Where Is the Data Movement Going?
Not too long ago, I was helping a start-up company in hiring a data analyst. During that process, I interviewed a candidate who boldly told me that he thought “Data Mining” did not exist before the turn of the century. He was shocked to hear that someone of my age (i.e., a grownup) actually had a long career making money with data. That was pretty funny at the time, as such a claim is not so different from saying the movie industry did not exist before the invention of computer graphics. Alright, some action sequences did look rudimentary in the olden days, but we supplemented crude special effects with our imagination, didn’t we?
Nonetheless, the up-and-coming generation cannot even imagine living in the Old World, which was without constant connection to the net. Many of them do not own a TV set, nor do they have a land-line. To them, the environment in which the grownups grew up, where there were no means to record anything and everything and share the results instantaneously, might as well be an extension of the Stone Age.
But some of us actually remember all too vividly the commercial application of mainframe computers, the PC revolution, expansion of the net, emergence and domination of wireless devices, and migration of information to the cloud. In fact, by witnessing such an evolution in a relatively short period of time, I can argue that the current way of sharing information through the cloud isn’t so different from the way the mainframe computers worked in the past, minus the fact that ugly green and black monitors were replaced by retina display and wires are about to go extinct.
In any case, data surely existed before the invention of the computers and massive storage devices. They were just not in digital format, but contained in scrolls or leatherbound books, taking up large spaces called libraries with limited access. Proper data mining could have taken decades in those days, including a few trips to Alexandria. Even after human beings started digitizing information, data mining – the activity of converting information to insights and applying them to decision-making processes — was not all that glorious for the first few decades.
Stephen H. Yu is a world-class database marketer. He has a proven track record in comprehensive strategic planning and tactical execution, effectively bridging the gap between the marketing and technology world with a balanced view obtained from more than 30 years of experience in best practices of database marketing. Currently, Yu is president and chief consultant at Willow Data Strategy. Previously, he was the head of analytics and insights at eClerx, and VP, Data Strategy & Analytics at Infogroup. Prior to that, Yu was the founding CTO of I-Behavior Inc., which pioneered the use of SKU-level behavioral data. “As a long-time data player with plenty of battle experiences, I would like to share my thoughts and knowledge that I obtained from being a bridge person between the marketing world and the technology world. In the end, data and analytics are just tools for decision-makers; let’s think about what we should be (or shouldn’t be) doing with them first. And the tools must be wielded properly to meet the goals, so let me share some useful tricks in database design, data refinement process and analytics.” Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.