After #Election2015: How can we save Big Data?

My plan to upgrade Nate Silver to make him golden

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Bullet in the Ed

So when it came to the vote, the nation looked Mr Miliband in the eye and told him:

“Your ideas about predistribution are fascinating, and your policy of taxing glasses of water is fair and just, but ultimately you are not Agile enough.”

And to the Conservatives, the voter declared:

“I much prefer your keen behavioural insights founded on the psychological breakthroughs drawn on the latest neuroscience, your focus on user-centric digital-by-default services, and the real cash help you offer for the neediest parts of our society, like internet entrepreneurs. And we are won over by your completely uncosted and unfunded election promises. Like getting a free 24 hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week midwife in your home, whether you are pregnant or not.”

What none of the experts had predicted, however, was the impact of the UKIP voter. These were bitter, hard-drinking Northern men who had been left behind. Hard men who fed the carcasses of vanquished racing pigeons to their pitbulls. Men who couldn’t pronounce “quinoa”, let alone spell it. Men who failed to see the benefits of cheap Polish builders, Romanian nannies and other hard-working immigrant strivers, who were happy to live ten to a room and be paid out of petty cash, with no VAT or National Insurance.

As a result, the Labour Party had been annihilated.

On Friday, it was clear that Labour had collapsed back to its traditional tribal heartland: actors, journalists, lawyers, teachers, academics and managers at the NHS and the BBC, the two largest employers in the world after the North Korean army. These stalwarts would always be Labour. Or, perhaps, Green. But the trouble for Labour now was that nobody other than the actors, journalists, lawyers, teachers etc now voted Labour.

Mindful of this, I’d already submitted my plan to rebrand Labour to reflect its faithful core – reflecting the new reality of Cameron’s digital Britain. So expect to hear a lot less about “Labour”, and a lot more about the Metro, or Modern Party (thanks Steve Sinofsky!)

Yes, the Bong had swung it. Decisively. But this was no time for self-congratulation.

From the tragic, blood-curdling “Yaargh!” of another social media sentiment prediction expert jumping off a window ledge behind Nate, we both knew that the value of the Hive Mind as a prediction tool had taken one hell of a beating. “Data Journalism”, the phrase that had electrified a billion camouflage-hued infographics and sent them on their voyage through social media, was a phrase we probably wouldn’t be hearing for a while.

But it was worse. Much worse.

The Future of Big Data itself was at stake. And possibly, the very future of the Algorithm.

Mission: Save Big Data

“Nate you’ve really fucked it up this time,” I said, as cheerfully as I could.

“My God. Yes. I’ve really fucked it up. How bad do you think it is?”

“It’s bad,” I told him. “Trinity Mirror has already closed Ampp3d, and symbolically beheaded all of its data journalists. It’s like ISIS or something,” I told him. “That was the future of journalism only yesterday.”

“Christ, that’s horrible,” said Silver.

“Well, as you told Panorama, the consumer is smart and deserves to be getting better information from the talking heads on TV,” I summed up. “Like er, you.”

Nate clutched his head in his hands.

“I used to be the Signal. Now I am just part of the Noise.”

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