Mining Unexpected Breadcrumbs For Subtle Cues of Epidemic Proportions

Quote of the day: “You’re one interesting cat.” That was what Janet Ginsberg of germtales said to me in an email exchange we had on social networks, disaster recovery and infectious outbreaks. I liked the description of me, and Janet agreed to let me share it here.

I met Janet in the comment section of Steve Baker’s post on using social networks to predict the movements of epidemics and food poisoning. Steve was referring to this concept in the context of Twitter, but I commented that the idea is much bigger:

Your question is relevant not only to Twitter, but to the social-media-sphere in general. It’s important to note that social media represent not only a source of insights, but unlike laboratory research, it also represents a subset of reality, and in some cases, proxies of larger facets of reality.

To your point, the holy grail is in identifying the extent to which creators of media or expression are predictive of something else, or reflective of something larger. Surely, people who post are early, active adopters and their digital breadcrumbs are just that…evidence reflective of themselves. This is something we are constantly tackling by correlating and validating CGM data across a wide spectrum of customer touch points, such as media consumption and purchasing.

Moreover, you also must remember that consumer expression, especially the digital sort, is often much more subtle, and doesn’t necessarily require active, conscious textual or multimedia creation, such as with Twitter, blogs, boards, email, etc. Think about all the behaviors and transactions we make in a day, which are captured digitally, and represent a large aggregate trail of human evidence. Think about credit card purchases, walking through a subway turnstile, purchases of kleenex, etc. J A Ginsburg left some good examples in the comment section here. Think of econometrics applied to wide, diverse and varying digital rays directly and indirectly emitted by us as humans.

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Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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