Monthly Archives December 2011

Same awesome data, Sweet new website

homepage Same awesome data, Sweet new website

As an early Christmas present to ourselves, we’ve introduced a sweet new website meant to help our site visitors more easily navigate to the data products and solutions they need.  In the new design, we highlight our top data products: Social, Geo and Data Marketplace (where you can still access over 15,000+ downloadable data sets and APIs), as well as the data expertise we can bring to table.

Take a peek around the site and let us know what you think.  We’ve got more updates and changes in store over the next few months and we’d love your direct feedback as we iterate towards awesomeness.

How to Make the Holiday Checkout Line Less Painful

scienceoflines How to Make the Holiday Checkout Line Less Painful

You’ve probably found yourself at the end of an unbelievably long line at a mall or grocery store more than once this holiday season and you know it’s only going to get worse as last minute shopper panic sets in in about two weeks.

In a research project conducted during last year’s holiday season and posted on YouTube, Bill Hammack, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, concluded that a single-file line leading to three cashiers is about three times faster than having a separate line for each cashier.

So, why don’t you see more single-file lines in stores?  Why do so many still choose to queue customers in individual lines, increasing the possibility of line stoppers disrupting the flow of traffic?  Today’s Wall Street Journal tackles this question and uncovers some interesting techniques retailers use to either distract customers from the wait or make the line move faster.  You may have noticed an increase of grocery-store-esque impulse buy items placed near registers.  The hope is not only to increase your purchase amount, but also to keep your mind occupied through the last minutes of waiting.  At places like Home Depot and the Apple Store, line-busters are employed to go through the long retail queues and either check folks our or start the process so it’s faster once they reach the register.

To further complicate the “best” way to get customers through a line is the psychology of waiting.  Once you cross the three minute mark of waiting, perceived wait time increases with each additional minute.  That’s why a five minute wait will often feel like a ten.

This holiday season, we encourage you to be aware of the techniques retailers are using to make queues more efficient, be patient when they aren’t and promise yourself next year you’ll start your shopping earlier.

[via Wall Street Journal]

Why It Seems Like Your Rent is Crazy…

rent vs buy Why It Seems Like Your Rent is Crazy...
After living in New York City for nearly six years, I became accustomed to the idea that the best $700/month would get me was an 8 foot by 8 foot box, actually classified as a closet, tucked into a four bedroom apartment up five flights of stairs. With one bathroom. In moving to Austin, I was shocked that a mere $500/month could afford me a huge bedroom, walk in closet, private bathroom and sweet backyard. Less than a year later, I bought my first house and since then, have been mostly blissfully ignorant of the toils renter’s market. Imagine my surprise when a few months ago, a friend working for another startup here in Austin shared with me that he was looking in the $1000-$1500/month range for a one bedroom apartment near downtown.

How could rents have jumped so much in such a short period of time?

…As home prices have fallen, the cost of rentals has risen dramatically in almost every state. Nationwide, the cost of rent has already increased 60% since 2008. Analysts currently predict that by the end of 2011 that figure will rise another 4.5%, and by at least another 3% in 2012. So what’s behind this dramatic increase?

Experts point to several reasons for the increase in rental costs, but the main reason is that rental properties are simply in higher demand. After the world economy became sunk in recession in late 2008, home sales plummeted. Many buyers decided that it was better to rent properties and wait out the storm than it was to buy them. No one was sure how low housing prices would fall, and that trend continued over the years, resulting in more people looking to rent. In addition, buyers who had bought property for high values before the crash found themselves unable to sell their purchases for anywhere near what they paid. As a result, they turned to renting their investments at higher rates to both pay off their mortgage and earn profit on their investment.


[From Foreclosure Deals via]

Why Look at Polls When We Can Just Follow The Money?

I’ve long held the suspicion that opinion polls for general elections were fairly useless. Consider that fact that these polls are still conducted with small sample sizes (often about 1000 people) and inconsistent frequency.  Why go through the effort of questioning thousands of individuals when you can mine social networks for opinions that are already publicly available?

Two weeks ago, we found some great research from 140Elect that showed peaks in Twitter follow activity for a candidate foreshadowed jumps in the polls, weeks or months later. While not a perfect analog for a number of reasons (demographic bias, new follows from bots, etc), this measure may be called “good enough” for now in making reasonable guesses about a candidates popularity amongst their constituents.

Want to know an even better way to determine if a candidate is bound for victory or an embarrassing defeat?  A 2002 study from the US Public Interest Research Groups found that in 2000, 94% of candidates who raised the most money won their general election contests. In 2002 congressional primaries, 90 percent were won by the biggest fundraisers.

One of the New York Time’s current interactive graphics features rolling fundraising totals for different candidates in the current presidential race.  I might be going out on a limb here, but based on the data, I’m going to say that the guy with 11.5 million Twitter followers and nearly $100 million fundraised so far (with over $57 million on hand) will probably win come next November.

candidatesmoney Why Look at Polls When We Can Just Follow The Money?

Looking for a Job? Learn Ruby, Python and be a Team Player!

What makes a great software engineer and perhaps more importantly, what skills will most likely land you a sweet job?  Mixtent and KISSMetrics analyzed LinkedIn data and surveyed users on perceptions of candidate skill levels based on their profiles and purported skill sets.

The key findings?

  • Python engineers are perceived as better engineers
  • Engineers with teamwork, dedication and a solid work ethic are perceived as better engineers.  Creativity and communication skills are less valued.
  • Ruby engineers are viewed a good front-end engineers (Rails?)

Hiring Managers – do you agree with the findings of this study?  Do you find yourself making these kinds of decisions between candidates?

Developers & Data Scientists – got some awesome Ruby, Python and Hadoop skills and want to join a strong, dedicated team with a solid work ethic?  Check out our current job listings.

WhatMakesaGreatSoftwareEngineer Looking for a Job? Learn Ruby, Python and be a Team Player!

by KISSmetrics via


Who Do We Want? Anyone But Romney…

Yesterday, Herman Cain’s announced that he is considering the “option” of dropping out of the presidential race.  While this news may not come as a surprise in light of various sexual harassment scandals currently plaguing his campaign, many Republican political commentators were not focused on the severity of his various scandals, as much as they have been on its impact on the other candidates, particular Newt Gingrich, the GOP’s new top pick.

After weathering months of controversy surrounding the Republican’s top picks, including Bachmann, Perry, Cain and now, Gingrich, it’s become abundantly apparent that the GOP is avoiding the topic of Mitt Romney.  With the highest fundraising numbers and by far, the most consistent polls, by the numbers, Romney should be the obvious choice.  However, the GOP continues to throw their biggest support behind candidates that fail them within a month of their rise.  With kickbacks Freddie Mac and a variety of other personal and professional baggage on his record, Gingrich may well follow Bachmann, Perry and Cain down the road to “never gonna be President”.

However, as the infographic below shows, the GOP is running out of options.  Perhaps the candidate that will rise to the top will be the one that has recently been ignored in light of more scandalous, controversial ones.

anyonebutromney Who Do We Want?  Anyone But Romney...

On Being Wrong In Paris: Finding Truth in Wrong Answers

paris panorama On Being Wrong In Paris: Finding Truth in Wrong Answers

Here’s a problem that’s harder than it seems: Where is Paris? Any simple response proves more ambiguous and brittle than you would expect. But across an ocean of data lies a new way to discover answers, one that accommodates complexity because it is sourced in complexity.

A reasonable answer is “the political boundary of the city of Paris, France”. If you were walking through France, and were prone to making silly graphs, you might draw this plot of “How much am I in Paris?”