MetLife fires up Synapse and JSON to recruit rock-star developers

How to find rock-star developers, Twitter versus Facebook, the DNA diet and anonymous Web searches: The Data Mill reports.

MetLife Inc. is working hard to create a startup culture within IT. Getting there means attracting the right kind of talent. That's why the insurance company launched a new site called Synapse. It offers up puzzles for prospective software engineers to solve, and it gives MetLife a chance to show that insurance isn't as stodgy as some engineers might assume. But the Synapse experience doesn't end once the problem is solved.

The Data Mill"If you're a rock-star developer, we ask you to upload your resume to us in a JSON format," Gary Hoberman, senior vice president and CIO of regional application development for MetLife, said at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo.

That's right, JSON as in Javascript Object Notation. It's a data format that looks like XML, and interested applicants are asked to use it to translate things like skills and past experience into data scientist-speak. Once the JSON document is uploaded, MetLife can mine the data and match potential candidates to open positions.

While the recruiting tool attracts problem solvers, those who get to the point of submitting a JSON document show they're "able to learn something new and demonstrate growth," Hoberman said. Attractive characteristics for any startup.

Twitter is not a social network

Twitter isn't a social network. "It's an interest graph," said Matthew Russell, author of Mining the Social Web: Analyzing Data from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Other Social Media Sites, as well as chief technology officer for Digital Reasoning Systems. What's the difference? A social network connects users with friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances. Visualize the network, and those connections make up a social graph.

An interest graph, on the other hand, depicts how users connect to the stuff they're curious or passionate about. "But the entity you're following doesn't need to know you or contact you," said Russell during an O'Reilly webinar on why Twitter is all the rage. "It's just you expressing interest in that thing you're following."

So think Twitter versus Facebook. Or, actually, think Twitter versus Facebook before the "likes," fans and business profiles, which have helped morph the social network into a kind of social-interest hybrid model, Russell said.

Personali-tweet

Paging Dr. Freud? An IBM researcher claims she can figure out someone's personality in no less than 200 tweets. Michelle Zhou doesn't read through the posts herself; instead, she uses an algorithm to analyze word choice. Don't take my word for it; take Dean Takahashi's. He recently had his tweets analyzed by Zhou.

Previously on
The Data Mill

The state of the digital enterprise at Gartner Symposium

Predictive analytics and big data: When is enough data enough?

'Cookie stuffing': A data scientist takes on seamy side of online advertising

The DNA diet

Is DNA the secret to gaining a competitive edge? Business seems to be moving in that direction. With the quick swab of a cheek, customers now can invest in tailored skin care products, dive into unknown corners of their family tree and create a one-of-a-kind perfume called My DNA Fragrance from Eco Health and Beauty. Then there's the DNA diet. That's where companies take your DNA sample, study specific genes and devise a diet and exercise plan just for you. It's still early days for nutrigenomics, but given the insatiable appetite for weight loss plans, the DNA diet has the potential to become a genomic trend setter.

Fountain of Google

Speaking of DNA, Google's latest launch, California Life Company, or Calico, takes the Mountain View, Calif. juggernaut to new heights. The new health startup will "try to figure out what [contributors] really cause us to expire," Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of the search company, said at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo. "This is very much hardcore research," he said. "How do we make our older lives healthy, happy and so forth and so on?" And on and on … what is it with technology superstars and immortality?

A little privacy, please!

And while we're on the topic of search, are you anxious that the world's most popular search engine has got too much information on you? Then try DuckDuckGo.com and search the Web anonymously. A company slogan: "Google tracks you. We don't." Unlike Google, DuckDuckGo also doesn't "bubble filter" search results. In other words, DuckDuckGo's search results rankings aren't influenced by what a user has previously searched for or clicked on.

Welcome to The Data Mill, a weekly column devoted to all things data. Heard something newsy (or gossipy)? Email me or find me on Twitter at @TT_Nicole.

This was first published in October 2013

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