What isThe Best Way To Use Data?

by Dan Robles on 05/16/2011

There is a raging debate about data usage, privacy violation, and even epic technology data hacks.  The reason is simple – data has value.  Ultimately, data are convertible to value – in some form or another, including money.  That means that data are a convertible currency.  This is not necessarily bad, however, there is a right way and a wrong way to convert data into value.

The wrong way is to steal it from it’s rightful owners

You and I, by our motions, movements, communications and the pursuit of freedom and happiness create a huge amount of data.  This belongs to each individual.  When two or more   people interact with each other – the data they create belongs to them, and nobody else.  This is a very powerful relationship that others seek to exploit.  Equally culpable are those who don’t protect their data and the data they share with people around them.

The right way to use data is to play a game

If you observe any game that people play – from children’s games to sports, and even gambling – they all have one thing in common.  Each player has the same information as all the other players.  The game is largely the ability to influence the information with data. Kids know the probability that a they will be tagged and influence their strategy accordingly – but they all play on the same field. In a basketball game, gravity behaves exactly the same for every player on the team. Poker players know the probability that their opponent will draw a flush – there are only 52 cards.   Stealing Data is like slanting the playing field, stealing cards from the deck, or changing the influence of gravity.

Fair Market Value is a Value Game

The underlying assumption of market capitalism is that everyone has the same information.  Two people holding the same Carfax report can have a rational and fair negotiation about the value of that used car.  As such, the used car market is efficient.  Package labeling, truth in advertising laws, and pharmaceutical disclaimers are an attempt to keep a market efficient so that the market can arrive at a “Fair Market Value”.

The Value Game

The Value Game being tested now at Social Flights is a real life game where real people fly to real places to do real things on real nice airplanes.  There are no badges, tokens, little pink cows, wiggly worms, mayorships, or leader boards.  The Value Game is a real economic game built on real data that real players create, own, and share only with other real players.

How to use data correctly

The Value Game will process a great deal of information to make Social Flights operate efficiently.  Data must be normalized to calculate the probability that a flight will fill so that everyone can make a rational decision about price.  Normalized data can be used to create a seat cancellation insurance policy to reduce price volatility.  Normalized data can help travelers buy an option on game 7 of the World Series, before game 5 has ended. Normalized data can be applied so the player knows exactly how much of a discount to require from a vendor for accepting a coupon. Etc.

The Value Game does not need to know your name, address, phone number, or credit score to compile useful information.  The Value Game does not even need to know such information about your friends, family, or professional relationships.  Nobody needs to know your private information –  unless they intend to use your data incorrectly.  After all, thieves need to know who to restrict your data from – you.

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