Stats: bringing sexy back

I love statistics tshirtI saw a presentation recently on a small Melbourne start-up

Basically, kaggle helps organisations solve data-related problems via crowd-sourcing and competitions.  These ‘problems’ aren’t the far-fetched conceptual ones you’d find in a stat textbook like ‘if Mary had 2X pieces of pie multiplied to the power of a rainbow…’

…although the main ingredients sound eerily similar: datasets, graphs, formulas, numbers….more numbers *eyes glazing over*…


Real world is calling and it would like your help.

Kaggle helps sort out the BIG, relevant issues.  For instance, is there is a genetic link to how rapidly HIV progresses to full-blown AIDS?

A biochemist in the US was working on this problem, released the question and data sets via Kaggle and started receiving answers from all over the globe.

In the end, a mathemetician from a neighbouring state won the competition and came up with an awesome model to predict this (with no biochemistry experience at all).

Why wouldn’t you get the world’s best statiticians working against the clock to solve your problem, rather than just Bruce and the geek squad you currently employ?

At the end of the day, with unlimited submissions, the most accurate model wins and you get to keep it.  The rest are kept hidden.  So all seems fair.

What is neat is that Kaggle goes beyond the basics and incorporates a collaborative/community element too – there are forums to chat about the problem/competition, which opens up the opportunity for members to team up with others working on the same problem.

Anthony, the company’s founder, told us that they get a lot of University academics submitting theories/answers.  For them, it’s far more exciting to be working on real-world issues than re-hashing old textbooks.

I couldn’t agree more.  Power to the statisticians, throw out the books, there’s plenty of real-world problems that need answers.

Hal Varian

Image via Wikipedia

“I keep saying that the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians”

– Hal Varian, Google’s Chief Economist

Well Hal, as much as this project rocks, only an Economist would say that.

Buy one, give two with Baby Teresa.

Baby Teresa. A great online social business concept. For each onesie they sell, they donate one to a child in need.

So when you need to buy a present for a little tacker pop over to Baby Teresa & check out their cute onesies. Shop for the little ones with a good conscience, knowing that you are also helping another child who really needs it… without even leaving home.

Last week Baby Teresa featured on The Circle. Check out the episode below.

Health is a right. Not a gift.

Last week was the DPI/NGO UN Conference in Melbourne. World leaders and delegates from NGO’s spent three days discussing global poverty and getting excited about the potential of taking real action to achieve the Millennium Development Goals… and eating the free sandwiches – lunch included at non-profit gatherings is a rarity.

Some conversations were repeats, many questions were irrelevant, and numerous delegates were on a mission to voice their own agenda.

BUT everyone there wanted to make a difference. Everyone there was driven by the same goal – the idea that making health global should and can be a reality.

Every one of the 1600 delegates turned up because they believe that we can make the world a better place. Yes, we are behind on meeting most of the Millenium Development Goals. Yes, there is concern over whether the government will & support exists to make these goals a reality. And yes, there have been mutterings that setting the goals themselves are futile.

But to have something on paper that gives us a global goal, and to provide opportunities for like minded people to inspire and re-energise each other is more than just a step in the right direction.

Political leaders do, however, need to be held accountable to financial and other commitments that have been agreed upon.  A motivated public, and the media, play a crucial role in enforcing this. Governments need to feel pressure from their people. We need to keep pushing to achieve the MDG’s. In the lead up to the UN MDG Summit in New York in two weeks time this is imperative.

During the conference last week the online troops were mobilised and the #AchieveMDGs hashtag reached almost 800,000 impressions during the 3 day conference.

Currently $1.46 trillion dollars per year is spent on international warfare. It would cost one tenth of this to achieve global health. So keep pushing. Health is a right, not a gift the government chooses to give. As Ban Ki-moon said in a recent report “Our world possesses the knowledge and the resources to achieve the MDGs” so let’s make this a reality.