No one is better known for using data to uncover important trends and surprising connections than best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell. As a staff writer for the New Yorker and in groundbreaking books like The Tipping Point, Outliers, Blink, and others, Malcolm has shared provocative theories and insights based on scientific data, covering everything from controlling crime to when you should be born in order to become a pro hockey player.

So we couldn’t be more excited to welcome Malcolm as a keynote speaker at our FutureStack: New York conference on September 13-14. An accomplished and in-demand speaker (check out his TED Talks here), he’ll be closing the first day of the event with a fascinating discussion of how to use data to help understand the most important questions facing businesses in the 21st century. To put his talk in context, we discussed some of the things he’s interested in covering at FutureStack.

To hear Malcolm’s informative and inspiring FutureStack: New York keynote live and in person, be sure to register today before tickets to this event sell out!


malcolm gladwellNew Relic: What are you most interested in discussing at FutureStack: New York?

Malcolm Gladwell: I’ve given talks about the strengths and limits of analytics before. I think that’s a really interesting and important topic. For people in the field, knowing what kinds of problems you can solve with data and analytics, and what kinds of problems you need other tools to solve—what lies outside the software/digital realm—is crucial.

I’ve given a lot of thought recently to the question of what are the right kinds of questions you should ask about in data analytics. When you begin looking at, working with, and analyzing data, what are the big questions you should start with? Are there basic questions that should be answered first before you can make sense of what you’re looking at?

New Relic: Can you give an example of what some of those questions might be?

Malcolm Gladwell: Questions that have to do with human behavior, that have to do with organizations. And then there’s structure and psychology. Those are also other really fruitful avenues.

These are all attempts to help people frame their work, to understand what they’re really doing. They know the work that’s in front of them, they know what they do—the very sophisticated tasks they perform—but they may not know how to frame those tasks to gain the benefits they’re looking for.

I often find it useful in these setting to work by analogy, to use examples from fields outside the audience’s own field. It’s a lot easier to get people to see lessons that way.

New Relic: FutureStack will have hundreds of technical practitioners and business leaders in the audience. What’s the biggest takeaway you want them to walk away with from your session?

Malcolm Gladwell: I would like to inspire attendees to think more about context for the data they work with.

New Relic: Finally, in addition to writing and public speaking, can you give us a hint of the other things you’re working on and how you spend your free time outside of work?

Malcolm Gladwell: I’m focusing on two things right now. The first is my podcast Revisionist History. I’ve done two seasons, each of ten shows. These are scripted, reported shows, so that takes up about half my time. I’ve been stunned by the response the podcast has gotten. There is an intimacy and immediacy to the medium that makes it incredibly powerful.

I’ve also just started a new book; it’s just in the beginning phases. What I’m interested in most is the idea of trust—how we communicate with people we may not know or understand.

Outside of work, my big obsessive interest is running! I’m preparing for the Fifth Avenue Mile this fall, and I tend to spend much of my free time live-streaming obscure European track meets.


Join us in New York!

To learn more about Malcolm’s presentation and everything that’s happening at FutureStack17: New York, check out the event website and read the press releaseRegister today before the event sells out!

Follow @futurestack and the #futurestack hashtag on Twitter to stay updated.

Watch a video preview of our FutureStack: New York event below:

See photos from FutureStack16: San Francisco and FutureStack15: San Francisco.


Note: Event dates, speakers, and schedules are subject to change without notice.'

Fredric Paul (aka The Freditor) is Editor in Chief for New Relic. He's an award-winning writer, editor, and content strategist who has held senior editorial positions at ReadWrite,, InformationWeek, CNET, Electronic Entertainment, PC World, and PC|Computing. His writing has appeared in MIT Technology Review, Omni, Conde Nast Traveler, and Newsweek, among other places. View posts by .

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