Only one number mattered to the data analysis aficionados watching the presidential election results on Tuesday night. That number, 538, is Nate Silver's blog (now under the New York Times auspices). Silver, by using predictive analytics applied against a range of polling and related data, hit a perfect 50 for 50 in his state-by-state predictions.

Remember, this was in a race where the pundits for the losing side were confident in their landslide-win predictions, and pundits on the winning side were predicting a razor-thin victory margin where vote counts and recounts could stretch for weeks. While Silver was spot-on, the pundit stars were overwhelmingly wrong.

Silver is now a media star with sales of his recent book, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail -- But Some Don't, up 850%. Does Silver's success mean that comments about aggregated analytics, gamma distributions and sum-of-squares formulas will now become de rigueur on the Washington cocktail circuit? That all those math teachers telling toiling high school students that statistics really will be useful in real life will finally be vindicated? That all the talk about "big data as the next big thing" will actually prove to be more than passing buzz?

Let's talk about that third item. In my opinion, Silver's success is less about big data (which is quickly being overused into meaninglessness) and is more about rigor, innovation and looking outside your business confines to find inspiration. And baseball -- baseball is important also. Read full story on InformationWeek


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