07 August 2009

We are all "statisticians"

This NYTimes article basically describes what I do, and what I find to be the most important area of technology today. I don't like the name "statistician" because of the very specific ideas that this conjurs up in people's minds. As the article says, the "new breed" of statisticians are actually computer scientists, engineers, and mathematicians... but "new breed" are really the operative words. That is definitely what we are.


"The new breed of statisticians tackle that problem. They use powerful computers and sophisticated mathematical models to hunt for meaningful patterns and insights in vast troves of data. The applications are as diverse as improving Internet search and online advertising, culling gene sequencing information for cancer research and analyzing sensor and location data to optimize the handling of food shipments.

"Even the recently ended Netflix contest, which offered $1 million to anyone who could significantly improve the company’s movie recommendation system, was a battle waged with the weapons of modern statistics.

"Though at the fore, statisticians are only a small part of an army of experts using modern statistical techniques for data analysis. Computing and numerical skills, experts say, matter far more than degrees. So the new data sleuths come from backgrounds like economics, computer science and mathematics."

Denial of Service

"Denial of Service." This is a term we should all become familiar with. It sounds like a pretty harmless thing, but it's the term technologists use to describe very serious attacks on internet infrastructure that have potential to seriously disrupt commerce, government, and crisis communication infrastructure.

A denial of service attack is what silenced twitter on Thursday, August 6. The attack on Estonia in April of 2007 was also a denial of service attack.

The WSJ had a good opinion piece about the state of these online attacks. Quoting: "As the attacks against Estonia show, the task cannot be delayed -- the increasing sophistication and accessibility of malware means these problems will only become worse. The future of the Web is at stake."

I'm sure of it!

My advisor's favorite passtime