Success Footprints

The ubiquity of broadband Internet and smartphones has created a varitable deluge of data on the internet. This advent of time spent online, has lead us to leave massive amounts of “exhaust data” in our wake. This data is ripe for analysis and many companies have already utilized this in the creation of successful business models. and Netflix are great examples of this. Amazon was the first online company to successfully collate and make use of the searches and purchases of its current users. Providing them with suggestions for potential items its customers might be interested in. I had the great fortune of hearing a panel discussion with the chief data scientist form amazon last year in Saint John New Brunswick’s Big Data Congress. In it he pointed to Netflix as another success story that has utilized this technique to its success story and is the main reason why the online TV and Movie provider has gone from a very small startup to a powerhouse in its field.

Getting it’s users to complete ratings on shows or films they have previously watched, helped them build an idea of what it’s users were looking for, and then tailoring it’s service to them. This was a more personalized approach is at the very core of Netflix’s success, and is why they have been able to make the leap in creating their own content. The impetus behind shows like House of Cards, and Orange is the New Black, were not made out of haste, but based upon data they retrieved from it’s users.

This idea of taking user interaction data and providing actionable results has just recently started to make its way into the field of education and there are a number of success stories to highlight in this emerging market. Learning analytics has two distinct offerings that are leaving a footprint in the educational technology field. There are a number of successful startups that have created a foothold that have emerged right alongside MOOCs; both models which have the potential to transform education as we know it. Albeit, there are major concerns that have been highlighted in both of these business models. Nevertheless, more and more secondary and post secondary institutions are looking to implement these offerings into their systems to align with recent policies promoting data based decisions.

Let’s take a closer look at these two distinct offerings. Both MOOC’s and larger scale learning analytics startups are the flagships of this market and are ripe for analysis and debate. Check out the two links below to see some examples of these in action and participate in the corresponding activities.
Before you begin, take a moment and reflect on any other websites or systems that use the Amazon and Netflix model. Are you a subscriber yourself to websites such as these, and what are your thoughts on the amount of data that each of these companies accumulate about it’s users. Is this an invasion of privacy, or something we have to accept when using these products? I encourage you to post your comments below.

13 comments on “Success Footprints
  1. David Jackson says:

    Google comes to mind as a pioneer in targeted advertising based on analytics. Facebook is trying hard to catch up with their recent plunge into mobile advertising and clearly making great strides according to recent reports of skyrocketing advertising profits in their space.

    • psweeze says:

      I’m really interested in seeing how twitter decides to brand itself in this area as well. Promoted tweets are an old school methodology that doesn’t provide much revenue for the soon to be public company. However, I see them developing something with the niche market they created with hashtag conversations with the big TV networks. Whether it’s Sunday Night Football or CBC’s Power and Politics this has become something unique to them, and they should capitolize on it before it’s too late.

    • jetz66 says:

      I have to agree. I feel as though Google is the leader in this category. One powerful example of this is the auto-complete feature when searching online. Have amazing to have a program attempt to complete your sentences for you. Is Google a soul mate or a crazy/nosy girlfriend????

      • Phil Sweezey says:

        Before this week I would classify them as the crazy/nosy girlfriend. But it seems from Eric Schmidt’s interviews this week that the NSA is the one holding onto the that designation pretty tightly.
        But in all seriousness, Google definitely has used analytics to shape their products.

  2. jiorns says:

    Other websites that use data analytics to create personalised experiences for users are the online/digital radio stations.

    Typically they offer free music. They then track each user’s music selections to collect data by which they can then customise music offerings to those users.

    Two examples of providers doing this are:

    • jetz66 says:

      This is a wonderful example. Using my preferred music service, all I have to do is hit random on a specific genre and ti begins to play a never ending playlist based on likes of others as well as my own.

    • psweeze says:

      I never thought of online music services like these. Those are great examples. If only iTunes Genius was as accurate as some of those sites, people might even start using it…

  3. naomi says:

    OK, I’m about to out myself as a minor lawbreaker. I frequently – okay – always use websites that provide links to sites that stream TV shows for free (I don’t have a TV) my computer is my entertainment center. Most of these sites have a ratings system that users can use to identify good or bad links, and rate popular shows in different categories. The only downside is that the systems aren’t always that accurate and updated, so mistakes are common. Their purpose though is to host videos, not select them, so the analytics aren’t a major part of their business.
    I am also a major fan of Old time radio and love the following site It’s analytics track how often a show is viewed, updated, popularity and reviewed.

    • psweeze says:

      The interesting thing I find with services such as these and netflix, is how the data is skewed when a subscription is being used by a household or more then one person. Obviously this throws off the data and one can end up getting constant recommendations to finish Dora the Explorer season 3… when all you want to watch is the New Sherlock Holmes.

      • momoe says:

        Netflix now has a feature that lets you tell them who is watching the show so they can give recommendations based on the actual person who is using it at any given time. And as far as I know, there is no limitation on the number of people who access it through one account.

        • psweeze says:

          Oh thanks. I used to have a subscription but cancelled it this summer. Has this been a feature they’ve had for a while, and is it something that is available on all platforms?

  4. momoe says:

    My kindle comes to mind as an example. Based on your searches, recent purchases and ratings, it gives you book recommendations on the Kindle shop home page.

  5. Amber says:

    Personally I love my youtube recommendations. It seems that there is always something interesting to watch on their suggestions. I watch more youtube than TV these days! Mostly TED talks.

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