The Good, The Bad And The Baffling Of Data-Speak

by Becki Hemming, Data Analyst, Freestyle

As the industry waxes lyrical about data, Freestyle‘s Data Analyst, Becki Hemming, does a translation job on the sayings we’ve heard doing the rounds.

If you work within earshot of the digital marketing world, you’ll no doubt have heard a number of phrases thrown about including the word data…

Obviously you’ve realised by now that you’re living in a data revolution. You’ve heard data is the new oil and you suspect it also decides what you watch on Netflix. Did you also hear that data ages like fish not wine? You must’ve heard that big data is the foundation to life, the universe and everything. Of course, data is all around us. And who doesn’t know by now that data can set us free?

Having heard a fair number of data related quotes and phrases, varying in usefulness and sense, we couldn’t help but share some of them with you. So sit back and read on.

“With Big Data, Comes Big Responsibility”

Sounds like someone’s just punning around right? Although actually, there’s a huge element of responsibility when it comes to dealing with data and we’re not just referring to GDPR.

When it comes to informing decisions or powering AI, we can’t afford to lose the human element of judgement. Past data can carry past biases and prejudices with it, which could impact any number of industries and lives. Imagine university course selection based on characteristics of a previously non-diverse student base. How about a similar impact in healthcare? The workplace? The justice system? That seems like big responsibility.

“With Data Collection, The Sooner The Better Is Always The Best Answer”

We’re talking getting started and moving forwards, because doing the doing is far more satisfying than thinking about it and talking around it. The knowledge that we are capturing data wraps around us like a comfort blanket… Trouble is, we might not have thought through how we’re capturing this.

Whilst it’s great to have numbers in columns, do we fully understand how those numbers came to be? Is the data accurate? Is it biased? You can only be confident in data-led decisions if you can trust the data itself.

And no one wants to be making potentially detrimental business decisions with misplaced confidence from inaccurate data, when they could have been adequately cautious having had no data at all. Approaching data collection with an approach like, ‘the sooner the better’, can be a fast track to inaccurate and unhelpful data.

“Without Data, You’re Just Another Person In The Room With An Opinion”

When provided clearly and concisely with relevance to the matter in hand, there really is no arguing with accurate data. No longer is the discussion led by the loudest in the room, nor by the one with the most experience. Instead it’s the one with knowledge from data they’ve tapped into. With data at the helm, you can gain real clout in key business decision making.

“Data Equals Understanding”

Does it though? The person with the spreadsheets isn’t always the person with the understanding, the right questions, or indeed the answers. Data in isolation does not equal insight or understanding. Data with context is where the insight can be found.

“Torture The Data, And It Will Confess To Anything”

When existing theories cross the line from hypothesising to post rationalising, you fast become the torturer of the metaphor. From data capture, to manipulation and visualisation, you’ll find all manner of ways to torture the data into telling the story you want it to tell.

So it’s important to remain fully aware of existing biases you or your company may have, so you can avoid leading data capture and tunnel vision during data interrogation.