Celebrating 1 Year in Data Industry: Filtered Friendship and Value of Data

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I started working for a data tech startup as a technical account manager since 202. Surprisingly, working in the data industry gave me important enlightenment that changed my worldly perspectives. That is, we started to make friends instead of becoming friends. And I was surprised to recognize this change only after understanding how the industry builds the value of data.

The value of data comes from the connection between different types of data. That is, no matter how many email addresses you have, they don’t worth much if they stand alone. But as soon as you pair your email addresses with other data types, that data is now worth something.

Let me provide you with the most basic example of how I understand this mechanism (I apologize ahead for potential inaccuracies caused by simplifications). Let’s imagine that you are an advertiser who wants to bring customers to the new Nike store specializing in female sneakers that just opened at the shopping mall in Orange County, California. To do so, you will first search for people who live in Orange County. Then, you will filter them by their gender of female, and then by their interest in sneakers. After you create the ideal audience with the qualities you desire, you purchase contact information associated with those qualities from data marketplaces. Isn’t this strikingly similar to the way we make friends, followers, and connections online?

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The process of searching users by hashtags and geotags has become very natural for us. In LinkedIn, you can get more specific by education, company, position, and skills to extend your connections. We also do not hesitate to use this method for finding our dates through matching services like Tinder. This is opposite to the way we think we make friends offline. We used to meet a stranger first and then get to know each other’s qualities like hobbies and interests. In online spaces, the process is reversed. I cannot resist the idea that the way value of data is structured in the industry has eased people to embrace this new relationship-building process. 

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I am not judging whether this change is good or bad. We have to be aware that we meet more and more people online than offline, and one day the norm can change. Yes, people can raise a reasonable concern that the new norm of friendship can change our manners. Adding the layer of filters before making a friend of your own taste can be another form of anonymity, and we behave differently when we are anonymous. Things that we cannot say in person come out so easily in the mob of people or online spaces. Despite such worries, I believe the future generation that is native of this new norm will find a way, as our current generation is building values using new information technology. My curiosity lies in how I can find opportunities in this changing social role of friendship to build something valuable. And I can’t wait to find more of such qualitative enlightenment from the data world I belong to today. 

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