Nate Silver's big data genius

Election forecast success rooted in predictive analytics applied to polling data

Election forecaster Nate Silver scored 100 percent in his state-by-state predictions for the 2012 presidential race. Silver, who is a journalist, statistician and author, bucked forecasts from both Republican and Democratic pundits, and applied predictive analytics to polling data, writes Eric Lundquist in a post at InformationWeek.

Silver's achievement is rooted in "rigor, innovation and looking outside your business confines to find inspiration," Lundquist writes. Silver is open about his methodology, but his success depends on more than a set of steps.  It depends on his capacity to effectively weight individual polls, which comes from trial, error and adjustment.

"Gut checks are replaced by rigor, thinking outside the normal confines and fine tuning. The process is not fast, but measured in years, and supports the concept that computers can aid in prediction, but cannot totally usurp the intelligent, curious human at the keyboard," Lundquist writes.

Big data should aim not to speed up wrong decisions, but instead to fuel the right decisions at the right time. There's no silver bullet when it comes to making right decisions; it takes "hard work, a willingness to make mistakes and adjust, and a realization that the common wisdom is sometimes not wisdom at all."

For more:
- see Eric Lundquist's post at InformationWeek

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