Monthly Archives November 2011

Keeping Tech Talent in Austin

Yesterday, we attended the MadeInAustin Fair, an event that can perhaps be described as a “Job Fair 2.0”.  The event, endorsed by Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Bob Metcalfe and other local leaders, focused on connecting students with start-ups and small companies.  The goal?  To stop the massive brain drain of tech talent from the Silicon Hills.

According to Leffingwell, 80% of the engineers graduating from the University of Texas leave the city to seek work in other cities.  With over 100 companies in attendance at yesterday’s event, the vast majority searching for engineers, it’s obvious that the start-up community of Austin needs to make a concerted effort to keep and attract talent to our fair city.

photo e1322691394407 768x1024 Keeping Tech Talent in Austin

So what’s the sell to UT’s most talented engineers who tend leave Austin to work for the Googles and Facebooks of the world?  Instead of leaving town, connect to the start-ups in your community and work for the next Google and the next Facebook.

The sell of working for a start-up?  Your job will be a dynamic and exciting.  You’ll have real influence over the direction of the company and its products.  You get to work with similarly driven, innovative, (often) very fun people.  And if it all works out, the monetary payoffs can be huge.

In addition to the openings for full time positions and internships with us, there’s tons of other opportunities in Austin.  We encourage you to keep the spirit of innovation alive by joining or starting your own startup.

Here are some great resources to check out to get you on your way:

MIAlogo Keeping Tech Talent in Austin

MadeInAustin Fair: Interested in a position with an Austin start-up or small tech company?  Peruse the full list of attendees of the first MadeInAustin Fair and check out current openings for full-time, part-time and internship roles.


logo campus 2 careers Keeping Tech Talent in Austincampus2careers: Connect with positions at start-ups and small/medium sized businesses.  Currently only available in Texas, but looking to be nationwide in the next year.


cfmia Keeping Tech Talent in AustinCapital Factory: Check out this early stage accelerator program for tech startups that provides a small amount of seed capital and weekly mentoring sessions by entrepreneurs who have founded successful companies.





Facebook and the Small World Experiment

Since moving to Austin just over four years ago, I’ve been repeatedly beat over the head with how interconnected everyone is here.  From odd coincidences like seeing unexpected people in unexpected places (“Oh, you do improv too?”) to flat out strangenesses, like my best friend and my fiance’s best friend, finding each other on OkCupid as top matches.  The world here feels small and sometimes I wonder if there’s even six degrees of separation between us.

myspace networking Facebook and the Small World ExperimentStanley Milgram (perhaps most famous for the Milgram Experiment), originated the six degrees of separation concept in his small-world experiment.  In the small-world experiment, Milgram sent packages to 160 random people living in Omaha, Nebraska.  He asked these individuals to forward the package to someone they personally knew who may be connected to a stockbroker from Boston, Massachusetts.  The goal?  To figure out how many package-forwards it would take to reach the broker.  The very first package reached its destination in just four days after pass through two intermediaries.  Milgram reported that chains varied in length from two to ten acquaintances (averaging to the now famous six degrees).  However, the study left many folks skeptical, both about the methodology of the experiment and its findings.

So, how do we find the real answer?

Hello, Facebook…

The flaws of Milgram’s experiment methodology can largely be chalked up to the technologies widely available at the time.  Today, the scale and reach of Facebook allows us to, without the use of an unreliable global postal system, find the answer to that core network question – how many connections, on average, are there between two nodes?

Facebook ran the numbers and shared the results on their Facebook Data Team page.  Not only are there fewer than six degrees of separation, but this number is ever shrinking over time.  The average distance in 2008 (worldwide) was 5.28 hops (~4 degrees of separation), while now it’s just 4.74.  Limit this view to just one country, say the United States and we drop to an astonishing 3 degrees (4 hops).

degreesofseparation Facebook and the Small World Experiment

There are, of course, flaws to this methodology as well.  For example, while I may be only 4 short hops away from the likes of President Obama and Lady Gaga in my social networks, I may not actually be close enough to anyone who is close to them.  The Facebook Data Team took this into account as well and found that 84% of all connections are between users in the same country.  Furthermore, there is a strong tendency for younger folks to have more friends and at all ages, it’s common for most of an individual’s friends to be the same age as them.

378409 10150417142653415 8394258414 8591457 621975308 n Facebook and the Small World Experiment

What all of this research unveils is the interesting paradox of the world being, at once, both global and local.  Yes, you probably are only 3-4 degrees of separation away from virtually anyone in the world, but your closest connections are still local to you.

When Are The Best Deals? Probably Not Black Friday!

75MacysonBlackFriday When Are The Best Deals? Probably Not Black Friday!

Despite not being one of those midnight mall-goers this past Friday, I have been bitten by the holiday shopping bug.  Maybe it’s the flood of deal emails, the bright red letters declaring SALE at every turn or the fact that it’s actually starting to get cold in Austin, TX – whatever it is, it’s here and will probably last through the end of 2011.  With my bank account is already starting to feel the pinch, I was starting to wonder if those Black Friday shoppers are on to something.

Well, turns out they’re not… at least not for most things.


Happy Thanksgiving! (P.S. Don’t accidentally blow up your family.)

We’re all taking some time away from the data mines to spend time with our loved ones today.  Hope that you and yours have a lovely Thanksgiving too.

By the way, if you happen to have deep-fried turkey plans brewing for today, we know your friends and family will be really thankful if you checked out today’s infographic (via Live Science).

 Happy Thanksgiving!  (P.S. Dont accidentally blow up your family.)

Once a Chimp, Always a Chimp

ducoff nick Once a Chimp, Always a ChimpHaving had the privilege to be involved with Infochimps since its founding in the summer of 2009, and having led the company for the last year as CEO, it is with mixed feelings to announce that I will be reducing my day-to-day responsibilities with the company. In the interim, my co-founder Joe Kelly will be taking the reins. Having worked with Joe since the beginning, I know it will be a smooth hand off and the company will be in good hands as we expand. I will continue to be involved with Joe and the team as a Board Advisor.

In my time as CEO, we closed two rounds of financing, grew a tremendous user base, and built a best in class engineering team, including those that joined us through our acquisition of Keepstream. Our data catalog now boasts over 200 suppliers including Twitter and Foursquare, and with over 10,000 customers we’re well on our way toward our mission of democratizing access to data.

I’m excited to take what I’ve learned at Infochimps and all the friends I’ve made and apply it to something new and exciting. I look forward to what’s next, but am equally excited to continue to help the Infochimps team build the best data company in the world!

XKCD’s Money Chart

money chart XKCDs Money ChartXKCD‘s Randall Munroe has created another ingenious & huge chart, this time focusing on money – where it is and what it can do.  You can download a complete data source list in CSV format here (almost all come from governmental or scholarly sources).  All values are presented in 2011 dollars (adjusted for inflation accordingly).

It’s an interesting and insightful infographic to browse though.  Here are some points we found particularly striking.

Change in Income Disparity: In 1965, the average production worker average hourly wage was $19.61 and today, it has risen to just $19.71 (remember, everything is adjusted for 2011 dollars).  However, CEO hourly wages have skyrocketed from $490.31 to $5419.97 over the same period.

The Price of Vice: A daily pack of cigarettes for one year will cost $3050 (in New Jersey).  You can save $650 by just getting a waist deep half-room filled with ball pit balls instead.  Munroe also points out that according to his research, we spend approximately as much on cancer treatment as we do on cigarettes.

Megaprojects vs. College Education: Remember our post about the cost of Princeton versus prison?  Munroe’s chart shows that cost of giving every US 18 year-old a free degree from a community college is less than half the cost of our national missile defense shield cost through 2013.  This is not to argue the merits of national defense versus education, but it is worthwhile thinking critically about where our money goes.

Our Changing Relationship to Photographs

Recently, a friend introduced me to a lovely Tumblr project called The Burning House. Participants are asked to take one photograph that included all the items they would take with them if their house was burning down.  The results are range from poignant to humorous, deeply sentimental to seemingly frivolous – all feel like little peeks into an individual’s life.

Dieter%252520Kraus Our Changing Relationship to Photographs

I recall as a child and teen, whenever anyone posed the burning house question, inevitably “family photo albums”, “baby photos” and “pictures of my friends” would top the list. From the submissions to The Burning House, it appears that while some folks are still quite sentimental about particular photographs, many are not concerned with saving the family photo album.  Perhaps it’s because the family photo album no longer exists in a physical format, but rather all over Facebook, Flickr, Picasa or elsewhere on the web.  The entirety of my childhood photo albums can fit into a few shoeboxes; the photos taken since I purchased my first digital camera in 2003… might take a few refrigerator boxes.

2 0 Our Changing Relationship to Photographs

The photo above was taken of an installation by Erik Kessels, on show at Foam in Amsterdam, that looks at the future of photography.   The project features a room filled with a veritable avalanche of print-outs, comprised of all the images uploaded to Flickr in a 24-hour period.

 “We’re exposed to an overload of images nowadays,” says Kessels. “This glut is in large part the result of image-sharing sites like Flickr, networking sites like Facebook, and picture-based search engines. Their content mingles public and private, with the very personal being openly and un-selfconsciously displayed. By printing all the images uploaded in a 24-hour period, I visualise the feeling of drowning in representations of other peoples’ experiences.”


24hrs 0 Our Changing Relationship to Photographs

This exhibit beautifully illustrates our changing relationship to a thing we in recent times held as precious.  A photograph, a collection of photographers, formerly the stuff that first comes to mind when asked to think about abandoning a burning house is now a massive, overwhelming collection of data.  As we navigate our new mind-bogglingly data-heavy world, it will become increasingly important to cultivate both computational tools and sentimentality to maintain our sanity and humanity.

[More photos of what a day of Flickr photos looks like here.]

Twitter Predicts GOP Frontrunners

jp debate articleLarge Twitter Predicts GOP Frontrunners

I’ll admit it – I haven’t been watching the Republican debates.  In fact, the closest I’ve come is listening to Auto-tuned versions of Rick Perry gaffs and watching John Stewart criticize Herman Cain’s unfortunate choice of words and conduct around women.  Nonetheless, when you look past the political circus playing out before our eyes, you have to remember that underneath it all, one of these people is going to win the Republican nomination and run against Obama in 2012.

But who?

140Elect, a Twitter-analysis-based political consulting team, wondered the same thing. To start the journey to an answer, they pulled 7 months of data for each of the candidates and teamed up with Tableau Software to run some statistical analysis and create a data visualization.

The result?

Spikes in followers consistently precede shifts in the polls. Look at Gingrich for instance. He receives a major spike in followers and polling when he announces on May 11th, then goes down in the polls until a September 7th GOP debate where he makes a splash. This spike in followers precedes a steady, upward shift in polling for Newt Gingrich.

You can read more of 140Elect’s in-depth analysis here. Using Twitter data to predict the results of elections is not an entirely new idea. In May 2010, UK-based political analysis tool, Tweetminster predicted the Labour party winning the general election that year. When all the results were in, using Twitter data to predict election results was as accurate as traditional opinion polls, with 90.5% accuracy. Later that year in November, social media scientist, Dan Zarrella made similar findings after gathering a random sample of 30 senate, house and governor races. In his analysis, he discovered that in 71% of races, the candidate with the most Twitter followers was ahead in the polls.

Twitter can also be used to predict the voting habits of an individual. TuVoto, an Infochimps-powered site, predicts how an individuals in Spain will vote in municipal elections based on commonly tweeted words and relationships to other Twitter users.

I can see a point in the not too distant future when we start to question the need for and validity of traditional opinion polls when we’ve got the answer sitting in the cloud.

Enron: Evil versus Football

This is a repost from our friends at Luminoso, a text mining and analytics solutions company.  (They’re some smart monkeys!)  Dennis Clark is their Chief Strategy Officer.

At Luminoso, we sometimes combine our serious analytics with something a bit more fanciful.

We were pitching to a company that deals with internal corporate documents — there are lots of fun things we can do with text analytics and a lot of internal documents — but where on earth are we going to get our hands on secret, internal corporate documents of any kind? Nobody’s handing them out on the street.

Rather than the oft-proposed method called “theft,” we did what most email researchers do: take advantage of the fact that Enron got all their email subpoenaed. Hence, the Enron Corpus, consisting of about half a million emails between about 150 top Enron executives, running from late 1999 to early 2002, from slightly before the actual price fixing to slightly after the bankruptcy. Then we did what we usually do.

 Enron: Evil versus Football


Are You Feeling Randy, Baby? | Sex & Infographics from the UK

sexperience Are You Feeling Randy, Baby? | Sex & Infographics from the UK

Are you feeling randy, baby?

Yes, I’m quoting Austin Powers… it’s Monday morning and I don’t need your judgement.

Channel 4 in the UK conducted a survey of 1000 British adults and used their responses to develop an interactive infographic that allows viewers to sort answers for a variety of personal questions by gender, age, location, music taste, phone type, preferred grocery store, and more.  Check it out and see if it shatters some of your thoughts about sex.

Want to create similar insights for folks in the US?  Check out our Personality Insights: OkCupid Questions by Gender, Age, State and Metro data set.