John J Kelly

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When Market Research Art meets Big Data Science

February 3, 2014

In the Dark Ages, before ‘click if you like,’ the intentions of a nation were predicted by nth samples of, say, 1014 correctly profiled individuals. Tiny focus groups would lend insights as to whether a purple wrapper would sell a chocolate bar better than a red one. Quite often the pollsters got it right. Now, with access to massive sample sets, Big Data miners argue we are drawing ever closer to the Age of Infallibility, at least as far as predicting what people are likely to want, think and do. A... More

Big Data, the Brave New World After Tim Berners-Lee

Karl Marx viewed the 1849 Gold Rush, which caused the largest land migration in America’s history, as important as the discovery of America itself. He was right, but in ways he could not have imagined. The vast majority of goldbugs found nothing except California, but gave the world Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Motion pictures and TV gave seeming substance to the American Way, rewrote history and sold the American Dream as an aspiration and fact to the US and to the rest. Later, Silicon Valley gave substance to the digital economy, which now gives its... More

Democracy, what democracy?

January 5, 2014

“A democracy cannot survive as a permanent form of government. It can last only until its citizens discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority (who vote) will vote for those candidates promising the greatest benefits from the public purse, with the result that a democracy will always collapse from loose fiscal policies, always followed by a dictatorship.” Lord Thomas MacCauley 1857 Whenever you hear politicians or pundits use the word ‘democracy’ you can be almost sure that they mean ‘representative... More

Happy New Fears for one and all

January 2, 2014

Another year will bring another set of reasons to be fearful, as sure as eggs contain salmonella and the ghost of Jimmy Savile haunts the BBC. Thus far, none of these fears have carried off the planet. Some, like Aids, have been worse than others but proportionally no worse than, say, the Black Death. Others, such as bird flu and Mrs Thatcher, were quite simply hopelessly overblown conceits. Humans have only been around for a million years. Our capacity to seriously mess things up has increased dramatically over the few... More

First sighting of the Bulgarian Tsunami

January 1, 2014

I saw a veritable horde of Bulgars (4) in colourful rustic garb – headscarves, hooped earrings, plaits, long skirts – and that was just the men – being fleeced at the checkout of the Kurdish supermarket today, whence I had gone to procure humus and tangerines. They presented a  pitiful sight as the few groceries they had purchased – strange smoked sausages, fiery peppers, chicken feet, etc. were rung up by a scowling Diyarbakir sharpie at prices which could have bought them a stolen child back home. I know they... More

Big Data says PRISM is bad for business

December 11, 2013

Most governments spy on their own citizens and those of other countries. Big Data technology gives some more scope than others. The Snowden leaks revealed that the US NSA and Britain’s GCHQ mined petabytes of data from a host of electronic sources, ostensibly to track terrorists as part of the covert PRISM project.  Sometimes they went by the book, submitting government approved requests to electronic media owners, ISP and mobile network operators who were signed up to PRISM. But they cut out the paperwork when there was only 24 hours to save the planet, which... More

Relationship banking 101: relate to your customer

December 6, 2013

Money laundering regulations are penalising honest retail bank customers while driving others into the cash economy, which benefits nobody, much less the banks themselves. I recently visited my bank to deposit a reasonable amount of money and transfer some money to pay a bill. Call me old fashioned, but it’s how I use my bank account. A polite youth asked me what was the source of my deposit (despite the fact that it was clearly tagged and inputted from a well-known UK Limited company, drawn on a UK bank) and why... More

Writing about Brick Lane, in Ooty

December 25, 2011

James Joyce wrote Ulysses in Paris, Trieste and Zurich: that’s where he went wrong. Thus has relocated to Ooty, Tamil Nadu, 8500 feet up in the Western Ghats to write the definitive work on robot shops, the tribes of Bethnal Green and anything else that fills up the page. In the spirit of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance I briefly acquired a large yellow motorbike, but the combination of 270 degree hairpin bends, cows, goats, trucks, buses and the truly Zen nature of road etiquette out here led me... More