Connect with us

Tech News

Big data is useful, scary, and more subjective than you know

Big data helps us understand our customers, but it also helps budding companies sell information about you (or TO you), and is more subjective than you may know – it takes a human touch to determine what info is important.

Published

on

big data

big data

Big data is here and unavoidable

For years, we’ve written about big data and showcased the progression of business intelligence available now to brands of every size, in fact, most businesses have a feel for this type of data – open a spreadsheet of your sales data and you already know it’s just a bunch of numbers unless they are analyzed and filtered. Today, I want to review what big data is, how it is currently being used, what this means for the future, and most importantly, how it can be cherry picked and why it can upset entire industries.

[ba-pullquote align=”right”]”Big data” is typically consisting of at least dozens of terabytes in a single data set.[/ba-pullquote]“Big data” is defined as large data sets which cannot be managed with simple, common software that captures and processes the data, and is typically consisting of at least dozens of terabytes in a single data set. The challenges of big data are really big. It is described by Gartner analyst, Doug Laney as being three-dimensional, i.e. increasing volume (amount of data), velocity (speed of data in/out), and variety (range of data types, sources).

Let’s talk about how BIG this really is

Let me illustrate. The University of Nebraska physics department has 1.6 petabytes of data – that’s 1.6 million gigabytes in one department at one school. Boeing jet engines can produce 10 terabytes of operational information for every 30 minutes they turn. As of 2012, the average smartphone user has 736 pieces of personal data collected every day, stored for one to five years by service providers.

[ba-pullquote align=”right”]By 2020, there will be 5,200 gigabytes of data for every human on Earth.[/ba-pullquote]IBM’s chief executive, Virginia Rometty said, “By one estimate there will be 5,200 gigabytes of data for every human on the planet by 2020. And powerful new computing systems can store and make sense of it nearly instantaneously.” It has also been predicted that in the coming years, over 200,000 big data specialists will be required to make sense of the barrage of data being collected.

Big data is already being used today in a big way

Big data is a big deal and it’s not just because there’s a lot of it. In fact, today alone, SumAll raised $4 million and DataSift raised a whopping $42 million to help businesses make sense of their data as it relates to social media.

[ba-pullquote align=”right”]Retailers are analyzing your facial expressions on camera to tell if you’re a happy shopper, and tracking your gender, age, and size as you walk in the door.[/ba-pullquote]Big data is already used in amazing ways by the retail industry by analyzing shopper height and size as they walk in the door to determine age, gender, and more, and even have cameras analyzing facial expressions while you’re shopping to gauge your experience. If that doesn’t impress you, there’s already a seasoned company that is tracking “visual mentions” online so if you share a picture of your Starbucks cup on Instagram, even if you don’t say Starbucks or use GPS, Starbucks can see that their logo, even if curved, was used online on a social network.

Predicting the future with big data

But it’s not just that data is having a tremendous impact on life today, it is still a young sector with many startups yet to pop up to solve the data conundrums. SiftScience fights fraud using machine-learning that learns from data to recognize patterns of fraudulent behavior based on past examples, and Hadoop helps companies analyze massive amounts of generating about user behavior and their own operations while Recorded Future uses algorithms that unlock predictive signals based on web chatter to determine a brand anticipate risks and capitalize opportunities.

[ba-pullquote align=”right”]Intel is working on technology using big data to allow you to see three cars ahead, behind, and beside you.[/ba-pullquote]There are already projects in the works that allows forecasters to predict weather up to 42 days in advance, potentially saving lives and billions of dollars a year.Intel is working on a big data project that allows cars to communicate so drivers will be able to see three cars in front of, behind, and to the left and right – simultaneously. Ford is developing vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure systems to warn drivers of potentially hazardous traffic events, like cars going through red lights.

But big data has some really big problems

First, and least upsetting, is that there are big problems with demographics, leaving brands with a lot of data that doesn’t yet mean much. Why? Incomplete self reporting is a huge issue because brands are still focused on using social networking profile data to gather intelligence on their site users, fans, and the like, but when they rely on this data, people may not be completely truthful (they may say they are 32, but they’re 12, and so forth). Additionally, privacy does protect users to a certain extent, blocking intelligence gathering by brands. Lastly, data is still largely inconsistent and unconnected – you may have a Twitter account and Facebook account, but a third party doesn’t know that unless (a) you use the same username consistently or (b) you grant access to both accounts through that third party.

While other problems exist (like how will we ever store all of this data, disseminate it, and make sense of it, and does it all really matter?), the biggest one we see is the potential for cherry picking, because when you look at a data set, it still takes a human to actually determine what is important to garner from that data set.

[ba-pullquote align=”right”]Big data may mean more information, but it also means more false information.[/ba-pullquote]Industry expert Nassim Taleb opined in February, “With big data, researchers have brought cherry-picking to an industrial level. Modernity provides too many variables, but too little data per variable. So the spurious relationships grow much, much faster than real information. In other words: Big data may mean more information, but it also means more false information.”

Taleb addresses something that could lead one to think that big data is faulty and bad, but perhaps Taleb is really pointing out the human nature that is still required in some instances of analyzing big data – and most people would not typically question a researcher or their methods, leaving analysis in its youngest phase subjective.

Chris Treadaway, CEO and Founder of Polygraph Media which is famous for data-driven analytics said, “To analyze big data, you have to know when you have enough data, know that you’re looking at the right data, and know how and when to draw conclusions from the data using methods developed from statistics theory and data science. That’s the great irony of “big data” – it’s as much of an art as a science, which is why the best efforts are multidisciplinary.”

“Big data can find tremendous hidden relationships,” Treadaway continued, “but you have to make sure your bias isn’t to find conclusions that don’t exist. Bias can cause the situation Taleb describes, and will cause disinformation as he says. If you’re cautious, discerning, and careful, you can make the most of big data. But there are pitfalls for the careless.”

And the coup de gras

[ba-pullquote align=”right”]Your performance data, finances, company info and more are already being repackaged for public consumption and monetization.[/ba-pullquote]The coup de gras is that professionals are being threatened by new ways big data is being used, but they are not recognizing it as a big data issue.

Several industries are seeing data about them individually, their performance, their company, their finances, all analyzed and repackaged for public consumption or monetization.

Imagine a site launches tomorrow based on publicly available data and you’re a social media consultant. Let’s say that this new site looks at who has recommended you on LinkedIn, Yelp, Angie’s List and so on, and has determined that the people recommending you are clients of yours, based on the assumption that it is the only reason they’d recommend you or review you. The new site also analyzes words and pictures used in your online bios to determine characteristics about you.

Then, they take those reviews and characteristics and quantify you into a score, giving you more points if someone from Coca Cola reviewed you than if the local dentist reviewed you, implying that you’re a higher quality consultant if you’ve worked with a major brand like Coca Cola than if you worked with a local dentist (God forbid you specialize in social media for independent medical professionals).

Then, Google gets interested in this new site and they invest, and later, they want to use that data to populate your Google+ profile, so now you, the social media consultant, has a score next to their face to determine how good you are at your job.

What’s wrong with that?

[ba-pullquote align=”right”]You must understand that data requires a human to determine what is relevant, which doesn’t always allow for the full context of the data points.[/ba-pullquote]Data is subjective, even when raw – it takes humans to determine what data points in the sea of data are relevant, and it doesn’t always take into account the context surrounding that data. You, the social media consultant, could have taken a two year sabbatical to execute social media strategies pro bono for three tiny charities, four local restaurants, two African orphanages, and a spa, earning a reputation for your high quality of work and compassion that can’t possibly quantified by a computer.

This scenario is fake. For now. But with every human generating billions of data points every year, evaluations are just the first of many steps in what is to come with big data – the data is now generated, and it is a race to see what can be displayed about you and your business so that companies can sell to you or repackage your data and sell it to someone else. Even your brand will be using big data to gain insights into your customers so you can better serve them.

[ba-pullquote align=”right”]The race is on to see what can be displayed online about you and your business, which is being repackaged and resold.[/ba-pullquote]There are pros and cons to big data, but the reality is that it is unavoidable, even if you ignore it or misunderstand it. Consumers need to begin to recognize when they see big data, and understand that it may not be the true context of that data, as it is ripe with humans’ decisions regarding what is important about a data set. This is just the beginning.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Patrick Gallagher

    December 6, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    100% spot on conclusion: “…as it is ripe with humans’ decisions regarding what is important about a data set.”

    I like how Rory Sutherland (sometimes with Taleb or speaking about his work) kicks these ideas around. As soon as you pick certain data points and make them *the* metrics to follow the data becomes skewed and meaningless. You changed it just by looking at it so hard.

    Good stuff.

  2. Hank Miller

    December 9, 2013 at 7:35 am

    We are drowning in data and it can lead to paralysis by analysis.

    Watching videos and researching how to make shrimp scampi, set a broken wrist or install a hard drive does not mean that you can do it. Somewhere along the line a human with experience in the appropriate field has to provide guidance and identify the key points.

    Piles of data are just that – without someone with the abilty to effectively apply the appropriate parts to the specific question at hand there is nothing. Nothing but confusion

  3. Pingback: Top venture capitalist explains how tech startups can stand out when seeking funding - The American Genius

  4. Pingback: Big data is watching you - some will panic, others will rejoice - The American Genius

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Tech News

How to safeguard your small company’s data without distrusting staff

(TECHNOLOGY) Even a tiny company has valuable data that can be stolen from inside – without adopting a policy of distrust, you can take preventative action

Published

on

data theft

Data breaches are scarily common in today’s digital world, and even gargantuan businesses can easily be brought to their knees should a wayward phishing attempt (or a disgruntled former employee) succeed in making off with valuable information.

While your small business probably doesn’t have all of the same calibre of worries as your more monolithic counterparts, don’t make the mistake of thinking that your data can’t be stolen to devastating effect, even if you think the data you have is irrelevant and not worthy of being stolen (you’re wrong).

Cloud storage and increased collaborative tool use means that things like sensitive documents and files are at increased risk of theft. Small businesses are especially susceptible to this due to a lower likelihood of advanced security usage, so it pays to know what kinds of things you might be at risk of losing.

According to MUO, employees are most likely to steal collaborative documents, consumer databases, and any resources devoted to research and development.

Safeguarding these items can be tricky due to their relatively high-traffic use, so a preventive strategy is your best defense.

It should be noted that trust in your employees is crucial, and treating them like they’re poised to steal from you at any moment is not a particularly effective management strategy.

However, it’s important to be aware of the following reasons – and possible preventive measures – for employee theft of data.

Firstly, corporate espionage (as dramatic as it sounds) is still something you have to worry about as a small business owner. It isn’t uncommon for competitors to bribe (or even simply persuade) current employees to share data, even if your competitors are relatively small themselves.

Your employees should know that data is sacred (and confidential), but employing things like intrusion systems and holding trainings for recognition of espionage can help prevent this problem.

Those competitors might also try to snag some of your employees, and not just for their work ethic. Employees may save their own copies of documents that they think will be helpful in their new workspace; in doing so, they can unwittingly aid your competitor with much more than their skillset. Again, reminding your employees that all work documents are both confidential and property of your brand can cut down on accidental data theft in this category.

Non-Compete agreements and NDAs can also prevent this kind of theft, intentional or otherwise; if an employee chooses to leave your business, making sure they are aware of their contractual obligations is key. Perhaps the worst competitor you can have is a former employee who launches their own business in your field, though, and this is a situation in which data theft can be intellectual. Once again, Non-Competes and NDAs are helpful in mitigating damage in this context.

Finally, angry employees can find themselves doing a myriad of dumb (and harmful) things, up to and including data theft.

As mentioned earlier, early prevention is the best way to keep your data on your servers and out of your departing employees’ hands. Restricting employee access to files and folders can limit the number of possible breaches, and the aforementioned Non-Compete and Nondisclosure agreements are absolutely crucial in any business that deals in data–just make sure you’re discussing the terms of those agreements with employees as they come and go.

Continue Reading

Tech News

Twitter bid on hold, Tesla stock plummets: What’s next for Musk?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) The surprising bid of $44B coming in for Twitter from none other than Elon Musk is now on hold and Tesla stock is down. Is Musk in hot water?

Published

on

elon musk offers to buy twitter

In the largest corporate privatization deal in U.S. history, Twitter has accepted Elon Musk’s offer to buy 100% of Twitter for 44 billion.

Musk plans to privatize the company and do away with ads, a nearly 5-billion-dollar revenue source for Twitter, which accounts for 90% of their total income. Musk’s plan to do away with ads was nothing short of strategic. Musk is a free speech absolutist – or someone who believes that free speech should be unrestricted at all costs.

Advertisers are the main reason speech is restricted on social media platforms. For social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter who rely on advertisers buying space on their platforms, as well as sponsored content, to make most of their profits eliminating this revenue stream is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Without these restrictions or community guidelines, advertisers would not advertise on social media, and the sites could not generate much of their revenue.

But, when your pockets run as deep as Musk’s, I suppose revenue doesn’t particularly matter.

Some changes Musk plans on making are as follows: He claims, that despite the lack of advertisements, he will quintuple Twitter revenue by 2028. He plans on doing this while cutting Twitter’s reliance on ads to less than 50% of the total revenue. He also plans on growing the platform’s user base. He claims by 2025 there will be 69 million users on Twitter (however, considering 69 is his favorite number I’m not sure if this is accurate or another one of his famous trolling stunts). He also plans on offering a paid service, Twitter Blue, which will allow users to customize their Twitter experience for only $3 a month.

However, advertising is not the only hurdle to free speech on a social media platform.

Now Musk will face a barrage of questions and restrictions from government watchdogs, regulators, and activists. Twitter could even end up being banned in other countries if Musk attempts to skirt regulations. Musk wants to strip back content moderation rules and stop the censorship of new organizations; he has also not answered questions about how he plans to go about this, only stating that he’d only allow free speech that “matches the law”.

However, several European countries are changing their laws. New laws in the United Kingdom and The European Union (which comprises 27 European countries). The EU, for example, has enacted the Digital Services Act and The Digital Markets Act which aims to create a safer digital space, while protecting the rights of users and leveling the playing field for businesses. These acts extend to social media. The acts, in part, heavily fine companies that refuse to curtail illegal content on their platforms. However, as of May 9th, 2022, EU Industry Chief, Thierry Brighton, met with Elon Musk in Texas and they have reached an agreement regarding free speech and The Digital Services Act. Yet, the pair has not gone into detail about what exactly their agreement entails. When asked, Musk simply stated that it “totally aligned with his thinking”.

Musk may have circumvented the largest spanning cyber laws, but that does not mean he’s out of the woods regarding governmental regulation of Twitter around the world.

Now, the decision for Musk to purchase Twitter, and go public was a polarizing one and was met with mixed reactions. People did not hold back, and many roasted Musk for his decisions.

Some of my favorite reaction tweets are:

Elon Musk Twitter Tweet

Okay, but they make a good point. He’s been heralded as a “Real-life Tony Stark” and there’s nothing technically stopping him from being Iron Man.

Elon Musk Twitter Tweet

Live your dreams I guess, Elon.

Disgruntled Tweet about Musk Bid.

Disgruntled Tweet about Musk Bid.

Sure some people are disgruntled by the whole ordeal, but there’s really not a way to boycott this. In fact, the user base is only projected to grow for Twitter, with Elon at the helm.

Elon Musk Meme

And, in true Musk fashion he trolled Twitter users, critics and fans by tweeting a series of Tweets detailing which companies he was going to buy next.

Elon Musk Twitter Tweet

Musk then said would buy America’s most popular fast-food chain, and fix the most common complaint. I have to admit, I kind of want him to follow through on this one.

First, he threatened to buy Coca-Cola and put the cocaine back in, referring to the inception of the popular soft drink, when it first contained cocaine.

Elon Musk Twitter Tweet

Lastly, the new Twitter CEO threatened to shut down the entire platform altogether, so that all the users go outside.

Elon Musk Twitter Tweet

UPDATE:

As of Friday the 13th (spooky), Musk announced his Twitter bid of 44 billion dollars is currently on hold.

He claims he still plans on following through with the acquisition, and he will owe Twitter a one-billion-dollar breakup fee if he does not follow through. However, if he can afford to spend 44 billion on a social media website, I have to assume one billion dollars isn’t much of a deterrent for him. The bid could be on hold for multiple reasons.

He could be trying to negotiate a better price for Twitter, the deal could be falling apart or he could simply be walking away. One issue is that he was going to borrow against his smart car company, Tesla, but Tesla stock has been plummeting as of late. A part of me wonders if this is some kind of bizarre stunt in order to get media coverage and attention prior to unveiling a new concept at either Tesla or SpaceX. After the frenzy the news of Musk purchasing Twitter has caused, the deal may not even go through, and once again, the future of Twitter remains uncertain.

Continue Reading

Tech News

How to audit your site to really make sure it’s built for visitors, not for YOU

(ENTREPRENEUR) As a business owner, you may find yourself taking a more “set it and forget it” approach to your website, but this isn’t getting you visitors

Published

on

website redesign

As a business owner, your business is likely on your mind more often than not. It should be. But the way you design your website should reflect your readers, clients, and customers. As hard as it may be to let go of your personal taste, that’s exactly what you need to do to better serve customers.

Let’s be honest; how often do you actually look at your website? Probably when something’s broken or right when you roll it out, but not much beyond that.

I’ve had more business owners than I can count that have wanted me to fix their site… but are clueless about how long there’s been an issue. It could be a months-long problem they were simply unaware of until someone brought it to their attention—or worse, they don’t even realize there’s a problem because no one spoke up. They just went elsewhere.

Prospective clients or customers want to do business with professionals. When they visit a broken website, they don’t see you as a serious business owner, but as someone who doesn’t even care enough to operate a functioning site. It’s harsh, but it is the truth. First impressions matter. Your website is that impression, and it needs to appeal to everyone who visits it.

If you’re fortunate enough to make a great first impression in person, you might be okay. But if not, say goodbye to all those potential clients and site visitors—they don’t have time to waste waiting for your website to load or to refresh the page to get what they need.

Don’t set it and forget it

You’ve got so much going on with your business that your website simply won’t be top of mind for you. I get it. It’s like the guest bedroom or bathroom in your home. You set them up once with fancy towels and soaps, brand new pillows that aren’t crazy comfortable, and bedspreads that never change. Not exactly the best experience for your guests—the same goes for your website.

Did you design your guest bathroom with no input or consideration for your guests? If so, you may have done the same with your website, which means you’re not addressing their needs. What do they need from you? What are they looking for on your site? Are you giving them a great experience? When you launch your website without input and then just set it and forget it, you can forget new clients and customers, too.

What do your clients or customers want from you?

“But I want a pretty website that looks like a brochure!” I get this all the time. I tell my clients that we can certainly build a website like a brochure in the sense of it being a sales tool, but it needs to have substance. Your website should be based on your visitors’ needs and it should be functional. You wouldn’t print a brochure with blurry photos or dozens of typos. Why launch a website that doesn’t operate how it’s supposed to?

Your visitors’ wants and needs

You can add all the bells and whistles to your website, but if they don’t serve your customers, who cares? Instead, start small. Hubspot suggests video:

  1. Adding video to your email marketing campaigns can boost click-through rates by 200-300%
  2. Embedding videos on your landing pages can increase conversion rates by 80%
  3. 90% of customers use product videos to help them make purchasing decisions
  4. 65% of customers are more likely to buy a product online after they watch a video about it
  5. 59% of decision-makers would rather watch a video than reading articles or blog posts

With numbers like that, why wouldn’t you add video?

Your customers are telling you they want video—do it! Consumers are also sharing interesting information about what they want and need, and how they respond when these needs aren’t met:

  1. 57% of internet users won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed website on mobile
  2. com revenues skyrocketed by 35% when they listened to their community by incorporating suggestions into their homepage redesign
  3. 88% of online customers won’t return to websites that are difficult to use and have a poor user experience
  4. 85% of UX issues can be resolved by leveraging a usability test on a group of as few as seven users
  5. Visitors judge a website’s credibility based on its aesthetics, concluding within 3.42 seconds
  6. 81% of website visitors think less of a brand if the website is outdated
  7. First impressions are 94% design-related
  8. 75% of consumers admit to making judgments on a company’s credibility based on website design

Are you focusing on the right things?

Arbitrarily making decisions about your website to cater to what you think customers want doesn’t do any good for you or your customers. Have you been obsessing over what colors to use on your site? Or what your logo should look like based on trends? Instead, focus on how to effectively market your company to your customers based on their needs.

It’s easy to pour yourself into your business. You may have built it from the ground up and be attached to your design, name, or logo. And hell, you may have even seen a lot of success. Congrats! But remember, you don’t want to set it and forget it. If you’ve reached a plateau or are spending too much on marketing, you may consider revamping your company’s image.

How do I get there?

Everyone needs help—yes, even you. Work with someone who can create an exceptional customer experience that isn’t dictated by your specific taste and preferences. They can help you build a website that helps them understand your business and what it’d be like to work with you. You’re creating that welcoming, comfortable guest bedroom—that first impression—online.

Gain an understanding of what potential visitors, clients, or customers are looking for when they come to your site. Once you’ve got that down, work with a creative team to bring your business to life. You’re here to tell them everything you know about your customers and their wants and desires. You’re not here to micromanage them and end up with a website that caters to you and you alone. Remember that.

A note to the creatives

You create stunning websites, designs, content, and more for your clients. But with your portfolio, everything seems to fall by the wayside. Clients want to see your work and how professional you are to work with. You may be very artistic, but do your clients understand what that means? Or are they looking at your portfolio, wondering what exactly you do?

Make it easy for potential clients to understand what you do, how to work with you, and how you’ll meet their needs. Remember, as much as your clients can get in their own way of success, so can you. Be clear, be professional, and highlight all you can do… for your clients.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Our Great Partners

The
American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.

Emerging Stories

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!