Daily Links 03/17/2014

These simple examples outline the heart of the problem with data:  interpretation.  Data by itself is of little value.  It is only when it is interpreted and understood that it begins to become information.  GovTech recently wrote an article outlining why search engines will not likely replace actual people in the near future.  If it were merely a question of pointing technology at the problem, we could all go home and wait for the Answer to Everything.  But, data doesn’t happen that way.  Data is very much like a computer:  it will do just as it’s told.  No more, no less.  A human is required to really understand what data makes sense and what doesn’t.  But, even then, there are many failed projects.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.[1] Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding.

After thinking, reading, discussing, and musing about personalization for about a year, I realized that there is a fine line between useful personalization and creepy personalization. It reminded me of the “uncanny valley” in human robotics. So I plotted the same kind of curves on two axes: Access to Data as the horizontal axis, and Perceived Helpfulness on the vertical axis.  For technology to get vast access to data AND make it past the invasive valley, it would have to be perceived as very high on the perceived helpfulness scale.

For a number of reasons, I don’t think that you can “toolify” data analysis that easily. I wished it would be, but from my hard-won experience with my own work and teaching people this stuff, I’d say it takes a lot of experience to be done properly and you need to know what you’re doing. Otherwise you will do stuff which breaks horribly once put into action on real data.

The opinions of other people matter, but they are the traps we set for ourselves. To get past our collective prison of self doubt – am I doing the right thing? Do I even know what the right thing is any more? – concentrate on the daily routine of doing what you enjoy, what you believe in, what you find intrinsically satisfying.

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