Big Data Comes to Design


You may not be interested in big data and machine learning, but its interested in you. The latest field that they have gotten their grubby little suckers on is web design. To wit, here’s a blog post from Elegant Themes,  WordPress theme shop, whose excellent theme Divi I like a lot. Data is the #1 item.

7 Tech Trends in 2016 That Web Designers Need to Understand (And Why)

#1  Machine Learning

Companies nowadays must deal with enormous amounts of data on a daily basis (have you heard of ‘Big Data’?), which makes machine learning applications for analyzing this information incredibly attractive and applicable to all fields.

When it comes to design, this information could be used to determine what customers would respond better to. Ad companies have been doing this for a long time and at this point, they probably know us better than we do ourselves, thanks to information collected from all over our web travels. In the near future, though, you and your buddies might be seeing many different designs when accessing the same pages simultaneously, thanks to a team of designers who worked hard to make something unique for all potential ‘targets’.

No doubt there are lots of entrepreneurs working on plug-ins that do  user testing and personalization. If only they can do the writing too…

Provocative Words: MOOCs are toast?

But online learning is here to stay. Doug Guthrie of GWU says the real gold in them thare hills is big data, doesn’t exactly seem to me like a news flash, since indeed there is even a MOOC on big data in education. (Love the creepy illustration of “baby’s first MOOC”).

From the Forbes Online article:

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The cloud drives of yesteryear; they were–um–libraries.


MOOCs are not a transformative innovation that will remake academia. That honor belongs to a more disruptive and far-reaching innovation—Big Data and its application, and the adaptive education that results. The vast numbers of data sets that are collected daily, or Big Data, will likely revolutionize online learning by allowing educators to customize learning to individual students through adaptive learning.
I’m not suggesting that MOOCs will disappear completely. Instead, I think they’ll be forced to rewire their programming to become a more successful online enterprise and morph into an adaptive experience.

I don’t agree…they will morph, no doubt, but I think the scale is part of what is transformational, and what it will transform may well be our idea of what an individual course and a whole curriculum should be.

Big data coming to a screen near you!

Used to be the common locus for public anxiety over computers was their ability to beat us at chess.  That’s so 1997. Now we can be nervous about them, in the guise of big data,  determining what we see in movies.

To wit: a recent Marketplace piece on Epagogix, a big data firm that advises studios as well as outside investors in films.

EpagogiX analysts read a script and place a value on all of the plot points, everything from love scenes to car chases to quirky sidekicks. “And they score them according to a directory, in the way a teacher might score a test,” says Meaney.

(Do they use Atlas.Ti or nvivo? Are they sociologists who went to the dark side?)

Those scores are fed into the computer algorithm, which then calculates how much the movie will make at the box office, plus or minus about 10 percent. Epagogix will also recommend script changes to make a movie more marketable and profitable, like setting it in a different place. Or scaling back a character’s role, a recommendation that thrilled one studio executive.

Of course, the search for some “algorithmic solution” to a hit movie is an old one. And even EipagogiX must have an error margin. Could anybody have expected that a clunker like “Silver Linings Play Book” would be a hit?

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A formula from yesteryear, George DuMaurier’s blockbuster, Trilby, every Victorian cliché in the book. Now pretty much unreadable. But probably would have gotten a high score from the Epagogix of its era.

In truth, as somebody who fools with words for an avocation, and sometimes even a living, it doesn’t get me too agitated. Formula and schema have always been with us, what could you write with out them? Still, I suppose I would like any screenplay I do ever manage to write not to be “machine graded.”