What I have learned working with scientists in my time at Amazon

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What I have learned working with scientists in my time at Amazon about building algorithms for solving business problems.

For the past few years I have been working with Amazon’s Machine Learning University. My role has been to help them scale and reach more Amazonian’s. We accomplished this by creating a learning platform with supportive course content, an emphasis on strong visual and interactive learning. We basically flipped the classroom. My focus has always been to put the experience of the learner first. Providing a clean design, removing noise, with engaging content so the student can focus on learning. The approach has been a great success in teaching Amazonian’s to solve Amazon business problems with Machine Learning.

Enough on what I did and back to what I have learned.

I think one of the first lessons was the importance of gathering data. Data is at the core of understanding the problem. We often approach problems in business or personal for that matter without taking in good data. We lack a complete understanding of the problem.

Until you have data you really can’t build an understanding of what ground truth is. This is very important because everything builds from ground truth. You must explore and visualize your data to establish this. You need to make sure you understand the details that may be hidden in your data. Establish things like context, sentiment, frequency to establish relevancy. Remove the unimportant stuff and focus on what is really important. To do this you may have to do the math, yes, the math. Math is the magic used manipulate and visualize your data. This may sound simple but remember its math. There may be some work to do as you build your algorithm and try and find ground truth. You may need to do some tuning, adjusting your algorithm there is not always a predefined path but more of a process or framework to help you get to your final output.

It is at this point, the point when you see things clearly. But that’s not it. There is something bigger than solving the problem. What? As you know solving problems can sometimes be like putting your finder on the dike. The problem may come again or one like it.

The real value comes in prediction. Now that you can see clearly what has happened in the past and today using insights from your data you can start to predict what will happen next. It’s something Amazon does very well. You know “I see that you purchased that guitar, would you like to look at guitar for dummies or perhaps something to tune that thing please. It’s the secrete sauce, yes, I’d like to solve my problems in the future.

There is one more thing and it maybe my favorite. In my time at Amazon I have discusses quantum physics, robots & rocket science and lots of other geeky fun topics sometimes while playing ping pong. What a privilege that has been to work with some truly inspiring people at Amazon. That said the real insights I gained where from working with the amazing people at Amazon. It’s their drive to solve problems, innovate, willingness to work hard and learn as they go. I’ve worked with some of the smartest people I have ever met here. Many of them are physicists, mathematics masters and rocket scientists. Yet they don’t pretend to know the all answers but they do know how to work hard to get them. I also appreciated the great leadership I worked with in my time at Amazon. Nothing happens in an organization without true leaders and inspiring people who establish clear expectations and remove obstacles it’s truly part of the algorithm for success.

Jeff

Instructional and Learning Experience Design

Jeff@mojocat.com

Seattle’s Mojo!

As Seattle old timer. I think Amazon is adding to the Seattle vibe in a very positive way. This is also do to Paul Allen’s development of the South Lake Union area. It went from being a run down/warehouse part of town to a booming and modern area of town. I have been spending more time town town lately and Seattle is really hiding its grungy under belly.

~mojo

Here is the article that inspired this post about Renee Erickson opening a restaurant and bar in the Amazon Spheres.

Photo credit: JEREMY GONZALEZ

 

Essential Marketing Videos for Real Estate

20233035_1259952067464596_1346277392457719514_oIf you follow my blogging you know I am a believer in the power of video. It’s one of the most powerful tools available for marketing a business today. Take a look at Youtube for example. YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine and third most visited site after Google and Facebook. I would say that never before has it been this easy for a business to create and distribute their own content. Not only that it can happen almost instantly. For example Live Streaming is quickly becoming one of the biggest things in marketing.

Oc course there is much more to it than just switching on the camera and pressing go live. You need to understand your audience or customer base and create good content that is timely and relevant to them. You also need a great product but lets leave that for another conversation.

For now we will also assume you have established an Instagram account and have a good following. You also have a solid Facebook page and have a connected and engaged community. Or at least a good start. If you are generating good content these will grow and evolve with you. Your rock solid social media strategy may also include a blog with interesting content and perhaps a twitter account with a good following. These all will work together to build a community around your product. In this case you are the product. A solid real estate team that can get the job done.  Now lets talk about those video again. You know the videos for your real estate business, the 15 Essential Marketing Videos for Real Estate.

while doing some research I ran across this blog on these essential marketing videos and I would say it pretty much is spot on. Here is the high level list. I’ll let you click through and see the specifics on each point. My opinion is that we could tweak on these and change some of the specifics but its pretty close.

  1. Interview Videos
  2. Informational Videos
  3. Local Business Review Videos
  4. Live Stream
  5. Listing Videos 
  6. Agent\Office Promo Videos
  7. “About Me”/Agent Profile Videos
  8. Neighborhood Videos
  9. Community Events Videos
  10. Testimonial Videos
  11. “How-to” Videos
  12. Housing Market Updates Videos
  13. Humorous Videos
  14. Instagram & Snapchat Videos
  15. Year-in-Review Videos

Here is a sample of one of the type of listing videos we do. This video was produced for Rain City NW & Keller Williams. 

 

Here is the artacle that inspired this blog piece. 15 Essential Marketing Videos Every Real Estate Agent Should Create

My Road Kit for Rapid Video

I often get the question “what equipment do I need for rapid video?” This is for creating short little clips to be used for social media, bite size clips for the web or even inside eLearning. This is a tough one to give a straight answer too. Mostly because I am addicted to buying toys. My wife says if it wasn’t for her I would be on that TV show Hoarders. Not because I would pile up papers or empty food containers but because I LOVE gadgets. I just GOT to have it! Don’t worry I will always find a way to justify it. The Amazon truck stops by my house quite often. Needles to say this means I have a few options on what type of setup I use for video. I will try and walk you through a few of my favorite setups.

When the Flip came out it created quite a buzz. My friend Mark Chrisman had one and was creating short little youtube style videos and posting them on the T-Mobile internal training sites. They where fun and an affective way to share information. I was using a Sony DV cam to create training videos at the time. Marks approach was so simple I decided to try. Of course that meant I needed to buy some gear…no problem. I did some research and ran across the Kodak Zi8. There was two features that I liked about that device, it had removable memory (Standard SD card) and you could plug in an external microphone.

I also have used my iPhone to produce rapid video. It has a great video camera as long you have good lighting. The audio is a bit week for interviews because of the position of the mic. It is on the bottom of the phone, this means I was loud because I was close to the phone and my subject was faint as in my interviews at mLearnCon 2012. After this near miss I started looking for a microphone and found this cool toy, the Fostex AR-4i Audio  Interface for iPhone 4. The device comes with two microphones but you could also use a shotgun mic or lavalier mic. I cannot say enough about how happy I am with this little gem. Multiple microphone inputs, level control, tripod mount in either portrait or landscape.

Those are my current favorite options for hitting the road to do my interviews or rapid videos. There are more out there. The key features I look for are:

  • HD Video
  • External microphone
  • Tripod mount
  • SD card memory
  • Headphone jack

Next I will walk you through my gear for the high end production. So stay tuned!