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‘Practical Techie:’ Algorithms are digital crystal balls

Author Rafael Matos is professor of multimedia at a private university and director of the Caribbean Multimedia Center, a nonprofit media lab focusing on closing the digital divide. Questions should be sent to Author Rafael Matos is professor of multimedia at a private university and director of the Caribbean Multimedia Center, a nonprofit media lab focusing on closing the digital divide. Questions should be sent to

Although mostly the dominion of programmers and many a computer scientist, a businessperson should often take on the concept of algorithms to better understand the logic on how a corporation’s data is juggled about in cyberspace.

Algorithms help us analyze key business data, help pick the top story on our news feed and at most times, obtain search results when doing deep and wide market research.

The power of algorithmic logic practically shows up in every computing process of our digitally connect world. Each logic is tailored to a particular job that a computer might need to do, always at the whim of our user commands.

Experts liken algorithms to cybernetic crystal balls that can foresee — not necessarily foretell — what will be the result of an extensive key word search, a vast data analysis exercise or figure out the hotel preference of a frequent traveller that researches lodging and airplane tickets on the Web.

Twitter uses algorithms to examine trending topics and top causes within its platform. Facebook uses them to figure out which personal pages are hot and LinkedIn to help connect professionals with similar interests within its immense database of professionals.

In other words, the mandate of an algorithm is to do systematic reasoning, a categorization and an indexing of whatever we do, store or retrieve on the Web.

As an example, given the adequate data, algorithms can help a politician forecast voter conduct in a defined district base with such variables as age, ethnicity, past elections behavior, or present social attitudes. Algorithms can help a merchant preview consumer reaction to a new product, based on tradition, buyer attitudes and historic needs of a given social group.

Put in an even more mundane manner, algorithms can reasonably tell a person what might happen under certain circumstances. If that person’s dog gets sick, logical steps have to be taken quickly. All decisions of what to do next must based on actionable criteria and that’s where algorithms excel.

The owner can decide to take the dog to a veterinarian or let the dog die. He can go to a nearby vet or one way out of town. If the doctor’s office is closed what is the next step? What if the money to pay the medicine to heal the dog is not at hand, what to do? Should the dog be carried to the vet or have it walk? The variables are infinite and algorithms help analyze them at top speed and then spill out possible paths of action.

All about math
It’s all about mathematical calculus ad infinitum. Our brains do the same through our neurons as they sort out reality, experience, memories and attitudes to figure out what we need to do next to solve a personal problem.

Obviously, the use of algorithms for security, spy and military operations is also unending, depending on the minds behind the proposals.

So what does this all mean for the business owner?

By combining relevant data and algorithms, a company can run software to identify and target marketing messages to a particular consumer base, at a very global level, or at very individual set. It can test reception for products or services, define social media campaigns, identify a new customer base, examine competition demographics, etc., etc.

Provide your computer the correct of data and it will play with the facts and spit out paths of action for any present or future commercial practices. Programmers and expert coders that know how must do all this, obviously and what algorithms fit into your business proposal.

The entrepreneur provides the variables, the coder the program and the algorithms the solutions.

This is as basic as it gets. So do keep on eye on this technology because the good old algorithms are the logical brain of all that is the Web.

Author Details
This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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