Big Data and IoT in Sports: Forecast Come True

Screenshot CIO Story on IoT in NFL by Thor Olavsrud http://bit.ly/1Zio3ZxIn a blog post written in January 2014 at Syncsort.com (“Big Game, Big Data: How Football is Being Transformed by Big Data”) I forecast that Big Data and the Internet of Things would eventually impact major sports in the U.S.  In a feature story written for CIO magazine by Thor Olavsrud (@ThorOlavsrud) in September 2015, parts of this forecast may becoming reality for the National Football League.

Question: How will it affect your bets in fantasy sports?  IBM Watson for unstructured expert advice? QlikView and Tableau for analytics?

Computer-Assisted Instruction: Long Overdue in Overburdened STEM Classrooms

Scientific American Story from 1978

Scientific American Story from 1978

This weekend the NYT is running a compassionately told story about challenges facing teachers in traditional classroom settings. I truly felt for the novice teachers.

On the other hand, having been classrooms with unruly students — especially with STEM-heavy curricula — I felt that even the tricks, tactics and cajoling described here would often fail  with some of the children. A continual return to behavior management, while necessary, is nothing short of a content pause for attentive students. Worse, in the absence of computer-assisted learning, the ability of a single teacher to track learning needs for component skills of, say 25 students — inevitably different from learner to learner — is spotty at best.

Teachers are implicitly asked to supply this missing computation in the form of homework grading, longer hours, self-produced content. What sort of person would want to accept such an assignment – with some nurtured while others just muddle through with at best intermittent attention to both subject matter & discipline? While the NYT reporter makes a good case for the importance of behavior management in the classroom, the narrative begs the question as to what works in behavior management and whether educational psychology pedagogy in teacher training is up the task.

 By analogy, what is it like to work in a factory where a constant number of products shipped are known to be flawed?

 One can hardly blame teachers for a system that begins more as child care than instruction. That it remains so for classrooms with older students here speaks to the Sisyphusian nature of the endeavor.

Image Credit: Scientific American story from 1978 provided by Steve Eskow in 2009.

Book Review: Business Storytelling for Dummies

business-storytellingHomer’s Odyssey was preserved through an oral tradition of storytelling. NPR listeners are familiar with StoryCorps, a show that features some of the 45,000 interviews recorded by the organization of the same name, and The Moth, another show that features unscripted storytelling.

At the opposite end of this humane tradition is “Death by PowerPoint.” This critique of the slide-based software, so named by Angela Garber, argues that PPT decks are often boring, oversimplified, needlessly stylized, overly complex – or all of the above.

Somewhere in the middle, perhaps, is ordinary business communication, instructional materials and well-tolerated military briefings. After all, David Byrne has shown in his PowerPoint-based art that the software medium itself may not be at fault.

So it is with PowerPoint in mind that I supposed that Dietz and Silverman’s Business Storytelling Business might be a useful mate (or antidote) to the book used for reference when the Microsoft PPT help screens fall short. Business Storytelling is written in a breezy style that belies the importance of this topic. Nonetheless, Dietz and Silverman have crafted a book that satisfied my goal.

I only own two “Dummies” texts, and the other one was printed in 1999, but the brand’s format hasn’t changed much despite the transition to Wiley. The text is strongly edited, by which I mean it follows a somewhat principled structure and doesn’t stray from its pragmatic intention for long.

A Must-Have for PowerPoint Mavens and TED Talk Wannabes

A psychological / linguistic term for storytelling is Narratology: “the branch of knowledge or literary criticism that deals with the structure and function of narrative and its themes, conventions, and symbols.” Business Storytelling doesn’t cover narratology in depth  (and fails to mention Roger Schank). While there are relevant and useful peer-reviewed references, they’re sprinkled throughout the text and interspersed with blog posts, anecdotes, books (e.g., Nancy Duarte’s Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences) and case studies. This is not a failing given the book’s stated audience and objectives, but the suggestions made would have been strengthened by an academic-style bibliography.

Offsetting this lack are numerous story examples – both good and bad – which illustrate the authors’ recommendations. Here are a few that may demonstrate the flavor of the book:

  • Identify a setting, characters, events
  • Build in empathy for the main character
  • Ways to include data in a story
  • Problems with insider and technical terminology
  • Create multiple layers for a story to reverberate
  • Ways to make a story memorable
  • How to demonstrate that the storyteller is simultaneously an effective listener

The book uses cartoon-style iconography for tips, pitfalls, realistic examples, external references, points to remember. Some may find this style off-putting, but if you can get past the idiomatic style, it does improve skim speed, which is what’s needed to rework and groom a story – and a PPT deck. Refer to additional worthwhile content at the book’s web site.

The business of creating business stories is non-trivial. Some of the unpersuasive examples provided in the book make this clear. Good storytelling calls for multiple talents: creativity, engaging diction, a balance of the simple and the complex, good aesthetic sense, practice, a sort of storytelling erudition – and, above all, metacognition of the domain that extends beyond the vanishing point of the story. Good storytellers may do all this instinctively, but, as a good fiction writer will readily attest, a cookbook will not result in a PowerPoint rose as lovely as Faulkner’s “Rose for Emily.”

You can see a TEDx talk by Dietz in which she introduces some of these concepts.