Taming Big Data with Smart Contexts
“There’s a big data revolution” says Harvard Professor Gary King. And I agree. However, as Professor King explains, it’s not only the amount of information that is revolutionizing the digital world but the “what” we can do with it that could really make a change for the better.
For the last few months, we have been mulling over the same question at Paper.li: what can we do with all the data we have? After putting things into perspective, one thing became clear to us: that whatever we do, the data needs to be given back to the users.
Here’s a peek at some of the things we are working on to break through the noise and make good use of all the data we collect.
We have a rich data landscape which has grown exponentially since 2010, when we founded Paper.li to help people cut through the noise of their Twitter timeline.
Our position as forerunners in the content curation world has seen our service grow to a point where we now process over 300 million social posts a day. We surface articles, photos and videos of interest from 144 million websites and blogs, bringing meaningful content to millions of readers everyday. The amount of social data around the content we generate puts us in a great position to do exciting new things.
“We are good at collecting data. Now it’s all about making sense out of it.”
But where does one start to figure out what to do? Hacking right in was our way! We had a lot of fun over the past months doing just that – hacking into our data landscape, looking at it from all kinds of angles and asking ourselves new questions.
We’ve been investigating the connections between people, what they read, what they share and who they share it with. We sifted through millions of articles and the corresponding social signals to uncover how to best track the interests and behaviors of our users, their communities, and how they change over time. Getting these key insights about what our users are doing or interested in at any given point gives us valuable knowledge to customize our future services.
“Context makes the service unique for each user; it makes it personal, efficient and successful.”
It’s all about contextual awareness. The main outcome of our work has been to translate these insights into actionable queries and algorithms on our data platform.
Give data back to our users
Social data is a valuable currency to marketers and online advertisers who can use it to sell products and it is tempting to simply turn this data over to them. However, we know there’s so much more we can do with it.
Our whole team agrees that our data “intelligence” should be reserved for our users and be used to provide additional value to them. We have a mission to continue investing in contextual data analysis to find and develop new real life applications to give all this “smart” content back. Although, we don’t have all the answers just yet, we do have a clear vision and are full of energy for the long road ahead.
We believe it’s now crucial to invite our users to tell us exactly how they would like their data to work for them. We want curious, passionate and energetic people to join us Backstage at Paper.li to meet the team, join the data debate and have their say on how future products could take shape. You can join the Backstage community here.
Taste of the future.
As a very first step, we will soon be unveiling what we think is a neat little app.
The idea behind the app is to make life simpler for our users, allowing them to make use of our data in a way that will bring instant benefit. A Beta version will be available on iPhone and only English at first. We’re releasing it in Beta to give our users an opportunity to have a say in how the next versions will take shape.
To wrap up, I can say, these last few months have brought us great insights into the value of our data at Paper.li and we are really excited about the possibilities ahead. We’re looking forward to hearing what our community thinks about our path towards making data useful and how their needs will dictate our next steps to cut through the noise. With smart data and smart people, the future for content looks really bright.