Computational Social Science

I have recently been intrigued about the evolving science of social network analysis (SNA) and the potential novel yet practical applications of it in growing businesses. So the timing of the 3rd Annual Stanford Conference on Computational Social Science, hosted by IRiSS could not have been better.

Fun day with very cool thoughts, from the keynote of the superstar in the field, Duncan “small worlds” Watts to very practical insights from Facebook and Google scientists to usage of SNA on unusual datasets such as the englightement-era snail mail metadata (who was the bridging node between Voltaire and Ben Franklin?) to the intricacies of linguistic change (“aroma” getting replaced by “smell”) in beer enthusiast forums.

Some assorted notes and further reading links are below.

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Week 39: R, Regression Discontinuity, Bakeries and Sales VPs

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 9 (39), Spring quarter

The Memorial Day week was the only one compressed to four long days this quarter, with the main theme on finalizing group projects. We submitted an operations case on optimizing pre-season parka ordering from China by a ski-wear fashion brand. And are relatively ready to present in the coming short and very last class week: a lightly market-tested business idea for a social network analytics product, a convincing churn and package upgrade/downgrade prediction model for an APAC telco and a sales organization audit for a Silicon Valley semiconductor manufacturer.

I still need to finish ~170 pages of a book on Shackelton’s Antarctic voyage in 1915 and write an essay on entrepreneurship learnings by Tuesday morning. It is a refreshingly different read of the startup era before smartphones and app stores, but got somewhat derailed yesterday with a classic “oh-so-Stanford” Saturday: an Indian Breakfast, Brazilian churrascaria lunch, meat-sweating run in the +35C weather and Singaporean dinner party well beyond sunset. Priorities, priorities…

As my friend Osamu put it last week: we have more parties than classes left until graduation. Just five of the latter on my calendar this coming Monday-Tuesday…

Covered in this issue:

  • Stepping up the network analysis tooling: R
  • Causal effects and regression discontinuity
  • Sales org building war stories from a startup and a VP panel
  • Building a bakery to Starbucks exit
  • Guests from: TrunkClub, Salesforce, Quantum, LinkedIn, La Boulange/Starbucks, SunRun

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Week 36: Cascading Uncertainty, Sales Ethics, Biotech & Design

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 6 (36), Spring quarter

Somehow the notes from this week are lighter – and not for the lack of activities, but rather a different kind. Somehow felt pointless to try to capture heated in-class ethics discussions or hours spent on preparing group work presentations in bullet point form. Instead, I took some time to dump a new load of photos of school life to the Flickr feed, where I had dropped the ball some time back in February.

The biggest project effort went into a “consulting gig” for the Networking class. Given a network relations dataset from a 200 person law firm (across their work, non-work and friendship social relations), their demographic metadata (tenure, education, roles, age…) and some qualitative survey results, we had to build an action plan that would solve for some of their identified personell issues, such as high churn of women. A very interesting mix of social network visualisations and multiple regression approaches, with potential to take far more attention and time than due for “1 homework of 4”.

As an amusing side product we predicted a single associate to become partner next, which the professor confirmed to have actually happened in the last 2 years since the data was gathered. As a teaser, find person #2910 on this picture to see why that is (partners are red, associates blue):

4 - partners (red) hang with partners, analysts (blue) with analysts

On BBLs front, GSB had a group of StartX companies drop by. Without going into the detail of the pitches, the overall quality of the batch of this accelerator program seemed quite impressive ranked agains many I’ve seen. Which is well done, given the affiliation to a single university and their somewhat less-commercial structure (for example they take no equity stake in companies they incubate and even fund).

EDIT: the most regretted lecture that I unfortunately missed this week: Building computers from bacteriophage data, communication, logic within biological cells in EE380 Computer Systems Colloquium.

Covered in this issue:

  • A data scientist’s take on how social graph analysis fits into the uncertain world
  • Calculating the effect of ads and promotions on sales
  • Tough life of a district manager and ethics of sales people
  • Booting up a biotech business
  • Some design thinking references and videos from IDEO
  • Guest speakers from: Jive, NetApps, VMWare, Connectics, IDEO

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Week 33: Network Centrality, Bass Diffusion, SaaS Sales & Data Science

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 3 (33), Spring quarter

Head down in two inches of readings for this week and a fresh flow of first written project deadlines, like a two-degrees-deep analysis of your friends and advisors social graph or a set of regressions to be run on profitability data of a bank who has no clue if there is any connection between the demographics and profitability of their customers.

For a little different entertainment in the Sales Orgs class we are running a simulation game where you need to manage yourself through the pipeline as a sales rep of a medical devices company. Four virtual “years” in four weeks. After a miserable first year (I hit merely about a quarter of my quota – should have read the manual before I tried to just figure the game mechanics out for 2 “quarters”) I look forward to the Tuesday class from a much more comfortable position after “year” 2. I guess the hours spent as a teen with Civilization and the likes can sometimes pay off?

GSB hosted a fun networking event this week called “Fewer than 300” – bringing people in from over 30 companies who are about to grow out of their startup phase (but are yet to break 300 employees), but have raised money and shown traction and still are just burning of enthusiasm about what they are doing. Think of the likes of Uber or Nest or Visual.ly. Good people and good conversations.

Covered in this issue:

  • Analysing network centrality measures and deriving composite relationships from simple a matrix
  • Using Bass diffusion models for new product adoption predictions
  • Handling variability in processes (from job shops to continuous flow)
  • Economics of selling SaaS subscriptions and merging sales teams after M&A
  • More team-first entrepreneurial models
  • History of Sloan Program at Stanford
  • Data Science learnings from LinkedIn and other Greylock companies
  • Guests: Vinod Khosla, Mark Leslie & part of Veritas exec team, Corey Leibow, Eric Botto, George Parker, DJ Patil

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Week 32: Brokering, Predictable Variability & Paying for Sales Performance

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 2 (32), Spring quarter

The highlight of the week was really non-academic: we got to host the Class of 2014 for the orientation we received in April a year ago. In a proper student timing fashion, when a day before the event you’re not sure what will come out and some of the slides getting still edited by the speaker at the time he is being introduced on stage – I think we eventually put on an all right show balancing more serious talk about academics and transitions with some glimpses into the less serious side of life we’ve had too. (Some videos of the performance of our class’ house band The Spillovers are online here).

Personally, it was especially heart-warming to hear from a bunch of incoming Sloans that they have found this blog and some other writing from our class useful when researching about business schools, Stanford and even deciding to join the Sloan format in particular. Frankly, I did not consider this as a goal for ongoing writing throughout the year originally. About a year ago I decided to keep posting rather to keep in touch with friends (especially back in Estonia) as well as from the more generic life philosophy that while you’re generating content (such as the class notes) for yourself anyway, you better have a clear reason why you would keep it private if there is any likelihood of someone else potentially benefitting too. So when this actually happens, it is a cherry on top.

Cheers to the 2014-ers and any future GSB colleagues reading this, then!

Covered in this issue:

  • Brokerage, trust and reputation in social networks analysis
  • Regressions for customer profitability
  • Predictable variability in Operations
  • Paying sales people well for performance
  • Search funds
  • Guests from: Jive Software, Sequoia Capital, Brown Robin Capital

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Week 31: Analyzing Social Networks, Marketing Mix and Restaurant Operations

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 1 (31), Spring quarter

For some weird reason the GBS classes after the Spring break kicked off on… a Thursday. Just 2 days of classes gave a glimpse into what is to come – some very brief notes (and a few good book links) below. Posting anyway, to avoid letting the routine die before I get to finalize the half-finished East Coast study trip report draft sitting in Evernote…

On other news, we are throwing an orientation event for the incoming Class of 2014 already this coming weekend – really feels like yesterday when we were on the receiving end… T-10 weeks. Tick tock.

Covered in this issue:

  • Unbelievably profitable bootstrapping of McAfee
  • Introduction to Social Network Analysis
  • A flashback of statistical regressions, now applied to marketing data
  • Operating a Japanese show-restaurant

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