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Making Sense of the Data Explosion

This morning I was at my pal Om‘s What Comes Next for the Web — Om pulled together 40-50 people in San Francisco to talk about the combination of persistent, ever-present broadband networks and more powerful mobile devices that connect to those networks, and how we all make sense of the data explosion those two things have unleashed.

I sat in the back of the class and kept mum — I instinctively reprise my lame college and grad school behavior in those settings. … That said, I had a number of thoughts and reactions during the session, and thought I’d jot two of them down here to keep the conversation and thinking going:

Emotional and Qualitative Metadata

Marc Davis led a discussion about context — creating more standardized ways to put “who, what, where, when” metadata around media objects and other data that we create. There was much discussion of the use of geo-data in particular.

Thinking about this in the context of Vodpod (yes, I’m narrow-minded that way), I realized that this kind of “factual” metadata is often less important to us than “emotional” or “qualitative” metadata (some folks brought up emotional metadata in subsequent discussions, but the discussion on this was all too brief).

With video, the single most important piece of metadata is: is it any good? By “Good” I mean is it funny, or informational, or relevant, or beautiful.  And of course the answer to that for any given video is highly contextual (who is asking? who is answering?). We’re thinking about this a lot at Vodpod — and of course the fact we’re a community of video curators helps us — but creating interoperable ways to share this kind of qualitative metadata is a good subject for a follow-on discussion.

Serendipity Engines: Radio as a Guide?

Kevin Marks led a discussion about serendipity, and if there are ways for us to engineer and design for serendipity using all this new data. I kept turning my thoughts to the obvious and trite — but very best — example of serendipity by design on the web that I’ve seen so far — the radio offerings from Last.fm and Pandora. As I’ve written before, I’ve long been a big last.fm fan, and the appeal for me of that service is the radio feature — I invariably discover great new music through it every time I use it.

There have got to be some lessons learned from both of those services (one is top-down, one is bottom-up in how it determines which music to “recommend) that we can use.

And it also occurred to me that radio in general is an excellent format for serendipitous discovery, and that perhaps part of Twitter’s appeal for many of us is that it is a bit like radio for short-messages. Indeed, it was explicitly designed that way.

Maybe the radio analogy — in an extremely loose way, more psychological and state-of-mind than literal  — is a good one for those who seek to architect a bit of serendipity. It seems to me that when we’re explicitly receiving things — via the radio, or a Twitter stream — we’re more open to those moments of serendipity.

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One thought on “Making Sense of the Data Explosion

  1. Pingback: Real-Time Web: It’s about the publishing, not the consumption « Epigonic

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