miércoles, 12 de noviembre de 2008

Google Uses Searches to Track Flu’s Spread

Google Uses Searches to Track Flu's Spread

SAN FRANCISCO — There is a new common symptom of the flu, in addition to the usual aches, coughs, fevers and sore throats. Turns out a lot of ailing Americans enter phrases like "flu symptoms" into Google and other search engines before they call their doctors.

That simple act, multiplied across millions of keyboards in homes around the country, has given rise to a new early warning system for fast-spreading flu outbreaks, called Google Flu Trends.

Tests of the new Web tool from Google.org, the company's philanthropic unit, suggest that it may be able to detect regional outbreaks of the flu a week to 10 days before they are reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In early February, for example, the C.D.C. reported that the flu cases had recently spiked in the mid-Atlantic states. But Google says its search data show a spike in queries about flu symptoms two weeks before that report was released. Its new service at google.org/flutrends analyzes those searches as they come in, creating graphs and maps of the country that, ideally, will show where the flu is spreading.

The C.D.C. reports are slower because they rely on data collected and compiled from thousands of health care providers, labs and other sources. Some public health experts say the Google data could help accelerate the response of doctors, hospitals and public health officials to a nasty flu season, reducing the spread of the disease and, potentially, saving lives.

"The earlier the warning, the earlier prevention and control measures can be put in place, and this could prevent cases of influenza," said Dr. Lyn Finelli, lead for surveillance at the influenza division of the C.D.C. From 5 to 20 percent of the nation's population contracts the flu each year, she said, leading to roughly 36,000 deaths on average.

The service covers only the United States, but Google is hoping to eventually use the same technique to help track influenza and other diseases worldwide.

"From a technological perspective, it is the beginning," said Eric E. Schmidt, Google's chief executive.

The premise behind Google Flu Trends — what appears to be a fruitful marriage of mob behavior and medicine — has been validated by an unrelated study indicating that the data collected by Yahoo, Google's main rival in Internet search, can also help with early detection of the flu.

"In theory, we could use this stream of information to learn about other disease trends as well," said Dr. Philip M. Polgreen, assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Iowa and an author of the study based on Yahoo's data.

Still, some public health officials note that many health departments already use other approaches, like gathering data from visits to emergency rooms, to keeping daily tabs on disease trends in their communities.

"We don't have any evidence that this is more timely than our emergency room data," said Dr. Farzad Mostashari, assistant commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in New York City.

If Google provided health officials with details of the system's workings so that it could be validated scientifically, the data could serve as an additional, free way to detect influenza, said Dr. Mostashari, who is also chairman of the International Society for Disease Surveillance.

A paper on the methodology of Google Flu Trends is expected to be published in the journal Nature.

Researchers have long said that the material published on the Web amounts to a form of "collective intelligence" that can be used to spot trends and make predictions.

But the data collected by search engines is particularly powerful, because the keywords and phrases that people type into them represent their most immediate intentions. People may search for "Kauai hotel" when they are planning a vacation and for "foreclosure" when they have trouble with their mortgage. Those queries express the world's collective desires and needs, its wants and likes.

Internal research at Yahoo suggests that increases in searches for certain terms can help forecast what technology products will be hits, for instance. Yahoo has begun using search traffic to help it decide what material to feature on its site.

Two years ago, Google began opening its search data trove through Google Trends, a tool that allows anyone to track the relative popularity of search terms. Google also offers more sophisticated search traffic tools that marketers can use to fine-tune ad campaigns. And internally, the company has tested the use of search data to reach conclusions about economic, marketing and entertainment trends.

"Most forecasting is basically trend extrapolation," said Hal Varian, Google's chief economist. "This works remarkably well, but tends to miss turning points, times when the data changes direction. Our hope is that Google data might help with this problem."

Prabhakar Raghavan, who is in charge of Yahoo Labs and the company's search strategy, also said search data could be valuable for forecasters and scientists, but privacy concerns had generally stopped it from sharing it with outside academics.

Google Flu Trends avoids privacy pitfalls by relying only on aggregated data that cannot be traced to individual searchers. To develop the service, Google's engineers devised a basket of keywords and phrases related to the flu, including thermometer, flu symptoms, muscle aches, chest congestion and many others.

Google then dug into its database, extracted five years of data on those queries and mapped it onto the C.D.C.'s reports of influenzalike illness. Google found a strong correlation between its data and the reports from the agency, which advised it on the development of the new service.

"We know it matches very, very well in the way flu developed in the last year," said Dr. Larry Brilliant, executive director of Google.org. Dr. Finelli of the C.D.C. and Dr. Brilliant both cautioned that the data needed to be monitored to ensure that the correlation with flu activity remained valid.

Google also says it believes the tool may help people take precautions if a disease is in their area.

Others have tried to use information collected from Internet users for public health purposes. A Web site called whoissick.org, for instance, invites people to report what ails them and superimposes the results on a map. But the site has received relatively little traffic.

HealthMap, a project affiliated with the Children's Hospital Boston, scours the Web for articles, blog posts and newsletters to create a map that tracks emerging infectious diseases around the world. It is backed by Google.org, which counts the detection and prevention of diseases as one of its main philanthropic objectives.

But Google Flu Trends appears to be the first public project that uses the powerful database of a search engine to track a disease.

"This seems like a really clever way of using data that is created unintentionally by the users of Google to see patterns in the world that would otherwise be invisible," said Thomas W. Malone, a professor at the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T. "I think we are just scratching the surface of what's possible with collective intelligence."


domingo, 24 de agosto de 2008


I saw this video and was immediately impressed. This woman is so perfect!!! She's 50 years old and still doing her best on stage. I'm excited because I will see this concert in early October in NY.. :P

miércoles, 20 de agosto de 2008

Social Media is Core to Dell's Marketing Strategy!

This is a fruit of my company's work in Digital Media. GCI Group, now merged with Cohn & Wolfe, has the biggest digital practice and Dell is one of the most successful cases.

sábado, 16 de agosto de 2008


This is article gives an idea of the importance of the Hispanic Market. One of my objectives in public relations is to start building specific communication programs and strategies to reach Hispanic audiences in the US. A communication professional with Hispanic origins should be part of the team which develops research and strategy for the Hispanic Market.

I strongly believe that Hispanic audiences should also be addressed online, through digital media strategies built specifically for this publics. It must be different the way an organization reaches an American audience than a Hispanic audience (which should also be categorized more specifically, as a Mexican-American is different than an Argentinian, for example).

This article was published at www.dallasnews.com. Click here to see it in its original context.

Hispanic population surge can't be ignored

11:54 AM CDT on Saturday, August 16, 2008

The latest census figures show that the changing face of America is happening at a faster rate than demographers had expected.

Trends now show that the country will become majority ethnic by 2042, instead of 2050. Increasingly, it is becoming more Hispanic and Asian, although Hispanic birthrates are the leading growth engine.

Hispanics are projected to nearly triple, from 46.7 million to 132.8 million, and represent 30 percent of the nation's population. Nearly one in three U.S. residents could be Hispanic within a generation.

But these changes are not happening faster than what University of North Texas history professor Roberto Calderón has foreseen. Or other education leaders, for that matter.

The latest census figures are simply confirming what educators have been seeing for the past decade.

In every major study in recent years, researchers have come back with the same prediction: Hispanics are expected to surpass all other ethnic and racial groups in population growth faster than you can say mañana .

Dr. Calderón says demographers tend to play it safe and err on the conservative side.

He's taking the latest calculations with a grain of salt.

"Do not be surprised if, in five or more years, the current and latest projections are revised yet again, and they will be revised downward," he said. "That is, lo and behold, the expected and projected trends of yesteryear were off, and they actually will be arriving even sooner."

And it won't be all because of immigration, as some might think. When he was the state demographer, Steve Murdock was always quick to point out that the demographic tide was being fueled more by the Hispanic birthrate rather than an immigration influx.

Even a cursory look at North Texas public school enrollments today bears this out.

In Dallas public schools, Hispanics now account for 65 percent of enrollment. In pre-kindergarten enrollment, the number jumps to 76 percent – a harbinger of what to expect in the upper grades.

A recent report by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education predicts that within two years, by the 2010-11 academic year, the majority of all graduating public high school students in the state will be Latino. By 2022, the study concludes, 64,000 more Latino students will be graduating annually from high school than Anglo students.

But the education of Latinos becomes even more critical when viewed against the backdrop of a global marketplace and where our future graduates will be as compared with other nations, said Felix Zamora , president of Mountain View College in Oak Cliff.

He said that watching the video "Did You Know?" on YouTubehas had an impact on many parents, Hispanics and non-Hispanic alike, because of increasing global competitiveness.

"When you compare our educational system to China's and others, and then see who our children will be competing with," he said, "it sets you back on your heels."

All the more reason then, he said, that raising the college recruitment and retention levels of Hispanics will become even more urgent in the next several years. And so far, he doesn't see it happening.


This video is a year old but I have to post it because it expresses a reality we are living today. This is just one of thousands of documents that show how the Internet is where audiences are today.

domingo, 3 de febrero de 2008


\krē-ˈā-tiv, ˈkrē-ˌ\

1: marked by the ability or power to create : given to creating 2: having the quality of something created rather than imitated : imaginative 3: managed so as to get around legal or conventional limits ; also : deceptively arranged so as to conceal or defraud
— cre·a·tive·ly adverb
— cre·a·tive·ness noun


Manolito is a character from famous cartoon "Mafalda". He explains his own concept of Public Relations. He basically says that PR is about showing that entrepreneurs are human beings... but not stupid!!!

Just a funny thing to share... :)


Public Relations is evolving everywhere in the world, because it has been gaining relevance over the last years. It has become an important discipline in front of advertising, even though people still think about both professions as exactly the same.

The first misunderstanding of our profession is inside the industry and that's exactly our first problem to face. How can we work in Public Relations if we do not understand what that means? Cases of different ways of misunderstanding the profession are found at every PR Agency in Mexico. I used to have a workmate who thinks that Public Relations is the profession where frustrated advertising professionals go, because they are lacking in creativity. That is of course an atrocity. Public Relations practitioners work from creativity, which is one of the first concepts we must understand. A glossary will be found below for these basic terms we should comprehend before discussing them. I'm especially worried about clarifying all those concepts that people misuse in our everyday work and that's unforgivable for me.

I can't understand how PR practicionters ignore the difference between organizational identity and organizational image. Assuming this statement I find a very serious problem because what we do in Public Relations is to work on our clients' public image. But what happens when we do not know what the word 'image' means? It is very important to work on the understanding of those terms in the academic world. For that, we have wonderful academic Jesús Meza, who is about to release the first book that gathers all the basic concepts. But we need to break the barrier between "practice" and "theory" because both MUST work together. It is absurd to ignore theory in practice and that seems to be the pattern today. PR practitioners think that they know the reality of Public Relations which according to them theorists ignore. I must say that's untrue because the great theorists I know have a lot of experience and maybe more than a lot of those practitioners who criticize them. So this absurd separation must be broken. This definition of terms that Meza is offering should go beyond the academic world and help practitioners know their basic concepts before getting their hands dirty.

I will be posting different definitions of these terms the first time I write about them. I think it will be a very good exercise to start sharing what I know and showing the way I understand my profession with a theoretical background. That way I will talk about the conception of PR in Mexican practice, making use of theory.

Of course confidentiality will be very well considered when talking about practice. Clients will not be mentioned when discussing cases.