Friday, October 29, 2010

The tyranny of numbers.

Back about a decade ago I worked on the server business for IBM. The market trend at that time in the business was all in the direction of cheaper PC-based machines that ran on Intel chips. Dell, who were used to selling on a stance of value and used to selling directly, dominated the market. My client (who later became my friend) decided we should do as Dell was doing and try to sell servers "directly off the page."

After we started running ads, my client told me a story. His boss asked him how the ads were pulling. He replied, "sales are up 400%." What he later told his boss was that the ads sold eight machines, up from two from the previous week. A 400% gain.

Of late, it seems to me, we have had a proliferation of data. And, more to the point, a proliferation of people who analyze data and interpolate out of that data what is called "business intelligence." Most often the data is about as meaningful as my server example above. It's not exactly a lie but it's not exactly something you should or can learn from.

I think about this when I think about all the effort clients make to post videos on their You Tube pages or the time and money they spend creating Facebook pages. All to get a dozen or two eyeballs of dubious value. I'm sure those You Tube videos that gain 136 views in a month are ballasted by data that says something like "but we're trending up 11% week over week."

That might be true. But what does it mean?


Anonymous said...


My position with the venture capital firm I work in (and my area of expertise in the digital space) require me to be cloaked as it would inhibit my ability to get into many of the firms and talent we invest in as an anonymous "consultant". Part of my agreement.

That said, there isn't much more I could tell you that you don't already know as an educated, sentient guy with decades of experience.

Dream bigger. Take calulated risks but risjs non the less.

One door closes, another opens (a cliche but again, true)

Perhaps when Im back East we could have a beer in Brooklyn or whereever.

For now I need to complete my Starbucks run.

Think ahead.

Nostalgia is fine but its in the rear view mirror.

Learn from it but reinvent.

Picking up the Hastings on your reco.


Joe said...

Right now, my personal videos get about as many views as my clients.

george tannenbaum said...

Teo, would love to have that beer when you return. Reach me through my email. I'll even go to Brooklyn for one, if you insist on that.


Dave Trott said...

Check out this link, very thoroughly researched, logiclly very convincing.
Very well written, very credible.
One teeny problem, reality:

Anonymous said...


Thought you lived in Brooklyn. My mistake.

I'm back in the Valley until after Thanksgiving.

Will email you on my next trip back east: either NYC, Boston or dc.

Until then, think reinvention.