≡ Menu

Who Owns Social Data?

Martin Schneider (CRMOutsiders) asked this question – Who Owns Social Data? to a panel at the recent SugarCRM conference, held in San Francisco. Sameer Patel, Esteban Kolsky, Jeremiah Owyang and Diogo Rebelo participated in the panel. Since I was in the room, and organized the track, I threw my $.02 in every once in a while (sorry guys). I followed up via email with Sameer and Esteban, and Jeremiah started a whole thread on data and data ownership on the scrm-pioneers Google group.

Please keep in mind that I am looking at this question from the company perspective. I know, how very non-social of me and of course Inside-out. In fairness, companies knowing more about people is a good thing, it can aid in more Social CRM types of activities – I understand your privacy concerns, but let’s not go there just yet.  The idea I threw out at the conference was simple “Data owned and Data borrowed”. My meaning was/is simplistic, there is some data that will be managed by the company and then there is data managed by someone else (maybe even me). An example of this is the data that a company has because they asked me for it, core demographic (Email, Address, Phone) and then there is the data that they try to find out about me and my company by taking the core demographic data and looking elsewhere (Hoovers, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Radian6, Gist).

So, on to my thoughts…

The following taxonomy (a bit of an obnoxious word, apologies) which I forwarded to Sameer and Esteban looks like this:

1 – Data owned – The system in question is the canonical source for the information
2 – Data copied – The system has a copy (synch maybe) of a piece of data
3 – Data borrowed – The system is either pushed a piece of data or it pulls it and it can act on it logically but does not keep a copy
4 – Data displayed – Think UI mashup, the system itself is basically unaware of the presence

(With friends as witnesses, this article was well underway prior to the SalesForce announced intent to purchase Jigsaw. What was once ‘borrowed’ or displayed data – as we will see – might now be managed data, if this becomes a trend, the equation may change)

Esteban, in typical fashion, started with “I like your taxonomy, but…” Esteban suggested a slightly simpler approach “Created, Stored, Used”, which is a little simpler, as borrowed and displayed are combined. While the majority of the world seems to enjoying bickering (me too sometimes) on minute details, I am perfectly fine with the suggestion (no “but”). Esteban’s most valuable point to me is the following:”..the true value is not in the creation or storage, is in the proper use.” I like that, as long as the use within the terms specified by the owner. Going into data ownership is beyond this post, (and I will quickly get in over my head), as the Terms of Service seems to be a little different for various data sources.

Now, on to some feedback from Sameer. Sameer struggles with my suggested taxonomy as well, and he has a right to, as I was unclear in my email to him. Was I intentionally ambiguous, no, but I tried not to lead the answer either. Thinking out loud if you will hoping to get others to think as well. Sameer flattened my taxonomy as well, but he combined copied and borrowed. This is an interesting perspective and I cannot disagree with his logic either: “Where it used to be that the money was in the aggregation, now its in the network facilitator who in turn gets to sell the fire hose or the data to be manipulated into intelligence.”

Operational versus Analytics, it makes a difference

If the system is looked at from a purely operational perspective; meaning people trying to make decisions based on atomic changes (versus masses of data) the approach needs to be one way. If you would actually like to understand trends and behaviors (you know, Analytics) then you would actually need a copy of the data I referred to as borrowed.  In reading back through my own words, I suppose the question is not really “Who Owns Social Data?” (As I believe Sameer said on the panel “Who cares?”) it is more important to understand what you would like to do with it – what you need, when you need it.

In the end, I might suggest to keep the more detailed taxonomy, and you can feel free to condense or expand as necessary. I believe that for their described uses of data both Esteban and Sameer are correct.  I also know that Sameer does not just focus on Analysis, nor does Esteban just focus on operational use – my point is specifying the use upfront is important.What are your thoughts? Is the taxonomy too simple, too complex – or just plain old unnecessary?

I would like to thank them each of them for their time. Each has their own blog, and you should pay attention to them there!

Esteban Kolsky is a customer strategist. He advises organizations of all sizes how to approach their customer initiatives to succeed. Esteban believes strongly in analyzing data from carefully thought out research. Esteban also likes to tackle the sticky issues that the rest of us avoid – calling a spade a spade if you will.

Sameer Patel helps leading organizations accelerate employee, customer and partner performance via the strategic use of social and collaborative approaches and technology. He shares his thoughts on this, as well as the software vendor landscape and on occasion, a healthy rant or two about unrelated stuff that’s on my mind.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • jayhawkscot April 22, 2010, 12:06 PM

    Mitch – Great post.

    Having data is important and aggregating data is critical, but how it is used is even more important. And how it is used is dependent upon who cares about it. Both of these points lead to the strategy (how it is used) and who is driving the strategy (who cares about it).

    IMHO, a cross-functional strategy leads to a richer use of the data, which, in turn, has implications about the creation, storage, ownership and control.