The Web & Data 2012: A Personnal Manifesto of Sorts Tuesday February 21, 2012

Without a doubt one of the biggest benefits of being in the DC Metro area is being exposed to a wealth of unique opportunities. Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to partake in a handful of interesting events. As an example, last week, I was asked by a George Mason University professor to provide a guest lecture to his research class on the Web and Data. (As a side note, my wife was also a guest lecture and discussed her thesis work and research). Later in the same week, I was also able to catch a conversation during Social Media Week DC called The 2012 Election and The Fight For The Internet. In a seemingly serendipitous way, these two events are the cultivation of series of opportunities I’ve stumbled into which have inevitably lead to this post.

While these two recent events are seemingly tied together, one of the most catalytic events, was a presentation put on by JESS3 founder Leslie Bradshaw called Understanding The Agency of The Future in November of 2011. And while, I won’t continue to name drop talks like some swanky car salesman, this talk in particular was about the power of data and how social data is going to be one of the driving forces for Web Agencies in the future. It was a fascinating talk, which of course discussed the emerging trend of visualizing data. In essence, it was the seed that was planted in my mind and that’s be cultivating over the past couple months. (For your enjoyment, I’ve also embed the slides below)

Visualizing the Agency of the Future
View more presentations from JESS3

Anywho, the more and more I wrap my head around this concept, the clearer it becomes – data and data interpretation is really going to be the future of the internet. I personally believe that that as an industry, there are going to be two big pushes in the upcoming years. One towards design and client web site development with a multi-focus on mobile development. (Not that this is a secret by any means. Just quickly look at the emerging trends of responsive design to see where we are going) And the second big push will be towards information visualization and the interpretation of data. The app and mobile design movement, will easily be the path that most design firms move towards. In essence, of the two paths, the mobile design/app functionality is the most linear of the two options. While a select handful will move towards visualization and the understanding of data. Which to me seams like a far more daunting task.

Of the two paths, the second path intrigues me the most.

While this concept of data visualization and interpretation may sound like a flash in the pan new trend. But as I said to the students at GMU, think of it this way; as the more social elements of the web become more ingrained in the everyday routine of society, it’s becoming clear and clear that the data associated with these interactions is becoming more important to analyze. We all know that services like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Linkedin are really financially driven by the amount of data they have been able to collect on users. And yes, I acknowledge that there are obvious concerns about privacy, but that’s not what I’m interested in. Networks like Facebook aren’t valued based on advertising revenue alone, their valuation is based on the potential amount of data they provide businesses and society on clients and client behaviour. Similarly, Twitter isn’t based solely on it’s potential advertising revenue; it’s a combination of being a new medium of communication tool and also having the ability to provide instantaneous data and client feedback. (Of course, if Twitter can ever find a way to monetize both of these ideas at the same time, then it’ll be laughing). Similar services like Pinterest, Instagram and the like are all trying to find ways to take their invaluable social niches and transforming that information into revenue streams.

So where am I going with this?

Essentially, the next steps for many interested in this element of the web is to find a market and an opportunity. So how does one get involved with data visualization and digital interpretation. For a small studios like Armadillo, it’s a bit of a daunting task. The clients who can afford such endeavors aren’t within the reach of the small design firms like ours and the clients of our sized design firms typically don’t have the financial wherewithal to make such a leap.

Luckily for us, there are opportunities out there. The added benefit of the social web is that much of this data is somewhat available for anyone. With the exception of Facebook, much of this information is publicly available data and can be easily collected and analyzed. So the only question is opportunity.

And as we know sometimes it’s time to craft your own opportunities. Which of course leads me to is a new project that Armadillo Studios will be undertaking for the duration of the upcoming Alberta Provincial election. (Yes, I know it hasn’t been called yet, but it’s good to get one’s ducks in a row).

The idea is to take the publicly available twitter data regarding the Alberta election and analyze it (in an impartial way), and then craft useful infographics for public consumption. The concept of this idea is to get a sense of what’s being said online regarding each political party and to see how they (the parties) are using social media to reach an audience. Over the course of the election, Mr. Boley and myself are committing to publish two weekly infographics showing different online trends. Our goal is to provide simplistic analysis of this information as a way to test the waters on this sort of market. It’s also our hope that there will be some exciting by-product of discussion, either between Albertans or by the political parties themselves.

Now with that being said, this could be the most foolish endeavor we’ve ever undertaken. But it is something that we are excited to take on. So have a look, provide some feedback and give us a follow. There will be more news coming about the project when we officially go public in the upcoming weeks.

Categories: The-Corporation, The-Personnal, The Future

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