Musings from the World of Consulting

Aug 21

icontherecord:

Additional Declassified Documents Relating to Section 702 of FISA
August 21, 2013
December 8, 2011 — Lisa Monaco, John C. (“Chris”) Chris Inglis, Robert Litt - Statement for the Record before the House Permanent Select Committee on IntelligenceFebruary 9, 2012 — Lisa Monaco, John C. (“Chris”) Inglis, Robert Litt - Statement for the Record before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

NSA has an official Tumblr blog, which it is using to disclose recently declassified documents. Guess they know their target audience and are with the times. #fisa #NSA

icontherecord:

Additional Declassified Documents Relating to Section 702 of FISA

August 21, 2013

December 8, 2011 — Lisa Monaco, John C. (“Chris”) Chris Inglis, Robert Litt - Statement for the Record before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

February 9, 2012 — Lisa Monaco, John C. (“Chris”) Inglis, Robert Litt - Statement for the Record before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

NSA has an official Tumblr blog, which it is using to disclose recently declassified documents. Guess they know their target audience and are with the times. #fisa #NSA

Aug 05

What differentiates Y Combinator?

Answer by Nauman Noor:

All the other answers are on point. The gist of it is that Paul and team are able to identify the traits in founders that make start-ups successful, able to augment their teams with managerial talent, provide coaching and then leverage their ecosystem.

Nothing unusual at a high level from all the other incubators, though the difference is in execution. If you have time, I would highly recommend reading Paul Graham’s essays at on site (http://www.paulgraham.com/).

Their focus continues to be on execution and continuous coaching - most people pay lip service to these principles though in practice fall short.
View Answer on Quora

Aug 03

How many people are watching Gangnam Style right now?

Pretty good approach to how many people are watching a popular Youtube video at a given time…

Answer by Ryan Hardy:

Gangnam Style reached reached 500 million views on October 19th, 2012 and reached 1 billion views 63 days later on December 21, 2012.  A change of 500 million views over 63 days implies that the video is being viewed an average of 92 times per second in that period.  Given that the video is 4:13 long and assuming that 1 view equals 1 person, this means that, on average, about 23,000 people worldwide are currently mesmerized by PSYs dance moves.  This is comparable to the population of a small town or the attendance at a very large indoor concert.

Here is the calculation on Wolfram Alpha

(1 billion views-500 million views)/(december 21 2012-october 19 2012)*(4 minutes+13 seconds)*1 person/view

This is an average, but how much does this vary during the day?  I warn you that the following is extremely preliminary and somewhat lazily done by my usual standards.

I extracted the data from this image to generate an approximate distribution of the world’s population by longitude using edge detection and a handy data extraction tool for Google Chrome (WebPlotDigitizer).  I’m too lazy to go and find  geospatial population data.

radicalcartography


After duplicating the histogram and normalizing, I then calculated the fraction of the world’s population in a moving 12 and 16 hour range of longitudes to determine how many people are awake and how many people are in daylight. 

Here’s what it looks like.
The way to read it is to say that at approximate local noon in the time zone on the x-axis, y of the world’s population is either awake or in daylight.  I’ll admit that determining the proper amount to shift these plots horizontally is confusing, so this plot might change in future edits.  I assume people wake up at 8 am worldwide and go to bed at midnight, though this varies considerably around the world.

Regardless of the proper shifts, approximate univariate statistics can be derived from these data. The average The standard deviations of both quantities is 0.04.  Awake fraction and daylight fraction can change by 0.17 and 0.23, respectively in the course of the day.  The means of these are 0.51 and 0.67.  The 2.5th and 97.5th percentile awake fractions are 0.6 and 0.75.

I therefore predict hourly Gangnam Style views have a standard deviation of 6%, or +/-1,400 views and that 95% of the time, the number of people watching is between 20,600 and 25,800 people.
View Answer on Quora

Jul 28

“If a design, particularly a team design, is to have conceptual integrity, one should name the scarce resource explicitly, track it publicly, control it firmly” — Fred Brooks

Jul 24


“In Mexico City, planners turn vacant space under freeways into places to work, dine, play
Nick Miroff. May 29, 2013
Mexico City — You can’t get something out of nothing. This is common sense, not to mention a principle of physics and mathematics.
Yet the amazing science of Mexico City’s real estate development obeys no such laws.
Urban planners here, in one of the world’s most populous and crowded cities, have found a way to add thousands of square feet of new commercial and recreational space. And it isn’t costing local government a cent.
Their gambit is called Under Bridges (“Bajo Puentes”), and it’s a simple idea: Convert the vacant, trash-strewn lots beneath Mexico City’s overpasses and freeways into shopping plazas, public playgrounds and outdoor cafes.”
Photo: Dominic Bracco II / Prime - A man rests on one of the new park benches in one of Mexico City overpass developments on May 27. 
via massurban & Washington Post


Thought this is a rather interesting use of what is considered to be dead urban space. Probably reduces crime intensity and helps with maintaining cleanliness.

“In Mexico City, planners turn vacant space under freeways into places to work, dine, play

Nick Miroff. May 29, 2013

You can’t get something out of nothing. This is common sense, not to mention a principle of physics and mathematics.

Yet the amazing science of Mexico City’s real estate development obeys no such laws.

Urban planners here, in one of the world’s most populous and crowded cities, have found a way to add thousands of square feet of new commercial and recreational space. And it isn’t costing local government a cent.

Their gambit is called Under Bridges (“Bajo Puentes”), and it’s a simple idea: Convert the vacant, trash-strewn lots beneath Mexico City’s overpasses and freeways into shopping plazas, public playgrounds and outdoor cafes.”

Photo: Dominic Bracco II / Prime - A man rests on one of the new park benches in one of Mexico City overpass developments on May 27. 

via massurban & Washington Post

Thought this is a rather interesting use of what is considered to be dead urban space. Probably reduces crime intensity and helps with maintaining cleanliness.

(via fastcompany)

Jul 06

Visual on what makes Great Britain, United Kingdom and British Isles


mapsontheweb:

The difference between UK, Britain and the British Isles
Source: Ordnance Survey Blog

Visual on what makes Great Britain, United Kingdom and British Isles

mapsontheweb:

The difference between UK, Britain and the British Isles

Source: Ordnance Survey Blog

(Source: mapsontheweb)

Jun 22

Critical system downtime, upgrades and planning for continuous availability
As this article notes, maintaining system uptime is not as easy as merely upgrading the underlying platform. Actually, IBM’s mainframes are still leading edge when it comes to ensuring transaction integrity coupled with high reliability (which is often confused with availability). 
Though most management consultants would recommend replacing a mainframe environment with an x86 platform coupled with the likes of VMware, there is a fair amount of engineering that IBM provides which is taken for granted and not replicated when swapping just the infrastructure.
As the article notes, it is interesting to hear that bank executives believe that a hardware upgrade will solve uptime and availability issues. Reality is a bit more complex - in the case of RBS, it appears that there is a knowledge gap in understanding the current landscape which then led to broken operational processes, culminating in a four day [emphasis added] outage of all core bank systems.
A hardware upgrade will add more computational capacity which is redundant in addressing the core issues - and may in fact exacerbate system reliability. To migrate onto the new hardware, one would need to have a solid understanding of current processes which has clearly been lacking. Thus the migration would introduce more failure points and potentially defects, resulting in an elevated risk of system outages in the future. 
Nonetheless, the upgrade is costly (~$700M) which adds to the perception of serious investment being made in addressing the issue. The only ones benefiting from this are the consultants and potentially the hardware and software sales teams. 

Critical system downtime, upgrades and planning for continuous availability

As this article notes, maintaining system uptime is not as easy as merely upgrading the underlying platform. Actually, IBM’s mainframes are still leading edge when it comes to ensuring transaction integrity coupled with high reliability (which is often confused with availability). 

Though most management consultants would recommend replacing a mainframe environment with an x86 platform coupled with the likes of VMware, there is a fair amount of engineering that IBM provides which is taken for granted and not replicated when swapping just the infrastructure.

As the article notes, it is interesting to hear that bank executives believe that a hardware upgrade will solve uptime and availability issues. Reality is a bit more complex - in the case of RBS, it appears that there is a knowledge gap in understanding the current landscape which then led to broken operational processes, culminating in a four day [emphasis added] outage of all core bank systems.

A hardware upgrade will add more computational capacity which is redundant in addressing the core issues - and may in fact exacerbate system reliability. To migrate onto the new hardware, one would need to have a solid understanding of current processes which has clearly been lacking. Thus the migration would introduce more failure points and potentially defects, resulting in an elevated risk of system outages in the future. 

Nonetheless, the upgrade is costly (~$700M) which adds to the perception of serious investment being made in addressing the issue. The only ones benefiting from this are the consultants and potentially the hardware and software sales teams. 

Jun 14

“If you fail, don’t associated yourself with that failure. It’s an event, it’s not who you are.” — Great advice by Jason Sosa, founder of IMRSV, one of Time.com’s 10 startups to watch in 2013, shares his thoughts on perseverance in the face of challenges.  (via fastcompany)

Jun 10

In some recent articles, there has been discussion of data standards for emerging Insurance technologies such as telematics. The advice provided appears to be off mark in terms of optimizing business value from ‘Big Data’ concepts.
A key aspect of ‘Big Data’ is being able to store raw data as it is being generated and to leverage it for a need once it has been identified. The technologists would call it ‘late binding’ where the data is extracted from source systems in its raw form and the structure is only imposed when a query is sent. This allows one to store raw data and apply evolving structure as they learn more about the information needed.
To aid an iterative exploratory use of data, the following guiding principles should be considered:
1.       Store raw information in non-relational  but structured format
At an entity level (e.g., customer, account), structure allows linkages to similar data items. This aids analysis and allows one to incremental apply more detailed query drill through at time of analysis
Lack of relational construct does not mean that the data is unstructured – it just means that enough structure is in place to further mapping into relational constructs at time
2.       Premature optimization can impede innovation and discovery
Discovery of insights relies on prototyping in an iterative manner. Building out a  
By building out specific data models for the raw data to be mapped to (traditionally done as part of the ETL process), it impacts overall solution time and effort. The traditional approach  results
By optimizing and mapping the raw information into a data model, there are usually assumptions made that may result in the fidelity and details being lost. These would be key in case the original assumptions are later found to be invalid
3.      Controls to ensure privacy and protection need to be embedded at time of data sourcing
Complexity around the sources and data structure necessitates that controls be embedded at the point of sourcing. Through a pragmatic approach, one can categorize the level of safeguards in a balanced manner that does impede the prototyping and discovery approach
4. Throw out the book on sampling 
Unless your data is in petabytes or more, the need to sample down has diminished. For once, the bias of sampling has been removed from the discovery process, allowing for an unadulterated perspective. 

In some recent articles, there has been discussion of data standards for emerging Insurance technologies such as telematics. The advice provided appears to be off mark in terms of optimizing business value from ‘Big Data’ concepts.

A key aspect of ‘Big Data’ is being able to store raw data as it is being generated and to leverage it for a need once it has been identified. The technologists would call it ‘late binding’ where the data is extracted from source systems in its raw form and the structure is only imposed when a query is sent. This allows one to store raw data and apply evolving structure as they learn more about the information needed.

To aid an iterative exploratory use of data, the following guiding principles should be considered:

1.       Store raw information in non-relational  but structured format

2.       Premature optimization can impede innovation and discovery

3.      Controls to ensure privacy and protection need to be embedded at time of data sourcing

4. Throw out the book on sampling 

Jun 07

How the NSA monitors America’s phone traffic

If anything, the monitoring by the NSA enhanced the public understanding of what metadata is and what is really a practical application of graph theory first (and then perhaps data mining in general).

The monitoring is nothing new - I would imagine it has been happening since 2001 or so… just in a more repeatable / operational way.

fastcompany:

scoop from The Guardian confirmed what many people suspected—the National Security Agency (NSA) is spying on the phone activity of millions of Americans. Using a secret court order, which was not disclosed to the public, the NSA obtained bulk phone records for Verizon’s customers on a daily basis. Each day, the NSA would receive a massive flood of data from Verizon.

How do they do it, and what can they do with the information?