And it’s called data… Data about you, me, our friends, our associates, our location, our likes and dislikes, and yes, a good chance there’s data about what some of us had for breakfast. The amount of data is exploding, maybe even expanding faster than even the laws of nature and physics can comprehend.
The “internet of things” is generating unimaginable amounts of data. The question is, how much of this data is really worthwhile? How much of it is “information”? And how much value is in that information? These are not easy questions to answer. Back in 1998 David Shenk pondered some of these questions in his book “Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut“. Data smog is now part of our lives. Sensory overload is inescapable, so we might as well figure out how to adapt to it. But amidst the blizzard of ones and zeros, there’s some pretty good stuff, and some smart companies have recognized the value of their data – and could be sitting on top of the “mother lode”…
- Last year, despite the global recession, the Digital Universe set a record. It grew by 62% to nearly 800,000 petabytes. A petabyte is a million gigabytes. Picture a stack of DVDs reaching from the earth to the moon and back.
- This year, the Digital Universe will grow almost as fast to 1.2 million petabytes, or 1.2 zettabytes. (There’s a word we haven’t had to use until now.
- This explosive growth means that by 2020, our Digital Universe will be 44 TIMES AS BIG as it was in 2009. Our stack of DVDs would now reach halfway to Mars.Source: IDC iView Report
As I have said before, having lots of data is good, but having data about relationships between things is better. And even better if you add context to the data. But that’s still a ways off, so let’s look at a more tangible example.
There’s a good chance that if you are reading this blog you are a business professional. And there’s probably a 99+% chance that you are on Linkedin. We all know what Linkedin provides – the ability to display your professional credentials, connect to other business associates, join groups, post and find jobs, etc. All good stuff. But like Facebook, Linkedin is now seeing the value of the “relationships” between things. And in these relationships lies value.
Linkedin has added a new feature (still in beta at the time of this post) to their “companies” section. If you search on a company, say… IBM… you’ll get the normal Linkedin information – people in your network, new hires, employees, etc. Over on the right is a new link that says “Check out insightful statistics about IBM employees…”. Clicking on this link brings up a whole new set of views (statistics and graphs) about IBM. Comparisons of job function composition, years of experience, educational degrees, universities attended. And there’s charts on company growth (not sure exactly how this is calculated) and the number of employees who have changed their title. And more statistics show things like what other companies were viewed by users who viewed IBM, what other companies IBM employees are connected to, departures, most viewed, etc. Lots of information. Not sure how valuable it is at this point in time, but that’s not the issue at hand. The point is, Linkedin is now creating information about relationships, and at some point it will have value. The question is, when and how will Linkedin monetize it? It will be interesting to follow this one.
When you combine four hundred million people with data about not only where they live, but who their friends are, what they’re interested in, and what they do online – Facebook potentially has the Internet genome project. Mike Lzerow, CEO, Buddy Media (from The Facebook Effect, by David Kirkpatrick).
The next wave of the digital economy will be about personalization. Not in the sense that we as users determine our personal profile. The personalization will be determined by the owners of the data from which personal interests and relationships are derived. This personalization will then be used to shape our buying habits, which in turn will be a feedback mechanism into the personalization process. Those who use the system on a regular basis will enjoy the “benefits” (some say downside) of the data centric world that is ahead of us.
As I have written before, there will be a battle for social experience playing field. Google has lots of data, probably more than Facebook in terms of raw ones and zeros. But Facebook has the relationships and that will continue to give it a leg up on Google when it comes to exploiting the opportunity to extract value from the underlying data. So as companies look to the future of social networking and social media a key aspect of their planning process must include “relationship” modeling. If you’re not thinking about this then it’s time to start. And, by the way, add some “context” thinking on top of it… otherwise you will be on the outside looking in, and that can be pretty uncomfortable when the economic climate turns bad.