How big is big data: Target figured a teen girl was pregnant before her father did


Don’t be frightened by the title of this post.

Everyday, we inherently drop bits of information about ourselves, whether we want to or not. Things we buy at supermarkets informs them of our consumption choices. Each time we pay by credit card, the financial industry knows how often we dine out, or go for fine dining. Every site we surf, our cookie dutifully records and watches. Wherever we go, our mobile phone submits that information in real time to the telcos. Every TV channel we watch informs the service provider of our lifestyle leanings.

OK, now you should be frightened.

So what, you think. These are all disparate silos of information. But put together, they can work to piece a very intricate profile of you. We’re mostly creatures of habits, and so our consumption patterns are just that. A pattern. Patterns can be deciphered, and insights drawn from it.

As of today, it is already possible, and entire industries are coming alive, with the sole purpose of bringing in all that disparate data, making sense of it, building profiles, with the ultimate aim of giving marketers a better view of who their consumers really are, what they’re like, and when they’re likely to buy from you.

Target on target


Target, for example, has figured out a way to work their data, and find out when a lady is likely to be pregnant, and start sending them coupons for baby items when they were only in their second trimester. In fact, they got so good at it, they sent a 16 year old girl their pregnancy coupons, and got her father all riled up.

Turned out she really was pregnant, and they probably ended up using the coupons anyway.

This could be a scary prospect, when you think about it. So today, Target disguises their coupons with other random stuff thrown in, so the unsuspecting mother-to-be will not feel like Target knows.

Break through the clutter

Throughout the course of a day, adding up online ads, billboards, bus ads, posters, TVCs, radio and outdoor ads, we’re inundated by between 3,000 to 20,000 marketing mesages per day. Yeap, try counting the next time. You’ll give up before lunch.

What ads need to do, is to add in that missing layer of data, that allows you to know, in real time, what this person needs, or is in the market for. You can then craft messages or visuals that appeal to them and provide them with the right message, or at least something they can consider.


I’m currently working with Lotame, a Data Management Platform with the ability to collect data from multiple different sources, organise and interpret those data, and give you detailed insights into who your customers are, what they like, and how you can tailor your messages to your different groups of customers.

I’m @vinyarb on twitter, if you’d like to connect and find out more.

You’re not going to be doing anyone any good showing me a banner on your latest, super fragrant, deep cleansing fabric softener.

My wife makes the decisions on that front.

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String Theory Bohemian Rhapsody


Not that I feel like I know a lot more about String Theory or Quantum Physics after watching this video, but I think he’s done a really great job at vocals, editing and sock puppeteering.

So if anyone comes away from this knowing a bit more about the subject, I guess that’s a win!


Is string theory right?
Is it just fantasy?
Caught in the landscape,
Out of touch with reality
On S5 or T*S3

Space is a pure void
Why should it be stringy?
Because it’s quantum not classical
Any way you quantize
You’ll encounter infinity
You see

Must interact
Via paths we understand
Using Feynman diagrams
Often, they will just rebound
But now and then they go another way
A quantum
Infinities will make you cry
Unless you can renormalize your model
Of baryons, fermions
And all other states of matter

Curved space:
The graviton
Can be thought of as a field
But these infinities are real
In a many-body
Loop diagram
Our results diverge no matter what we do…
A Quantum Soup (any way you quantize)
Kiss your fields goodbye
Guess Einstein’s theory wasn’t complete at all!

I see extended 1-D objects with no mass
What’s their use? What’s their use? Can they give us quark plasma?
What to minimize?
What functional describes this
Nambu-Goto! (Nambu-Goto)
Nambu-Goto! (Nambu-Goto)
How to quantize I don’t know
I’m just a worldsheet, please minimize me
He’s just a worldsheet from a string theory
Reperametrized by a Weyl symmetry!

Fermi, Bose, open, closed, orientable?
Modes! They become particles (particles!)
They become particles (particles!)
They become particles (particles!)
Become particles (particles!)
Become particles (many many many many particle…)
Modes modes modes modes modes modes modes!
Oh mamma mia mamma mia,
Such a sea of particles!
A tachyon, with a dilaton and gravity-vity-VITY

(rock out!)

Now we need ten dimensions and I’ll tell you why
(anomaly cancellation!)
So to get down to 4D we compactify!
Oh, Kahler!
(Kahler manifold)
Manifolds must be Kahler!
(Complex Reimannian symplectic form)
If we wanna preserve
Any of our super-symmetry

(Superstrings of type I, IIa and IIb)
(Heterotic O and Heterotic E)
(All are one through S and T duality)
(Thank you Ed Witten for that superstring revolution and your new M-theory!)

(Type IIB String!)
Dual! Dual!
(In the AdS/CFT)

Molecules and atoms
Light and energy
Time and space and matter
All from one united

Any way you quantize…

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LG’s end of the world prank


You appear for an interview. The interviewer’s room is decked out with a minimal fuss, but you notice a nice window right behind him, with an awesome view of the city.

You make some small talk. You start getting into your work history and giving him the lay of the land.

Suddenly, you notice the sky turn a dark maroon.

Wait, what’s that thing careening toward the city. Is it… can it be? A freaking huge meteor?

You’re paralyzed with fear, but can’t help watching that thing of high definition beauty flying relentlessly to what must be your last few living moments.

You see it impact the city. The plume of dust rises. The ripple of devastation spreading out to your very building tower. You scream and think of your family, and hope it ends fast for you and your loved ones.

Boom! You’ve just been Punk’d! LG, promoting their 84″ ultra HD TV, decided the best way to show off their tv, is to give you an end of the world scare.

A little cruel prank on these interviewees, but I guess they got their point across. And then some.

The next time I see a meteor crashing to Earth, I guess I’ll just laugh and ask where the camera is.


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It’s KitKat, not Key Lime Pie


The newest android operating system has been named, and it’s not Key Lime Pie as the rumours have been floated.

It’s… KitKat, keeping in tradition of naming their OS after desserts.

Kit Kat also has a joint promotion in the US where if you buy a pack, you could stand a chance to win a Nexus phone.

But apparently, no monetary exchange was involved.

Any guesses for ‘L’?

Image: Google via Mashable

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