I like to use the analogy of building bridges. If I have no principles, and I build thousands of bridges without any actual science, lots of them will fall down, and great disasters will occur.

Similarly here, if people use data and inferences they can make with the data without any concern about error bars, about heterogeneity, about noisy data, about the sampling pattern, about all the kinds of things that you have to be serious about if you’re an engineer and a statistician—then you will make lots of predictions, and there’s a good chance that you will occasionally solve some real interesting problems. But you will occasionally have some disastrously bad decisions. And you won’t know the difference a priori. You will just produce these outputs and hope for the best.

Today I learned there’s another Michael Jordan that is as awesome in machine learning as #23 is at basketball.  IEEE’s article Machine-Learning Maestro Michael Jordan on the Delusions of Big Data and Other Huge Engineering Efforts is worth a read and a re-read.

It’s also worth noting that Professor Jordan did an AMA on Reddit, and actually disagreed with the title and characterization of the IEEE interview and wrote a follow-up and response on a WordPress-powered blog.

State of the Word Q&A

In addition to the State of the Word presentation we talked about last week, there was a half hour or so of questions and answers that followed. You can also check it out on WordPress.tv, which now plays everything HD by default.

“We have the largest and deepest audience profiles on the web.” — David Fleck, general manager of advertising at Disqus. Translation: We’re tracking everyone who visits a website with Disqus enabled and building a profile of them based on the content of the sites they visit and any comments they leave. “Deeper” than Facebook.

“So I’m particularly excited to announce that we’re bringing our native advertising product, Sponsored Comments, to the world of programmatic and we’re doing it on a global basis. […] Starting today, Xaxis clients, which include some of the best brands in the world, will buy and place Sponsored Comments advertising across much of the Disqus network.” Translation: It’s not comment spam if we’re getting paid for it.

I was just reading some comments the other day and thinking how it’d be great to see some sponsored brand content there instead of users, like there already was on the rest of the page. Glad there’s a solution for that on a global basis now.