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Researchers should be aware of the problems with observational data

Posted by Ray Poynter, 18 May, 2018 The world is shifting from asking questions to utilising observational data (mostly for very good reasons) and this is creating a new set of problems that researchers need to recognise and address. What is observational data? Observational data refers to information gathered without the subject of the research (for example an individual customer, patient, employee, etc.) having to be explicitly involved in recording what they are doing. For example, collecting data without people having to respond to a questionnaire, without having to take part in a depth interview, and without having to maintain a research diary. Most big data is observational data, for example, the transaction records from a bank, people’s viewing habits on a video streaming service, or posts in social media. But, observational data can also be small data (based on just a few people). For example, participant ethnographic methods, used to to study people in their everyday lives, collects observational data, that is clearly not ‘big data’. Observational data can be based on census or it can be based on sample. For example, a few years ago a leading mobile phone company was able to sell very detailed data about […]

Ray Poynter

My Predictions for 2016

Despite Nobel prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr’s advice that ‘Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future’, here are my predictions for 2016. 1) Bigger Legal Problems for Google and Facebook This year has shown an escalation in problems for Google, Facebook and other major players. European Governments seem to be getting into their stride, Governments as diverse (and repressive) as Turkey, Russia, and China are putting obstacles in the way of the hegemony that has been created by the major platforms. One judge in Brazil took WhatsApp away from 90 million users for 48 hours with a bang of his gavel. I think this will get more common in 2016, firstly with more fines, secondly with more restrictions, and possibly with jail sentences. These altercations will have implications for people using cloud services, the free flow of data internationally, and probably on the options for marketing to and speaking with people. 2) Automation The big push is (and always has been) for Cheaper, Faster, Better, but in most cases the real winners are cheaper and faster and good enough (to borrow a phrase from Zappistore’s Stephen Phillips). How do you achieve cheaper, faster and good enough? Automation! Expect to see […]

Will the Ashley Madison hack and law suits spell the end to Big Data as we know it?

The recent edition of New Scientist has a very thought provoking article (After Ashley Madison: How to regain control of your online data) looking at the near future of personal data and wonders if organisations are going to start avoiding holding large amounts of personal data. I do not want to discourage people reading this well researched and interesting article, so I will just highlight the key points: There is a good chance Ashley Madison will be sued, and that it will lose the case, and that the damages will be so big it will go out of business. Ashley Madison had personal data, it did not adequately protect it (but promised its customers it would), and many of those customers have suffered harm (including broken marriages, jobs lost, and apparently suicides). Most companies holding data about users and customers are not adequately protecting it, and it may not be possible to adequately protect central repositories of data. Eric Snowden illustrated that even the US National Security Agency could not adequately protect information. Consequently, the financial risk of holding large datasets of personal information may become too large for organisations such as Microsoft and Google to risk – which would […]

Appreciating Asia Pacific – Part 1

This post is written as I reach the end of the first week of a three week Vision Critical trip to the Asia Pacific Region. For the last few years I have been spending about ten weeks a year in the APAC region, typically spread over three or four separate trips – because I am convinced that this is where much of the future (especially in terms of commerce, marketing, and insights) is being made. Singapore Client Round Table I arrived in Singapore Monday evening and the week got off to a flying start with breakfast with my Vision Critical colleagues from Sydney and from our newly opened Singapore office, followed by a meeting with the CEO of Indian partner, Majestic and lunch with an insight community client, Google. The afternoon was devoted to a client round-table meeting where several of Vision Critical’s clients gather to hear a keynote presentation (from me on this occasion) and then spend time sharing their learning with each other. This event was hosted by Google in their superb offices overlooking the Marina area, with key contributions from SingTel, Sony and others. Client roundtable sessions are a great way for clients to share their experiences […]

Could Google be the next Standard Oil or AT&T?

Post by Ray Poynter, 11 January 2014 Google’s standing with privacy groups and legislators has probably never been lower. Problems include: the recent news that some of Google’s activities have been ruled illegal by four countries (France, Netherlands, Germany, and Spain – with fines being levied by Spain and France), following fast on the heels of Google’s problems in Europe with how little tax it pays, $40million dollar fines in the US over ‘cookiegate’, $7million fine in the US for Wi-Fi data collected illegally from its street view cars, and most recently the concern that Google’s integration of Google+ and Gmail means that people can send messages to you without knowing your email address. Does any of this matter? Sure Google has been fined, but the sums only account to small change for a company as large and successful as Google. Privacy campaigners are outraged, but usage of Google’s services continue to grow (look at the way Android has quickly become the leading operating system on new phones and tablets). But would governments really try to tackle Google? Could Governments try to tackle Google? Perhaps there are some interesting lessons in history, especially in the United States, consider two important […]