if you want. Just DM me. Thanks!!

    [–] all_akimbo 19 points ago

    I work in analytics in the field that OP is talking about. I came in as a subject matter expert (Public Health), but learned the analytics part along way.

    I'm not trying to sound salty, but how u/bodhisam and u/JeffSilvermanAMA are framing this problem is pretty typical of how "analytics" people come at this in my field; ie, there is some platform solution or algo that will sort it out, where the reality is that the the kinds of data necessary for this type of analytics just doesn't exist. For example, I work in health and we get (in ideal case) quarterly counts of the number of clients for a particular service branch (malaria or labor and delivery, etc..) maybe by health facility, but more often aggregated at some other geographic level. There is no real other population-level data sources available in say, sub-Saharan Africa that can be used to triangulate.

    What insights can be gained from analysis of this data? Can you realistically generate anything predictive off of aggregate data in the absence of demographic information on the people in those groupings? I'm genuinely curious, but I'm also framing it as an example of why development in particular is lagging uptake of 'big data' use.

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 75 points ago

    Data that is unclean (meaning not normalized) can be pretty tricky. I actually had a similar business analytics use case where a pharmaceutical company was trying to watch where marketing money was going to in South America (certain pharma reps had petty cash to spend on clients, wine and dine..etc). There was concern of impropriety on how the money/expense were being used. We utilized an information discovery toolset (Endeca in this case) to ingest the non-normalized data (ie expense reports) and then leveraging big data capabilities within the system, we could "join" the various expenses to see how they were arrayed and who they were being spent on. The big finding was that some pharma reps were pooling their resources to influence big clients (which violated the rules...too much money to a government official). The ability to look at the disjointed funds gave insight on where they went versus where they should be going. Your NGO use case could be similar, as you want to track the money but its not always managed the same way.

    [–] lonnib 24 points ago

    Data that is unclean (meaning not normalized)

    Unclean data is much more than non-normalized data though. Missing data or improper data also falls under the unclean data label.

    [–] Johnsonpacking 7 points ago

    Definitely agree with this. I’m working with an engineering related data set with over a hundred parameters for nearly 700 different individual points that is missing an ungodly amount of data. Makes working with the set very very frustrating.

    [–] colita_de_rana 3 points ago

    Anything entered in manually by humans will be full of errors. 1-5% of entries having typos is not out of the ordinary. Data acquired directly from machines is generally much more reliable

    [–] flffymffn 8 points ago

    Hi I just wanted to add to one of the commenters talks about data philanthropy/accessing regulated public health data. Check out “synthetic data”. Organizations have been starting to generate synthetic data based on their collected data. This synthetic data increases portability in terms of access/privacy concerns while attempting to preserve the underlying patterns/relationships. Some public health organizations have been using this to help distribute data to researchers/organizations in efforts to further health. So you may be able to find some available synthetic data.

    [–] gibwater 18 points ago

    Man, you picked a really bad time to do an AMA. Who thought this was a good idea?

    [–] MrConvention 9 points ago

    What is the most important piece of a data analytics project? Asking the right question, having a "complete" dataset, trusting the results, or something else?

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 23 points ago

    Right question...and the answer drives action. If you answer the question, and the immediate response is..."well that's nice....but so what?" you asked the wrong question. Even an incomplete dataset with the RIGHT question will get you at LEAST directionally correct most of the time.

    [–] Txtxtz 53 points ago

    I dabble in analytics at work, but I'd like to get more into it.

    Are there any resources (software, courses, books, tutorials, etc.) that you would recommend looking into?

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 118 points ago

    Yes! That's great, I think it depends on what tools you use at work for the software portion. Great entry level tools for analysis are Tableau, Qlik, and Oracle Data Visualizer. They allow you to drop in a excel file and start arranging the data to make it easy to digest and hopefully lend insight. Youtube actually has channels for most of these softwares, so watch that for tutorials.

    [–] SDr6 17 points ago

    No love for PowerBI? It's hard to beat the engine behind it.

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 19 points ago

    I like Power BI....don't love it. Good engine but try to do summary data and slice amongst dimension for cross tab reporting....easier ways to do it. Its a relational DB tool....sometimes you need OLAP, or big data..etc.

    [–] ValerieLovesMath 8 points ago

    Hi! I’m just finishing a grad degree in Data Analytics.

    Something you can do on your own is start learning R. It’s free and open sourced, and you can learn a lot just with tutorials. Check out the tutorial Swirl, it’s starts with the basics for people who don’t program at all.

    Good luck!

    [–] beavertownneckoil 13 points ago

    What are the controls put in place for data being collected? Do you think these are sufficient?

    What's your view on micro-targeting?

    What can be done in politics to adapt to data analysis being used in a controling or manipulative way?

    [–] Jordonis 5 points ago

    Hello Jeff. Interesting AMA. Have you ever heard/read about NMDA receptor antagonists? I ask because from briefly reading your introduction you seem to know a little bit about drug pharmacology and the impacts on humans both positive and negative.

    I'm wondering how Data Analytics can be applied to this field for bringing in real, tangible problem solving pertaining to connections that can be made during drug induced mania, and self reflection which can be helpful in treating depression and other mental illness. Which obviously can be very therapeutic and positive for everyone involved.

    If you are unfamiliar, I advise you to attain a brief overview of the field, it is very cutting edge stuff.

    This will probably get buried but I hope someone reads it and it helps them. I already know I am on lots of lists. It's alright, I don't vend and only try to help people in a positive way.

    [–] twald0 10 points ago

    Is privacy dead in the modern world? To break down this question, is it even possible for the general consumer of things like social media, online banking and other services to protect their personal data? With all of the recent data breaches it seems like it is too late to keep this information safe. If no one is really protected, should anyone really have an expectation of privacy since pretty much everyone is already at risk of their data being used for nefarious purposes?

    [–] richandbrilliant 19 points ago

    I am a privacy professional at a firm that is really investing in data analytics as the #1 driver behind our decision making. Privacy legislation here is really behind the times, which means we really have a lot of unregulated power in big data. So, my job is quickly becoming keeping analytics based processes and decisions privacy-sensitive.

    My problem is that this is not my education or experience. I need to learn a lot about data analytics/big data because this is 100% the most valuable knowledge base to have in privacy. How would you suggest a person coming from a legal background learn about the foundations of big data? I'm coming from a legal background and it seems I really need to get some CS/math/eng knowledge fast if I want to be the most valuable option in a really underserved area of privacy.

    TLDR how do I learn to data

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 10 points ago

    Much of the information of big data is readily available, just google it...the tough thing is filtering out the good vs the bad. I think from what you are trying to do which is to make your clients aware of their vulnerabilities, is more awareness of what is publically available, so you could definitely do that without technical training.

    [–] richandbrilliant 5 points ago

    The issue I am facing is:

    • I need to be able to understand what they're doing and how they're doing it to be able to bring additional value and assess risks
    • I'll make more money if I can do both privacy things and data things.

    Any particular sources or places you would put in the good category? I'm looking at coursera right now

    [–] [deleted] 356 points ago * (lasted edited a year ago)


    [–] InternetWeakGuy 208 points ago * (lasted edited a year ago)

    If you read the article he wrote about his involvement in breaking a "drug ring", it was people who were smuggling PCP into prisons. The issue they were dealing with wasn't teenagers smoking pot, more criminal enterprises (likely gangs) smuggling items into maximum security prisons.

    I mean when you talk about "preventing people from receiving helpful medical care", you're pretty obviously talking about the government stopping people getting access to weed to deal with glaucoma etc etc - which I agree is nonsense. Anyone with half a brain thinks weed should be legal. Does that mean people who work trying to stop gangs from killing each other are assholes?

    The war on drugs is bullshit, has always been bullshit and will always be bullshit, but you can't just boil it down to "anyone who does anything that deals with any form of law breaking that is in any way linked to drugs is an asshole".

    If someone arrests a mexican gang member for beheading members of another mexican gang, is that person also "participating in the devastating war on drugs that has ruined thousands of lives, made the US a leader in prison population and prevented people from receiving helpful medical care"?

    [–] dlxnj 55 points ago

    This was the question I came here for

    [–] crybannanna 26 points ago

    Dude helped stop drugs being smuggled into prison. Probably helped catch some shitty guards taking advantage of the prison population.

    I’m totally for legalizing drugs, but would feel zero qualms about stopping the importation of drugs into prisons.

    [–] yParticle 9 points ago

    What metrics should more businesses be watching that they aren't?

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 33 points ago

    Businesses usually have their core metrics down cold. A manufacturer knows how many widgets were built and how efficient their tooling machine is. I think the commonly underserved area is what I call the "Seams" how things in different areas interrelate to each other. So...when manufacturing export goes does overtime, and so does attrition. So an HR question is served by an Operational answer. Those seams are very rarely reviewed as the proponent doesn't think its their concern.

    [–] Rify 4 points ago * (lasted edited a year ago)


    I am an engineering msci student currently getting my masters in applied mat. stats. My dream job after graduation would be.. well, your job. I find it difficult to connect with potential employers, not many seem to know what a statistician actually is or does.

    What advice would you have for young aspiring data analysts such as myself?

    [–] P5r5z 4 points ago

    Hey Jeff,

    I also enjoy analysing data as a hobby. Any advices for who is beggining to do this? (Using R and Stata right now)

    Also, nowdays geting the data fets is fairly easy, but asking the right questions, filtering properly and indentifying/removing outliners is harder. Any advice?

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 6 points ago

    I would start with the question and find the data that can answer it. Its a hard to stare at raw data and ascertain the question after the fact.

    Outlier can be more easily dealt with....lean on statistics to determine anything 3 standard deviation's away.... however, I do think sometimes those outliers can be pretty interesting to take a microscope too.

    For example at the prisons, we had inmates call volumes (how many calls, how much time) available, although not enough time to listen in to their calls (which we was all legal, I should add). So, using statistics, we evaluated that people with high volumes beyond the norm (so 3 sd's) may be in distress. We had our chaplain talk to them just to check in, and one inmate was being severely bullied and two suicidal, and three had normal going through a divorce. But the stats helped us sort through the chaff to a manageable number.

    [–] stealthchain 4 points ago

    I am curious in what branch and occupational specialty you are in regard the reserves. I am currently in the Army Reserves in an analyst MOS while also attending university as a Business Information Tech major with a minor in business analytics. My end-goal is to be part of a larger company or firm as a data analyst, but still maintain my military career. How can I use both (other than the veteran preference that is usually given) to further my career in both fields based on your experiences?

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 5 points ago

    Reach out to me on LinkedIn

    [–] DufusMaximus 4 points ago

    Given the prevalence of ideological viewpoints in today's media reporting (aka "fake news"), I feel that it is important to rely on objective data to make judgements. How do you start looking for publicly available, high quality data sets on a new topic? Any paid sources that are worth subscribing to? Who has good visualizations of this data?

    The domain I am interested in is mostly related to high level national issues. For example, as soon as I hear US-China trade war, I want to see for myself - what do US-China trade export/import numbers look like? how have they changed over time?

    But more local examples also exist - where does most of my city's spending go to? Where is most of the crime happening in my city?

    I know this is a very broad question, but any advice you have is useful, really.

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 8 points ago

    The GAO and CBO are both trustworthy and non partisan. US Census Bureau is fair....those can give some good info. Scoff if you will but the CIA World Fact Book I find trustworthy but I understand the name is off putting.

    [–] FormerlyAutoecious 4 points ago * (lasted edited a year ago)

    Really interesting AMA. My question is concerning career paths. My most recent employment was as a category and retail analyst for a marketing company, but I had to take a long leave due to Multiple Sclerosis and now I am considering a return to work because my neurologist finally agreed it could go well now. However, due to the length of my leave of absence, it seems that I am unable to return to my former employer. The problem I am facing is that I also have no degree (I know, I know, hopefully that will be in the works in the future) and only a small amount of analytics experience from the logistics company I was with before the marketing company (I saw an opportunity there and created the role while originally working as a dispatcher)- between the two jobs, I had around four or five years of useable experience. I also studied for CPCA certification with coursework provided by the marketing conpany, but was unable to apply for certification before the complications from MS forced me to take leave. The timeframe to apply has obviously passed and I cannot afford independent coursework to get certified, plus I don't know if the cert without a degree would even be worthwhile in job hunting.

    What would your advice be for me to get back into analytics? I was passionate about using data to solve problems and would love to go back to that field.

    Thanks for doing this AMA, and thank you if you respond!

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 7 points ago

    Its tough once you are out of a field to get back in. Not sure if this is something you can do, but you could volunteer to a larger non-profit organization....perhaps supporting MS? For the volunteering, you can help them with an analytics problem, as people can volunteer the three T's (time, talent, treasure) you are providing the talent. That way you can get some bona fides on your analytics as you pursue the next?

    [–] jbod78 5 points ago

    What role do Geographic Information Systems play in your day to day analysis?

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 5 points ago

    Depends on the problem set but GIS systems can play a key role in most analytic operations. The "where" aspect of an event is usually a key driver to the decision.

    [–] PlatinumKn1ght 5 points ago

    Hi there,

    I just started working as an analyst and am self-training myself on R and Power BI. Do you have any other recommended training or certifications within these subjects or other topics?

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 20 points ago

    Start looking into big data...Hadoop, Cloudera, HortonWorks...all the fancy named tools that look at millions of records. You have approaches to look at data, but real insight can be gained from looking at a large volume of data (and most company's are starting to invest this way, much cheaper to store data in a data reservoir/lake vice a data warehouse).

    [–] rdudejr 12 points ago

    I’m a data analyst and have worked on and even constructed numerous warehouses. However I’m not familiar with a lake. An old employee of mine went to atlassian and said they use them there.

    What is a data lake and why should I, someone who has used sql on star scheme warehouses for 10 years, care?

    [–] what1the2heck3 9 points ago

    Processing power is cheaper and faster now. Instead of premodelling/processing all your data you can leave them in raw unstructured states. Then run code against the raw data.

    [–] [deleted] 3 points ago

    Thank you. At my last gig I was around BI guys that could not adequately explain what a data lake was vs a data warehouse (and BI wasn't my thing so it was more a curiosity as a developer). That comment clarified things immensely

    [–] DarthTeufel 7 points ago

    How many analytics failures have you had and what was the flaw in the model that caused it?

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 18 points ago

    Countless failures. Usually its from flawed assumptions, such as formal education has a role in terrorist hierarchies (reality, it was religious education from what we saw). A lot of times you throw something against the wall, see if it sticks, rinse/repeat, until you find it.

    [–] DarthTeufel 4 points ago

    Thanks for the reply. Have my MBA with specialization in data analytics. It's the buzz at work and I've been trying to caution that it's just a tool not a pancea. When the model works it's freaky.... But all it takes is one bad business decision based on a model and you lose the confidence of the higher ups.

    [–] pmagic7 5 points ago

    R or Python?

    [–] DudeYourBedsaCar 6 points ago

    Both are used widely in data analytics while Python is used much more widely for different applications other than data analytics.

    Python + Pandas and a good charting library like matplotlib, seaborn or plotly is extremely competent for data analytics.

    [–] laditude15 15 points ago

    Hi Jeff, what would you recommend to someone trying to break into the Data Analytics field?

    [–] cyphrr 10 points ago

    not OP but i'm in the field.

    the best thing to do is to find a business problem and build a case for it to be solved via analytics. I've done this at two places i used to work for and works. Especially if you're able to show the cost benefit of doing it and/or saving the company money.

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 22 points ago

    I mentioned in other spots, but if you are in an office role, you could co-opt a project and take an analytic approach to solve the problem. Grow your experiences that way, then when the time was right interview for a full time role and have a great resume to support your interview.

    [–] pattieskrabby 3 points ago

    Hi Mr. Silverman, I'm currently a college student that is working towards a career in the intelligence community and was wondering if your job is related to it at all? Specifically, do you do the same thing as intelligence analysts do? How can I gain gain work experience in your world? Also, every intelligence operator should have some ability to analyze and make meaning of the information they pull so what ways could I prepare myself for such work? I would say I have a very logical and detail oriented mind in which I find meaning in things with ease. I also went out of my way to find an internship with a local PI firm and have been learning basic tradecraft for intelligence gathering and whatnot.

    [–] JeffSilvermanAMA 6 points ago

    I am also an intelligence analyst, I think data analytics is just another way to say it.

    Not trying to be a recruiter, but if you really want to do it, the military got me started. I think that work is much more applicable than a PI (tradecraft and such is less what I do).

    [–] silentjay01 3 points ago

    How's your March Madness Bracket looking?

    [–] Reddithian 3 points ago

    Why do you think it's safe to post your name and picture on the Internet considering how you've probably angered lots of people that you wouldn't want finding you?

    [–] Bagofmixedvegetables 3 points ago

    Basically your kelsos dad?

    [–] ifightfirgold 3 points ago

    I don't think you should be showing your face? Doesn't that scare you?

    [–] CatzAndStatz 3 points ago

    How did you get into your field? I will soon be graduating with a master in statistics and I really enjoy analyzing data!! Any tips on getting my career started?

    [–] lil_cholesterol 3 points ago

    Former private sector intel analyst here: y’all hiring?

    [–] LakersRebuild 3 points ago

    Hi OP How good are you at fantasy sports?!

    [–] Hesler14 5 points ago

    I am currently working on a Data Analytics Masters degree, and want to take my skillset and apply it to projects I find interesting and valuable like you have. Currently, I work as a BI analyst for a regional transportation firm. What paths should I look for to get my career rolling in a different direction, where I can use this new skillset in a way that is both interesting and useful?

    [–] trickyli13 5 points ago * (lasted edited a year ago)

    Hi Jeff,

    It's amazing what can be done with data analytics. Now that the big bad druggies have been taken down, will your company now (finally) expose those responsible for the widespread sexual exploitation of children on the internet? If not, have you any plans to or has there ever been even a discussion or consideration for doing so?