Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Requirements for Rules Engines

IBM DeveloperWorks has an article by Ben Lieberman about the Requirements of Rules Engines. For those of us who are new to Rules Engines (wikipedia) this is a good nuts and bolts description of how they are assembled and what is needed to execute a good program. Ben does a good job outlining the specific of rules engines such as rules definitions, categories of rules, and grouping rules to help formulate decision logic. Even though this article is primarily for the rules engine programmer it is a good comprehensive outline of how the rules engine works.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Netflix prize 2, the sequel

This is a bit of old news but I thought it warranted some more news on the Operations Research blog-sphere. Netflix is not done with their recommendation engine prize and want to reprise it with Netflix Prize 2. From the Netflix Prize forum....

This is Neil Hunt, Chief Product Officer at Netflix.

To everyone who participated in the Netflix Prize: You've made this a truly remarkable contest and you've brought great innovation to the field. We applaud you for your contributions and we hope you've enjoyed the journey. We look forward to announcing a winner of the $1M Grand Prize in late September.

And, like so many great movies, there will be a sequel.

The advances spurred by the Netflix Prize have so impressed us that we’re planning Netflix Prize 2, a new big money contest with some new twists.

Here’s one: three years was a long time to compete in Prize 1, so the next contest will be a shorter time limited race, with grand prizes for the best results at 6 and 18 months.

While the first contest has been remarkable, we think Netflix Prize 2 will be more challenging, more fun, and even more useful to the field.

Stay tuned for more details when we announce the winners of Prize 1 in September.

So any of you that were eager to get involved stay tuned for more information.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

COIN-OR Cup to be presented at INFORMS 2009 Meeting

Michael Trick has a great piece about entering your open source operations research project for the COIN-OR Cup. The COIN-OR Cup is an award to the contributions of open source software for Operations Research. The award will be presented in person at the INFORMS 2009 Meeting in San Diego.

I strongly suggest entering in your submissions to the COIN-OR Cup. As you know the IEOR Tools blog strongly supports the open source movement in Operations Research. According to the COIN-OR website the submission must contain
  1. A synopsis of an effective use of COIN-OR or valuable contribution to COIN-OR (or both!).
  2. An explanation of its significance.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Relevance and Soft-skills in Operations Research

Last night I had the pleasure of listening to a transportation panel hosted by the INFORMS Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter. The transportation panel featured key Operations Research representatives from airline, travel management, and rail road industries . The panel also included professors in engineering, supply chain, and business that specialize in the transportation industry. All in all the exchange was very interesting and I learned a lot about an industry I know very little.

The panel brought two things that I believe is very common and clear in Operations Research. Those issues are of relevance and soft-skills (or interpersonal skills). These themes were pretty concurrent among industry and academia. Industry stressed that often times they would need to sell their abilities and technical decision analysis know-how. Also industry panelists stressed that the importance of being able to relate to other people within the organization to explain ideas about problems. The academics stressed a lot of the same points. Academics challenge is to grow strong Operations Research students with good "hard" technical skills but also have interpersonal strengths in a highly competitive market.

Relevance and interpersonal skills are very common themes in Operations Research. I know I've had to develop each of those skills in my career. Perhaps the Industrial Engineer and Operations Research tool bag can be expanded to help in these areas. There are great tools that help in each of these areas. Perhaps I can feature more of those on this blog in the future.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Pi at a new record 2.5 trillion decimals

For those who may have missed it this past couple of weeks a new record for the number of decimal places was established for Pi. Here is a post from Pink Tentacle on the new accomplishment.

The calculation was done by the Center of Computation Sciences at the University of Tsukuba. For those geeks in all of us it was done with a 640 node super computer called T2K Open Supercomputer. Each node is a Appro Xtreme-X3 Server - AMD Quad Opteron Quad Core 2.3 GHz. The super computer can calculate 95.4 trillion floating point operations per second. That can be one quick optimization computer.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

When to use Bar charts vs Pie charts

An interesting post from Revlotions, an R-project and open source statistics blog, about when to use Bar charts instead of Pie charts (via Lifehacker). Visualization is not something new to the Operations Research community. Michael Trick often talks about visualization in his blog. In this blog David of Revolutions offers that point of reference is very important when visualization data.

Data is only data until it becomes information. If there is no point of reference then the data will just exist. It is when data becomes logical and leads to value is when it becomes information. Visualization is a great tool for helping to give data a point of reference. Yet using the wrong tools can lead just more obscure data that does not offer any value to its intended recipient.

(image from Revolutions)

David's post is great example of this issue within Industrial Engineering and Operations Research. It is important to frame data sets that will offer value to the intended audience. A good practioner will know the value of the data and provide it in a way that will best convey its purpose.