Gold Mining Versus Data Mining

glittering gold

glittering gold

Being a North Carolina native and current North Carolina dweller, I enjoy shared N.C.-related factoids.

Were you aware that the first discovery of gold in the U.S. occurred in North Carolina? It’s true. The birthplace of American gold was not in California, as you might guess, but, rather, was here in the Old North State. Gold was first discovered here on the Reed Farm in Cabarrus County in 1799.

I recall studying The California Gold Rush during my youth, and I remember wondering about the character traits and motivations of those thousands of gold-seekers. I imagined that they were adventurous and driven souls, daring to immigrate to California and brave harsh mining conditions in order to attain a golden precious metal that could offer life-changing opportunities.

Today, we live amongst miners of a different type – data miners. Hundreds of thousands of them, and I wonder…what character traits do those successful in data mining hold?

Are the data miners of today similar in nature to the gold miners of yesterday? Are they adventurous and driven by the promise of better opportunities? Or, are data miners today “safer” in outlook and more rigid in nature, preferring mathematical and statistical rules and order, steps and procedures?

Back in 2005, while answering a question about the difference between analytics and data mining, Larissa Moss explained that those engaged in data mining often do not know what they’re searching for: “One of the official definitions for data mining is: ‘Data analysis without preconceived hypothesis to unearth unsuspected or unknown relationships, patterns or associations of data.’ Simply put, ‘without preconceived hypothesis’ means you don’t know exactly what you are looking for…”

In our Big Data world, data miners have to sift through daunting amounts of systems-generated data, and not knowing what they’re looking for means data miners must be open-minded, curious, seeking, and, to at least some degree, adventurous.

What do you think? Do you think the practice of data mining isn’t for the faint of heart? Or do you think yesterday’s gold miners would say today’s data miners have it easy?

Imagine a data miner of today traveling back in time to the early 1800s. Imagine that data miner sharing a cold beer in an Old West saloon with a gold miner, tired from spending hours in a mine searching for gold. Imagine the gold miner complaining to the data miner about the challenges of gold mining. How do you think the data miner would respond?

I imagine that the data miner might answer with, “Aw shucks! At least you know exactly what you’re looking for!”

Happiness Mining Circa 1975

red gold miner's pick image (original image

red gold miner’s pick (original image

In a prior post, “What Kind of Model (Data) Are You?,” I referenced the business trends of data visualization and data mining, but, today, I want to discuss mining another kind – that is, happiness mining.

What is happiness mining?  I think happiness mining is the process by which you can uncover those people, places and things that bring joy into your life.

What tools and techniques can you use to mine for happiness?  Well, one tool that I use is music. I’ve mentioned before that I often listen to music to resurface positive personal memories and bring my inner self back “in tune.”

Using music to discover personal joy is a habit I began when I was very young.  My parents have a photo of me at approximately 3 years old holding the 45 record, “The Little White Duck,” which was one of my listening favorites.

As a young girl growing up in the 1970s, I had many musical friends beyond the little white duck. Today, I refer to those friends by first name, because their words and lyrics still bring me joy (click on each name to hear a specific song that brought me joy then and still brings me joy now):


In one of his famous songs, Neil Young sings about mining for a heart of gold.

What about you?  What joys are you mining for?  Listening to music is just one way to mine for happiness. I’d love to hear which tools you use to siphon out the golden bits of life that make you happiest.


What Kind of Model (Data) Are You?

abstract model image

abstract model image

As a marketer, I pay attention to how corporations are leveraging the latest digital marketing channels to promote their brands.  For example, I recently enjoyed reading this post, “Five examples of brands that are nailing Pinterest.”

I’m just as, and maybe more so, interested in how individuals are using digital channels, like Pinterest, to promote their individual selves today.  In some cases, individuals on Pinterest are giving corporate brands a run for the money in terms of their number of account Followers – for example, one individual, Joy Cho, has more than 15 million people who follow her Pinterest account.

The majority of digital channels today make it easy for individuals to convey and share their preferences related to a multitude of subjects.  For example, Pinterest provides almost a literal picture of the interests and preferences of its users.

Other digital channels, like Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, also make it easy for individuals to indicate and share their preferences (on Facebook and on LinkedIn, you can hit the “Like” button to indicate that you like certain content, while on Google+, you can hit the +1 button to indicate your preferences).

Have you ever asked yourself why the latest digital channels include functionality that so strongly promotes individual preference sharing?  As I’ve stated in a prior post, online behavior is being tracked more and more often by companies who want to identify and target more individuals as potential buyers of their products. New digital channels providers are capturing and making the preference data of their individual subscribers available to those companies, usually at a some cost.

Also, many companies today are using software solutions to collect online data, mine the data, model the data, and then create visual representations of that data – all in an effort to gain new insights and knowledge that their organizations can use to propel their businesses forward.

Speaking of data visualization, I enjoy seeing different data visualization examples on the Information is Beautiful site.  What about you?  Have you ever stopped to think about what kind of model all of your personal, historical online data would create if summarily captured?

Would your online behavioral data present a Kate MossKurt Cobain-waif-like image, or would it reveal a more robust Kate Upton-like visualization?  What trends or secrets of your life would be revealed? Which of your data points would surface as uniquely beautiful, like the mole over Cindy Crawford’s lip or the gap in Lauren Hutton’s front teeth?

When I was a young girl, I dreamt of being a model.  I had no idea that I would actually fulfill that dream to the extent that I, like you no doubt, have become a data point in someone else’s data model.

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