Podcast: Making Data Accessible To Nonprofits

Episode 7 of my podcast series, The BaDFun Podcast, is now live. Diving into the nonprofit realm this time, the title of this episode is “Empowering managers to become internal data experts, with Laurel Curran”. Here’s the blurb:

Laurel Curran podcast photo

“In this episode our guest is Laurel Curran, a Consultant at San Francisco based Exponent Partners. Laurel gives us an inside look at how she equips nonprofits to improve fundraising and program delivery using a customized overlay on the Salesforce platform. Her first task is to enable non-technical front-line managers to become internal experts for their teams. Their long term success depends on whether they can meet stringent nonprofit reporting requirements on a volunteer-driven budget, then make incremental improvements when more resources become available.”

Please check it out and let me know what you think. And subscribe if you want to hear more.

Digital Ethics – Introduction

WATCH:

Created and presented by Bruce Wilson

Reach out if you want to talk about digital & AI ethics in your organization—
Email: e-bruce@manydoors.net
Twitter: @bruce2b
Web: ManyDoors.net

See photo credits below

OVERVIEW:

If you work for an organization that uses data—and just about all organizations do, or will before long—even if your job isn’t specifically about data, your ability to make decisions using data, and decision about data, is becoming more and more important.

Organizations are discovering they need to decide things like

• which problems to solve with data,
• who to hire to solve those problems,
• what kind of training to provide employees,
• what the long term strategy will be, and
• how it is going to explain its data use to the world.

An important subset of these decisions that involves everyone—decisionmakers, employees, and customers alike—falls under the general category of digital ethics, which can encompass how data is collected, stored, used, and shared.

To illustrate, lets look at two examples of digital ethics in action, one surprisingly successful, and one disastrous.

First, the happy story. My friend Aaron Reich is basically the futurist in residence at Avanade, the global technology consulting firm. From the vantage point of his high level insight into many of their consulting projects, last year he called out a few examples where companies achieved remarkable improvement in ways that they can help their customers using data and artificial intelligence. One of these companies is a financial institution in Europe which used AI to predict which customers were likely to “churn”, or leave for a competitor. This was a huge problem for them, and obviously for their customers. By applying machine learning to their customer data, they were able to better understand their customers’ needs, improve their communication, and cut churn in half. This is obviously a win-win for both the company and its customers.

Next, the scary story: in 2015 it became widely known that Volkswagen had “cooked” the emissions test data from millions of its diesel vehicles in order to sell more cars.

• Five days after the story broke, their CEO resigned, and was indicted by the US (but not arrested because there’s no extradition treaty between Gernany and US).  His immediate successor was quickly replaced.

• The CEO of Audi, a division of VW, was eventually arrested for fraud and falsification of documents.

• Relatively few VW personnel who had significant roles in the scheme were also present in the US—and thus subject to US jursidiction. One was an engineer sentenced to 40 months in prison…even though he was just doing what his bosses wanted him to do (which is of course not a defense under the law). Another was an engineering manager who was arrested when he entered the US to vacation in Florida.

• VW set aside $31.7 billion for fines, settlements, recalls and buybacks.

• VW experienced a $66 billion drop in value on the stock market after the fraud was revealed (and continued to underperform the market average for some time)

• VW sales fell in the US.

• A shareholder lawsuit was filed  in Germany seeking $10.4 billion in damages for corporate stock manipulation (failing to promptly disclose its inability to comply with emissions requirements).

• Germany’s national reputation for manufacturing excellence was damaged—as offices of other German car makers were also raided by investigators searching for evidence of possible cheating.

• An engineering company which assisted VW in defeating emissions testing was fined $35 million—this amount was imposed because it was deemed the maximum the contractor could pay without putting it out of business.

• Even though Germany didn’t used to have a provision for what the US calls “class action” lawsuits,  in response to “dieselgate” German lawmakers created a new form of collective legal action that, in November and December 2018 enabled 372,000 German owners of VW cars  to seek compensation for being the victims of this fraud.

What’s the point? Why should ordinary business, government organizations, and non-profits take notice of digital ethics? Most people are unlikely to find themselves in the shoes of the people who successfully reduced churn at the European financial institution, or those who participated in Dieselgate. But many will. And we should all be prepared to find ourselves somewhere on that spectrum. We are increasingly like to discover potential benefits from, and problems with, the ways our organizations use data. We can recommend, and sometimes resist, changes our organizations make. The key is to become more educated, and more fluent, in data and digital ethics. It’s like a muscle—you already have it, but you have to exercise it and train it.

In this series of posts about digital ethics, we’re going to cover issues like:

• What does “ethics” mean—and when is ethics important? Ethics are not clearly defined for many situation, and individual’s views of what is ethical can depend largely on context, (for example, healthcare, politics, or finance), and on individual backgrounds or professions.

• What are potential business gains, and avoidable negative consequences, that can result when organizations develop and apply standards of digital ethics internally?

• Who is responsible for digital ethics? Once again, there is no universal answer to this question, but it’s something that every organization and every individual must be prepared to answer for themselves.

• Who needs to talk to who about digital ethics? And here the answer touches on customer relationships, shareholders, employees, leaders, government, and more.

Please join me as we explore this topic and help make it relevant to everyone—this is definitely not best left exclusively to professors, lawyers, and spin doctors.

Photos used in the video:

Ethan-hoover-422836-unsplash.jpg – Photo by Ethan Hoover on Unsplash

Armando-arauz-318017-unsplash.jpg – Photo by Armando Arauz on Unsplash

Ryan-searle-377260-unsplash.jpg – Photo by Ryan Searle on Unsplash

Robert-haverly-125125-unsplash.jpg – Photo by Robert Haverly on Unsplash

Omer-rana-533347-unsplash.jpg – Photo by Omer Rana on Unsplash

Karolina-maslikhina-503425-unsplash.jpg – Photo by Karolina Maslikhina on Unsplash

Abi-ismail-551176-unsplash.jpg – Photo by abi ismail on Unsplash

Claire-anderson-60670-unsplash.jpg – Photo by Claire Anderson on Unsplash

Rob-curran-396488-unsplash.jpg – Photo by Rob Curran on Unsplash

Rick-tap-110126-unsplash.jpg –Photo by Rick Tap on Unsplash

Chris-liverani-552649-unsplash.jpg – Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Hedi-benyounes-735849-unsplash.jpg – Photo by Hédi Benyounes on Unsplash

Blind Men Appraising an Elephant by Ohara Donshu (Brooklyn Museum / Wikipedia)

References:

AI/ML success story

Uncovering the ROI in AI by Aaron Reich (Avanade.com)

VW’s Dieselgate

VW engineer sentenced to 40 months in prison for role in emissions cheating by Megan Geuss (ArsTechnica)

Five things to know about VW’s ‘dieselgate’ scandal (Phys.org)

$10.4-billion lawsuit over diesel emissions scandal opens against Volkswagen (Bloomberg / LA Times)

How VW Paid $25 Billion for ‘Dieselgate’ — and Got Off Easy (Fortune / Pro Publica)

VW Dieselgate scandal ensnares German supplier, to pay $35M fine by Nora Naughton
(The Detroit News)

Car sales suffer second year of gloom by Alan Tovey & Sophie Christie (Telegraph UK)

Nearly 375,000 German drivers join legal action against Volkswagen (Business Day)

 

So what if the AI Bubble Bursts?

Last week, at a farewell party for a data scientist friend (who is about to ship out from Seattle to Palo Alto to work for a certain social media network based there), I had an interesting exchange with another friend who runs a self funded AI-based startup. Our conversation turned to wondering about whether we’re in the middle of an AI bubble (remember the dotcom bubble?). He asked whether I thought there would be any winners if the AI bubble bursts, and my answer was as follows.

the AI bubble.jpg
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Let’s set a floor on defining “winners” by looking at the table stakes Continue reading “So what if the AI Bubble Bursts?”

Two Intriguing Brands Embodied By People

I recently had a series of conversations about how the public perceives two brands that I  find intriguing: Bob’s Red Mill, a natural foods producer based in Oregon, and Hyperloop, a platform for rapid long distance transportation that is being implemented by a number of organizations all over the world. I took some notes—and created this post.

To me, the common thread between Bob’s Red Mill and Hyperloop is that they both let the people behind them represent them. It makes their value propositions credible in a way that clever writing and a huge creative budget can’t.

Bob and Elon.png
Bob (L) and Elon (R). (Photo credits: Bob’s Red Mill / NASA)

Here’s a look at the values, origin story, and iconography of each. Continue reading “Two Intriguing Brands Embodied By People”

Amazon’s gender-biased recruiting software is a wake-up call

The recent news that Amazon inadvertently created gender-biased software for screening job applicants is a significant wake-up call for all organizations using AI. The software, which used machine learning to rank incoming resumes by comparison to resumes from people Amazon had already hired, could have discouraged recruiters from hiring women solely on the basis of their gender. Amazon, of all entities, should have known better. It should have expected and avoided this. If this can happen to Amazon, the question we really need to ask is: how many others are making the same mistake?

the wall
Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

Bias in hiring is a burden for our society as a whole, for tech companies in particular, and for Amazon specifically. Biased recruiting software exposes Amazon to a number of risks, among them: Continue reading “Amazon’s gender-biased recruiting software is a wake-up call”

Podcast: Igniting Data Transformation in Enterprise

Episode 6 of my  podcast series, The BaDFun Podcast, is now live. Changing the focus to  Enterprise-scale organizations, the title of this episode is “An agile approach to kick-starting data transformations, with Aaron Reich”. Here’s the blurb:

Aaron Reich podcast photo

“Our guest for episode 6 of the BaDFun podcast is Aaron Reich, global lead for emerging technology at the global technology consulting firm Avanade. Tasked with guiding Avanade’s research and development 3-5 years into the future, while drawing from lessons learned by many of the largest companies in the world, Aaron is uniquely placed to understand the challenges Enterprises face when attempting to bring data solutions into production.”

“Aaron talks about stages of organizational readiness, overcoming the inertia of existing culture and methods, and an agile approach to kickstarting internal data platforms. He shares inspiring stories of spectacular early stage client successes on their roads to data transformation. He also dives deep into ongoing business and academic efforts to develop voluntary data ethics standards, and, gives us an overview of the principles and structures Avanade is developing as part of its own internal data ethics initiative.”

Please check it out and let me know what you think. And subscribe if you want to hear more.

Podcast: Data and Customer Relationships

Episode 5 of my podcast series, The BaDFun Podcast, is now live. This time we focus on how business can use data to improve their customer connections. The title is “Finding the right business problems to solve using data, with Alex Brooks”. Here’s the blurb:

Alex Brooks podcast photo

“In episode 5 of the BaDFun podcast we speak with Alex Brooks. Alex is founder, leader, and rainmaker at Entreprov, a Seattle-based team of two engineers, a data scientist and a back end developer who are using data to efficiently solve the kinds of problems many small to medium sized businesses are facing, like customer segmentation tools for marketing and engagement.”

“Alex speaks about the hurdle businesses face in finding not only the right mix of technology to solve business problems, but in finding the right mix of business problems to solve, while avoiding investing in products or services that are just passing fads—unless of course the plan is to cash-out after a trend dies.”

“We talk with Alex about the minimum quantity and quality of data necessary to deliver a solution like a recommendation engine for retailers, and the expertise gap many businesses are confronted with when the opportunity for using data and AI first arises. We also talk about why businesses should start now having a conversation with their customers about privacy and ethics, including what data they’re collecting, and what they plan to do with it, in order to set reasonable boundaries for customer data, “give the customer room”, and avoid creeping customers out.”

Please check it out and let me know what you think. And subscribe if you want to hear more.