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GCN : February 2013
EDITOR'S DESK BY PAUL MCCLOSKEY HOW TO REACH THE STAFF You can reach staff members of 1105 Government Information Group. A list of staff members can be found online at www.gcn. com. Go to Contact GCN andclick on GCN Editors, Writers, Staff and Beats. Staff members of the 1105 Government Information Group can also be reached by e-mail, phone, fax or mail.E- MAIL: To e-mail staff members, please use the naming convention of rst initial followed by their last name @1105govinfo.com. So John Smith would be email@example.com. PHONE OR FAX: The switchboard is open weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Eastern time. After 5:30 p.m. you will be directed to individual extensions. VIENNA OFFICE: (703) 876-5100; Fax (703) 876-5059. 8609 Westwood Center Drive, Suite 500, Vienna, VA 22182-2215. CORPORATE OFFICE: (weekdays, 8:30 a.m. -- 5:30 p.m. PT) Telephone 818-814-5200; Fax 818-734-1522 9201 Oakdale Avenue, Suite 101, Chatsworth, CA 91311 EDITORIAL INQUIRIES: Go to gcn.com/pressroom REPRINTS: For all editorial and advertising reprints of 100 copies or more,and digital (Web-based) reprints, contact PARS International, Phone (212) 221-9195, E-mail: 1105reprints@ parsintl.com/QuickQuote.asp EDITORIAL STAFF EDITOR-IN-CHIEF PAUL McCLOSKEY MANAGING EDITOR KEVIN McCANEY EDITORS/WRITERS MANAGING EDITOR ONLINE SUSAN MILLER MANAGING EDITOR PRINT DAVID HUBLER MANAGING EDITOR HEATHER KULDELL SOCIAL MEDIA SENIOR EDITOR RUTRELL YASIN GCN LAB DIRECTOR JOHN BREEDEN II SENIOR WRITER WILLIAM JACKSON STAFF WRITER GREG CROWE CONTRIBUTING WRITERS MICHAEL DACONTA, KATHLEEN HICKEY, PATRICK MARSHALL, SHAWN MCCARTHY, EDITORIAL/ONLINE PRODUCTION CREATIVE DIRECTOR JEFF LANGKAU ASSISTANT DRAGUTIN CVIJANOVIC ART DIRECTOR SENIOR WEB BISWARUP DESIGNERS BHATTACHARJEE MARTIN PEACE DIGITAL MEDIA WILLIAM WINTON PRODUCT MANAGER PRESIDENT & CHIEF ANNE A. ARMSTRONG CONTENT OFFICER CHIEF OPERATING ABRAHAM M. LANGER OFFICER SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT JENNIFER WEISS & GROUP PUBLISHER VICE PRESIDENT, CARMEL McDONAGH MARKETING PRESIDENT & CHIEF NEAL VITALE EXECUTIVE OFFICER SENIOR VICE RICHARD VITALE PRESIDENT & CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER EXECUTIVE MICHAEL J. VALENTI VICE PRESIDENT VICE PRESIDENT, CHRISTOPHER M. COATE FINANCE & ADMINISTRATION VICE PRESIDENT, ERIK A. LINDGREN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY & APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT VICE PRESIDENT, DAVID F. MYERS EVENT OPERATIONS CHAIRMAN OF JEFFREY S. KLEIN THE BOARD www.gcn.com Volume 32 Issue 2 Most of the progress in the field of analytics centers on advances in the uses of very big data: programs that can sort through terabytes of data to identify distant trend lines. The applications use algorithms and clustering tools to sift widely distributed data sets in taking on grand challenges such as pre- dicting when and where the next homicide or epidemic is likely to take place. Yet there are also advances now underway in the area of what might be called small data that point the way to signifi- cant improvements in the more mundane but no less important operations of government agen- cies. These programs also use algorithms and analytics but put the spotlight on targeted enter- prises and local data fields. For instance, this month we feature a story by GCN senior editor Rutrell Yasin on the Energy Department s "Piranha" tool. Developed by govern- ment software technicians, it has a particularly government- oriented job description: to sift through reams of text-based documents to highlight semantic relationships and other associ- ated "things of interest," in the words of the group s leader, Thomas Potok. Piranha can be scaled to work on any number of documents or computers (the team s goal: to handle 1 trillion documents). But it seems particularly suited to the operational problems of agencies. Intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security agencies, for example, are almost entirely focused on variations of a basic challenge: finding pieces of information that tie one person or object to another at a point in time. That s not a big data problem, per se. Instead, it s haystack work typical of thousands of analysts jobs across govern- ment, from Defense logistics planners to epidemiologists at the Health and Human Services Department. The solutions to these smaller data problems can usually be found not in terabyte- sized scientific raw data sets but often within an agency s existing paper trails. Government operations like these are creating a demand for tools designed to identify and visualize patterns, gaps and connections in existing agency business records. The Defense Department manages some of the world s most complex supply chains. But figuring out what kind of load its supply lines can bear, spotting bottlenecks and eliminating them are small data problems. The data is available, the record formats are familiar. What s needed are analytics tools better suited to trouble- shooting smaller data problems. This could also present op- portunities for development of enterprise analytics programs by outside providers --- say, a service that could help agen- cies anticipate skills, train- ing and certification deficits and even prompt candidate searches. Agency procurement operations o er other small data application development opportunities, including the use of analytics to manage product inventories, scan for contract availabilities and even set up purchasing orders. Big data analytics will soon lead to smarter business ap- plications and services in the enterprise. Until then, agency administrators looking at their text, document and other small data inventories should start thinking big.• AGENCIES CAN MAKE BIG USE OF SMALL DATA 4 GCN FEBRUARY 2013 • GCN.COM GCN (ISSN 0738-4300) is published monthly by 1105 Media, Inc., 9201 Oakdale Avenue, Ste. 101, Chatsworth, CA 91311. Periodicals postage paid at Chatsworth, CA 91311-9998, and at additional mailing of ces. Complimentary subscriptions are sent to qualifying subscribers. Annual subscription rates payable in U.S. funds for non-quali ed subscribers are: U.S. $125.00, International $165.00. Subscription inquiries, back issue requests, and address changes: Mail to: GCN, P.O. Box 2166, Skokie, IL 60076-7866, call (866) 293-3194, outside U.S. (847) 763-9560; fax (847) 763-9564 or email GCNmag@1105service.com. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to GCN, P.O. Box 2166, Skokie, IL 60076-7866. Canada Publications Mail Agree- ment No: 40612608. 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