Stating The Facts

Liberate My Data

Please, I’m trying hard to be civil about it

This post is not about how Hans Rosling opened my eyes to how the world is not a dark and scary place like I have been taught. Or how his book has started so many productive conversations with people. Rather, it builds on the meta-learning from Rosling’s book where he inspires us to “look at the data for yourself”.

This enlightenment attitude comes at a times like these:

  • When Twitter is removing millions of fake accounts to create a more productive product, but we have already lived through the sesspool of vitriol…[1] [2] [3]

  • When the FCC has to change their commenting system due to malicious behavior by netizens fraudulently hijacking influence in efforts to persuade unsuspecting readers to a protracted conclusions…[4] [5] [6] [7]

  • When facebook’s Zuckerberg has recently been to the senate to be asked terrible questions about its outsized influence on the lives of its viewers. [8] [9]

So in light of all that, and mustering the spirit of Hans, we can now with similar strength and poise, stand strong and demand that we, as users - not as advertisers, require some level of productized analytics to make sense of our own digital reality. I am not saying “analytics all the things” for free. By all means, I believe there is a latent business model between those quotes.

I am saying that some level of innate capability WITHIN the host platform seems like a table-stakes a requirement. And perhaps you could differentiate the service into varrying tiers of templatized dashboards for various personas, and perhaps you give a personal firehose for users to interogate their own data, perhaps you allow an open view into your data; where others can provide data augmentation for their users. But we as users want to make our own assessments of “how many high quality followers we have”.

Or so that we can realize that “Ajit Pai” says this “odd thing” about every 78 seconds. Why would he do that? Oh wait, its from a bot! We can notice these things if we have computer-style speed reading abilities on our own - OR better yet - we can all have computer-style speed reading because computers can process text much faster than any human.

There is an uneven playing ground for spreading mis-information. You might even call it a binary distribution.

Those who code && those who don’t code.

When someones mode of creation is super-human (aka: computer augmented) I as a reader require some types of super-human smoke tests. Smoke tests that I can trust because, I can read what they do, or have a friend share it to me, or be truthfully told that 1000 people use this same smoke screen (which I can interpret in my own way as trustworthy or not).

Here is the point: to combat super-human modes of production requires a super-human modes of filtering, ranking, reading, and sense-making.

Product designers, product developers, exectives and managers, need to understand that somve level of Universal Analytics is only presently optional. Digital natives will eventually require this type of universal access to our own analuytics.

Sure, not every user is Hans Rosling (RIP) - some people are data haters. But each year as the web becomes closer to the primary universe, and the ‘real life universe’ becomes the side show, users are increasingly skeptical and versed in data, charts, graphics, metrics, and other quantified aspects of everyday life. Frankly this might be the universe’s purpose for social media. For all of its evil natures, social media has indoctrinated plenty of innocent users to crave the quantification of themselves.

So we stand in 2018 at the end of a regime. We used to trust the host platform to furnish an honest representations of our quantified digital worth: with Likes, Followers, Impressions, etc. But we, in 2018, do not stand in judgement of Twitter (or other platforms) as previously lying, but rather as unable to answer OUR questions.

We stand in judgement of the idea, that you CAN answer my individual questions. We want OUR data. We want to give OUR data to OUR people to have them use THEIR tools to help us do our own sense-making of your metrics.

This is not to say that we require “root access” to the database to run our own ad hoc queries, but it does mean that we crave more data than the measly aggregates you provide right now. Which will be different tomorrow, when you remove the “fake things”. You have woken us up to the Haley Joel Osmond reality of the internet - We see skewed things, we see them all the time.

But please, please give me the respect to not just take your word for that - I want to make my own assessments. In the future, I will not wait for you to fix your queries. I will use my own definition of what is a real user account.

Thanks for filtering out the fake accounts. It took you long enough…

FOR myPost
WHERE ONLY IF `realAccount` = TRUE

Sure not everyone is going to fire up a command prompt and type away some pseudo-sql query on their own data.

But internet, consider your self on notice, I think I will leave product in favor of new products that augment me with super-human powers to do my own sense-making. Since I have now pulled the wool off my eyes, I can see that this whole time “the platforms” and I have been talking past each other.

I have been asking - “how many PEOPLE saw my cool post?” but all along they have been answering “1M ACCOUNTS saw this” (Sure plenty of people knew this all along - actually myself included - but it seems like any time a senate hearing occurs - we are confronted with all of these little heuristics that we, the users, have built up that are not quite correct)

It all starts to feel like politics when platforms answer their your own questions, and not the ones Im asking. Again, the take way: I want to read my data for my self. In the words of Reagan: “Trust But Verify”

Or maybe we can conclude by paraphrasing the great philosopher George W Bush 😜 :

Fool me once, shame on me,
Fool me twice, Well you ain’t gunna fool me twice.
–George W Bush


  1. NYTimes on Twitter Removing Accounts

  2. Daily Mail on Twitter Culling Millions of Locked Accounts

  3. Buzzfeed on Facebook Fake Accounts

  4. Washington Examiner on FCC Comment System Overhaul

  5. RollingStone on John Oliver’s FCC Comment URL

  6. Techcrunch on FCC renig-ing on hacked systems

  7. Techcrunch shows Reps dog piling on Ajit Pai

  8. Ben Thompson on Facebook vs Washington

  9. CBS News on Mr. Zuck Goes to Washington