6 Nov 2015

Five Things I learned at Web Summit 2015

Data scientists (and journalists) need to "do code"

Wes McKinney’s talk at the data summit was all about data scientists - and the shortage of them. It’s a job title that means different things to different people, but he helped define what the specific title means.

One thing that is certain: Code is key. You can’t analyse lots of data unless you’re embedded in the process of continually learning the newest code languages. Be that languages for sourcing and sifting information, such as R and SQL, or visualisation tools such as D3.

These set you apart and are the skills that take you further in data and, while Wes was talking about data scientists and not journalists, I’ll certainly be continuing to learn about them.

News brands have a space in the future: By telling truth

Platforms such as Facebook Instant and Apple News pull in content from publishers. It limits brand's potential for ad revenue, as it can pull people away from their own platforms (and ads).

There is a silver lining, according to the Washington Post's Stephen Hills. These platforms give you content, but they fail in another area. Readers can't trust content when there’s no visible brand from whom they’re consuming the information. News brands can provide this.

Several conversations I had at the Web Summit, with journalists and non-journalists alike, touched on the necessity for brands to build rapport with readers. A person needs to trust (and enjoy) a news brand so they’ll go back again, which is how publications can thrive in the future.

Big data is… big

PJ Hagerty said: "Big data is one of the biggest buzzwords out there... It's overused: chances are, you don't have it".

He’s right. "Big data" is another buzzword in the jungle of data-related buzzwords. And there’s a lot of them.

Just what is big data? What is the threshold when "data" becomes “big”? This Forbes piece does a good job at defining its complexities, but if you want a quick stab at a definition, I'll give it a shot as extremely large datasets that computational processes are needed to analyse them.  I've never delved into this realm yet, with datasets that are that large, but I am keen to in the future.

Privacy is even more important - and under threat - than you think

Tim Budden gave a talk on "wrangling the world’s largest data set". Namely: getting data from social media.

You can learn a lot of useful information from social media. It contains demographic, geographic, lexical, emotional, personal information - just to name a few types.

My friend Clara Guibourg recently let herself get hacked by ethical hackers in order to learn about cyber security. They found out a lot from her social media presence, which serves a good reminder: You are publishing information when you’re on social media, and this information can be accessed by anyone.

Dublin’s great

It’s not part of the summit itself - but the event really is improved by its Irish setting.

The friendly hospitality of the Irish, twinned with the picturesque environment of the city, really do enhance the whole event. Dublin's pubs are great for the events - with such a variety of settings that cater for everyone’s needs.

It’s certainly made me want to come back to Ireland - next time on holiday.

A photo posted by Ashley Kirk (@ashley_j_kirk) on


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