If we needed any more proof that analytics are eating the world, it was announced today that über-predictor Nate Silver will leave the NY Times for two new roles, one with ESPN (for sports) and ABC (for politics). Both are owned by Disney, who could clearly offer far more for Silver’s talents than a newspaper.
If you don’t know Silver, he shocked the world by predicting the Obama victories in both 2008 and 2010, not as a binary win or lose scenario, but state by state with better accuracy than the most experienced political pundits. The NY Times bought the rights to carry his Five Thirty Eight blog starting in 2010 and it was reported during the 2010 election season that Silver’s work attracted 20% of the Times web viewers.
Silver’s formula has been to “balance out the polls with comparative demographic data” that assigns a weighting to each poll’s results based on its success in the past and other factors. His ‘poll of polls’ method and his writing in support of his results has proven so successful that it has been mimicked by several other analysts but none with quite the success or audience of Silver.
Back to his roots
As it turns out, Silver won’t be a newbie at sports predictions. He honed his analytical abilities by analyzing one of the best possible games for analytics; baseball. Known as sabermetrics, this is the science behind the popular story of Money Ball and is now a standard way to gauge the potential of players in many sports.
There was hot competition for Silver’s talents (and the same goes for data scientists) because analytics are red hot. We finally have the connectivity, data storage and data computing resources to find the patterns that were previously hidden in data. Visualization through products like TIBCO Spotfire allow the building of analytical applications by rare talents to be used by the masses in ways that make analytics a part of anyone’s desktop.
And the most interesting part of this? We’re only beginning to tap the power of data and analytics.