Why overhyping data visualization will cause your BI project to fail

data visualization.shutterstock_112148747

This sponsored post is produced by Sisense.


Visualizing data has led to world-changing triumphs — from tracking epidemics to pinpointing weather impacts. Today, every company has adopted some form of data visualization to better understand their customers, service, and market. Yet, while both companies and users tend to emphasize data visualizations, they fail to recognize that visualizing data is an end result. The means to this end is to properly prepare the data for analysis — or more specifically, to prepare data that’s increasingly complex due to its size, disparity, or structure.

Only after a BI tool is implemented do users understand that data visualizations tools are meaningful only if the data behind them can be gathered, prepared, and analyzed easily and quickly. This has created a new set of challenges for analysts who are now struggling to visualize data that is incomplete, too slow to process, or not ready for analysis — exposing a much deeper problem that is causing many BI projects to fail: the need to easily prepare complex data sets.

Taking the right approach for your data

Analyzing complex data is not only a matter of managing data that has grown in size — it’s about taking the proper approach to handle data sets that have become so large and so varied they demand immensely more efficient methods of preparation and processing. For example, where once data sets were well structured and came from a few sources, now there is a demand to work cohesively and analyze large multi-source data sets.

Get an engine instead of more wheels

To see the extent of this challenge, it’s necessary to realize simple and complex data sets not only differentiated by scale but intrinsically by their mechanics. In other words, the approach entails more than upgrading your data management tool from a spreadsheet to a database — which is akin to moving from a tricycle to a bicycle.

Rather, the approach requires upgrading from a tricycle to a car: you have to make sure the back-end mechanics are powerful enough to quickly connect varied data structures together to make them ready for analysis. In order to successfully make complex data sets ready for actionable analysis, the business analytics tool must be extremely efficient with available systems, skills, and the steps to prepare and model data.

4 rules for a successful BI project with complex data

After years of encountering these frustrations in the data analytics world, where preparing complex data for analysis was a cumbersome and time-consuming process, Sisense was created to answer this need using a unique technology that maximizes a machine’s capacity to store, compress, and access more data faster —  allowing its users to tackle any type of data quickly and easily.

I have outlined four lessons about business intelligenc tools and data analytics that guides users on how to ensure they can execute a successful BI project with any type of data — including complex data.

1. Use the least number of systems

Layering various systems on top of each other to move raw data to analysis creates exponential overhead. Each system requires different skills, its own maintenance, and time to continuously integrate — not to mention cost. Mitigating this overhead is possible if we look to put in place tools that offer the broadest capabilities.

The ideal is to use the least number of tools — or even better, a single end-to-end solution. An end-to-end BI single-stack architecture is ideal, because it includes everything you need to prepare, analyze, and visualize complex data, eliminating the need to use a hodgepodge of additional tools.

2. Focus on efficiency not availability

Being able to add more hardware, more clusters, and more professionals is a blunt approach. Leveraging complex data means becoming as efficient as possible with hardware resources and available skills.

Choosing solutions that cut the number of steps and process more data per unit of hardware resource adds up to saving serious hours of work. That’s the thinking behind the In-Chip engine which lets you run any ad-hoc query and receive answers on the spot, without the need to prepare data in advance for each new question.

3. Recognize scripting is part of the problem

SQL and other scripting languages are great and will continue to be used. Yet, we need to leverage visualization as a way to see and prepare complex data sets. Blending both scripting and visual representations of data dramatically accelerates data preparation. The ability to quickly visualize data sources, relationships, and changes makes it easier to plan data preparation requirements as well as understand previous transformations to the data set.

4. Aim to open the largest data set for analysis

Analysts get stuck when they have missing data or need to rely on someone else to make the necessary changes to data. Most times all business questions aren’t known up front and value is derived through exploration and playing with data. To do this type of self-service BI, the highest level of granularity of data needs to be made available and solutions must make it easy for users to explore, query, and manipulate the largest possible data set with the most flexibility.

Taking back eighty percent

It’s estimated that 80 percent of data analysts’ time is spent just on data preparation — and that’s no wonder considering the challenges. The fact that data is growing in overall complexity — size, disparity, structure to name a few — means acquiring a technology with a robust data preparation and analysis engine, along with beautiful visualization should be the first and foremost consideration.


Evan Castle is Product Manager and Data Scientist at Sisense.


What’s the next step? Understand how to overcome complex data using our Data Complexity Matrix


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CCP raises $30 million to support VR efforts

Developer gets huge injection of funds "to drive innovation in VR as the technology begins to transform the entertainment industry" CCP Games, which recently divested itself of White Wolf Publishing , seems more focused on VR than ever before. Today, the company announced a very healthy round of financing to the tune of $30 million to further solidify its efforts around virtual reality.

YouTube Launches Its Long-Awaited Music App

youtube-music-app You’ve probably been watching music videos on YouTube since its inception. The platform has also served as the go-to place for wannabe musicians to be found, but it’s never catered to that specific vertical. The team rolled out YouTube for gaming last month and today it is launching YouTube Music for iOS and Android. The enhanced, paid, experience is free during a 14-day trial.… Read More

YouTube Music launches for Android and iOS

People are silhouetted as they pose with mobile devices in front of a screen projected with a Youtube logo, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica October 29, 2014.

YouTube today launched YouTube Music, a new app designed specifically for discovering music on the video-sharing website. You can download YouTube Music now directly the Google Play store or the App Store

YouTube has over 1 billion monthly active users. Thanks to the service, Google has paid out over $3 billion to the record industry to date, in addition to providing a ton of promotion for artists, “helping fuel ticket sales, move merchandise, and boost album and song downloads.” Today’s launch is aimed at helping artists, sure, but also giving fans who turn to YouTube to discover music a new app designed exactly for that.

No matter where you first hit play in the app, whether on a specific song or on an artist’s page, the music will continue playing. The home tab will recommend tracks based on what you choose in the app and play on the YouTube site in general.

In October, during Google’s launch of YouTube Red (its $10 per month ad-free service), the company first revealed YouTube Music. The company explained the app is all about music discovery, giving users free rein to explore YouTube’s various music catalogs.

The app lets users create a customized station and make music recommendations. It also includes remixes, covers, lyric videos, and concert footage — content you might not be able to get through music services like Spotify.

YouTube Music should not be confused with YouTube Music Key, a service that launched in beta last year and came out of beta in September 2015. YouTube Music Key offers users ad-free songs and music videos for $8 per month, while YouTube Music is just a free mobile app.

This is the first such app from YouTube. The Google-owned company has dabbled in insights for artists and giving creators more info about audio added to their videos, but this is the first time the company is offering an easy way to just continuously stream music.

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Drone strikes giant Ferris wheel on Seattle’s waterfront

Seattle Great Wheel

(Reuters) – A drone crashed into a giant Ferris wheel on Seattle’s waterfront, but there were no reports of injuries or major damage, police said on Thursday.

The drone struck the 175-foot-tall Seattle Great Wheel about 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Seattle police detective Mark Jamieson said. The wheel is a popular tourist attraction in the Pacific Northwest city.

It was unclear who was operating the craft, which hit a spoke on the wheel and then tumbled to the ground, Jamieson said.


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Drone strikes are unusual in Seattle, but this was at least the second in recent months.

At the Pride Parade over the summer, a drone crashed into a downtown building and struck a woman in the head. The operator of that drone was charged with reckless endangerment.

In 2013, Seattle police grounded a program to send aloft miniature robot drones equipped with stealth spy cameras following criticism of the project by residents concerned about privacy rights.

Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc and other companies are testing the use of drones in the expectation the Federal Aviation Administration will establish rules for their commercial use.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle, Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Peter Cooney)










3 things we learned about mobile advertising this summer

texting.shutterstock_157897442

This sponsored post is produced by Smaato.


As the third quarter of 2015 was winding to a close this past September, you couldn’t throw a rock at a laptop without hitting a story about ad blocking, the purported scourge of modern media and the bane of publishers everywhere. It was and remains a very rational and understandable reaction to years of bad ads and legacy thinking that consumers, in their collective hive wisdom, have chosen in some not insignificant number to block ads (especially on desktop and on mobile web sites via iOS9 Safari extensions) — and which business media and self-interested parties have then blown into something even larger.

This week Smaato has released data that illuminates some other, perhaps less-commented-upon mobile advertising trends from the late summer of 2015. The company’s Global Trends in Mobile Programmatic report for Q3 is a thorough examination of the billions upon billions of mobile ad impressions served on Smaato’s global platform during this time period, and reflects the detailed activity and trends that unfurled across a wide base of publishers, advertisers and users.

To wit, we learned, among other things, that:

1. The pendulum is swinging back to apps

Ad blocking concerns may have really hit their stride in September, right at the tail end of Q3, but let’s remember that as of today, this is primarily a mobile web issue, effectively limited to extensions on Safari in the new iOS9, and not within publisher-controlled apps themselves. Publishers may be learning to direct their users back into the safe haven of their own apps, where ad blockers generally are not free to roam.

Smaato’s exchange saw a 6 percent positive shift in favor of apps in both supply (publisher inventory) and spend (advertisers’ spending on the Smaato Exchange) during Q3 2015, relative to that of the mobile web. Apps had previously comprised 65 percent of all traffic and 67 percent of all spending during Q3 2014; one year later, these numbers have jumped to 71 percent and 73 percent respectively.

This translates into a drop, percentage-wise, for mobile web supply and spending, which is now 29 percent (supply) and 27 percent (spend).

Supply is up dramatically in both areas, however. App supply grew by 57 percent in a year versus Q3 2014, and mobile web supply growth wasn’t far behind, with 42 percent growth year over year. It’s clear that there continues to be a rising tide for publishers across both apps and mobile web, driven by the ubiquity of smartphones in the developed world and the huge penetration increases over the past year in developing countries such as India, Indonesia, and China. It will be worth monitoring whether ad-blocking concerns drive a further increase in app traffic during Q4 of this year.

2. Publishers are chasing — and winning — higher eCPM by picking larger ad formats

One revenue-producing trend that publishers worldwide are welcoming is the consensus move toward picking the largest ad formats that work for their apps’ or websites’ user experiences. While traditional 320×50 banners are still growing, their rate of growth is dropping in favor of larger sizes like the “medium rectangle” 300×250 unit — up 85 percent in Q3 2015 — and the interstitial ad (320×480), which grew 77 percent year-over-year during Q3.

This growth reflects a better user experience both for consumers and for advertisers. Targeted ads are more easily seen and less easy to ignore; but moreover, they’re made to best work with the available real estate in a given app or website. A further move to Video and Native Advertising is also well underway, which are heightening these trends — and bringing much higher eCPM for publishers in the process.

We also saw confirmation of a long-expected trend as feature phones are replaced by smartphones. Small ad units like the 216×36 banner are plummeting, with a -59 percent drop during Q3 alone from the year before. There is still a high amount of overall traffic in these ad units — not all feature phones nor smaller, first-generation smartphones have been upgraded to the iPhone 6s quite yet — but it’s time to get ready to say goodbye, as publishers continue to open their apps to showcase Rich Media, Video, and Native advertising in the months to come.

3. The Rich Media “revenue gap” is growing

In an earlier version of Smaato’s Global Trends report, it was found that publishers running rich media ads were generating 83 percent higher eCPMs than those running image ads. This disparity continued to grow in Q3 2015, with rich media ads now generating 116 percent higher revenues for publishers and app developers over revenues from image-based advertisements.

To reiterate the point raised in the previous section, publishers should not only pick the largest ad formats that work for their apps’ or websites’ user experiences, but also the most engaging creatives (video and/or other forms of rich media) in order to better engage consumers and, concurrently, generate higher demand for their inventory and increased eCPMs for themselves.

You never know — it might even tone down the ad blocking kerfuffle a little bit in the process.

Jay Hinman is VP of Marketing at Smaato.


Sponsored posts are content that has been produced by a company that is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with VentureBeat, and they’re always clearly marked. The content of news stories produced by our editorial team is never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way. For more information, contact [email protected].










3 things we learned about mobile advertising this summer

texting.shutterstock_157897442

This sponsored post is produced by Smaato.


As the third quarter of 2015 was winding to a close this past September, you couldn’t throw a rock at a laptop without hitting a story about ad blocking, the purported scourge of modern media and the bane of publishers everywhere. It was and remains a very rational and understandable reaction to years of bad ads and legacy thinking that consumers, in their collective hive wisdom, have chosen in some not insignificant number to block ads (especially on desktop and on mobile web sites via iOS9 Safari extensions) — and which business media and self-interested parties have then blown into something even larger.

This week Smaato has released data that illuminates some other, perhaps less-commented-upon mobile advertising trends from the late summer of 2015. The company’s Global Trends in Mobile Programmatic report for Q3 is a thorough examination of the billions upon billions of mobile ad impressions served on Smaato’s global platform during this time period, and reflects the detailed activity and trends that unfurled across a wide base of publishers, advertisers and users.

To wit, we learned, among other things, that:

1. The pendulum is swinging back to apps

Ad blocking concerns may have really hit their stride in September, right at the tail end of Q3, but let’s remember that as of today, this is primarily a mobile web issue, effectively limited to extensions on Safari in the new iOS9, and not within publisher-controlled apps themselves. Publishers may be learning to direct their users back into the safe haven of their own apps, where ad blockers generally are not free to roam.

Smaato’s exchange saw a 6 percent positive shift in favor of apps in both supply (publisher inventory) and spend (advertisers’ spending on the Smaato Exchange) during Q3 2015, relative to that of the mobile web. Apps had previously comprised 65 percent of all traffic and 67 percent of all spending during Q3 2014; one year later, these numbers have jumped to 71 percent and 73 percent respectively.

This translates into a drop, percentage-wise, for mobile web supply and spending, which is now 29 percent (supply) and 27 percent (spend).

Supply is up dramatically in both areas, however. App supply grew by 57 percent in a year versus Q3 2014, and mobile web supply growth wasn’t far behind, with 42 percent growth year over year. It’s clear that there continues to be a rising tide for publishers across both apps and mobile web, driven by the ubiquity of smartphones in the developed world and the huge penetration increases over the past year in developing countries such as India, Indonesia, and China. It will be worth monitoring whether ad-blocking concerns drive a further increase in app traffic during Q4 of this year.

2. Publishers are chasing — and winning — higher eCPM by picking larger ad formats

One revenue-producing trend that publishers worldwide are welcoming is the consensus move toward picking the largest ad formats that work for their apps’ or websites’ user experiences. While traditional 320×50 banners are still growing, their rate of growth is dropping in favor of larger sizes like the “medium rectangle” 300×250 unit — up 85 percent in Q3 2015 — and the interstitial ad (320×480), which grew 77 percent year-over-year during Q3.

This growth reflects a better user experience both for consumers and for advertisers. Targeted ads are more easily seen and less easy to ignore; but moreover, they’re made to best work with the available real estate in a given app or website. A further move to Video and Native Advertising is also well underway, which are heightening these trends — and bringing much higher eCPM for publishers in the process.

We also saw confirmation of a long-expected trend as feature phones are replaced by smartphones. Small ad units like the 216×36 banner are plummeting, with a -59 percent drop during Q3 alone from the year before. There is still a high amount of overall traffic in these ad units — not all feature phones nor smaller, first-generation smartphones have been upgraded to the iPhone 6s quite yet — but it’s time to get ready to say goodbye, as publishers continue to open their apps to showcase Rich Media, Video, and Native advertising in the months to come.

3. The Rich Media “revenue gap” is growing

In an earlier version of Smaato’s Global Trends report, it was found that publishers running rich media ads were generating 83 percent higher eCPMs than those running image ads. This disparity continued to grow in Q3 2015, with rich media ads now generating 116 percent higher revenues for publishers and app developers over revenues from image-based advertisements.

To reiterate the point raised in the previous section, publishers should not only pick the largest ad formats that work for their apps’ or websites’ user experiences, but also the most engaging creatives (video and/or other forms of rich media) in order to better engage consumers and, concurrently, generate higher demand for their inventory and increased eCPMs for themselves.

You never know — it might even tone down the ad blocking kerfuffle a little bit in the process.

Jay Hinman is VP of Marketing at Smaato.


Sponsored posts are content that has been produced by a company that is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with VentureBeat, and they’re always clearly marked. The content of news stories produced by our editorial team is never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way. For more information, contact [email protected].










Airbnb to mentor new hosts, adds ‘smart’ tools to foster better hospitality experiences

Airbnb infographic

“Hosts are the lifeblood of the company,” Joe Zadeh, vice president of product at Airbnb, explained and it’s easy to see why. Hosts are the people that really make or break this seven year-old company and if it’s trying to create a truly unforgettable experience for its guests, it needs to have its partners on board — for the most part, the hosts are the public faces of the company.

To show that it appreciates this fact, Airbnb has debuted new tools at its third-annual host conference aimed at incentivizing these partners to be happy hosts. Zadeh said that it’s all about helping to instill confidence, streamline the process, and to open up new opportunities. Starting today, Airbnb has made available host mentoring, smarter pricing to maximize bookings, third-party solutions to make hosting easier, and an expansion of its Airbnb for Business program.

Helping hosts create great hospitality experiences

Being a host is probably easier said than done for some. The adage “If you build it, they will come” may not always hold true with listings. So Airbnb’s team has created ways to reassure hosts and making them feel secure in what they’re doing. The first offering is around the on-boarding process. With host mentoring, new hosts can be paired with an experienced one and gain the knowledge needed to be a successful and create a great hospitality experience.

Airbnb Mentors

Mentors will basically be available for new hosts, answering all host-related questions until the first booking has been made. In return for their service, Airbnb will provide $250 in travel credits to mentors for every 10 new hosts they help. Zadeh said that this program is rolling out in 22 markets around the world. Mentors will be paired with new hosts that have similar listings in their town or city. During its pilot program, the company worked with 25 mentors and 55 mentees (3 mentees per person) and this resulted in some receiving their first booking within three days of working.

In order to be a mentor, Airbnb says that hosts must have an active listing with at least five completed trips and must also satisfy requirements around commitment, five-star reviews, response rate, and more.

But this isn’t the only way that Airbnb is leveraging its experienced hosts to help one another out. The company has created a “toolkit” which essentially is a video resource center that’ll appear when the time is right. Produced by Airbnb, the videos are created by hosts to share tales of success and concern to others who may follow the same path. They’re local so it’s not a blanket video that will work across all markets.

Hosting Toolkits

And if videos and mentors aren’t enough, hosts can express their frustrations and concerns to others in an Airbnb “community center”, which is a virtual meeting place built on top of the company’s Group’s feature (which shuttered in February) — Zadeh told us that only 13 percent of hosts really used it. This online destination is designed to facilitate conversation and let hosts share stories, ask questions, bond with each other, and get tips. Think of it akin to being a private social network where you can build a profile, message others, and more.

In the aftermath of Airbnb’s victory over Proposition F in this month’s election in San Francisco, the company announced that it would be mobilizing its hosts to move the homesharing movement forward. Could this community center be a place for such organization? Zadeh tells VentureBeat that it’s “not the intention to include policy in mind. It’s not meant to be a political platform, but about how to be a great host.” However, he didn’t deny that political rhetoric and discussion could slip into the site eventually.

Streamlining the hosting responsibilities

The next step after making its partners feel comfortable being hosts is to make it easier to be one. To accomplish this, Airbnb has launched new services and integrations aimed at putting a host’s focus on the customer, not on the work needed to do that.

Smart Pricing Web

Simply setting up an Airbnb listing isn’t enough to guarantee that someone will book it. Just like the hotel industry, hosts have to adjust their pricing in order to make it competitive with nearby properties. But simply spending every waking moment dealing with price changes like you would with your Google AdWords account just isn’t efficient or pleasant. So Airbnb has rolled out Smart Pricing, which is an evolution of its Price Tips feature. The service will not be just providing suggestions, but also using predictive algorithms to best price a listing.

Zadeh explained that hosts can set a minimum and maximum price they’re willing to charge, along with the number of days. Then the algorithm takes over and modifies the pricing based on that criteria. The system looks at multiple factors, pulling from internal Airbnb data, aimed at helping to meet the host’s goal of booking their homes while getting the most money. All pricing is adjusted every day and hosts can look at pricing four months into the future. If they’re not satisfied with Smart Pricing, hosts can disable it and all the prices will revert to the prior state like nothing had happened.

Host AssistOnce you’ve secured the booking, the next challenge Airbnb wants to solve for hosts is how to make the check-in process easy. In order to overcome operational challenges of hosting, the company has unveiled host assist, a program that utilizes technology to expedite the check-in process. Most hosts, Zadeh explained, like to check in their guests, but have full-time jobs, so how do they receive some peace of mind to make it all work out? This is where technology will come in as Airbnb has opened up its API to third-party hardware devices to easily facilitate keyless entry and key exchange.

At launch, hosts can connect their Airbnb accounts with the August Lock, Kevo, Lockstate, and Key Cafe. This will help guests easily access homes without having to deal with the hassle of coordinating check-in times. Zadeh said that support for the Nest and Yale Locks, Unikey, and Danalock will be added in the future.

Managing guests stays has also been enhanced with an updated host dashboard. Available for mobile devices, it will let hosts see everything that’s important to them, showing more upfront information and personalizing it for how you want it displayed, either daily or monthly. Data included are pending requests, upcoming guests, alerts, and reviews — basically it’s a CRM for your listing and it’s accessible right from a tablet or phone.

Going after the next travel market

While most people probably associate Airbnb with consumer travel, a growing number of companies allow their employees to stay in a listed property. A $300 billion market, the business travel space is certainly a lucrative area for Airbnb to stretch into so how can it convince more companies to abandon the traditional thought pattern of staying in hotels for conventions and events and opt for something more homey?


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Zadeh says 10 percent of Airbnb travel is already for business and those that stay in one often do so because they want to be in a local neighborhood, with coffee shops, and be off the beaten path. However, it’s not without some necessities, such as staying in a place with reliable Wi-Fi, a place to use their laptop, and some basic items such as an iron, hangers, hair dryer, and more.

Instead of having to compete against dozens of listings in their city, Airbnb wants to make it simple for hosts to stand out when they want to appeal to business travels. It has expanded its Airbnb for Business program to include a certification service that will identify those listings as “Business Travel Ready”. Those that have this label offer all the amenities that a business traveler will need, including 24-hour check-in and a no-host cancellation within seven days policy.

Airbnb Business Ready Travel listing

Hosts of “Business Travel Ready” listings will have ratings of 5 stars for at least 60 percent of their primary reviews, cleanliness reviews, and accuracy reviews. They’ll also be responsive 90 percent of the time to booking requests within 24 hours. Only those with an entire home or apartment that has no pets or allow smoking will qualify. While it’s calling out these listings as business travel-friendly, it’s worth noting that Airbnb does not endorse these listings so guests should be aware that they may not have been vetted by someone from the company.

Zadeh said that those that qualify should be receiving an email with a link to enroll in this program. They’ll have to complete a questionnaire to verify that they meet the requirements. The resulting badge isn’t permanent as it’ll be subject to guest reviews.

“Our team has spent countless hours working with hosts through feedback sessions, research and testing, to understand their needs, which led us to build a suite of tools that provide tailored insights to help our hosts and meet their goals,” said Zadeh. “This product suite simplifies many aspects of being a host and allows them to focus on what they do best — provide truly great hospitality.”

For Airbnb, it has been working to make sure that it provides a system that really works for hosts. In the early days, it hasn’t which caused the company to make some necessary corrections, including adding better trust and safety features. Eventually it caught onto the mobile game and launched dedicated host products on phones and tablets before debuting these so-called “smart tools” today.

Zadeh shared that it was important that what Airbnb is doing be truly personalized because each host is in a different stage of their journey and in order for tools to be adopted, they have to be very personal. He was pretty adamant to say that Airbnb doesn’t operate in a vacuum, but instead collaborates and co-creates with hosts to make products that work for everyone.

All of these tools and capabilities are now available worldwide.

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