The myth of “everything” – Responses to my view of Track

My post yesterday – specifically regarding the Great Track Debate – received several responses on Twitter, identi.ca and friendfeed. Many of these – really all of them were positive – but the debate is far from settled.

I learned something very important from one discussion in particular – that there is a myth that permeates the conversation. The myth of “everything”.

This myth is the adherence to two ideas:

  1. That somehow the “fire-hose” (as discussed here) represents the complete information about any given topic – that somehow the “fire-hose” is everything.
    1. At the root of it, this is the idea that everything is attainable.
  2. That – in order to monetize track – having everything is essential. For example, if you are trying to manage your brand you need every reference to it in real-time.
    1. At the root of it, this is the idea that everything is required and valuable.

The reason I refer to these two ideas collectively as the “myth of everything” is because when they are clearly stated and examined they are immediately recognizable as inconsistent with reality.

So let’s take the two ideas one at a time and examine how tenuous their attachment to reality is.

First, that the “fire-hose” represents everything about any given topic. The fire-hose is the sum total of what is said on a given service. In order for that to be everything that service would need to be participated in by everyone. That is a hard enough hurdle to overcome, but there is more – not only would it need to be everyone, it would need to be the only method by which they communicate their thoughts, ideas and feelings.

Even if you were able to combine the fire-hose of every service available – every social networking site, every blog, every micro-blog, every IM service, every news site – you would still be far short of everything.

So the idea that track only becomes valuable when it can capture “everything” is a myth. Everything is unattainable.

Second, that having everything is essential. Let’s suppose we were to allow that somehow everything was achievable. Even if it were would it be required? Would it provide value commensurate with the effort required to collect it?

Let’s evaluate this in terms of brand management. The assumption which underlies this is that it is required to respond in real time to every post which is misleading, false, or damaging. This assumption is flawed – the reality is that it is required to respond to a statistically relevant sample of those posts. You aren’t trying to refute every post – you are trying to move (or keep from moving) the average (or perhaps mean) opinion.

If any company were forced to staff enough positions to actively monitor and respond to every post made about them – they would immediately cease to be profitable. It isn’t scalable, and more importantly it isn’t required.

This holds true equally for politics.

So the idea that track delivers value because having access to everything is required and the primary driver of value is a myth. Everything is neither required nor valuable in real terms.

What the track community should be focused on – again IMHO – is not the fire-hose and the attendant myth of everything, but creating systems which can attain enough trackable scope to provide a statistically relevant sample of the posts in the social media universe.

I understand that, emotionally, it feels good to tap into some perceived “everything” and refute any and all posts that you think are misleading, false, biased, or offensive. But this isn’t about what feels good – at the end of the day it will be about what is effective. And to be effective everything is neither required nor valuable.

These two conclusions – that everything is unattainable and that – even if attained – is neither required nor valuable should allow us to dispense with the “myth of everything” and return to the point of track:

  1. Real-Time Information Discovery
  2. Real-Time Participation

12 thoughts on “The myth of “everything” – Responses to my view of Track

  1. So I think we agree. But I think we sort of back into agreement. The uberfirehose (open microblogging + twitter + etc) is way to big to do anything about, you're right in some cases, but the littler firehoses say “just twitter,” are important. Not because *lots* of people are going to use it, but because a number of services can do cool things with the data if delivered in this way. Twittervision, wouldn't be possible without the firehose, but it's not exactly about consuming data fast.Secondly, my post today (13 November 08) on tychoish.com gets at a very similar point, that having track/real time services isn't so much about having always on data access and consuming as much data as possible, but rather that track/real time is a better* and *smarter* way to consume data. Quality over quantity. And on this I think we're agreement.

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  2. Tycho – What is important is arriving at some kind of common ground that allows the track community to support the broad range of track development – and continue to evangelize for openness on the part of the services. Scope (how much data you ingest and from who) and filtering are both integral signal to noise controls for track – IMHOThanks for the comment…

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  3. So I think we agree. But I think we sort of back into agreement. The uberfirehose (open microblogging + twitter + etc) is way to big to do anything about, you're right in some cases, but the littler firehoses say “just twitter,” are important. Not because *lots* of people are going to use it, but because a number of services can do cool things with the data if delivered in this way. Twittervision, wouldn't be possible without the firehose, but it's not exactly about consuming data fast.Secondly, my post today (13 November 08) on tychoish.com gets at a very similar point, that having track/real time services isn't so much about having always on data access and consuming as much data as possible, but rather that track/real time is a better* and *smarter* way to consume data. Quality over quantity. And on this I think we're agreement.

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    1. Tycho – What is important is arriving at some kind of common ground that allows the track community to support the broad range of track development – and continue to evangelize for openness on the part of the services. Scope (how much data you ingest and from who) and filtering are both integral signal to noise controls for track – IMHOThanks for the comment…

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  4. I guess I would have to say, “it depends.” I would like to see everything in real time so I could respond to it if I were managing a brand, because customer service can be an issue that must be addressed in real time. Or if I were a first responder. Or if it were something I had to tune into quickly. Nobody needs the whole fire house in real time, but the problem is that EVERYBODY would like SOMETHING in real time that matters to them.

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  5. The customer service in real time issue is an interesting one. Having been a consultant, operations leader, and a contact center architect for multiple fortune 500 companies I'm fairly certain that no company will attempt to respond in real-time to every “issue” a customer raises in social media. Rather they will attempt to respond to some representative sample in order to effectively create the perception in the marketplace that they both care and are listening. Responding to all of it would destroy margins and drastically inflate costs.The first responder challenge is equally interesting – but fraught with issues. The current mechanisms for communicating with first responders are heavily regulated, to the extent that filing a “false report” is illegal (a felony in some places). How that transfers operationally to social media is a far larger barrier than the scope of the tracked data.Thanks for the comment… it seems like we are starting to clarify why, when and for what applications scope matters.

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  6. I guess I would have to say, “it depends.” I would like to see everything in real time so I could respond to it if I were managing a brand, because customer service can be an issue that must be addressed in real time. Or if I were a first responder. Or if it were something I had to tune into quickly. Nobody needs the whole fire house in real time, but the problem is that EVERYBODY would like SOMETHING in real time that matters to them.

    Like

    1. The customer service in real time issue is an interesting one. Having been a consultant, operations leader, and a contact center architect for multiple fortune 500 companies I'm fairly certain that no company will attempt to respond in real-time to every “issue” a customer raises in social media. Rather they will attempt to respond to some representative sample in order to effectively create the perception in the marketplace that they both care and are listening. Responding to all of it would destroy margins and drastically inflate costs.The first responder challenge is equally interesting – but fraught with issues. The current mechanisms for communicating with first responders are heavily regulated, to the extent that filing a “false report” is illegal (a felony in some places). How that transfers operationally to social media is a far larger barrier than the scope of the tracked data.Thanks for the comment… it seems like we are starting to clarify why, when and for what applications scope matters.

      Like

  7. I guess I would have to say, “it depends.” I would like to see everything in real time so I could respond to it if I were managing a brand, because customer service can be an issue that must be addressed in real time. Or if I were a first responder. Or if it were something I had to tune into quickly. Nobody needs the whole fire house in real time, but the problem is that EVERYBODY would like SOMETHING in real time that matters to them.

    Like

  8. The customer service in real time issue is an interesting one. Having been a consultant, operations leader, and a contact center architect for multiple fortune 500 companies I'm fairly certain that no company will attempt to respond in real-time to every “issue” a customer raises in social media. Rather they will attempt to respond to some representative sample in order to effectively create the perception in the marketplace that they both care and are listening. Responding to all of it would destroy margins and drastically inflate costs.The first responder challenge is equally interesting – but fraught with issues. The current mechanisms for communicating with first responders are heavily regulated, to the extent that filing a “false report” is illegal (a felony in some places). How that transfers operationally to social media is a far larger barrier than the scope of the tracked data.Thanks for the comment… it seems like we are starting to clarify why, when and for what applications scope matters.

    Like

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