The MIT Sloan Management Review has a fascinating interview with Simon Thompson, director of global business solutions and Esri, a company that provides geographic information systems technology. Esri is working on adapting GIS technology to include a variety of signals, including social and emotional information, as part of its trend-spotting activity. Two quotes from Thompson stood out for me:
Social media is in the inflection point of so many trends in computing and information science. It’s big data, arriving in real-time, and it’s crowd sourced. It’s totally unstructured yet full of sentiment and truly valuable data if you can connect it.
You can use any number of technologies to mine data streams and connect all this data together. You can say, “I can track everything that a person is doing and everywhere that he’s been. I can find his Twitter handle and his Facebook and his friends and everything else and bring it all together, to know everything about that person.” But the question is not what you can do with the information about that person, but what can you do for him?