I came across an article called “In love with numbers: Getting the most out of your data” in the October 2010 issue of Inc. The article describes the dating site OkCupid which regularly mines the profiles of its customers to discover interesting trends and posts them to its blog. This bit of information piqued my interest, but with so much data available, the question becomes—does it do any good? It depends on your definition of “good,” but OkCupid uses its immense bank of information comprised of hundreds of millions of user interactions to uncover insights for users to score better chances of making a match. It advises men to look away from the camera for profile photos and not to use words like “hot” or “sexy” in initial communications with another member.
Since I began working at The Olinger Group in February 2010, I’ve become increasingly aware of the hordes of information collected about me everywhere I go and with every transaction I make. What happens with all this information? Where is it stored? How is it used? And most importantly, do I have any control over all of this?
You likely have also noticed the influx generic pop-up surveys when visiting company websites, the requests for added information when making purchases online or at the store, and of course the ever-present eye of Google, Facebook, or Amazon. Can potential improvements to the company’s services or individual customization of the site be incentive enough to keep from opting out?
When the airline inquires into the nature of the flight I’m booking—business, personal, or both—what will that knowledge inform? If I thought the airline might consider adding a direct early morning flight out of New Orleans with the knowledge of many business travelers on the route, I might be happily giving of this information. Most of the time, however, I suspect this data gets lost amidst the 800 MB of information estimated to be produced per every person on the planet every year.1
All this boils down to a question I try to always consider when working with our clients – “Is it research for research’s sake, or will it bring actionable insight to the client’s organization?” Customized, primary research must be focused, forward-thinking, and intelligent to remain relevant in the vast oceans of data engulfing us.
Jorie Kirschbaum, Account Executive