My friend Marco’s spam-bait operation was down last year, and he’s been asking me what business intelligence can do for him. He had just read one of TDWI’s promo emails last night when he called me again.
“I like Vegas. Should I go?” he asked from somewhere that sounded far away. I said it all depended on what he wanted to learn. Is making sense of his data important? If yes, go. But there seemed to be more to his question.
He’s gone through one shady business after another since the early ’60s, when as a teenager he sold drugs on the street. Now he sells fake email addresses in huge blocks to Eastern European spammers. All his customers have had a good education, he tells me, yet most retain some of their families’ traditional ways. He describes them picking over his blocks of email addresses as if over oranges in a bin, rejecting one, taking another. They seem to rely entirely on feel, and Marco makes sure each new batch feels “fresh” and authentic year after year.
“Cool. My data’s real, real important to me,” said Marco. “So’s my know-how, my experiments, my research. Those experts in Vegas dish on how to manage all that, man?”
Definitely the data, I said, but not much on the qualitative end of his research. He was disappointed.
“You know, you got me going on this insight thing, man,” he said. “And then you change the story. This business intelligence takes care of only some of my insight? Only some of it? What do they think, data’s the only way you get insight?”
He had a point. I thought fast. I said he should think of his operation like a speeding car. He liked that. I said he needed a “dashboard” to let him know how he was doing. He liked that, too. There was a course on Tuesday, I said, all about that.
“Cool, man. But what about my research? I got these journals I keep with my results and theories and shit like that. What about all that? I keep losing track of it all.”
I said I thought he was talking about knowledge management or something.
“Yeah, that sounds like what I want. Knowledge management. They don’t do that there?”
I explained that data was this event’s main focus. Other events … but he cut me off.
“No, man. Here’s what it’s about,” he said. “It’s all about marketing. I don’t know much about business intelligence, but I bet that every benefit, feature, whatever comes from a different tool. Each comes from a different vendor,” he said in a tired sing-song, “and the producers of this event have a line on a certain kind of vendor. To protect their game, they make up a category. Get hip, man. It’s always like that.”
He quickly added, as if he had already bored himself, “How’s the food there? Can a guy score somethin’ to eat?”
The best Caesar’s can offer, I said. Then he had to go answer the door. I heard urgent knocking.