by    in Data

According to Big Data, Millennials Don’t Care Much About America’s Pastime

Does Respect for the Past Bode Well for Baseball’s Future?
Breaking Down the Big Data of the Greatest Baseball Players of All Time List

How much does America’s Pastime’s current popularity factor into the rankings of who are the greatest baseball players of all time? And, what factors beyond simple player statistics come into play when one makes their own list? Well, the resulting Ranker data speaks – or rather, cheers – volumes when it comes to players of past generations. While nostalgia might have some effect on the voting, is the lack of current players represented on the list a sign that voters have an unwavering respect for the legends of the past, or is our national pastime becoming just that? Past its time.

Ranker asked participants upfront to list the best baseball players only by their on-field accomplishments. Nearly 115,000 votes from almost 7,500 participants have chimed in, and it’s no surprise who was the consensus top pick. With a lifetime batting average of .342 and #1 in all-time OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), the voters made their choice clear: Babe Ruth. Anyone who has had a casual conversation around this topic knows the Great Bambino is always one of the first names mentioned when it comes to ranking the greatest players of all time, and he’s usually a favorite across all ages.

Whether you are an astute baseball statistical historian, been sitting in your team’s bleachers since you were a child, or are one of nearly 60 million people who play fantasy sports, you probably have at least a passing opinion about who is the best of all time. According to Ranker’s data, your top 5 has some combination of the Babe, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, and Willie Mays or Hank Aaron, the latter being the latest retiree of the group, which was all the way back in 1976. Once you break down the demographics even a little bit further, that’s when things start to get interesting.

Gone, but not forgotten.

The most glaring data at first glance is there’s nary an active player on the all-time list’s starting roster. In fact, it isn’t until you get down to #44 where you’ll find someone who is still an active player in Ichiro Suzuki. For the record, Ichiro is ranked only #76 on Ranker’s Top CURRENT Baseball Players List. Does this imply that voters know and respect their history? Or could it be that the current crop of baseball players aren’t well represented because they aren’t being watched? Television ratings data suggests that a steady decline in viewership over the years might play a factor in the voting. Major League Baseball as an entity is as strong as ever (just have a look at some of the salaries they’re handing out), people aren’t as interested in the game as they used to be.

How much does a voter’s age factor into the results? A deeper dive into the big data analytics suggests quite a bit. Baby Boomers are 184% more likely to have Mel Ott on their list than any other age group because, you know, they’ve actually seen him play. If you’re between the ages of 30-49, you are a whopping 305% more likely to have Sadaharu Oh of the Yomuiri Giants on your list (which suggests that internationally, fans aren’t only passionate about their soccer). If you’re a Millennial, you must enjoy a good quote. They are 248% and 234% more likely to vote for the non sequitur machine Yogi Berra and the forever quirky Rickey Henderson, respectively. Ranker doesn’t have analytics to suggest that voters in the 30-49 age demographic were all mustache enthusiasts, they were 281% more likely to include Rollie Fingers on their list.

However, those stats focus on specific characters in the game that a certain demographic is drawn to. Where are the Mike Trouts (#1 with people under the age of 29 on the Top Current Baseball Players List), Clayton Kershaws (#2), or players who have brand recognition among fans like Troy Tulowitzki (#20)? All of them, gaudy numbers and all, failed to crack the top 100. In fact, the only other active players on the list (besides the aging Ichiro) were the also-aging Albert Pujols (#48) and Miguel Cabrera (#90). Maybe, there’s just not a large (or long) enough sample size to include current players on this list of all-time greats.

Is today’s game yesterday’s news?

Perhaps voters are just into something else. When you look at the voting demographics, Young voters are the least represented participants, with the majority being aged 30 and up. But with nearly 23% of the votes, you would think at least a couple more current players would sneak in, wouldn’t you? Perhaps baseball just doesn’t resonate with this new generation. They’re gravitating toward playing lacrosse, on their video game consoles, or even fiddling with their smartphones. As a recent article in the Wall Street Journal even suggests, younger people are just tuning out.

So who’s got next?

The times may have changed, but according to Ranker data, the best baseball players really haven’t. From Cobb in the dead-ball era and Satchel Paige of the Negro Leagues to various International Leagues and beyond, the voters know that the greatest all-time baseball was played beyond just the Major Leagues here in the States. Records were made to be broken, but which of the best baseball players of today do you think will eventually break into the all-time list? Only time (and the fickle, under the age of 30 voters) will tell. So if you should happen to ask a Millennial if they saw the game last night, just don’t expect them to inquire who won. You’ll probably just get a “who cares?”

A Psychographic Interests Platform

In today’s fragmented world, psychographic profiling is more important to marketers than ever. Yet the art of figuring out how to effectively reach and convert audiences remains a daunting task. Ranker Insights brings precision and depth to what has typically been the very “fuzzy” exercise of psychographic profiling.

Each month over 35 million people visit Ranker to cast their votes on thousands of online polls about Films, Celebrities, TV, Music, Sports, and more, providing a treasure trove of proprietary self-reported preference data across 1.1 million interests.

Powered by Ranker’s unprecedented data collection engine, the Ranker Insights platform was developed to provide data-driven audience insights, both at scale and in precise context. Contact us to learn more about how we can work with you on a custom API basis.

Ranker Insights has made a portion of its data available for free here.

by    in Popular Lists

Why do Ranker voters think Ellen should be president?

Yesterday, Ellen talked about being voted #1 on our list of Celebrities who should run for President.

What is it that makes a celebrity “president”-worthy?  Because Ranker polls about each person along dozens of dimensions (e.g. cool vs. hot vs. good actor vs. trustworthy vs. ?), we can see how ratings on other lists relate to being voted as someone who should run for president.  For example, below we can see that being seen as “cool” is only weakly related to being seen as presidential, with actors like Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood scoring as relatively cool, but not relatively presidential.

CoolVsPresident

Being good at your job seems to relate moderately to being seen as presidential.  For example, below you can see how being seen as a good actor positively relates to being seen as presidential, with people like Meryl Streep, Leonardo Di Caprio, and Morgan Freeman scoring well on both fronts.

GoodActorVsPresident

It also relates well to likability.  Below you can see how the men who people want to have a beer with, like Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, and Di Caprio, also tend to be people they rate well as potential presidential candidates.

BeerVsPresident

It seems to relate best to trust as people like Ellen, Meryl Streep, and Morgan Freeman seem to be rated as both Trustworthy and as someone who should run for President.  Notice how the items below form a fairly straight line going up and to the right.

TrustVsPresident

In all, looking at the relationship between Ranker lists yields comparable results to what political scientists find drives evaluations of presidential candidates.  People want a president who is competent, likable, and trustworthy.  And clearly Ellen fits all three buckets as she ranks as one of the best comedians of all-time, someone people would want to have a beer with, and as trustworthy.  Hence, Ranker users vote her as the #1 Celebrity Who Should Run for President.

Ravi Iyer

by    in About Ranker

Ranker is the YouTube of Opinions for Influencers

RankerInfluencersYouTube has created stars that are more popular than their mainstream counterparts and who leverage their videos into millions of dollars in annual revenue.  The success of many popular social media channels is based on providing opinions about topics like  toys, video games, or outfits whether on youtube, twitter, or instagram.  Most influencers have a presence on multiple online media channels and Ranker offers a unique way to broadcast opinions, via the ranked list, which would otherwise be an awkward fit for existing channels.  With over 20 million unique visitors each month consuming Ranker lists, Ranker is a unique platform for extending an influencer’s online presence.  Here are a few specific ways that an influencer can leverage Ranker into even greater influence.

1) The simplest use of Ranker is to post a ranked list of your opinions.  Where else could the Iron Sheik post his 8 favorite places in New York or 5 biggest jabronis?  For far less effort than would be necessary for a YouTube video or Tumblr post and in a far easier and more cohesive format to digest than a series of twitter or instagram posts, influencers can post a ranked list of their favorite musicians or most ridiculous movie scenes.

2) Many influencers are actually items on specific Ranker lists, and a great community-building exercise is to ask one’s audience to help influence the list, which also implicitly tells your audience about the quality of your work and explicitly tells other visitors to that list that you should indeed be ranked higher.  Examples include: Fans of Outlander working together to move Outlander up on our list of current tv shows or Ice T promoting his ranking on Best West Coast Rappers.

3) Lastly, fans often appreciate that you care about their opinions and so another unique way to use Ranker is to ask your fans a specific question, which naturally generates a ton of engagement, data, and comments.  For example, you can see here how Tim Howard generates organic engagement by asking his fans who they think is the Best Soccer Player of All-time.

As the world’s biggest source of crowdsourced opinions, Ranker is a natural place for influencers to make their opinions known, promote positive opinions about the influencers themselves, and solicit their fans’ opinions, and we would especially love to work with influencers who would like to take advantage of our unique platform in these ways.

– Ravi Iyer

by    in Data Science, prediction, Rankings

Cognitive Models for the Intelligent Aggregation of Lists

Ranker is constantly working to improve our crowdsourced list algorithms, in order to surface the best possible answers to the questions on our site.  As part of this effort, we work with leading academics who research the “wisdom of crowds”, and below is a poster we recently presented at the annual meeting for the Association for Psychological Science (led by Ravi Selker at the University of Amsterdam and in collaboration with Michael Lee from the University of California-Irvine).

While the math behind the aggregation model may be complex (a paper describing it in detail will hopefully be published shortly), the principle being demonstrated is relatively simple.  Specifically, aggregating lists using models that take into account the inferred expertise of the list maker outperform simple averages, when compared to real-world ground truths (e.g. box office revenue).  While Ranker’s algorithms for determining our crowdsourced rankings may be similarly complex, they are similarly designed to produce the best answers possible.

 

cognitive_model_aggregating_lists

 

– Ravi Iyer

by    in Popular Lists

Will 2015 be the year that better data eclipses bigger data?

Data is a tool, not an end, but understandably, some people are really into their tools. They like to describe how many petabytes zettabytes their data takes up every second picosecond, requiring even more tools that allow them to analyze that data ever faster. It’s very very cool. But just like the engines on those lamborghinis I see idling in Los Angeles traffic on the way to the office, I have to question how truly useful all that engineering is.

Do we really need zettabytes of data to produce the insight that I might, in my weaker moments, click on a link advertising photos of singles in my area or detaling “13+ Things You Shouldn’t Eat in a Restaurant”? [ these are actual headlines served by content recommendation companies that leverage enormous datasets on web behavior] Does Facebook really need all my likes, interests, and friends to know to serve me clickbait or is the single biggest predictor of whether I might generate a click for an advertiser the fact that I have enjoyed clickbait in the past?  If 8% of internet users account for 85% of banner ad clicks, how effective can the plethora of data scientists who work on advertising actually be, over and above a simple cookie that identifies that 8% and removes banner ads for everyone else?

Rather than simply declaring, in rather cliched form, that “big data is dead”, I have a solution: Better Data.  If I want to know what to buy my wife for Christmas, I can analyze everything she has done on the internet for the past 10 years…or I could just ask her.  If I want to know who is going to win the world cup, I could analyze the statistics of every player and team in every situation and create an algorithm that scores their collective talents…or I could just ask people who they think will win.  Small datasets with rich variables that incorporate lots of information intelligently (e.g. stock prices) almost always out-perform complex algorithms performed on low-level datasets.

Evidence for this is found not only in the fact that algorithms cannot reliably beat the stock market (though they can make money by beating slower, dumber algorithms), but that the world’s biggest companies like Google, Facebook, and Baidu are emphasizing “Deep Learning” artificial intelligence as primary initiatives.  Deep learning attempts to encode the patterns hiding in lots of low level data points (e.g. pixel colors) into higher-order variables that human beings find meaningful (e.g. a cat or a smiling friend), effectively creating better smaller datasets.  The excitement over deep learning is an acknowledgment that zettabytes of data yield far less meaningful information about a person than the average human can get from a 15 minute conversation.  Deep learning may someday allow Google to read our email with the same sophistication as a human, but the average toddler still far outpaces the most sophisticated deep learning algorithms. And it still needs good data to be trained on.  It will never be able to take all the videos ever uploaded onto YouTube and predict much variance in the direction of the stock market because the data is not there. If you want to predict the stock market, you need better data on companies.  If you want to predict what a person will buy or better yet, what really motivates them, you need to ask them questions about what motivates them.

How can we create better datasets?  Think less like an engineer and more like someone writing a biography.  Rather that trying ever more technological solutions to squeeze knowledge from a stone, think about what is missing in our understanding of the average person.  If, through some combination of deep learning and data aggregation, I am able to fully understand 1% or 25% or 100% of a person’s online behavior, I still will only understand that part of their world that is revealed through their online behavior.  How can we start to ask people what their most meaningful moments from college were, what annoys them most, or what makes them happiest in their quiet moments?  Dating sites probably have some of the best data around because they ask meaningful questions, even given the relatively low number of people who use those sites as compared to Gmail or Facebook, and the sharpness of the insights that they are able to produce is no accident.  The OK Cupid blog (better data) will always be more interesting than the Facebook data blog (bigger data) until Facebook is able to collect data more meaningful than the generic “like”.

2015 is an exciting time to be working on data.  Tools are more accessible than ever, such that many engineers can find a tutorial and learn to run any algorithm in a weekend.  Data is more ubiquitous and accessible than ever as well. But the world doesn’t need yet another company that takes publicly accessible data and mines it for sentiment, while throwing off stats about how big their data is.  Think like a biographer,  figure out what nobody else is asking and create meaningful data.

 

by    in Opinion Graph

Characteristics of people who are not annoyed by Bill O’Reilly

On today’s The O’Reilly Factor (video below), Bill O’Reilly lamented the fact that he was only #10 on Ranker’s Most Annoying TV Hosts list and decided that he would make it his New Year’s Resolution to become the #1 most annoying person on our list. While I may not share O’Reilly’s politics, I like him as a person, even as he does annoy me from time to time, and would like to help him reach his goals. I enjoy working with the Ranker dataset as it lets me answer very specific questions, like whether people who think the show 24 is overrated are also convinced that George W. Bush was a terrible person—or, in this case, I can study the people who specifically disagree that O’Reilly is annoying, in the hopes that O’Reilly can find these people and work to annoy them more.

Who does O’Reilly need to work harder to annoy? From our opinion graph of 20+ million edges, (so named because we can connect not only vague “likes” or “interests,” but specifically whether someone thinks something is best, worst, hot, annoying, overrated, etc.), we have hundreds of specific opinions that characterize people who don’t find O’Reilly annoying. Here are a chosen few findings about these people:

People who are NOT annoyed by O’Reilly tend to…
– find liberals like Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow, and Bill Maher annoying.
– believe that John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart are among the Best Actors in Film History.
– enjoy movies like The Sound of Music and Toy Story.
– watch America’s Got Talent, Cops, Dirty Jobs, Deadliest Catch, Home Improvement, and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
– listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Boston, and Elvis.
– enjoy comedians like Bob Hope, Jeff Foxworthy, Joan Rivers, and Billy Crystal.
– be attracted to  Carrie Underwood, Jessica Simpson, Brooklyn Decker, and Sarah Palin.

Thanks to big data, these audiences are all readily targetable online—and if O’Reilly really wants to annoy these people, he might want to study our biggest pet peeves list for ideas (e.g. chewing with his mouth open might work on TV). We hope this list will help O’Reilly with his ambitions for 2015, and please do reach out to us if you need more market research on how to annoy people more.

– Ravi Iyer

by    in Data, Opinion Graph

The Opinion Graph Connections between 24, George W. Bush, Jack Bauer, and Rachel Maddow.

As someone whose roots are in political psychology, I’m always interested in seeing how the Ranker dataset shows how our values are reflected in our entertainment choices.  We’ve seen many instances where politicians have cited 24 in the case for or against torture, but are politics reflected in attitudes toward 24 amongst the public?  Using data from users who have voted on multiple Ranker lists, including our lists polling for The Worst Person in History, the Greatest TV Characters of All-Time, the most Overrated TV shows and The Biggest Hollywood Douchebags, the clear answer is yes.

People who think George W. Bush is one of the worst people in history, also tend to think that 24 is one of the most overrated TV shows of all-time.

People who think Bush is a terrible person also think 24 is overrated.
People who think Bush is a terrible person also think 24 is overrated.

…and people who think Jack Bauer is one of the best TV Characters of All-Time also think that Rachel Maddow is one of Hollywood’s Biggest Douchebags.

maddowvsjackbauer
People who think Jack Bauer is a great TV character also think Rachel Maddow is a douchebag.

– Ravi Iyer

ps. …and these are just a few of the relationships between 24 and politicians in our opinion graph, which all tell the same basic story.

by    in Opinion Graph

The Clear Split Between AMD and Intel CPU Fans

Recently, Tom’s Hardware used the Ranker widget to poll for their Reader’s Choice awards.  Among the topics they polled was the best CPUs and while I knew that there would likely be a preference for AMD or Intel, the two largest manufacturers, I didn’t realize that the choice would be as stark.  I’m a relative novice compared to most of the people who voted in this poll, so perhaps this would not surprise them, but voting for an AMD CPU, made one, on average, 80% less likely to vote for an Intel CPU, and vice versa.  Below is a taxonomy of votes, with items that are voted on similarly closer together, based on a hierarchical cluster analysis of the votes on this list, so you can visualize the split for yourself.

TomsHardwareCPUsTaxonomy

 

– Ravi Iyer

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