Big data, small question

Big data. We all want it and need it I am told. The real problem with large amounts of data (also with small amounts) is knowing what to do with it. 

In my search engine days we used to say that we needed good questions to ask from the data. What do we need to do or decide and how will this data help? Specific questions were the best. Sloshing in the bathtub of reports rarely helped us get anywhere. Small questions were the best and usually the ones to which we returned: What happens to user frequency if we increase the number of ads we show in that category? That was a great one and helped understand our emerging business dynamics enormously.

Netflix seems to be really good at this kind of analysis. They seem to be data focused but not obsessed or blinded by it. I have the impression that their confidence is in large part supported by their developing knowledge if the behaviour, preferences and tastes of their customers. Of me.

A very good small question to ask at Netflix is “When does a Netflix customer become hooked on a series?”. This is a brief peak into the answer to that question (Episode 2 of Breaking Bad, apparently). Now they know and can plan many things around that answer. They can show it off too, which, in this case, is a good idea.

Obviously, there is another question looming here: “Why do customers become hooked on a series?”. That seems to me like a big question. A very big one. One that any amount of data might not answer and one that is wide open to very unhelpful debate.

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