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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Is there such a thing as too much data?

Sometimes I like to consider the unanswerable questions. The question of "Is there such a thing as too much data?" may seem like a very simple question to answer but I would like to lay out the basis for why I believe this is more a conundrum than it seems.

1) It is all about perspective.
If you were to show up for class in Elementary School and the teacher began running through the "basics" of nuclear physics and there was a test at the end of the class do you think you would be able to pass that class? Can a client who has grown up in the traditional media "age" be given a log file with all the data he/she would need to show how his/her customers interact with their new website and be able to tell what they need to do?

Are these two cases similar?

I believe that they are. In each case the individuals are being given data to which they may or may not have a frame of reference for. Each having their own set of alien terminology with a mix of words that they may have heard before but could quite possible have a very different meaning in each context. Although the minds of each are in a different state of development, each has been trained in some specific tasks. Eventually with enough training each of these sets of people will be able to analyze and make sense of what they see before them.

2) Do we really need it?
Even though as I am writing this I am think of digital media, this really applies to all forms of analysis. Do we really need all the data that we have in our reach? As a society? Yes, we probably do need all the data that we can get. As individual people and companies? Probably not, but being able to pick and choose the data that will tell us what we need to know has started becoming a crucial factor in business and personal decision making. We now have match making services that can give you match making factors to see who you would like to date. We also have free tools that go beyond telling us how many people visited our sites (think of those cheesy visitor counters we used to put on the bottom of our websites). There really is now no way to limit the amount of data available because if limiting begins a group of people or companies will begin to cry foul. They are now reliant on that data to make "informed" decisions. Once again though just like in the first bullet point giving this information to the wrong group too early can lead to false positives and inaccurate decision making criteria.

4) Why is there so much data?
There is so much data because it is now inexpensive to capitalize on the World Wide Web's global community. Research can be done quickly and with a large sample size not previously available. The tools to analyze this data are also coming on strong as well with global open-source collaborations that are added-to and streamlined to perform the tasks that an analyst would have spent weeks or months creating with archaic tools like Excel. Don't get me wrong Excel has grown along with these online tools to maintain its needed status, but compare the first version of Excel with its current version and you will see the addition of many new analytical features that have grown with the times.

4) What happens if the data goes away?
Just like the show on the History Channel Life After People what will the business and personal worlds look like after the data is gone. We will actually have to talk to people face to face to figure out if a new restaurant good. We will have to rely on local data or expensive nationwide data. Without the expansive growth of the Internet this data may not have become the necessity it is today. We would have to rely on the traveling Minstrel to regale the stories of yonder countries and the trophies that they bring.

So for those of you who are allergic to data. BEWARE...your symptoms are going to get worse..a lot worse. Signing off for now! Kevin

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It has been way too long I've missed you oh so much!

Sorry I have not been posting new stuff up here lately. There has been a lot going on with organizing my life and trying to keep up on current work prospects and looking for that great permanent position. Anyway I thought I would update you all on some of my latest rants and raves:

1) The United States Postal Service: As I sat down yesterday with my son and daughter to send off a Thank You note via regular mail, my oldest child ,aka the daughter, was acting very confused. She didn't understand why I had to put the great sheet of paper that she colored on and wrote on into an envelope to send it. She had seen me typing emails and all I did was type and send and it was gone to that person. Next she didn't understand why I needed a stamp to send it, couldn't I just put it in the mailbox and off it goes, after all we just go out to the mailbox to get our mail that we are receiving. This started me thinking as I was frantically searching for some stamps to send these two letters. Why hasn't mailing things from home become a more automated system? In my search for a stamp I went to and tried to find a place for me to purchase a single stamp and print it off on my printer once again hit a dead end. The recent article on the collapse of the US Postal Service made me think even harder about the failures of this antiquated system for sending documents across the country.

First let's talk about the inconvenient process itself. Now I am not suggesting I just want to sit in my Lazy-boy recliner all day and have a robot take out and get my mail. No, I want something where if I need to send something I can use the tools I have at my disposal, aka computer, printer, mailbox. I know there are services out there where you can print off postage at a premium price but why doesn't the source have a means to do this same task. Also the mailbox itself may be due for an upgrade. Why not charge me on letters I place in my mailbox through a scanning device on the mailbox itself. This would have two functions: 1)I could easily pay for mail similar to power or gas as a monthly varying cost. 2)This method could be used to easily plan delivery routes especially for packages. Maybe that is too ambitious but I think if your current business model is failing you need to look at how you can make it easier for your customers to use your services. Possibly implement a better online strategy or diversify your product offerings.

2)Bing-Hoo: Not yet sure what to think of this yet. I don't have the full details of how an advertiser on Bing who also advertises on Yahoo! will fair in this conglomeration. Will the placement of the ads be exactly the same on both of them since the search results will be provided by one source (Bing). Or will Yahoo! still interpret those listings into their own SERP. One thing is for sure is that I will be suggesting that those that have the budget start a PPC campaign on Bing to take advantage of the $100 million dollars worth of advertising that they are pumping into the market. My reasoning for this is not because I believe Bing has a better way of organizing a SERP but because I believe people will incorporate Bing into their search queries just to see how it works. It is the new plaything on the block and people will more than likely be trying out. So get out there and take advantage of being in front of that audience before your competitor does.

3)The Economy: Ok I don't have a lot of controversial stuff to say on this one. I do however see some positive signs from where I am standing. I am no financial guru but I am a guy on the street looking for a job and there seems to be some interest out there in hiring on people to help with the workload that has started to come back in. I still think people are taking their time in making these hires and for good reason. With a huge available workforce to choose from and eagerness of these individuals to find something...anything. There has to be a balancing act of finding the perfect employee who has a ton of experience for that entry level position you are hiring for but will not bolt when the market is in full steam again. From my perspective loyalty needs to be a consideration when making hiring decisions sure a prospective employee may not have 10 years of experience in the duty but does the position gain anything from that amount of experience or does someone with 2 years experience who is malleable and has a track record of loyal employment make a better fit. Just putting in my 2 cents here.

I hope everyone has had a great summer thus far. I wish you all the best in your adventures in the business world and as always if you don't agree with me, don't go to hell just leave a comment and let's have a discussion. Thats what social media is all about. Peace out for now.


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