Is More Data Always Better?

google think magazine data overload obesity information ideas processing analysisThere has been a discovery in the online marketing and data/statistics world in the last few years. We have had more websites, products and tools created online than we can possibly keep track of. The terms to describe this deluge of activity we have been hearing the most are “data overload” and “information overload” from both companies and consumers. This Google Magazine uses the term Data Obesity to describe this phenomenon.

They ask the question, why is more data always better?

I think the idea of “more data us better” is common from people who lived before the Internet was prevalent. We had to work hard to find data. Researching something meant going to a library and looking in a card catalog (or maybe something called Gopher) and then finding your way around the Dewey decimal system to find that book. And then sometimes they didn’t even have the book because it was checked out or possibly it was just filed wrong because nobody understood the Dewey decimal system.

On a related note recently we got invited to my cousin’s wedding in Santa Fe New Mexico. My dad promptly went to the library and checked out 3 books on Santa Fe and New Mexico. I cringed. He asked how to find out the flights to book something without a travel agent. I realized I have been traveling since 2000 this way and he stopped traveling about that time so he never has. I introduced him to Travelocity, it was mind blowing and a bit of data overload compared with the OAG book he used to use in the 80’s.

The point here is that finding data was really difficult. People had control over its distribution because it was in print. When it became more freely accessible due to Google and other companies efforts we assumed this would be good, because people could remember where to find it and use it whenever we wanted. We never thought it would get this big so fast. Now travel sites are overwhelming, they have too many choices and there are too many of them trying to get you to opt into something you don’t want while being over charged for bringing a suitcase on a flight. This is just one example of how data has gone exponential so quickly.

Others of us have come to a data overload conclusion when they have 200 emails in several in-boxes, 1000+ rss reader posts from feeds waiting, several work projects, 500+ Facebook wall posts in their feed and hundreds of tweets that have gone un-read. This is among a climate where you have to follow-up with projects 5-10 times to get things done, post blogs/tweets/FB status updates daily to keep on people’s radar, empty the DVR so it doesn’t get overloaded and auto delete something you really wanted, listen to the radio on the way to work just in case something big happens and still find time to scoop the litter box before it gets full and the cats poop on the floor.

And the real purpose in all those tweets/FB posts and feeds is that you business changes yearly and if you don’t know about the latest trend and some real insights about it before your boss asks about it, you won’t have a job for all that long. (in digital marketing)

Having data overload be a “good” problem to have from some people’s perspective (as in that it is growth oriented). The democratization of publishing combined with tracking methodology and databases have all contributed to this problem, giving everyone a voice, a potential following of readers, a data trail to analyze and method to say something important online 24/7/365.  And then we have an even bigger problem of processing what is being said, figuring out if it is important or not and sharing/processing/saving it in some way if it is. Acting on that data is way down the line and many of us don’t even get there.

And this isn’t even the big problem with data overload. Where will we store it all? Why do tweets disappear from search so quickly? Because there are millions of them and the failwhale is full. According to the ThinkQuarterly UK, there are 800 Exabytes of data/information created every two days. It took humans from the beginning of civilization until 2003 to create the first 800 Exabytes, and we’re on a roll now.

Where does all this seemingly random data go? How will we know what it says without having to go into a database table and read specific field information? Where are the software tools to manage all this and still give humans the ability to customize the out put in ways that match the behavior or business purposes that we really need? Does any of this stuff ever get deleted?

These are all huge questions we have to answer as more people publish, share, create, track and do business online. We also have to weigh the possibilities of sharing data openly and locking it behind walls as well as how will people comprehensively find what they need when they want to as well as gauge the validity/accuracy of the information presented?

I’m betting on paid services for personal and business data management/archiving & Analysis tools. We will pay for good analysis, good data access & processing and good reliability/backups when we feel the pain of missing good insight, losing good data and just too much happening. Both personally and professionally. But unless you know how to work with SAP, SPSS, SQL, Oracle or a bunch of other systems data management is largely out of your control at this point. They are the librarians of our digital data and they need to find a workable way to Dewey decimal system it back into order and allow us to use it as humans need to.


Toyota Quality Drops, Ford Quality Improves Dramatically

I have never been excited by the sight of a Toyota, but they have climbed to the top of the sales charts in the U.S. because of a claim that they build better cars with less mechanical problems and better over all quality. They cite all the J.D. Power and Associates awards and Consumer Reports reviews that gave them high marks for quality and the consumers that echoed the same feelings with repeat purchases generation after generation.

It wouldn’t be an axe to grind with me except that every Toyota owner, dealer and ad over the years has picked on GM and American Domestic cars saying that they suck. (and has picked on my cars always being Buicks and recently a Saab) And in the 80’s they did but that was a looooong time ago now, and the tables have turned. GM, Ford and Chrysler have been very aggressive in making production changes that improve quality and reliability in the short term and long term.

The gap between quality in a foreign car and a domestic one has closed and for years (despite many ad claims) there hasn’t really been any difference. Yet these people who own Toyotas still flaunt it and say that any American Car just sucks. And I resent that. Especially today when a new report from Consumer Reports comes out saying that the 6 cylinder Toyota Camry for 2007 scored as “below average”. Not ok, or good, or average. The best selling TOYOTA IS BELOW AVERAGE in QUALITY! 

Go suck on that Toyota!

I am sorry if this seems like a very 1980’s stance to have in liking American cars, or if it seems uneducated and uninformed like many Domestic car buyers are (it seems to be the demographic type who keeps buying them) but it is really a very current idea and very related to our own economy. (Hello Jobs!) I think that the open market lasezz faire idea only works to the benefit of the masses if you have companies and people that care about their own country and economy enough to support it and be proud of it’s achievements. And here we have a case of most people believing old out dated information from a foreign manufacturer and the advertising rather than the real true information.

It is hard to sway people’s opinion and “feeling” about something as costly as a car. It takes years and sometimes generations, but I would like to start that chain reaction to bring people back to the belief that U.S. made cars are good quality, very reliable, a good deal for the money and will hold their resale value. It isn’t just a belief though, it is true and proveable with stats.

For example, I have a 2001 Saab. (Yes Saab is owned and operated by GM) And I bought it for 14K in 2003. It’s 2007 and I was thinking of trading it in and was offered 8K for it. Would you get that much value retention in a Toyota that was 6 years old? I don’t think so. They really can hold their value and be good reliable cars. I decided to keep my Saab and I still drive it now. I am very happy with it and would recommend checking out GM, Ford and Chrysler in your next car search. I think you will be happier with what you find there than with the imports.

Buick best in Dependability, Makes Lexus Share JD Power award.

buickSuck it Toyota! 

Buick is #1 in Dependability tied with Lexus.

Ok, that said I do have some bias. I am someone who comes from a staunch GM car buying family and specifically within my parents, myself and brother we have owned 14 Buicks in the past 35 years.

I readily admit that GM got lazy in the 80’s, created ugly unreliable cars in the 90’s and in the has been too interested in short term revenue (sales) growth with SUV’s and Hummer Gas Guzzlers in the 00’s. Therefore they haven’t made many affordable, reliable, fuel efficient and attractive cars in the past 30 years. When I went through my last car buying process in 2004 I was so disenchanted with GM that I ended up with a used Saab 9-3. Which is GM, but really isn’t at the same time. The thing is, I just replaced that car’s turbo at 75K miles (for $1,600.00) so my advice is don’t buy a turbo 4 cylinder Saabeither. I have personally owned 2 Buicks (both regals) and I plan on buying another Buick in 2 years. (Yes, I have already decided on the LaCrosse)

Through all these years Buick has been a reliable car for my parents, myself and my family. We usually buy them used at 30K miles and run them to 130K within 5-7 years. They depreciate like a rock the first few years, so you get a 30K car for a very affordable 15K and then it just runs beautifully for the next 5-7 years with regular oil changes, brakes and tires. (Transmission fluid, spark plugs and coolant flushes are good to do every 40K miles as basic mantenance procedures on any car, and batteries usually only last 3-4 years in Chicago’s climate, so there is some maintenance cost over the years)  Basically we have loved these Park Avenues, Riveras, Regals, LeSabres, GS’s and LaCrosses for their luxury, comfort, reliability, dependability and latley their supercharged performance. Yet they also get 25 mpg on average. (hopefully Buick will develop engines towards 35-45 mpg soon too) These are great cars and I think more people should know about it.

buick lacrosseI have heard from people for yeeaaarrrrrss that Hondas and Toyotas are the better cars and they look down on people who don’t buy them. Well guess what? I don’t like Hondas or Toyotas. They are boring, bland, vanilla, uninteresting, basic, cheap cars. They feel cheap, they sound cheap, they have a rough uncomfortable ride, are very underpowered and slow, and yes they may run reliably also, but I don’t want one. And I don’t want people to rub my face in it that American cars are not as good as Japanese. Yes, as a whole the American car lot isn’t as good, but Buick is the exception, and I knew that personally decades ago. 

So, if you do want to support the American Economy, Support American Jobs and Support  your own transportation reliability, buy a Buick. I can say from experience with 14 Buicks that they are great cars and now JD Power and Associates validates our decsions and Buick as a premium luxury car brand with exceptional reliability. 

To anyone who thinks that Buick is for old people and grandparents or thinks that all American cars suck, You Are Wrong! Buick is a great car, made in the US and and is just as reliable as the Lexuses that so many people covet. So, if you are smarter than most Lexus buyers come on over and take a new look at a Buick.