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Archive for the ‘Data and Information Analysis’ Category

Mobile Shopping is Going Viral this Holiday Season!

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

With only 11 shopping days left until Christmas, shoppers need all the help they can get this holiday season while trying to find the best deal on the perfect gift for their loved one.  This year more shoppers than ever before are using their smartphones to find the best deals while they are in stores around the country and even at home and work.

Pricegrabber just released these survey results last week of 3,574 online consumers in the United States.  According to these results, 39% of all respondents have a shopping-related application on their smartphone.  Out of the respondents with a shopping application on their phone, 56% indicated that they have these applications on their phone because they believe they get the best prices using mobile shopping applications.

These numbers show a staggering increase from just 1 year ago when I wrote this KikScore blog post that talked about a Wall Street Journal article that indicated that only 5.6% of consumers used a mobile phone to price compare while on the go.  The WSJ article referenced in the aforementioned blog post also says that only .1% of consumers used a mobile phone in this way in 2009.  As you can see from these numbers consumers are continuing to increase their use of smartphone mobile shopping applications at an exponential rate!

So, what are merchants across the Unites States doing in response to these legions of mobile smartphone shoppers?  Unfortunately, the answer is still “not very much” at this time.  Again, like I mentioned in my blog post last year, I still cannot walk into a Best Buy, use my smartphone to find a better price on an item online and get the store to match this price.  Many bricks and mortar stores are still having a problem reacting to this new wave of technological advancement in the pocket of the U.S. consumer.

According to this article in the Chicago Tribune, some retailers like Macy’s and J.C. Penney are starting to react to these mobile shoppers by streamlining their mobile websites, creating custom shopping applications, and increasing the speed and efficiency of their sites.  In my mind, however, this is just the very basic levels of catering to the mobile shopping consumer and great strides will need to be made in the coming years in order for this new bread of consumer to be on the same page with these large retailers in the U.S.

Have you had a positive or negative experience while using a smartphone with a mobile shopping application at a retailer?

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Archive for the ‘Data and Information Analysis’ Category

There is no such thing as a malware free smartphone

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

It’s true.  All smartphones are vulnerable to malware.  However, some phones get targeted more than others.  Here are 5 of the most common smartphones and this is how secure they are.

  1. iPhone: This is the one that most people use. Due to the new iOS for the iPhone, malware is often in the background. It is most commonly found on jailbroken phones.  Since jailbroken phones often contain apps that are not approved by Apple, it’s much easier for malware to get onto the phones. Also since many users do not change the passwords on their jailbroken smartphones, malicious attackers can create worms and infect the operating devices.
  2. Windows Mobile: This is as bad as the computer version.  This is probably due to the fact that there are many similarities between the computer OS and the mobile OS.
  3. Blackberry: …This is actually pretty good, in that there is not much malware that targets blackberries. This is probably due to the fact that the Blackberry OS is kept under wraps. No one knows the details of how the system is programmed. However, the multitasking ability of the Blackberry makes it easy for malware to run unnoticed.
  4. Symbian: This is popular outside the United States. It is also the oldest of the smartphones. There is a lack of information on malware for this smartphone.
  5. Android: Since this is based on the Linux operating  system, there is not much information about malware for this phone either. 3rd party applications are not regulated for this phone.

Many of these phones have  common vulnerabilities. Things such as not changing your password and your settings can cause your phone to become vulnerable. When downloading apps, be careful of where you get the application from and try to download and install apps from reputable sources. Also, be very careful if you decide to jailbreak your phone.

Anyone got any other tips?

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Archive for the ‘Data and Information Analysis’ Category

False Positives: The Problem of Fake Customer Reviews

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Psst..hey have you heard? Someone’s putting fake positive reviews for companies. There’s a black market for people who are willing to write fake positive reviews of products, places or services. Since more and more people are looking online for reviews of products, places and services, the demand for good reviews is growing.  As more and more positive reviews are being written, the demand for more positive reviews increases. It’s a positive feedback cycle.

How to tell if a review is fake or not

So what about these fake reviews? Well most of them are hard to spot. Luckily for businesses, a team of researchers have come up with an algorithm to determine if that review you got on Yelp is fake or not.  So, how did they determine the algorithm? Well the long answer’s in the link I gave you. The short answer is this. The fake reviews tend to be more narrative, have vauge descriptions about whatever they are reviewing and tend to use the words “I”‘ and “me”‘ often.

So why need an algorithm at all? Well take a look at this. Don’t read the descriptions and ignore the highlighted words for a minute. Just read the review. Could you tell it wasn’t real? No? Well neither could I. The Cornell researchers have an explanation for this. Since humans have been communicating face to face for about 60,000 years, it’s much harder for us to pick up clues about deception in things such as reviews. You know this to be true, if you’ve ever had a misunderstanding over email.

So how do you prevent fake reviews? You can try setting up a review guideline. Try asking your customers to put the name of the person who helped them, describe the product or service in detail and point out the parts that they liked the best or had some problem with. If the review has passion, chances are it’s a real review.

A brief bit about negative reviews

Then there’s the flip-side, negative reviews. These are often posted by competitors or people who really don’t like the business. Surprisingly,  the trend is more towards writing positive reviews. But, that’s not to say that negative reviews aren’t important too.  Negative reviews can help you figure out what went wrong with that new pasta recipe you were trying out last Friday night. So keep an eye on those too. Also, if you answer negative reviews really quickly and fix/compensate for the problem, your bad review might just change to a good one!

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Archive for the ‘Data and Information Analysis’ Category

Did Bing copy Google’s search results? What?

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Google is claiming that Bing is copying its search results…..what? To me this sounds a little sketchy. Google is a search engine. Bing is, also, a search engine.  So wouldn’t their results be the same if they are looking at the same stuff. (meaning the all the things tagged with whatever word a person is looking for)

But, wait. Let’s see what PC World’s article says. According to the article, Google discovered Bing methods through a “sting” (yes the actually used the word sting) operation. First they created some specific pages to appear in the search results and then they had a bunch of their engineers go home and use Explorer’s suggested sites feature and Bing’s toolbar to search for certain things. Then after two weeks, Google found that the same search results were on Bing.

The specific pages had nothing to do with the keywords and Google just made the pages appear in the search results.  Now according to Microsoft, they use a variety of different approaches, including using (opt-in) customer search data, to get their search results. This article goes into more detail, some of which I don’t fully understand. (I’m not majoring in Computer Science.)

Also, according to the article linked above, Explorer users may technically know (’cause really who tries to slog through the privacy policy?) that their browsing data may be used. [ Suggested sites, does what it’s name implies; it suggests sites related to what you are looking at.] Then there’s the Bing toolbar which also looks at a user’s browsing history. On the other hand, according to Google, Google Toolbar and Chrome don’t send back browsing history. Google toolbar, however, does relay site speed which may be a factor in Google’s page rank system.

So overall, Bing may or may not have copied Google’s search results. Bing says that it uses a wide variety of factors, user data, and many search algorithms. However, Google views what Bing may or may not have done as cheating and unfair even though it is not illegal.

What do you all think?

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Archive for the ‘Data and Information Analysis’ Category

Want faster broadband? Go mobile!

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Well in the US anyway. According to this study, the US is third for m0bile broadband quality.  However, that’s only in mobile broadband. Confused by all the figures? This article gives you a good summary. The US is ranked 15th in the world in terms of better broadband access, along with France, Latvia, and Canada. The best place for broadband access….No, not Japan or Sweden….it’s South Korea!

I believe that the study measured it in download and upload speeds because that’s what the article said, plus one of the graphs was showing downloading and uploading speeds in the requirements. I do wish the second graph-like thing on pg 16 of the PowerPoint came with a key because it was a little confusing.  I believe what it means by “household penetration” is how many houses have broadband access. Looking at the graph, it seems like most of the countries who are leading in household penetration are not broadband leaders.  However there are still quite a few countries that don’t really seem to have proper broadband.

The PowerPoint also stated the countries that were ready for future applications. The US was not one of them. It was, however, in the list of numerous countries that enjoy current applications without (many) problems. There are quite a few countries that are barely or unable to support many of today’s applications.

On the other hand, the US has a negative difference between the broadband in its main cities and outside them. The study didn’t say how far outside the broadband quality remained the same, but it’s still good news. The country that has narrowed this gap the most is Poland. What I found interesting was that Japan was below the US.

The graph on page 8 of the PowerPoint shows that many of the developing countries are focusing more on developing broadband in their cities because they acknowledge that it is an important part of their economic development. On the next page is a list of cities that have the quality required to be “smart and connected.”  The PowerPoint does not explain what this is. It doesn’t look good for the US here, because the only city that fits that requirement is …..(take a few minutes and guess, I want to know what guesses you came up with)…….New York. (I’m pretty sure all of you guessed this. Just once I would like to see a place like Tulsa get into some technology list.) Ok! The next page……I’m not sure h0w to read this or what the bubbles are talking about. (I don’t know that much about broadband….yet) So, moving on!

I don’t really understand the chart and graphs on pages 13 and 14, but I do know that the Social Media slider should be all the way to the right. The second to last page talks about the relationship between broadband leadership and innovation economy.  I believe it means that there is a positive relationship. The thing that I took away from this is that the US, if it wants to be on the very edge, should probably improve broadband quality. Maybe that should be it’s resolution for this year?

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Archive for the ‘Data and Information Analysis’ Category

Disaster? Social Media can help save the day!

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010
Live from #crisisdata Red Cross Emergency Social Data Summit

Taken by Shashi Bellamkonda(yes there is a relation)

Everyone in the DC area remembers yesterday right….of course you do! Who could forget hearing, seeing or being in the flood that covered Rock Creek! (For those of you who have been living under rocks to get away from climate change or in the Denver area, you can read about it here) My father(most of you know who he is) and I were on our way to the Emergency Social Data Summit(hands up if you were there or following along on some social media website….*sees tons of hands*….good, good!) hosted by the American Red Cross when we heard that Canal Road was closed near Arizona Avenue(see map). Immediately(and he was driving by the way….the rest of you don’t text and drive!…thank you) he sent out a tweet(it wasn’t spelled properly, but it was understandable) saying that Canal Road was blocked, then later he got a reply thanking him for the help.

The conference focused on how to use social media(Twitter, Facebook, Google, Skype…etc) in times of crises and  to try and come up with a way to filter the information, get it back out into the social media network, and get it to the professionals .  There are about 6 million people using Twitter, more than 5 million use Facebook and almost everyone uses Google. That’s more information than there is water on Earth! And like water, the sheer volume is overwhelming, especially if a disaster happens. That makes it harder for the professionals(firefighters, police, medical personnel…anyone who is trained for disaster situations) to determine what information is the most relevant, needs immediate attention, can be acted on a little later…ect.

The case study most often referenced was the earthquake in Haiti. After the quake, there were texts, and tweets coming in from all over Haiti about people who needed help and where they were. Those texts and tweets got picked up by other social networks and spread all over the internet. However, many of those pieces of information were not verified and rescue crews who were following the information often went to the same place twice because there was no follow up saying that “yes, this problem has been taken care of”.

After hearing many speakers(the event was streamed live; sorry I have no idea what the weird diagram is on the right),  every table participated in a ’round table’ discussion. This was where many of the ideas about how to connect the  social media network to the already existing ‘disaster response network’ . The discussion was guided by a set of  questions; each table had a different set of questions(see the blog Emergency Social Data Summit for questions).  Our table came up with a very interesting idea for the question of what to do with the “emergency social data”(the red cross’ words , not mine) after it has been aggregated. Anyone remember the Ad Council? The group that’s responsible for public service announcements on TV and radio? Yes? No? Well, if you don’t that’s ok; I’d heard of them, but I didn’t know what they did until yesterday. Our group’s idea was to create a Social Media Ad Council, responsible for giving victims, professionals and everyone else accurate,  verified and up to date information about the disaster. There were many more speakers after that, but seeing as the ‘fun’ part of the conference was over, my father and I decided to leave.  You can participate in the ongoing conversation about the use of social media in emergencies on twitter, the red cross’ website,  the Emergency Social Data Summit blog and various other social media websites(see the red cross for more details).

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Archive for the ‘Data and Information Analysis’ Category

Is Google Good or Evil?

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

I was reading this article today on Gizmodo about how a “Vision document” recently released to the public was created by Google 2 years ago and makes reference to the fact that Google was considering selling Internet surfing and search data from visitors to their site.

This would be a big deal for a few reasons if it is true because Google has claimed for years that they would never user their customer’s personal data for “evil” reasons like making billions of dollars.  This would also be big news because there are other companies like BlueKai and Exelate that currently offer similar “tracking services” for help companies determine what the best keywords are to use in their ads to get the most clicks.  Needless to say, if Google decided tomorrow that they were going to be in this business, these companies would instantly be put out of business and Google would be the leader in this area.

I think that this would also be big news for consumers and merchants because it just might change the way people think about and/or use Google.  If you knew that you were going to get a bunch of emails or targeted ads based on the words you searched on in Google I think you might actually think a little a more before you made that search or before you automatically typed “Google” into your web browser.  This may very well end up being the reason that Google also never does become “evil” and start selling this data because unless their competitors start to do the same, consumers may start moving to Bing or Yahoo if they feel like Google is “selling them out” or carelessly sharing their previous search data.

Would you consider stopping to use Google if they started sharing your searches with other companies for money?

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Are You Smarter Than a Smart Grid?

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

I was reading this article in the Denver Post today when I realized that the next large source of consumer behavior-related data may not be Facebook or any other social networking site…heck, it might not even be sourced directly from the Internet!  Judging from the fact that the “smart grid” is supposed to be rolled out to 52 million people by 2015, the next source of data that marketers may very well be trying to get about you and I may be obtained by determining the patterns and type of electricity we use on a daily basis.

If companies were able to get their hands on this data they could apparently not only determine how many loads of laundry you do each week, but they could also figure out what kind of TV you own, how many times you shower and how many people are in your household!  I never really thought about it this way, but the way we use electricity can tell a lot about a person and an entire family.  Just think how powerful this data would be to consumer goods companies that could market certain products to people based on this information!

Another use for this data is law enforcement…this electrical data could point police to homes that are using certain lights to grow marijuana in their basements or to other criminals who use certain power-consuming equipment to make methamphetamine.

To nobody’s surprise Microsoft and Google are already all over the management of this smart grid data.  Microsoft’s Hohmproduct and Google’s PowerMeter application are already being used by the 200,000 early adopters of the smart grid being tested in Boulder, Colorado, that now monitor their electrical consumption online using these tools.

What could your business do if you had access to this data?

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How the NFL Draft Can Help You With Online Trust

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

This is one of my favorite times of the year for sports.  The time of hope, promise and turnaround.  That means it is time for the NFL Draft!  My team, the Cleveland Browns, always enters this part of the year and the draft with hopes of getting the amazing college football prospect that will revitalize the team, give us a winning season for once and hopefully (yeah right) a trip to the Super Bowl.  The issue is that you never know if a player your team picks in the draft is going to turn out like you hoped and will deliver on all of the expectations you have built up for them or turn out to be a bust.  Or worse yet, that player ends up breaking the law and not only is he a bust, but he then becomes a shame to the team and the city.  In many ways this is similar to the issue of figuring out who you can trust online for doing business and for online shopping.

In the NFL Draft process, the teams that do the best job are the ones that do the most diligence on the college football prospects.  These are just some of the things that NFL teams and scouts do in the diligence and research process before selecting a player in the draft:

1) Conduct extensive background checks;

2) Put players through multiple interviews and give them tests;

3) Review, analyze and dissect a player’s past performances in college games and;

4) Talk to their coaches, teachers and other experts.

That is all done before draft day and before a player is selected.  And its all done on hundreds of players.  The interesting thing is what NFL teams are looking for in college players is very  similar to what shoppers look for before buying online: 1) a track record of success; 2) good character; 3) reliability and trustworthiness; 4) the ability to deliver and meet expectations and 5) someone you can depend on and that can be your “go to” person.

All of these traits are exactly what people look for for in businesses that operate online as indications of whether you can trust that business.  The commonality between the NFL teams that put players through these tests and online shoppers is: Information!  Information is king.  It is not only having access to that information but it is also having the right information about trustworthiness and reliability to make an informed decision about buying from an online store or selecting a contractor or consultant online that you have come across online.

So next time you are out looking to buy online or select a contractor, be like an NFL scout and look for these types of information. That will help you stay safe when you are shopping online.  Also businesses that have a KikScore seal certainly help shoppers get much of this trust and reliability information.  But just make sure you end up selecting the next Tom Brady and not Ryan Leaf when you decide to do business online!

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The iPad is iCrap

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Let me just start by saying that I fully admit that I am a “gadget guy”.  I love having the latest gadget that can make my life easier and/or more efficient.  Let me also start by saying that I think that Apple is a great company that has made some innovations over the last decade that have single-handedly advanced technology and changed the way people live their lives.

Let me continue by saying that I believe that the newly released iPad from Apple will not be nearly as successful as the iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch, or even the iMac.  There is no place in my life for the iPad…believe me, I looked…I just do not have a need for a device of this size at this price with it’s current capabilities.  Everything that I can think of that I might want to do on the iPad I already do on either my smart phone or my laptop.  I would also argue that my smart phone or my laptop are more appropriately equipped to do those things as well.

If I wanted to send an email while I was on the train I would go straight to my smart phone…it is more compact and can connect to the Internet through a mobile hot spot or a cellular connection.  Why would I want an iPad to do this?  Not only does it only connect to the Internet through a wi-fi signal (unless you add a data plan from AT&T for a monthly cost) that I may not be able to get on the train, but it is also the size of a text book so I can’t hold it in my pocket.

If I wanted to work in Microsoft Excel I would use my laptop because the screen is larger and I can easily edit the spreadsheets using a full size keyboard and the processing power of the latest laptop chip set.  Why would I want an iPad to do this?  The screen is smaller so I would have to scroll all over to find things, I have to type out letters using a smaller touch screen keyboard, and the processing power isn’t that of my laptop.

Sorry Apple, I really tried but I just can’t legitimize throwing down $500 (and up) for the iPad just so I can read an eBook in color, assuming that I would even rather do this on the iPad than on the Kindle from Amazon that also already has received rave reviews, is $240 cheaper than the iPad, and is already readily used and supported in the eBook industry.  I hope all of you Apple supporters out there don’t hate me for saying these things…remember, Apple has had other minor failings in the last decade, the Apple TV player (iTV must have been taken) from a few years back comes to mind, so it isn’t unheard of.

Again, this is just one person’s opinion, let me know if you think I am wrong!

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