Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Art of Crowdsourcing Data

There's a lot of data roaming around the world that could better shape how we live. If only you knew about the most optimal time to go to sleep to feel the most refreshed in the morning, or maybe there's a way to find your favourite new music that you've been feeling missing. Or maybe it's really about knowing when to leave your house to catch the bus at the perfect moment. I suppose the saddest notion when considering data is that some of it might just be impossible to get at.

Well, much of the data that I never really felt I had a handle on, has miraculously fallen within a graze of my fingertips over the past little while. Finally, the little people have been brought forward as the decision makers for many of the products I use in my daily life. And it's magical. From Kickstarter, which allows consumers to decide which products to invest their money in before they are made, to Netflix which creates television programming based on its' viewers habits, to Spotify which regurgitates its users' data back onto themselves by creating customized playlists based on their listening habits. This is truly the time for the little guy to have their opinion heard.

I'm sure you've heard of Kickstarter, which is a platform that allows creators to pitch their ideas to consumers (backers), who have the option of funding the projects they like, generally risk-free. This way, consumers can have their say to help get the items they want to be made. Recently, I backed my first project on Kickstarter. I absolutely love Gary Hustwit's wonderful documentaries on different sectors of the design industry, and wanted to help him make a fourth, about Dieter Rams. And so, partly because of me, Hustwit has enough funding to make the film!

Netflix is another gem in the world of crowdsourcing data. One example is the wildly popular House of Cards, the creation of which was in part due to the data analysis of existing viewing habits on Netflix. You can read more about it in this article.

I have become quite the heavy user of Spotify as a result of my increasing hatred of iTunes and laziness toward keeping up with new music. Since I started my 3-month trial a week ago, I have noticed that Spotify's version of crowdsourcing data is quite brilliant, and in fact twofold.

First off, the company uses your listening data to find songs you'll like based on what it already knows you like. And this linking of bands (those you like and those you've never heard) is done through the similar listening habits of others. Lovely!

Second and somewhat more special is the way Spotify allows you to follow people and see what they're listening to. So now I can actively choose to follow people whom I know have similar music tastes to me, and I get an update right in my window of what they're listening to.

In the top right corner, can see what three of my friends were listening to the last time they used Spotify.

This all gives me a further thought though: what if you cast whatever you're listening to over to someone else's account? So you're sharing whatever you're listening to with them. I'd argue that two lovers could create a bit of romance by sharing a single Spotify account (which only allows one song to be played at once), so that they become entwined more in each others' lives by sharing a soundtrack even when they're not in the same place. How nice!

As you've heard me gloat about before, I am in love with the Transit App. In cities where there is no real-time data provided by the transit agency (or even very slow data), in comes Transit to save the day. As a user, you can choose to broadcast the location of the bus you're riding so that other riders can benefit from your data. How revolutionary! I am honestly in awe of this app, and not only for its excellent use of crowdsourcing data or terribly sexy maps.

It seems like no coincidence that all these products make excellent use of the data their users provide them, and even more of a non-coincidence that I have become a heavy user of all of them in the recent future. I suppose it just feels good to have my opinion heard. And you can too!

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