Who are the data Samurai?

The words “sexy” and “data” used to be on opposite ends of the cool spectrum. As far as I can tell, data was officially welcomed to the sexy party in 2009 after Google’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian, described statistician as the next sexy job. And by sexy, Varian meant valuable.

“Because now we really do have essentially free and ubiquitous data. So the complimentary scarce factor is the ability to understand that data and extract value from it,” Varian told business journal McKinsey Quarterly. Following Varian’s comment, Google’s Senior Vice President for Product Management Jonathan Rosenberg (who has since resigned) elevated data from sexy to Samurai.

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Tools and Wisdom from Science Online 2012

I am a student. Formally of journalism and of geography but informally of the world. We all are. The best part about being a student of the world is that every person you meet is a teacher. So the great characteristic of Science Online 2012 was that for three days, I got to surround myself with teachers who have invested a lot of time knowing about the very things I want to make into a career. As a journalist-in-training, here are some of the tools and wisdom I picked up in Raleigh last week:


  • Tool: using deep listening to turn 60 minutes of talk into a one-page visual. This is my attempt at sketchnoting the “History of science as a tool for science journalists” session.

Google’s grasp of trends: searches turned data

When someone lays their hands across home row and unleashes the click-click-click of their keyboard, Google is keeping track. Search terms are very revealing. That’s why it is fascinating to see global Google search data compiled. If you want to take the pulse on any number of topics, Google Zeitgeist is your website. What are people buying? Look at Google Product Search input. Where are people going? Investigate Google Maps data.  I could go on about the animated search trend maps and the enticing weekly archives for 2001-2007, but I expect you’ll get to them independently if you make the time-consuming click on Zeitgeist.

The labyrinth of search fads is bound to lead you past some intriguing figures. I followed my instincts and wound up with the elusive American food culture staring at me from a top 10 list. I decided then and there to see what else Google trends could reveal.

In 2010 the fastest rising global food and drink search topics were: Continue reading