October 05, 2016

Data, Facts, And Principles

Data beget facts. Facts beget principles.

Without facts and principles, data is useless.

After years of studying planetary motions, and compiling data, Copernicus uncovered a fact. The fact was that the Earth revolved around the sun. Until then, the data made no sense.

After years of studying the facts of bodies in motion, Isaac Newton developed a principle -- all bodies with mass seem to attract each other (we call it gravitation.) Until then, the facts were confusing.

Right now, the online advertising industry is drowning in data, but has generated almost no useful facts or principles.

Nobody can agree on anything related to online data. Other than the collection of it is obnoxious and intrusive.

The encyclopedia of things we don't know about online advertising since we started collecting "big data" is comical.
  • We don't know where our ads are running
  • We don't know who's viewing our ads or if they're even human
  • We don't know who's clicking on our ads or why or, again, if they're even human
  • We don't know if anything we're told by online experts is true because everything they tell us seems to turn out wrong
  • We don't know if any of the data we're gathering online is real or has value
As my friends in Brooklyn would say, we don't know shit.

Traditional advertising is far from science. But over the years we have been able to develop some facts and derive some principles. Are they perfect? They're barely adequate. But at least they provide us with some guideposts.

Online advertising has a very long way to go. Until we have reliable data we won't have facts. Until we have verifiable facts, we won't have principles. Until we have established principles we'll continue bouncing around in the dark.

Data is just a pile of bricks until someone builds a house.

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