Think about all the personal data we are generating. Pictures, videos and notes. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts. We track our activities and health with smartphone apps and wearable devices.
But, as it tuns out, creating this data is the easy part. The hard part is doing something with it. Hence the inevitable emergence of the Personal Data Analyst.
This person might get paid a fixed value to data mine a client’s life; the deliverable could be something simple like a scrapbook-style report or something elaborate like an interactive set of dashboards. The key here will be to tell a story. Oh and by the way, this “person” will probably be a computer ;)
Into the Future
It’s hard to think about what the internet might look like in a couple decades. I don’t think many would have imagined this way back in 1995:
But I’ll give it a shot. The year is 2037 and you are 20 years older. You have probably generated more data than you will ever fully digest. Some of that data exists on hard drives but most of it lives on the cloud.
You log onto whatever social media thing has taken over the world (hint: it won’t be Google Plus) and see an add for this service that aggregates all of your cloud-data into interactive visuals. I makes you personalized visuals daily and boasts a “timeline” feature with the ability to share them with friends.
This service is not the only game in town. After all, nostalgia is a reliable sales driver. You think back to when Facebook was reminding you about your memorable posts from x years ago. I mean, it’s still doing that, but now everything is.
All your Precious Pictures, Videos and Notes
What about all those pictures and videos you’ve been taking? Or the notes you jot down in your favorite note-taking app — be it a new recipe, neat fact, a plan, a joke, etc… You will probably never find the time to look at, watch, and read most of these things, respectively. But don’t worry — they won’t be forgotten. Google Photos is already automatically scrapbooking pictures, but I’m thinking way bigger. Like I said earlier, the key here is going to be storytelling.
An easy first stepping stone is to aggregate photos and videos into albums and montages. For example an album of your vacation or a video-montage (with music of course!) of your dog. This is relatively easy to automate.
The really neat stuff starts becoming possible by connecting more data sources. Imagine that vacation album now includes how many steps you took each day, the workouts you tracked, posts you made to social media, and notes you made. All integrated seamlessly in the form of interactive visuals. With enough data, the computer can try to piece together a story. Adding documents, emails and messenger conversations into the mix would be beneficial in this respect. GPS coordinates of your location would enable a new level of storytelling. Your smartphone already tracks this and applications you install often store it as well (and oftentimes sell it to advertisers).
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Privacy. I wouldn’t be okay with exposing all of my personal files to someone I’ve never met. Would you? This is where automation can save the day. Nobody looks at the data. The computer will make all of the decisions. Not to mention that none of this would be possible if the analysis had to be done manually. The cost would be far too high.
Far to high for most people, at least. But for the very wealthy, perhaps there will be a better service. Something more customized. Maybe people will come together to form…
Personal Data Analyst Agencies
This might be a bit more down the line. Maybe when we’re all old and wrinkled and the kids are getting cybernetic enhancements. But eventually, with technology only becoming more prevalent and data collection increasing at an exponential rate (just wait for the IOT to really take off), I can see this becoming a thing.
A successful Personal Data Analyst Agency would staff people with different strengths, so they can deliver a diverse product. Their work would still involve huge amounts of automation, but their deliverables can be more advanced and specific than my proposed social-media / web-app services. Plus they can give clients that personalized touch. These companies could foreseeably run on monthly retainers or rely on contract work.
Why Wait? Let’s do this now!
Slow down there tiger. We really haven’t been doing this internet thing all that long. We’re building up our data-empires very rapidly now, but I don’t think we fully understand how much of it is going to be completely forgotten. Once there exists a large audience of consumers who do understand that fact, the Personal Data Analysts will emerge in full force.
I hope that happens soon.