It really does seem to me that data is where all the Web2.0 action is.
Because there has been so much talk about mashups it can be easy for us to be tired of hearing about them. We are all a bit Web2.0 weary already. Once you’ve seen one GoogleMap it’s hard to get excited about the next.
I’ve been refining my data-mining tools over the weekend, adding in some semantic possibilities (trying to understand what the data is about) and visualisation (trying to communicate what large amounts of data actually tells you). These two technologies, from my perspective have really matured over the last 5 years to the point where idiots like me can use them.
Being data-driven is key element for any online business these days. Even for the smaller business, there’s real value hiding in their data. Or to put it another way, there’s money in data, money in data about data, money in data about data about data and most companies are squandering their opportunity, missing the point.
The Four Types Of Data You Are Probably Burning
Of course, your company isn’t burning the data in a destructive way, but it is lying there, unwashed and unwanted. As a creative exercise, all you have to do it pick two of the types of data from the list below and “breed” them. I guarantee you will have a fantastic idea for your company.
1. Data That’s Out There (Wild, Free Range Data)
Out there on the internet is data just sitting there. You can take that data and do something with it, for example Google did that and they haven’t done so bad. Of course you might have to find two or three interesting sources of data and be creative with it but it IS possible.
And lurking in all the data that’s out there are things that people want to find an can’t. Whether you think Google is a good search engine or not if you examine what your customers really want the chances are you can help them to achieve it.
What are people saying about your company? Reputation-based search engines are starting to appear but do they work for your company?
The online landscape is rich with wild and free data, all you have to do is do if first find it, and then something interesting with it. “Interesting” doesn’t even have to be difficult to be interesting.
2. Your Internal Data (Captive Data)
Most companies are sitting on databases of products, people, places, messages and information flow. If you can find a way to blend your captive data with the wild stuff then you have a good chance of producing a healthy hybrid.
A trivial example might be to use data-mined data alongside customer lists. I can already imagine a “discovered” Flickr feed for a CRM system. I said the example was trivial, I meant scary.
Another tactic is to experiement with letting your captive data out into the wild with RSS feeds and seeing what happens.
3. Your Customers Data ( Very Sensitive Data )
Calm down. I don’t mean customers’ data per se, I mean data about data. I still find it fascinating that I would be loathe to a bookshop other than Amazon because they’ve not only got my addresss, but they’ve got the addresses of people I send stuff to. I can’t imagine how anyone could ever replace Last.fm because my listening chart has taken years to build up.
You sites’ log files, in fact all the stuff you know about your customers is data that becomes more valuable than the original transaction. It’s the data, my usage of the system (perhaps aggregated with other customers) that keeps me coming back.
4. Your Competitors Data (Almost Secret Data)
I say competitor, but by that, I mean any other organisation that is letting their data run free. There are opportunities to mix a customers profile data with some of your data.
The first thing that comes to mind is a terrible example… What if a call centre played me songs I like rather than ones I don’t? I said it was terrible, but it’s doable right now. A company has my phone number which is tied to my email address which is enough to find my Last.fm account and fish out a Nine Inch Nails track. If I’m phoning to complain though it would probably be better from them to look for songs Delicious tagged with “relaxing” and send me one of those whilst my call is being valued.
My point is that many companies are throwing away their crown jewels, their usage data. There exists huge opportunities for companies willing to blur their data boundaries, finding genuinely useful data where there once was none, combining external free-range data with internal data and letting internal data let it’s hair down a bit.
This data revolution isn’t just about Google Maps.