It all started with some pictures I posted on facebook last week and a good friend of mine commented – “Who cares about the posting…”. His comment got me thinking about who really cared about these posts and the social data that I am creating….

Accept it or not, Web 2.0 (Twitter, FB etc) has pretty much made everyone a publisher or an analyst, each is trying to life stream random things about themselves or providing their opinion on the random things others are posting. Moreover pretty much everyone from your friends to family to acquaintances to people you have not met are either looking at your posts on facebook or they are following you on twitter…

If you enjoyed sex, may we suggest rock and roll?

If you enjoyed sex, may we suggest rock and roll?

As I went about analyzing this question I tried to delve into the philosophical, behavioral and financial aspects of who can care and why…

From a behavioral perspective, if we look at why people post certain things on a social platform, we can conclude that the post was made because some emotion got triggered in that person… either the person got excited about it, was happy about it, aggravated about it or is sad about it and with that he/she wants to share that feeling with others. Based on the background of the person we can also conclude that a similar action or stimulus may not trigger the same reaction from the person… Just for example lets take a poor person who has never sat in a car in his entire life and gets to buy his first car, it will trigger so much excitement in him that he’ll want to tell the whole world. On the other hand for a rich person who is buying his 10th car it will not trigger anything… Therefore although the stimulus (buying car) was the same, the reaction is different. Moreover, while the same reaction maybe trivial for the rich person it does mean something for the poor person… which means that we need to put ourselves in their shoes to determine its significance.

So the next question is “who cares” about this data people post? From a more social & philosophical perspective, we can answer this question by analyzing the content itself and relationships of the person. For example, assuming it is a virtual world, if your mother or wife or a sibling is on facebook, they might care if you sneezed or coughed because they think you are falling sick and are worried. On the other hand, a friend might care that you got a job because he/she is happy for you or wants to be in your good books because he/she wants to get into the same company. There are also so many other people who may not care about what crap you post because they are not interested. So who cares in this context is very subjective and is determined by the content and the relationship the other person shares with you.

Therefore bottom-line is that no matter how trivial the post is, no matter how silly, there is someone in this world who cares about it, probably reads it and responds to it…

However, the real question is why generate all this useless data which is of significance to select few people? Why are twitter, facebook etc making it more and more convenient for everyone to post more of this crap, that too for no charge, and building data centers to store it. And if you think about it, similar data is re-published by everyone… everyone is tweeting about swine flu, sharing their excitement about why and how Celtics won a game and so on…

The answer to this is pretty simple…

these companies (facebook, twitter etc) are enabling this because of the financial incentive… they want to know everything about you… they want to know your background so they know what really gets you excited (the trigger I mention above), they want to be your wife, mother or pal (on the relationship side) and just like a mother would, if you sneezed or coughed in your post, they can recommend you an appropriate a cough syrup through an ad. If you have other symptoms or allergies based on your previous posts, they will recommend a different medicine… and so on. The entire aggregated data is mapped and evaluated to recommend the right things for every aspect of your life.

In addition to these companies, all this aggregated data also has so much potential in being used for governance and policy making. For example, if I were a policy maker, I can analyze the reaction of people to my policy through a simple dashboard that mines and crunches this data on all levels (i.e background, triggers, reactions and relationship) and ties into a time-line. Through such a dashboard (as shown below), new policies can be crafted based on the success of past ones (which can be determined with our algorithm). The recent Obama campaign showed the power of reaching out to people through social mediums successfully but imagine the tremendous impact the campaign can achieve if in 2012, any potential President mined social data to get the pulse of the people and their reaction to past policies in the prior term to determine his agenda for the the next campaign… He would get most of his policies right I assume by knowing the people and their emotional state…


Thus the significance of social data increases dramatically if there are smart tools and algorithms to not only reach this data but map it in a meaningful way quickly. Thats the next Google according to me. The applications for this go beyond ad marketing into governance, policy making and so on… Research from universities such as stanford and others are already focusing on solving this next generation problem (click here for the paper). For those who are curious about social data mining, here is an awesome presentation that I have come across…

So all in all “who cares about social data and who cares about the data I just generated?”
If you are here, you cared for sure, if you post comments, you cared a little more, and if you forwarded this you cared much more… 🙂

Would love to hear more thoughts on this…

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