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Thought Leaders in Big Data: Dmitri Williams, Professor USC and CEO of Ninja Metrics (Part 7)

Posted on Tuesday, Jul 22nd 2014

Dmitri Williams: It took that Jujitsu lateral thinking to think that their relationship is more important than my relationship with them. That’s a lot of the evangelization that we have to do. We are very early in this process and we have a lot of theory and some early best practice but we don’t know if that thinking works well in healthcare.

Sramana Mitra: Also I think that, sector by sector, the action items are different. Just like you gave the example of the coffee shop, once you understand the social graph, the action items of what you do with that understanding varies from business to business or sector to sector.

Dmitri Williams: Absolutely. Context is everything. We are aware of what we don’t know. We know a lot about human nature. We have folks like myself who are relatively expert in social science and human interaction. I’m not an expert in every sector. My team is only 16 people. We’ve taken the time to carve out an R&D group, which retains our academic roots and is there to ask and answer these questions. It’s a big universe and we’re a small team. We certainly don’t know everything.

What we find is that the best practice is usually to come in, get some scaffolding and some guidance to clients, and then listen. Then help them apply the data and make them actionable in their context. Usually they know their sector far better than we do but we know more about human nature. In the long run, we have this better middle-level knowledge of what’s working in what sectors, what kinds of appeals are universal, which are sector-specific, etc.

Sramana Mitra: What kinds of clients are actually paying clients where you’re running hands-on experiments right now?

Dmitri Williams: For context, our product is very young. We launched a SaaS-like version about three and a half months ago with the video game industry. We’ve got a dozen active clients. A couple are very large and there are a lot of small fries. We also have relationships with people in music and ticketing, life sports, e-commerce, and newspapers. Those are the other sectors where, you could say, we’re dabbling with. For those, we might not have a fully developed product, but we have initial results. It’s the difference between understanding and full automation.

A while back, I said that the spread of social value is between 5% and 80% and it’s across that wide range. For example, in the music listening side, the numbers are actually very high. The social value and the influences are very large – larger than a typical e-commerce company. We are still not confident that we know everything about every sector. It’s still quite early.

Sramana Mitra: Very interesting. I really enjoyed this conversation. I have a huge interest in artificial intelligence (AI). As we go along, AI is actually starting to have more impact in the business world. Thank you for your time.

This segment is part 7 in the series : Thought Leaders in Big Data: Dmitri Williams, Professor USC and CEO of Ninja Metrics
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