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Analytics & Gambling - How Similar They Really Are

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Having had to describe what I do to more relatives than I care to remember recently pushed me to be creative in getting people to understand analytics. So like any storyteller I had to relate to them, …

Having had to describe what I do to more relatives than I care to remember recently pushed me to be creative in getting people to understand analytics. So like any storyteller I had to relate to them, so I chose gambling. If you can understand how card games are structured and have ever played a card game you can learn the basics of analytics.


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  • Very brief about me, I promise… Book… Lots of goodies on the book website, plus other great books on user experience. 13 years of consulting & agency life. Mostly enterprise applications and some marketing across a mix of fields: heavy financial services, automotive, & mobile. Uncommon hybrid background of UX & Analytics. The last few years I’ve been working on combing how humans make decisions and AI. Anyone who is interested in exploring what I believe will be is the next generation of Behavioral Targeting, please introduce yourself today or tomorrow. And of course ways to find me and read my rants.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Analytics & Gambling How Similar They Really Are Analytics made so simple my Grandmother knows what I do now
    • 2. Me
      • Book: Search Analytics - Conversations With Your Customers
        • Anticipated release: December 2009
        • Book website: RosenfeldMedia.com/books/SearchAnalytics
        • Co-Author: Lou Rosenfeld
      • Consultant, Author, & Speaker
        • User Experience
        • Web Analytics
        • Neuroscience
      • Blog: MarkoHurst.com “Insightful Analytics”
      • Twitter: MarkoHurst
      • Contact: [email_address]
    • 3. Purpose
      • To quote Eric Peterson “Web Analytics Is Hard”
        • Leave the data analysis to the experts
        • But what if you want to just be able to understand Analytics at a basic level?
          • Then keep reading 
      • Raise your hand if you’ve ever played a card game
        • Blackjack? Poker? Uno? Doesn’t matter
        • Then you have used, perhaps unknowingly, processes, rules, & data to optimize and improve your outcome (results)
      • In less than 10 minutes using card games / gambling as an analogy you should understand at a basic level how analytics works
    • 4. Viva Las Vegas Baby!
    • 5. All I ever needed to learn about analytics I learned in Las Vegas
      • Growing up in a Sicilian family meant three things…
        • Our cheeks would be sore from all the damn pinching
        • Great tan
        • Hearing Grandfather’s lectures on how to get ahead in the world by beating odds
      • The last point included more than lectures and eventually lead to learning more about gambling than a kid probably should
        • I could count a deck down in less than 25 seconds (by age 14)
        • I learned to count multiple decks, including side decks
        • I learned multiple counting strategies (basic & advanced cards counting techniques)
    • 6. So, before you think I grew up a degenerate gambler (or a lush)… what do cards have to do with Analytics? Everything! Let me show you.
    • 7. Before we get into details
      • Let’s start with the basics that never change
      • What’s the goal of gambling?
        • To win, plain and simple
        • Always keep your GOAL in mind
          • It will tell you when to fold, raise, bluff, or run like hell
      • How do (should) you go about winning?
        • Know the rules.
        • Know how much you are willing to loose, a.k.a. Measure
        • Watch the cards, dealer, other players, a.k.a. Monitor
        • Apply strategies to improve your chances of winning (more), a.k.a. Optimize
      • All the above is true for analytics as well
    • 8. Similarities of card games (gambling) & analytics Card Games Attribute Analytics Real time Timing Real time, near real-time, just-in-time, delayed Cards (colors, symbols, values) Data Numbers, %’s, KPIs, metrics, etc Multiple decks, high-level counting strategies, side decks, lights, noise, etc. Data overload Too many data sources, no clear business or monetization model, etc Running count, true count, knowing what cards have already been played Prior Data Reporting Improving your hand with more or less cards Filtering Segmentation Straight flush, full house, 3 of a kind, etc. Patterns Pattern recognition / analysis Read, understand, comprehend, and decide what actions to take to improve your goal of winning Decision Making Data analysis Card counting, side decks, etc. Predictive Modeling Forecasting / prediction Betting strategies, player strategies, etc. Strategy (Performance) optimization
    • 9. Card games are to analytics…
      • There is a process and rules to govern it
      • Like any activity requiring a series of steps card games ( Blackjack, Poker, etc.) are played in a specific order
        • The game wouldn’t work if we first showed our entire hand, then placed our bets, and then dealt the cards
        • Similarly, analytics is also a process guided by rules
      • Rules, or Process, is key for any card game
        • The rules are clearly defined
        • Dealer actions are pre-scripted
        • Except for the few actions of placing a bet or collecting your winnings, everything is largely automatic
        • Analytics is no different
    • 10. Card games are to analytics…
      • We must make decisions with less-than-perfect information
        • In Vegas, you have to gamble at every step of every hand… guessing how things are going to play out long before we’ve seen all the cards
        • We frequently have to make important decisions about which data to use before we have all the information
        • The same is true of analytics
    • 11. Card games are to analytics…
      • A complete game is made up of a small number of elements
        • All the data is contained entirely within the 52 cards that make up the deck and shared symbols on them
          • 9 number cards (2-10)
          • Four face cards (Jack, Queen, King, Ace)
          • Four suits (hearts, diamonds, aces, spades)
          • 2 colors (red & black)
        • There is still an infinite variety of ways to play any game. Likewise in analytics, a small set of data points will represent an infinite number of problem solving options.
    • 12.
      • Thank You!
      • Good luck in Las Vegas and with your analytics
      Book: RosenfeldMedia.com/books/SearchAnalytics Blog: MarkoHurst.com Contact: [email_address] Twitter: MarkoHurst