“Good enough” data analysis will lead to good data analysis

Someone on Quora asks, “What are the most promising disruptive innovations for the next decade (2011-2020)?”

The always incisive Venkatesh Rao offered a long list. At least one of his predictions brings to mind the decision support industry’s many do-it-yourself tools.

Deprofessionalization/democratization: if you thought blogging taking down professional writing, and amateur photography threatening professional photography were big, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Tons of problems that previously required professional expertise to solve can now be re-engineered so that amateurs can solve them. Movies and education are next.

Look around. If the tools don’t exist, but the high-margin professionals and eager amateurs do, try and invent them.  A big opportunity here is for amateur animated video shows. There are some primitive things that get animated characters speak out scripts, but we’ve barely scratched the surface.

Note the absence of data analysis. He could have listed it along with movies and education. But he didn’t, most likely because he knows too much about it to accept “good enough.”

People tend to go along with the good-enough except in their own field. There they see exactly why “good enough” just isn’t. Professional writers and photographers still scoff today at amateurs’ work even 20 years into that takedown.

When you need something done well, you hire a pro. But for many jobs, you can get by on “good enough” — until you’re skilled enough to know what you’re missing or curious enough to want something better.

That path played a big part in the California wine industry’s recent history. Back in the early ’80s, I talked to the finance officer of one of the many new craft brewers in California. He had seen how mass tastes work a decade before with the rise of a bad jug wine, Italian Swiss Colony. (“Made by that little old winemaker, me.”)

Sure, the stuff was awful by today’s standards. But the marketing got Americans drinking wine. Before long, many of them wanted to know how the good stuff tasted. So throughout the ’70s and even today, small wineries thrive thanks to that new thirst.

So it will be with data analysis, not to mention movies and education.

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