Friday, January 26, 2007

Reading Freakonomics

I spent this last weekend with a small but juicy book named Freakonomics. Freakonomics is about society and economy but it's also about knowledge extracted from data. It's a book clearly about data mining results but the authors make a clear efford to remove the focus from data mining, machine learning, statistics, etc. One can just find some timid references like "algorithm" and "data to be mined here". Instead, there is a strong focus on the making of interesting questions and getting the correct data to answer the questions.

Although my work is not directly related to analytics, I've always made some effort to include data analysis in my APO related work (perhaps because I used it a lot in college research). And that last conclusion goes along with my experience over the years. In a couple of situations I was able to get interesting results from data, but in most cases the techniques were not so important. After the right data for a good question reveals unexpected results, everything else is just easy.

Looking back in time, I think knowing more about analytics has helped me in a different way. Knowing the data and making good questions is an iterative process. Having some tools to do experiments is a good way to keep the loop running and the more time spent with the data, the higher is the probability of making the "golden" question.

Freakonomics was a pleasure to read.

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