The case of FIAT – Perceptual Nuance & Interpretation

Mirio De Rosa recently published an excellent article on Data Science Central about “How to go from data to information to insights and unleash the power of strategic thinking”. He walks through the procedures of

  1. understanding the raw structure of the data,
  2. surveying various possible “analytical technolog[ies]” to fit the given data,
  3. selecting the most sensible model, and
  4. interpreting the results in order to
    1. deliver insight, and
    2. decide on an informed strategy.

It will help to read his blog post first before continuing, but it’s not essential to my point. In the last section of the article, De Rosa demonstrates an incisive analysis of the model results and after delivering his insight issues a judicious recommendation on how to deploy that insight for strategic planning. In brief, he employed correspondence analysis to fit a survey data about automobile brand perception, layered  a clustering algorithm on top of it, and from the resulting perceptual map derived qualitative segmentations critical to marketers in brand positioning and communicating desired perceptions thereof.

While the analysis is solid and the recommendation is sound, the nuanced nature of the subject in question, what image people think a brand evokes, also begs the question of whether or not different interpretations of the results are possible. To this end I reproduced the data and modeling process  to see if I would come to at least a variation on the same conclusions.

De Rosa used the marketing tool MM4XL. I used R. But I also wanted to be able to do this as if I were using an enterprise software to present an open-source alternative to MM4XL, at least with respect to a GUI. So I used R Commander with FactorMineR to run correspondence analysis with clustering of the principal components. Here is what I found.


As expected, the factor map (above) on the first two dimensions is reproduced exactly here as in De Rosa’s. There are two key differences between these results and those De Rosa assembled with MM4XL.


First is the clustering around Audi, Mercedes, and BMW. De Rosa groups Audi with BMW in what he calls “Expensive emotion” segment, which comprises the AttractiveGood feeling, and Great image attributes and puts Mercedes Benz as the sole brand within HiTech. In my results, Mercedes Benz switches positions with Audi to be with BMW, and puts Audi on its own subclass that corresponds more with the technological profile. All three cars reside within what De Rosa labels as the Emotional-Expensive (North East) quadrant.

Second is the classification for all the brands that are west of the y-axis. Opel, Renault, and Ford are all tightly packed around the Environment attribute. VW and Peugeot are associated with Brand I like, but while De Rosa claims FIAT in this attribute, my results do not. FIAT is an outlier like Volvo and Citroen, more closely associated with Ford, and certainly much closer to Environment than Brand I like. In fact the raw survey results show that of the 106 responses to FIAT, there were 23 entries for Environment versus 16 for Brand I like.

A few conditions are causing the difficulty with FIAT. Even, there’s a Harvard Business Review report, “Fiat’s Extreme Makeover“, that gives color to the evidence we find in our data about this brand’s uniqueness. That article reports on the issue, citing that “In a world of low-priced apples, Fiat is striving to be an orange….Many people don’t fit Fiat’s mold, and even individuals well-targeted by demographic criteria…might not be early adopters of a new brand.”

It’s possible that there is a hierarchical structure in the attributes themselves. Specifically, some respondents might interpret Environment and Nice ad as subclasses of Brand I like: I like Brand X by virtue of its environmentally conscious image. In cases where the distinction between some attributes is not of polarity but of degree, a hierarchical multiple factor analysis method would be appropriate (Le Dien and Pagès 2003). More generally, when dealing with survey data, it’s important to consider questions of survey methodology and address them by extending the analytical methods accordingly.


Clustering the attributes themselves reveals a possible cognitive structure around this perceptual taxonomy. In the figure above, we see that Environment and Brand I like are closely related as attributes of a car brand. So are Good feelingGreat image, and ReliableHi-Tech . The latter pairing maps out a probable tautology in the survey logic: a car is perceived high-tech because it is believed reliable, and a car is believed reliable because it is perceived high-tech.

I stress this point: surveys are highly susceptible to respondents’ interpretive variations which  consequently charges the collected data with subjective bias. Therefore it’s prudent to volunteer the open ended nature of one’s analysis. Doing so would help to neutralize the conclusion’s valence and maintain impartiality. And De Rosa is shrewd to concede in his notes, saying “I wasn’t quite sure about my final interpretation, so I left room open for new labels.” Ultimately, I point out these nuances to demonstrate that it is best to prescribe data-driven recommendations with a healthy dose of skepticism throughout the analytical process.


Although the dependency between brand and attribute is statistically significant (at 0.05 level), the correlation coefficient as measured by the square root of trace is rather weak at 0.18. Also, NbClust produced 3 for best number of clusters, see Brand-Attribute map below, which corresponds with the 3 clusters of the attributes themselves as shown in the “Hierarchical Clustering” dendrogram above.



Le Dien S, Pagès J (2003). “Hierarchical Multiple Factor Analysis: application to the comparison of sensory profiles.” Food Quality and Preference, 14, 397–403.

Featured image: 1910 Fiat S76. Photo credit: Stefan Marjoram. Flicker creative commons license. Source:

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Berlin – A Love Affair

Über cosmo, genuine, tense, & intensely sexy. Step into the heart of Berlin and you might find that he wears it on his sleeve. It is a metro, as I’ve come to experience, where people have developed a keen sense for genuine social interaction: I mean, where conversations are taken seriously as a way to get to know the other person really without feeling the need to relate to them. And maybe this rather objective stance is learned from having to engage daily with people from all walks of life, because it is pretentious to say that you can really relate to a life exotic to yours. So, no one is overly nice: no shelf here for that “Best Friend of the Year” award. Maybe this claim is true for most well integrated cities as richly multicultural, but the balance between passionate engagement and respectful distance seems to me uniquely Berliner.

So where do you actually start? Find a local and hang out with them for a day. It’s easy, because Berliner (see above). I stayed at a MisterB&B for a night with a fantastic host named Matthias. He was born and raised in the Dolomites, and have come to the city to pursue a passion in film making. Briefly: Matthias and I spent the first 3-4 hours of meeting chatting, mostly about art, in his kitchen over 3 cups of coffee each. At 7, inspired and caffeinated, we headed out to grab döner kebabs nearby. Then, we bought beer at a spätkauf (or späti) and Mattias gave me a leisurely walking tour of Mitte–the center of Berlin–until it was time to debauch at Chantal’s House of Shame. And so the night went.

“the balance between passionate engagement and respectful distance seems to me uniquely Berliner.”

I spent the rest of my trip by myself. In those subsequent days, I met numerous other people, locals and non locals alike, who’ve come to the capital for an opportunity to live vigorously, whether for the time being or indefinitely. They all deftly maneuvered between social graces and debauch passion. I cannot go into the details, but the account I provided of Mattias and me is exemplary of how right and enjoyable the varying pace that Berliners take is.

Roses Bar, in Kreuzberg, encapsulated the sexy, cosmopolitan edge of Berlin itself.

It’s important to note that various people have expressed that while as one said “If you’re Jewish, you’re good. If you’re gay, you’re good.” (I read ‘good’ to mean policies are in place), minorities sometimes face discrimination. But to what extent and whether it is the natives or the other minorities who practice this immoral behavior remains unclear to me. Unfortunately, none of this is surprising that we can guess the answers. And while I never saw or felt it myself the warnings did at times put a tinge of suspicion on my otherwise insouciant days.

But Berlin’s tumultuous history presents a great opportunity to explore any feelings of suspicion. I wish that everyone who goes to Berlin would visit the Holocaust museum. I went there after observing at the Neues museum some of humanity’s most extraordinary achievements. So it was in sharp emotional contrast to take in painful, sorrowful stories from one of humanity’s most catastrophic episodes, the nadir of human behavior: the collective exercise of genocide. I cried hard. And because crying is evidence that we have thoroughly explored our emotions, I left there knowing that it has enriched, rather than dampen, my time in Berlin. And what is a love affair anyway without the consummation of heartbreak and joy.

I will go back many, many more times.


Copenhagen – Calm & Chaos

Urban planners everywhere have been taking note of Copenhagen. Rapid Urbanization requires that the time to execute on modeling after this city’s infrastructural logic is yesterday. The keys are walkability, bikability, and green space. The sidewalks, bike lanes, and roads are designed for optimal fluid motion of people (and pets!). And while the city is dense, its chain of many parks, and its dedication to green space even within residential courtyards nourish an idyllic pace. There is a Danish idiom ‘Hygge’, which is intended to encapsulate various states of living well and thus contentment & happiness…cozy, warm, inviting, chill, genuine. Search #hygge on Twitter to unpack this term. Copenhagen’s urban plan reflects this authentic Danish ethical value.

Frederiksberg Park, Copenhagen
Frederiksberg Park, Copenhagen

Despite this rather pastoral sentiment, the Danes know how to revel in the moment. DISTORTION is an annual festival that happens in the first week of June. It is massive. It is focused on EDM, and the party never stops over the course of 5 days. This year, it started in Nørrebro, migrated every day to other parts of the city, and ended up in Refshaleøen for a big bang on day 4. Of course, the 5th day was the Hygge. Put on some good headphones and watch this year’s official aftermovie below.

Even in the midst of chaotic revelry, a consistent Danish characteristic that I adored was how pleasantly polite they were. Equally pleasant is how nearly every one was very easy on the eyes. So, it would be hard to deduce, for example, that when a Dane gives you a generous compliment that they are just fishing for some in return. One would have to probe, à la Regina George “So you agree? You think you’re really pretty?”, to make that mistake.

So whether I was asking a Dane for directions, or chatting with a one over beer, or dancing with one on the streets, or helping an elderly one on the bus, or one was slapping me with a $120 fine for mistakenly riding the train with an expired ticket, the Danes were just simply charming. Copenhagen is a a rare city that made me feel very much at home. And this feeling is presumably an appropriate candidate for inclusion into the hygge taxonomy.

There is a neo-Darwinian theory which posits that evolution happens on the cusp between order and chaos. Viewed in this way, the Danes seems to have figured out how to strike a balance for a highly civilized way of living well.

A Tryst with Budapest

Recently, I was on a 9-hour flight from Helsinki to Chicago. I was sitting on the isle seat in a 2-seat row when a nice gentleman, who I guess was around 30 years old, came to take his window seat. He was wearing a black baseball cap.

Once seated, he glanced with a smile at me a few times. So I asked about his journey. He said he was flying from Budapest and that Chicago is home. Fair enough. I continued by asking him to tell me about his trip, at which he replied that he was only in Budapest for the weekend. It’s unlikely then that he is on a business trip, I thought. He proceeded to tell me with a smile that he went there to get hair plugs, lifting his cap off just slightly to reveal that this was indeed true. Briefly, hair plugging is the surgical transplantation technique of…I can’t do this. Just look it up. I was put off by the gnarly sight, but because he was super nice, and because this was a 9-hour flight I collected composure and made the best of it. He apologized in advance that he would have to get up every 2 hours to go to the lavatory and spray medicine on his head. I told him there was no problem because I had planned on staying up to adjust to the new timezone, and that besides I have a small bladder. And so it went: every two hours I got up to let him, well, water his plants.

Equally restless, but infinitely more fun was the different and longer weekend that I had spent in Budapest. I had arrived there by train after spending a highly cultured week in Vienna. For various reasons that I can’t go into know, I had concluded that Budapest would be a good place to wanton away all that earnest work I had just invested in to raise my cultural capital.

Techno music obsessed, Budapest’s bars serve the sleepless partygoers. An 11PM to 7PM nightclub exists. Best of X accolades are awarded to night clubs, and locals acknowledge the prestige by flocking to them. And the shot of choice is the traditional Hungarian fruit brandy Pálinka. You can dance yourself clean throughout the night, and wash it all off in one of their many Turkish baths the following day. I went to Rudas Gyógyfürdő. Built by the Ottomans, it comprises a series of thermal pools and claims medicinal efficacy of the water’s mineral contents. To complete this Bacchanalian menu, Budapest offers many fine restaurants for the discerning gourmand: Michelin-starred Borkonyha proved itself; The Big Fish Seafood Bistro is a market style selection process that made for an indelible dinner; Prime Étterem is a bit of an old boys’ club, but the steaks were top-notch.

Naturally, there is so much more to the Hungarian capital than bars, baths, fancy food, and evidently hair plug clinics. Budapest exhibits remarkable Medieval architecture, for example. And while I did managed to attend a performance by the famed National Hungarian Ballet, and two modern dance pieces at the Erkel Theater, I will need to return with the responsibilty to appreciate the Magyar cultural heritage. For there is much to learn on this stretch of the Danube.



Vienna – Deep Impact

There used to be a fort wall that surrounded the city of Vienna. Then in 1850 its municipality incorporated today’s districts 2 and 9, and by 1860 it had torn down the wall to open the door to these new neighbors. By 1890 the wall had been completely transformed into a grand boulevard, the Ringstraße, built to showcase the glory of the Hapsburg Empire. The plan worked wonders. Many people from diverse backgrounds came to Vienna from all parts of Europe. This ushered in a confluence of ideas into the Capital, and Vienna began to ferment developments in both the arts and the sciences. Their great achievements over the next two decades is now referred to as Viennese Modernism.

In his fantastic book, The Age of Insight, Viennese-born Eric Kandel reports that this cultural milieu forged the foundation of our modern understanding of the mind, which insists that humans are “not rational creatures, but people that were importantly driven by unconscious mental drives.” Freud, Schnitzler, and the trio of Viennese Expressionism Klimt, Kokoschka, and Schiele are the principal contributors to the achievements of fin-de-siècle Vienna. Kandel credits these pioneers’ insights for establishing a culture we still live in today. Indeed, UNESCO cites “The urban and architectural qualities of the Historic Centre of Vienna bear outstanding witness to a continuing interchange of values throughout the second millennium.” in its inscription of the city into its heritage aegis.

Steeped in this rich tradition, it’s no surprise that the cultural patrons of Vienna today require etiquette with a certain degree of austerity. Coughing a little too much at the symphony will probably be considered excessive and so criticized with some grumblings and disapproving glances. Even, talking loudly at dinner will likely invite some looks of caustic shade. The Telegraph writes “Locals love their titles, so if you are meeting someone who has a university degree, not only are you expected to know this fact, but you’re expected to  use the title whilst shaking hands e.g “Grüß Gott Herr Doktor”. In cafés and restaurants the waiter will expect to hear a “Herr Ober”(Mr. waiter) from guests seeking attention.” This is in serious contrast to the American way. In Vienna, we would all be reminded to remain on the more civilized side. Surely, some of them will be unreasonably strict, but to dismiss the Viennese categorically as staid and stern would be a serious mistake: it would ignore the rich traditions that they clearly cherish and support.

People sat down to watch the live simulcast of Tosca just outside of the opera house. That performances was reported on the New York Times because the soprano pulled another one of her diva stunts. In spite of it, Angela Gheorghiu is still amazing.

In fact, I discovered that Vienna is a pretty tolerant city that definitely has a more raucous side to it. I went to a club where clothing was not required…a revealing legacy of Viennese Modernism. Let me explain…the legacy, not the club…with a passage by Robert Musil—Austrian philosophical writer, born 1880, in the early formations of VM. In his epic novel “The Man Without Qualities” he reports that in older times a person “would have regarded a display of nudity as a relapse into the animal state, not because of the nakedness but because of the loss of the civilized aphrodisiac of clothing”. By the time of Musil’s writing, sexuality had already undergone a thorough examination by Freud and consequent reinterpretations as evident in the works of Klimt, Kokoschka, and Schiele. And Musil articulates this newfound sensual expression through a character who reveals that none of his love interest’s proper attire has done anything to temper his erotic longings for her naked body.

Klimt explored women’s sexuality in his nude drawings, Kokoschka brought psychoanalytic insight to bear on his portraits, and Schiele introduced a new kind of figurative iconography in which the artist uses his self portrait to reveal his unconscious aggressions and sexual striving. They and their contemporaries were all in search for what lies underneath the naked skin: our mental life. What could have more immediacy for us today than Kandel’s truthful interpretation of what Schiele had captured: “the anxiety that haunts contemporary humankind–the fear of being overwhelmed psychologically by an influx of external and internal sensory stimuli.” (Kandel, AoI).

The impact that late 19th century Vienna has on our culture today cannot be overstated. Medicine, psychology, neuroscience, and even the relatively new field of behavioral economics are deeply rooted in fin-de-siècle Vienna. Explore around the Ringstraße to find the opera house, the symphony center, art museums, universities, and even the Freud museum. Visit the Belvedere to observe the largest collections of works by Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka and many others. Tour the the Secession building to absorb the consummation of the Viennese Expressionists’ efforts, from Otto Wagner’s architecture of the building itself, to Klimt’s masterpiece, the Beethoven Frieze. Anyone interested in the intersection of art and science who visits Vienna responsibly will feel the electrifying resonance of Viennese Modernism on our lives today.

London: ‘The Violent Jolt of the Capital’

“I miss London. I miss London life.” she began…

“I choose not the suffocating anesthetic of the suburbs, but the violent jolt of the Capital, that is my choice. The meanest patient, yes, even the lowest is allowed some say in the matter of her own prescription. Thereby she defines her humanity. I wish, for your sake, Leonard, I could be happy in this quietness. But if it is a choice between Richmond and death, I choose death.”

The quote is from the scene in Stephen Daldry‘s The Hours where the character of Virginia Woolf, living in the town of Richmond outside of London, implores her husband Leonard that they return to the city. Her monologue is a meditation on a familiar contrast (think Pleasantville, American Beauty) where a dystopian view of suburban life is juxtaposed with the promise of the city. And the distinction it underscores is specially heightened when you speak of London, because in my view that city makes most others feel like suburbs.

As old as time itself, London seems to hold infinite secrets and possibilities. A recent National Geographic article reports “spurred by a building boom, archeologists are plumbing the deep past of one of Europe’s oldest capitals.” So any attempt to take it all in would be some Sisyphean silliness. In cities like this I sometimes just want nothing else but to paint the town red. But that is for the defeatist. It’s better to take the responsibility by at least trying to connect with the city in some way that’s important to me. So, in each of the few times that I visited it I made every effort to suffuse my days with activity and thought aimed at absorbing London life.

On this most recent visit, I was in a middle of an art project where I designed and made costumes for the ALEXA GRÆ music video The Prince. Along with Aganovich I was obsessed with Alexander McQueen. So I was pretty disappointed to miss James Phillips’ play McQueen, but was very excited to at least step into the store on Clerkenwell Road. But there’s another really fun way to see British couture: a visit to the Tate Britain, home of British art. I adore, for example, how the Pre-Raphaelite painters dressed their muses in such fabulous Victorian fashion: never stuffy, always flowy, often florid, and sometimes fluffy.

To me, appreciating art is a very introverted exercise. So I make a point to balance my running around doing that with spending quality time with friends. I’m fortunate, though, to have a very good friend who lives in London who is highly introspective, florid & articulate, and who I share a lot of interests with in art, music, books, and revelry. We can talk for hours. Generous and loving, he makes it so pleasant to share in his experiences in living London life. An anecdote will serve as proof.

On my most recent visit, I told him, M, that I was coming with my partner, N, who had never been to London, to celebrate his birthday. M immediately came up with an idea for and offered to host a surprise party. He invited a few of his friends over and got everyone to participate in assembling a poster filled with notes and things that expressed N’s interests. N was floored. And although neither N nor I had ever met M’s guests, not a strident note came through the Happy Birthday song, nor striding efforts were made on making friends thereafter.

Granted, as a kind gesture as that anywhere will create memories charged with all sorts of positive associations. But the valance of London is such that you can continue to live it up throughout the metropolitan knowing that wherever you end up, you’ll have an electric experience. This is what I mean by the possibilities that a city like London holds. Many people who move to the suburbs do so in the hope of finding peace. But, as Virginia Woolf wrote, “you cannot find peace by avoiding life”. London reminds me of why I will always choose live in the city. Reflecting on my experiences there, it’s not difficult to imagine how the Capital appeal can produce yearnings of such dramatic heights that Virginia Woolf herself ultimately couldn’t weather.

Life imitating art imitating life: I took this shot as a modest nod to Constable.



Adventures in the Scottish Highlands

Green. Everywhere.


Skye is breathtaking beauty. All of mountains there were treeless, which added a kind of surreal, otherworldliness to it. I learned that this is due to “excessive deforestation [during the Empire’s expansionist process that started in the 17th century], and the new saplings are preferentially eaten by the deer and other wildlife over the Heather that grows there.” Some mountains did have some trees, but they were all planted in patches that if you look closely you would see are fenced in to keep Heather eaters out. Warning, be sure to bring lots of bug spray if you plan on hiking in Skye because there are tons of annoying midges. Eek.

The Isle of Skye is also famous the Fairy Pools at the foot of the Cullins. Bloomberg News puts it this way “This series of crystal-clear waterfalls and pools bewitch plenty of summer visitors into taking a dip, often regretted immediately—the icy water is beyond bracing.” Cold yes, but extremely rewarding after all the hiking.IMG_4836Sugar nan Gillean Mountains



Another highlight of this trip was a whole day of white water rafting in the River Findhorn, way up in northern coast of Moray. We went with Ace Adventure, which I highly recommend, and our guides were so awesome. It had been raining there so we got a nice little boost on the river grade. At some point we took a quick break from rafting to climb some rocks to jump off the cliff into the river. I absolutely hate the feeling of free falling, but that was really fun.

White water rafting in the River Findhorn. Notwithstanding the dopey kid on our raft, this was a blast.

Loch Ness, of monster folklore fame, is a long narrow lake that slices through the middle of Scotland’s Highlands region. Driving along it is fantastically scenic. Although, there are treacherous passes that a little nerve racking, specially because I’m driving on the “wrong” side of the road (j.k.), and of the fact that the Scots are terrifying drivers. In some places, you also have to deal with Mull sheep! They’re kind of really funny in a cute way. Anyway, we walked along the southern shore of Loch Ness, hoping for sightings of the legendary Nessie. As it turned it, she was just a log.

Moray is probably most famous for its whisky, the most popular of which is arguably Glenfiddich.  There are tons of distilleries that are open to the public for tastings. Unfortunately, because of time and driving constraints, we didn’t get to visit any of them. But, who cares when you can geek out about Shakespeare’s Macbeth and see the Cawdor Castle! That was fun.

Yes, there remains so much more natural beauty to experience in Scotland, specially in Skye…

Sample Academic Exercises in Analytics

Data Mining Comparative Analysis with WEKA 

The objective of this paper is to conduct a comparative analysis of various data mining methodologies. This paper is focused firstly on how these various models handle different datasets, namely in terms of dimension including the effects of correlation

Evaluating Machine Learning Classification for Internet Ad data

Study of various machine learning classification methods to predict whether a given website image is an advertisement or not. Focuses particularly on the rules based JRip algorithm, and the decision tree methods J48, Random Forest, and RPART. There are 1,558 attributes to describe the 3,279 image observations

Hierarchical Model – Pricing Diamonds Across Channels

Examine hierarchical modeling to fit into the diamonds data. Should there be significant differences not only within channels based on 4-Cs explanatory variable/s but also between channels (internet vs. offline), then we can segment our approach, whether as buyers looking to focus on where to get the best deal, or as sellers looking to maximize sales and price discriminate.

Mathematical Programming for Call Center Optimization

Solve for management problem to determine optimal scheduling of operator shifts for a call center.

Panel Data Analysis

Panel data consists of repeated measurements on the same subject over a period of time, allowing for modeling differences in behavior across subjects.

Spatio-Temporal Housing Data Analysis with R

The data for this assignment comprise observations on housing prices and nine economic covariates—these represent public-domain data for 20,640 California block groups from the 1990 U.S. Census. The original data were provided by R. Kelly Pace and Ronald Barry and are available from the StatLib archive: data file at

Sports Analytics

Baseball data contains 337 observations and 18 variables where we regress salary over performance data.

Wine Cultivar Data Classification with R.

This dataset consists of results from a chemical analysis of 178 wines grown from three different cultivars (our Class) from the same region in Italy: Barbera (48), Barolo (59), and Grignolino (71). The chemical analysis determined the quantities of 13 constituents found in each of the three types of wine, and are used to predict from which cultivar samples came. dataset