Saturday, May 19, 2012

Crowdsourced information

Crowdsourcing is changing the way we live, even if you don't notice it at first. A person with access to the internet has more information available to them than the sum of all information available throughout history prior to the last few years. But how do you sort through all of the useless information and find what you are looking for. Crowdsourcing is actually on of the biggest factors in this information explosion, as people are putting massive amount of data into the internet ecosystem. Interestingly enough, user-generated data can both help and hurt our efforts to sift through the haystack and find the needles we are looking for

I saw a video recently where the founder of ShareThis talked about sharing replacing search, as people are more interested in what other people think than the results of a computer algorithm. Social network recommendations can help us find trusted sources of information and a variety of other internet resources. For years my family has relied on product reviews found on the sites of a number of internet retailers to help us identify strengths and weaknesses of different options before making purchase decisions. For the most part, we have found the information provided by those reviews to be very reliable. Theses cases show the value of crowdsourced information, provided by users who are most often not being compensated in any way for their contribution.

On the other hand, the volume of user-entered data on the internet can get in the way when we are trying to find very detailed information. I recently purchased an aquarium for my family and was looking for advice on the care and feeding of my new fish. There were some cases where a single Google search resulted in three or more opinions that contradicted one another. Similarly, when I was researching some unusual health troubles, I found far too many responses that provided no indication of the credentials of the author. Services like Yahoo Answers are very interesting, yet I have found many reasons to question the validity of the information they provide. Wikipedia suffers from similar concerns about the accuracy and validity of certain articles.

In addition, these examples of the results of generally well-intentioned efforts are further complicated by those who maliciously wish to mislead others by manipulating open systems. Companies have been found to enter fake reviews of their own products in the hopes of increasing sales. Then there are those who wish to promote their personal agendas by intentionally providing incorrect information.

It will be interesting to see how society evolves to deal with this divergence. As someone very interested in data quality, I see a number of ways to approach these issues with technology we already have available to us. Twitter dealt with fake accounts for famous individuals by providing a method of verifying an account. Other sites limit the volume of information by setting tight access controls on content creation or by having a small set moderators. Many online answer sites allow users to rate responses so that invalid or misleading responses drop in search results and impact fewer searchers. No one answer is perfect, but the various solutions offer us insight on how we can leverage to benefits of crowdsourced data and minimize the dangers.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The springtime of BI

Domo brought in grilled burgers and brats today for lunch. Since I usually bring lunch and eat at my desk, it was nice to spend some time outside while it is light out. Today is a beautiful sunny day here in Utah County and feeling the warm sun reminded me how summer is just around the corner.

Having lived in Utah for almost 20 years now, I love the period between spring and summer. The temperatures start pushing into the 80's, but the mornings and evenings are still brisk. The flowers begin to bloom and everything becomes green once again. This change in seasons has caused me to reflect on other things that are changing in exciting ways.
Business Intelligence is in the midst of a resurgence right now, with every major vendor making efforts to capitalize on shifts in technology by creating more usable solutions. Additionally, a number of new players are introducing new solutions that are reshaping the industry. "Big Data" is a hot topic right now, but I see a larger force at work.

BI consumers have been told for years what they would be able to measure, but now they are realizing that they don't have to settle any longer. The technology and the practices behind BI have evolved to the point that practically anything is possible. On top of that framework, solution providers are realizing that BI projects will only be successful if the users get what they need and actually use the tools to improve their performance.
It is a great time to be a consumer of BI. The long winter of discontent with inadequate or difficult to use tools is quickly coming to an end and new, powerful and usable solutions are beginning to become available. As someone who has worked long hard to make these changes a reality, it is very satisfying to see the reactions of these users who are finally getting what they have had to go without for s long.

Monday, May 14, 2012

BI Sets its sights on social

In the spirit of better understanding social media as an organization, Domo has invited their employees to join together in a great social experiment. Participation in Domosocial requires that employees do two main things, explore the most popular social platforms and technologies and then develop and maintain a higher social presence. Some employees already have well-established online identities, while others are basically starting from scratch.

Having done a little social media analysis myself, I find the subject fascinating and am anxious to learn more. What drives some people to interact, and what prevents others? Do people respond more to great customer service or to bad experiences?  Obviously Domosocial doesn't directly explore these subjects, but what it does is force us to step out of our comfort zone and play with technologies that may be very foreign to us. Once we understand our own feelings toward various social media outlets, we will be more capable of analyzing trends and patterns in a business context.

In addition to the actual experiment, we will have the example of Domo the company to study. We are a very young company so there is not a lot of historical context, but I am anxious to see the benefits and potential drawbacks of launching a new product in a very public way. How does having an established social presence affect the sales process? Can a socially-adept workforce provide positive marketing that gets the attention of potential prospects? As the company grows, can we effectively govern social media to prevent undesirable side-effects?

One of the most talked about subjects in Business Intelligence over the past few months has been social media. There is a great deal of data being generated, and there are a lot of insights that can be obtained by analyzing that data. Companies are able to interact with customers in new ways, and studying that interaction in very public forums can be the keys to maximizing the positive and minimizing the negative results of that interaction.

Strategic BI is all about sorting through mountains of data to find the nuggets of information that help business leaders make optimal decisions. Social media creates mountains of data on a daily basis, and as a community we are still learning the true value of that data. In my opinion, social data gains new relevance when combined with data from other sources to gain a holistic view of the organization. How does the number of social media mentions trend versus revenue? Does hiring benefit from increased social presence? Is a candidate's social media profile contain any indicators of how successful an employee they would make?

When a company is able to improve its decision making process using BI, it is often able to overcome other obstacles in its efforts to compete in what has become a global marketplace. This advantage makes accurate analysis of complex data sets extremely valuable to any business hoping to make an impact in its respective market. Domo is devoted to providing that analysis in an innovative and engaging environment, and this experiment will only help us to craft a solution that includes social media in a meaningful way.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hello there

I have been wanting to start a blog for a while now in order to share my views on data and how it is changing the world we live in. The subject is near and dear to me, as I have been working with data my entire professional career. Some very exciting things have been happening in this area, and I am anxious to see what is coming over the next few months and into the future.

The information explosion is changing not only the way we do business, but the way we live. In this blog I will discuss ways that people can leverage the power of information and hopefully help them sift through the noise to find real meaning in the ocean of available data.