Big Data is coming alive, sports leading the way | #SportsDataSV

origin_6942954396Big Data is coming alive in a very real way in Northern California. SiliconANGLE’s John Furrier and Wikibon’s Jeff Kelly sat down with top figures of the professional sports teams that call the Silicon Valley area home and discussed how their teams have embraced emerging technologies aimed at achieving successful front office operations, providing enhanced player and draft statistics on the field and improving the overall fan experience.

Tech-Targeting Future Fans


The idea that Big Data will be used in that third avenue is going to be one of the drivers for future wider adoption by the Enterprise in other industries. The near seamless integration of the technology in stadiums aimed at the fan user will appear similar to the rapid and widespread acceptance and adoption of mobile technology over the past decade. Once the general public is able to get their heads around what is now an amorphous concept, via the sports arena, there will be an increased pressure demand for the technology in other industries aimed at the customer level. And that can only be achieved, as was voiced in most of the interviews, when the organization as a whole works top to bottom to use the new technology to both streamline and add depth to their entire organization.

KovalDuring the interview featuring Dave Koval, President of the MLS San Jose Earthquakes, the more interesting take away was the realization that though each interview dealt with a major league sport, there is no one-size fits all approach for overall implementation. Koval cited specific technology requirements based on their fan demographic. Speaking to the organizations philosophy on tech Koval said, “I see it as an enabler. It helps create a better experience. One-third of our fans are millenials who only interact via their mobile. If you don’t support that and their needs, they turn off.”

But perhaps the most interesting innovation on the fan front is how the Earthquakes have endeavored to communicate with current and potential fans. “We have a Business Information unit with data scientists taking all of the information they can from soccer fans and bringing them together around the Quakes,” Koval stated. “We even look at the [style of] language they use online and try to ascertain their personality to tailor our communications to them. It allows us to be able to market to them one-on-one.”

Focusing On The Fan Experience


GarlandIf football is more your cup of tea, you’ll want to go to the SiliconANGLE channel on YouTube to watch the interview with Doug Garland, General Manager of Stadium Experience and Technology for the San Francisco 49ers. It appears they have taken a page from NASCAR with regard to improving overall fan engagement and their future initiatives are, no doubt, going to revolutionize the fan experience in a big way.

Garland provided an interesting equation during the conversation. Citing the 160-foot wide Mitsubishi HD installed at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, he stated no such centerpiece would be going into the new Levi Field. The stadium, with a capacity of 70,000, is located in a region of the country where users replace mobile devices every year and a half at a price of $1,000. Rather than, as a team, spending $70 million on a large centerpiece screen, the 49ers opted to focus on putting together a network, including WiFi, that would utilize the screens nearly every fan is carrying with them.

Watch the interviews in their entirety here:

At the new Levi Stadium, the fan experience via mobile device will begin before driving onto the property. From directing the fan to the stadium and to an available parking area through real-time data to letting them know which bathroom has the shortest lines, the fan’s handheld device will be key to providing an improved experience.

“What else are we going to do? One of the other areas that we know is a big hassle for fans at the game is waiting in long lines at concession stands. If you go to a football game and you get hungry, you are trying to figure out which part of which quarter do I have to miss so I can go get that hot dog,” Garland explained. “That’s a trade-off we don’t want our fans to have to make. So what we are going to enable at Levi Stadium is the ability for any fan sitting in any section of the stadium to order food and beverage to their seat using their mobile device.”

But the football fan experience would be nothing without the beloved replays. The San Francisco 49ers has the “competition on the couch” firmly in its crosshairs with a value-add they are perfecting right now for the new stadium. Their new innovation will be replays streamed to each and every app-enabled mobile device in the stadium within 5-seconds after every play. As Garland notes, this will apply to every play, even plays with controversial calls and plays currently under review.

After Moneyball


SchloughAn analysis of sport and Big Data that doesn’t bring the data-heavy sport of baseball into the mix would be an incomplete analysis. The importance of data on the game was highlighted by the 2011 film, Moneyball. When asked about the tension portrayed in the film between the old school scouts and the data geeks, Bill Schlough, Senior VP and CIO of the San Francisco Giants said, “I think that movie was closer to reality than a lot of people think. What’s interesting about old school scouts is that they rely on data as much as the new guys. They don’t always realize they are doing it though. They look at biomechanics.” He continued,”We are now quantifying what was once unquantifiable. That information was in the heads of the scouts. Now we have computational data models.”

While the 49ers and the Earthquakes are able to embrace and implement emerging technology from scratch with the new construction of stadiums, the Giants are in, although nationally recognized for its design and vistas, a 14 year old facility. Upgrading in an existing stadium presents its own challenges. Schlough, echoing a sentiment from every other guest of the evening, stated the importance of providing a robust wifi and 4G LTE environment for the fans. Implementation of wireless technology requires a lot of behind the scenes wiring and upgrades. However, if a fan can’t use a technology that is ubiquitous in their day-to-day lives at a sports facility then the overall fan experience is significantly diminished.

The Data Driven Front Office


TortoraFocusing on Big Data in the front office, John Tortora, the COO of the San Jose Sharks discussed several key areas the operation is improved by the embrace of new technology. It should be noted the principal owner of the Sharks is Hasso Plattner, co-founder of SAP. So it should come as no surprise that the business operation and customer service software is SAP branded. They use the software products for tailored employee evaluation and more efficient inter-office collaboration.

Tortora also pointed out the NHL has recognized the importance of Big Data at their league offices and via their weekly and bi-weekly analytics reports, individual teams are able to evaluate their own ticket and box sales and compare their volume and price points to each and every other team in the league.

We are standing on the precipice of a bold new perspective on the conduct of business. With the recognition of value for their own organizations and for the individual fan, sport organizations like the NHL, MLB, NASCAR, NFL and MLS are gently bringing their fans in for a soft landing to effect a seamless understanding and acceptance of concepts that, for now, are still murky to many in the general public and even some in the business world. The excitement that is brimming just under the surface is poised to soon revolutionize almost every aspect of our daily lives and, for now, it appears sport is leading the way.

(Originally published at


Researchers Develop Novel Compound From Fart Gas Which May Provide Real Health Benefits

large_2742657654A few years back, Kelly Clarkson, the first winner of television’s biggest talent show, American Idol, reminded us of the adage “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” in her 2011 hit single ‘Stronger’. The unfortunate failure in that logic is that sometimes what you come up against will actually kill you. Today, we learn about researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School who have studied a potentially lethal substance for the remarkable health benefits it can provide.

Hydrogen sulfide, perhaps infamously known for its trademark odor of rotten eggs or a particularly foul brand of flatulence, is a heavier-than-air gas that, in the right concentrations, can asphyxiate those unlucky enough to find themselves in its noxious presence. To be certain, being trapped on an elevator with Earl from accounting while he wages an intestinal battle with last night’s pepperoni pizza will not be pleasant, but neither will it be a fatal ascendancy into the hereafter.

Twenty-five years ago this month, however, a dairy farming family tragically learned of the lethality of hydrogen sulfide when, at approximately 9am, five male members were overtaken by and succumbed to the oxygen robbing chemical compound. The incident occurred in the farm’s manure pit, an enclosed structure just off the cattle barn that had cattle feces electrically conveyed into it.

The tragedy began when the farmer’s 28-year-old son entered the pit to replace the shear pin on the agitator shaft. Accompanying him was his 15-year-old nephew who, upon seeing his uncle overcome, yelled to his younger brother outside the pit to go and get help. When help returned, the 15-year-old had also become unresponsive in the pit. While emergency services were en route, the farmer, his other son and the farmer’s nephew all entered the pit to attempt an extraction. In less than 20 minutes, the farmer, his two sons, his grandson and his nephew all lay motionless inside the putrid environment.

Why then would researchers look at this highly-toxic compound with the offensive odor for some form of health benefit? It may be because, as discussed above, what doesn’t kill you can make you stronger. The team found that hydrogen sulfide, in just the right tiny dosage, can help to fend off life-altering conditions, from diabetes to stroke, heart attacks and dementia. They believe the right dosage, which they designed and produced in a novel compound, could be instrumental in developing future therapies.

Early work with their new compound has shown that it actively protects the powerhouse of the cell – mitochondria. Mitochondria – which regulate inflammation and determine whether a cell lives or dies – drive energy production in blood vessel cells. If the compound can prevent or even reverse mitochondrial damage in these cells, the team believes their creation will be sought as a primary treatment for patients suffering from heart failure, stroke and diabetes, as well as for those diagnosed with arthritis and dementia. Dysfunctional mitochondria have already been linked as a factor in the severity of diseases.

“When cells becomes stressed by disease,” noted professor Matt Whiteman of the University of Exeter Medical School, “they draw in enzymes to generate minute quantities of hydrogen sulfide. This keeps the mitochondria ticking over and allows cells to live.” Continuing he stated, “If this doesn’t happen, the cells die and lose the ability to regulate survival and control inflammation. We have exploited this natural process by making a compound, called AP39, which slowly delivers very small amounts of this gas specifically to the mitochondria. Our results indicate that if stressed cells are treated with AP39, mitochondria are protected and cells stay alive.”

Echoing Whiteman’s sentiment, Dr. Mark Wood of Biosciences at the university stated, “Although hydrogen sulfide is well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence, it is naturally produced in the body and could, in fact, be a healthcare hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases.”

While the research has yet to progress to human trials, professors Whiteman and Wood are hopeful their early results will hasten that process. So far, after looking at several models of disease, the pre-clinical results are promising. Their work with regard to cardiovascular disease shows that greater than 80 percent of the mitochondrial cells are able to survive in otherwise hostile and highly destructive conditions when the AP39 compound is administered.

Additionally, small-scale studies presented last month at the 3rd International Conference on Hydrogen Sulfide in Biology and Medicine in Kyoto, Japan showed benefits of the compound in treating high blood pressure. AP39 was able to reverse blood vessel stiffening which aided in lowering blood pressure. Also, post-heart attack, the compound has been effective at helping to slow the contractions of the heart, improving its efficiency.

The University of Exeter study appears in the journal Medicinal Chemistry Communications. Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch have published their own work with the Exeter compound which shows AP39 selectively protects mitochondrial DNA in mitochondria. Protecting that DNA is crucial because, once damaged, it is unable to be repaired and thus leaves the individual far more vulnerable to disease symptoms. The University of Texas research follow-up study was published in The Nitric Oxide Journal.

Hydrogen sulfide, which has previously proven its unpleasant and even lethal qualities could, in fact, be one of the more important cure-alls to come along in some time. The broad applications in cardiovascular health and for the regulation of inflammation along with the clinical success already enjoyed by the AP39 compound will quite possibly improve the health outcomes for those afflicted with anything from high blood pressure to dementia. So, it would appear, in this one instance at least, Ms. Clarkson certainly knew of what she sang.

photo credit: ficknoster via photopin cc
(Originally published at

Making Medical Data Better Data

large_2956265250In just over a week, the team here at SiliconANGLE will be setting off for Cambridge, Massachusetts for the 7th Annual MIT Chief Data Officer and Information Quality Symposium held on the MIT campus. The theme this year is ‘Big Data Demands Good Data’. In preparation for the event, we will be presenting a synopsis of some of the important topics scheduled to be covered in conjunction with other academic and real-world applications that apply.

One of the first sessions, to be presented by Dr. David Levine, Vice President of Informatics/Medical Director of Comparative Data and Informatics for United Healthcare, will address the need for improving risk models based on predictive analytics.  According to the abstract of Dr. Levine’s presentation, he will discuss how the advent of and improvements in data collection can be utilized to drive improved performance in health administration and patient care.

Writing recently for FierceHealthIT, Dan Bowman discussed how a recent survey of hospital CIOs found big data in the medical field was severely lacking in its efficacy. Bowman cites a healthsystemCIO.comsurvey in which 76 percent of respondents claimed their vendors were too often over-promising and under-delivering with their big data solutions.

In the same survey, it was found a full 52 percent of respondents admitting to not using their big data applications at anything approaching any level of sophistication. This figure is supported by the fact two-thirds of those who took the survey claimed their organization had neither the manpower nor the skill to take advantage of analytical tools at a high level. Each of these factor into one CIO stating the big data market, as it pertains to healthcare, isn’t likely to reach maturity for at least a few more years.

The challenge, it appears, is for the healthcare field to better understand the mountains of data they collect and learn how to better pore over it to help in establishing better predictive models for patient care and hospital administration. According to Chris Belmont, CIO at New Orleans’ Ochsner Health System, “We have the data points. We just have to do a better job of getting our hands around the data and understanding it better.”

What is the real-world benefit of achieving an optimal understanding and usage of data in the medical field though? Jeff Kelly of discussed the necessity of improving the collection and analysis of big data for those fields represented in the Industrial Internet in a posting entitled ‘The Industrial Internet and Big Data Analytics: Opportunities and Challenges’. Shockingly, he stated as much as 43 percent of an estimated $2.75 trillion in healthcare spending (for 2012 alone) was applied to unnecessary procedures and administrative waste. That abhorrent figure will be significantly reduced as the Industrial Internet is increasingly utilized by hospital CIOs to target administrative inefficiencies, eliminate waste and improve patient outcomes.

Dr. Levine’s presentation seems to aim at addressing the better utilization of data for improved patient outcomes. His work with United Healthcare, in tandem with their membership organizations, is striving to make predictive models more meaningful and actionable with the aim toward driving improved performance.

photo credit: Funky64 ( via photopin cc

(Originally published at

Drag Queen Singing Contest Winner Blamed For Killer Floods In Serbia, Bosnia And Croatia (VIDEO)

ESC2014_winner's_press_conference_11_(crop)Our American exceptionalism does not, it turns out, hold a monopoly on creepy and crazy religious zealots that try to assign divine reach to natural and man-made disasters. Giving our top evangelists a run for their money is an Eastern European contender who claims he alone knows the cause for last month’s horrible flooding in the region. Let’s be clear: groups that actively seek to bring harm to others are not guided by God. They act because they are unwilling or unable to recognize the humanity in those they attack. Weather events are not guided by the hand of God. They are natural phenomena that follow natural laws.

So sure, the late-Jerry Falwell’s assertion that 9/11 was visited upon us because God was mad at the abortionists, idolaters, adulterers, ACLU, gays and others for trying to make America a secular nation seemed a special brand of crazy.

And then just four short years later, Columbia Christians for Life channeled their inner Courtney Love to read the satellite imagery of Hurricane Katrina. Their email stated:

The image of the hurricane, with its eye already ashore at 12:32 p.m., Monday, August 29, looks like a fetus (unborn human baby) facing to the left (west) in the womb in the early weeks of gestation (approximately 6 weeks).

The five health clinics that provided safe and legal abortion to the women of New Orleans were, according to the group, most definitely in God’s crosshairs with the killer storm.

Why stop there? About a year after the storm, Pastor John Hagee claimed Katrina roared ashore and took more than 1,800 lives because New Orleans allowed Gay Pride Parades and events to take place. Yeah… that seems sensible.

But why should American clergy have all the fun? That might be why Serbian Orthodox cleric Patriarch Amfilohije of Montenegro has taken to blaming the recent spate of flooding that killed as many as 50 and displaced another 150,000 on Mr. Tom Neuwirth of Austria.

Eurovision 2014 Winning Song: Rise Like A Phoenix

Mr. Neuwirth, whom you might better recognize as Conchita Wurst, the bearded drag act that took home top honors at this year’s Eurovision contest, should be viewed as a canary in a coal mine, the eastern European zealot explains. He states:

This is not a coincidence, but a warning. God sent the rains as a reminder that people should not join the wild side.

Conchita Wurst now joins a long and distinguished list of patsies the blow hard religious leaders can trot out to try and explain actions and events they are unable to understand on any scientific or human level.

photo credit: Conchita Wurst –

(Originally published at

Viewing The World Through A PRISM

large_400175017The Edward Snowden saga has been playing out dramatically across the front pages of newspapers and nightly news worldwide. And the effects of his very public revelation of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance program, PRISM, still have not been fully realized. However, enough time has passed since he first sat down with Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian that a reexamination of the events seems in order.

Here’s a quick re-cap of what we do know. The NSA has, since 2007, been provided direct access to troves of data collected by for-profit companies like Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, AOL and others. The contents of that data include e-mails, search histories, live chats and file transfers. While the law that established the PRISM program claims only non-US citizens are subject to surveillance, Americans who communicate with anyone outside the United States are not exempted.

Each of the companies associated with PRISM initially offered flat-out denials they, in any way, cooperated with, participated in, or even knew of the existence of the NSA surveillance program. However, those denials became hollow earlier this month when it was reported Microsoft had helped the NSA circumvent their own encryption process which aided the agency in being able to intercept live web chats on Microsoft’s portal. Microsoft also worked with the agency to provide easier access to their cloud storage service, SkyDrive.

Since the idea of a government run surveillance program went from probability to confirmed reality, there have been statements and opinions offered by government officials, pundits, security analysts and citizens, alike. The legality of this program will have to be fought out by constitutional scholars and lawyers. For the rest of us, let’s look at the nature of privacy and how our being ever-more-tied to our mobile and digital devices strips away our anonymity.

Does Privacy Exist Anymore?

In a recent study, published in the March edition of Nature’s journal Scientific Reports, researchers pored over mobility data for 1.5M individuals based on their mobile providers antennas. They determined, when refreshed hourly, four spatio-temporal points are all that is needed to be able to uniquely identify 95 percent of the individuals. Their study, entitled ‘Unique in the Crowd: The privacy bounds of human mobility’, paints an interesting conundrum on how future frameworks must be created in order to protect the privacy of individuals.

As they claim in their introduction, “…the notion of privacy has been foundational to the development of our diverse societies, forming the basis for individuals’ rights such as free speech and religious freedom. Despite its importance, privacy has mainly relied on informal protection mechanisms.” The team highlights an important 19th Century publication by Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis, brought about by photography and yellow journalism, which argued privacy law must evolve in response to technological changes.

This fact remains especially true in a world dominated by modern information technologies like the Internet and mobile phones. Mobility data has been used previously for research purposes as well as to provide personalized services to users. However, a sufficiently motivated organization could use such data to, for instance, track movements of a competitor’s sales force, determine an individual’s place of worship, or even know when someone has been at a particular motel or abortion clinic. The research team, for this reason, suggests the maintenance of individual privacy, in the age of the smartphone, requires the individual to engage in idiosyncratic movement.

Angered Allies

Immediately after the PRISM program was brought to light, the US faced a backlash from many of our European allies. They claimed they were none too happy about the United States possibly spying on their own citizens. In an article published in Germany’s Der Spiegel, it was reported more than 20 million German phone connections and 10 million Internet data sets are monitored by the NSA on an average day. Busier days saw the 20 million figure jump as high as 60 million.

In the very same article, however, allegations of complicity on the part of the German government were leveled. The published interview, conducted with Snowden prior to his becoming the public face of the scandal, states, “The partnerships are organized in a way so that authorities in other countries can “insulate their political leaders from the backlash” in the event it becomes public “how grievously they’re violating global privacy.” Prior to its publication, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had decried the revelations, likening them to “Cold War” tactics.

While Britain has their own surveillance program, codenamed ‘Tempora’, and a publication in the French daily Le Monde stated that country was also engaged in a widespread surveillance scheme, German citizens have reason to express such sensitivities where spying and surveillance are concerned. Their not-too-distant past has examples of intrusive surveillance and snooping in the former communist German Democratic Republic and also during the Nazi era.

The Battle In Britain

The aforementioned ‘Tempora’ program, operated by Britain’s GCHQ eavesdropping agency, is known in the intelligence world as a “full take”. As Snowden detailed, “It sucks up all information, no matter where it comes from and which laws are broken. If you send a data packet and it goes through Britain, we’ll get it. If you download anything, and the server is in Britain, we’ll get it.”

In fact, when the NSA decides to target an individual, they virtually assume full control of a person’s data. Effectively, they take over an individual’s computer. That computer, as Snowden says, “…more or less belongs to the US government.”

This intrusion has led to lawsuits having been filed, both in the US and the UK, over an individual’s right to privacy. Privacy International filed suit against the British government, citing both PRISM and Tempora, which taps major internet cables around the world. As the privacy activist group states, the lack of a publically accessible legal framework for the NSA spying on British citizens, and then sending the resulting data to UK authorities, (a tact that would clearly be illegal if the British collected the data themselves), the legality of PRISM and Britain’s own Tempora program are called into question.

Privacy International’s research chief, Eric King says, “One of the underlying tenets of law in a democratic society is the accessibility and foreseeability of a law. If there is no way for citizens to know of the existence, interpretation or execution of a law, then the law is effectively secret. And secret law is not law. It is a fundamental breach of the social contract if the Government can operate with unrestrained power in such an arbitrary fashion.”

A similar lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in the United States, has effectively been quashed as the Obama administration asserted the FISA court has no requirement to publish its decisions, even those that address the constitutionality of mass surveillance programs.

Part 2 of this series, to be published Wednesday, July 31, will explore if and how large intelligence gathering schemes can be dismantled, what the future of governmental and private corporate surveillance means to you, and how you can take measures to protect your identity and privacy in this brave new world.

(originally published at

Sarah Palin Is Fighting Back In Lawsuit Over 9/11 Image She Used To Raise Political Donations

2866666534_5c1238e50f_zSarah Palin seems to suffer from “hyper-political projection”. She continually takes to Fox Noise,, Facebook and any other willing outlet to rail against all forms of illegality she claims are perpetrated by President Barack Obama. The tactic has served her well throughout her political career, first ousting a fellow commissioner on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission after she alleged ethical violations committed by state Republican Party chair Randy Ruedrich.

Palin’s half-term as Governor for the great state of Alaska was, itself, marred by blatant ethics violations, not the least of which was ‘Troopergate’ where Palin and her administration lobbied for the firing of Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten. Wooten, it should be noted, also happened to be the ex-brother-in-law of Governor Palin who was involved in a contentious custody dispute with the governor’s sister. The release of the Branchflower Investigative Report, endorsed by the Alaska statehouse, showed Palin to be in clear violation of the state’s ethics laws, though this didn’t stop Palin from spinning the findings to mean something completely different and untrue when she stated, “I’m very, very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing … any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that.” Oh, Sarah, if only wishing made it true.

We’ve all heard her highness lay allegations of outright tyranny, governing by fiat, lawless execution and whatever other Republican base buzzwords that side can come up with to tar and feather our current president. Just yesterday, Palin’s Facebook page offered the outlandish but predictable screed attacking the Kenyan Muslim of breaking the law when he traded five Guantanamo detainees, (this number is as high as 70, depending on how far right you go for your news) for POW Bowe Bergdahl. Lobbing attacks from the discredited sideline upon which she sits will likely not do anything but to gin up the rabid Republican base. This doesn’t stop Palin from becoming apoplectic at the thought that someone broke the law and we can’t let them get away with it. Unless of course the lawbreaker is Palin herself.

In September of 2013, the North Jersey Media Group filed a lawsuit against Mrs. Palin and her political action committee for copyright infringement. Palin and her PAC exploited an iconic image from the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks that showed NYFD Firefighters raising an American flag over the still smouldering Ground Zero. Having not sought permission for use of the image and certainly enjoying financial benefit for its use, the North Jersey Media Group’s claim is seeking unspecified damages.

Fighting the case all along, Palin lost a bid to have the case moved from the Manhattan Federal Court, where it was filed, to an Alaskan Federal Court or dismissed altogether. Now, her legal defense team has taken the offensive (both tactical and literal) position of thumbing their nose at the media group’s claim stating, “The Amended Complaint was not only filed in the wrong place, the Southern District of New York — it should never have been filed at all,” according to a May 13 court filing.

Palin further contends that neither she nor her minions ever sought out the image and that it was, in fact, generated automatically to her websites thanks to a widget app they use.

So we return to the notion of political projection. Mama Grizzly throws unfounded allegation after unfounded allegation at the administration responsible for handing her the most embarrassing defeat of her political career all while she is being made to stand in court on real, true and ultimately provable grounds of law breaking. Though Palin will likely only have to pay a fine for the actions of her PAC and herself, the irony is truly satisfying.

photo credit: Flicker – Llyn Hunter

(Originally published at

Long List Of Social Media Acronyms Compiled By FBI For Field Use

large_5193288074Short for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI has armed their agents with an exhaustive, though far from complete, listing of shorthand abbreviations used by the denizens and devotees of social media. The research into and printing of this list was brought to light thanks to the fine people over at the open-records website MuckRock, who filed a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request for the document back in January. What we learned is that the FBI produced an 83-page document with around 2,800 entries to help keep their agents up-to-date “in [their] work or for keeping up with [their] children and/or grandchildren.”

The “Twitter Shorthand Guide” is comprised of many of the most well-known social media acronyms created to date. LOL and LMAO are almost as well-known as someone who will TTYL. But the list also has some acronyms that, short of you being in the know and part of a community of users that communicates with the abbreviations frequently, might look as jumbled as a spoon just drawn from a steaming bowl of alphabet soup.

FMTKFYTFO could be an intimidating message to try and decode. Your lack of understanding might play right into the sender’s hands as it is “For me to know, for you to find out”, however. Several other highly obscure acronyms are listed in the document which, according to the DI’s (Directorate of Intelligence) IRSU (Intelligence Research Support Unit), became necessary, “with the advent of Twitter and other social media venues.”

David Shariatmadari, of The Guardian, wrote up an excellent article about the nature of sub-languages within cultures and how they have a propensity to morph and change as the affected language loses its secretive and exclusive qualities.

“There’s a long history of cliques and subcultures modifying the way they speak or write,” Shariatmadari stated. “They might do it to evade detection, or to strengthen the bonds of group membership by excluding others. The results are not languages, exactly, but sub-languages, byways that weave between the main roads of common parlance, navigable only if you have the right kind of map.”

He continued, “They have been called slangs, argots or cants. The circle of those who can understand may be as intimate as two, or it can encompass whole communities of strangers.”

The use of acronyms or argots or cants or slang on the internet was, in many cases, developed to evade detection, whether by parents standing over a child (PLOS = Parents Looking Over Shoulder) or from prying eyes out in cyberspace where TROL refers to a police patrol. And, as Shariatmadari notes, this is not a new phenomenon brought about by the ubiquity of online communications.

“Twitter has its strict 140-character limit; in comment threads or on forums, it becomes tiresome to have to type out long phrases,” he explained. “As Tom Standage has pointed out, similar constraints gave rise to the short forms used on Roman wax-tablet messages: SVEEB meant “If you are well, that is good, I am well” (si vales, bene est, ego valeo). SPD was short for “Sends many greetings” (salutem plurimam dicit). Now, as then, people who have something risky to say can make a virtue of these necessities. An abbreviation saves time, but it can also act as a means of addressing only those in the know.”

It is this last point that could render the FBI’s efforts fruitless. The nature of a sub-language is that it remains exclusively understood by a relatively small subset of individuals. By studying, understanding and distributing this list to its agents, the FBI has all but guaranteed that many of these acronyms will undergo a necessary change in order to communicate a message tailored to a specific audience while excluding from the conversation those they don’t want to let in.

In a somewhat related and very funny twist on the explosion of online acronyms, grabbed a list off the internet that was making the rounds of the forwarded e-mail circuit so very popular with members of the greatest generation. This list takes some of the more popular acronyms out there and redefines them to mean something to an elderly audience.

For example, where LOL might mean ‘Laughing Out Loud’ to most who have seen that acronym, this list, tailored for the more wizened among us, claims it means ‘Living On Lipitor’. And DWI now means ‘Driving While Incontinent’, BTW means ‘Bring The Wheelchair’ and it throws a twist to ROFL by adding CGU, meaning ‘Rolling On The Floor Laughing…..Can’t Get Up’. A MILF to this crowd means ‘A Meal I’d Like To Forget’ and when you see TTYL you may want to reach for your earplugs. The comedic take on this is ‘Talk To You Louder’.

Whether for fun, efficiency or evasion, our rekindled love affair with acronyms is here to stay. If you don’t have access to the FBI’s full list, just know that when you run across a new jumble of letters you can remain calm and LMGTFY (Let Me Google That For You)

photo credit: Marie Linder via photopin cc

(Originally published at