Friday, August 29, 2014

Data? I hardly know her.

The other night while listening to a financial news program on National Public Radio, I heard some blithering CEO of an online clothing company for women talk about the virtues of the data her company had access to. The CEO blithered on we'll be able to out Nordtsrom Nordstrom's. We'll be able to make precise suggestions. We'll be able to uniquely dress women exactly how they want to be dressed.

As usual she, sorry I'm using the word for a third time, as usual she blithered on about the power data has given her.

As usual, I almost threw up in the sink.

Here's the deal, and it's simple as this.

Everybody talks about "Big Data."

I've yet to hear anyone talk about "Smart Data."

I get about 200 emails a day for the following: The Genie Magic Zip Bra, Burial Insurance, Garage Coatings, Nitroxin (get back my youth) and Vydox (be harder than ever.)

In fact, even from Amazon, whose data capabilities I have a modicum of respect for, is a screw up. Because my daughters and my wife use my account, Amazon's recommendations to me are really recommendations to them. Their data, big as it is, is blind. And dumb. And not nearly as good as the young aspiring novelists who work in a bookstore near me, one of the last remaining independents.

What's more, I find data really creepy. I don't want companies to know that much about me. Maybe I'm too misanthropic for big data, but when they get things right--like suggesting hotels in LA because I've booked a flight there, or when they've obviously trolled my inbox and found something pertinent they can use, well, frankly, I get creeped out. Leave me alone, willya.

I'm not sure it's occurred to anyone that Big Data Blitherers and the investment community that plays along with them bidding up their "worth" to the billions, are really the alchemists, the pseudo-scientists of the 21st Century.

They claim to be able to turn base ones and zeroes into gold.

I think it's bullshit.

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