The Boring Data Future

Published February 17, 2019

Things you never knew you didn’t want:

These are all real products which hit the floor at CES in 2017. In a Verge article about beauty tech1, one of the writers says,

… all this thing does is give me data that produces more work.

Telling someone their hair is dry ultimately never solves their problem but it certainly creates one. With the mental burden of more data, she’s going to have to figure out how to make that actionable, if it is at all.

In, ‘The Most Important Thing’ by Howard Marks he descibes first order thinking,

… simplistic and superficial, and just about everyone can do it.

Named aptly–it’s the first thought which comes to mind. If you have an old car, you must want to sell it. If you have a house, you must want to decorate it. Voila! Here’s a product–it’ll give you a lot of data about car-selling and home decoration and now your life is better.

The assumption made: with all the data everyone will make the right decision. It’s a bit of a leap of faith and incredibly idealistic–the user becomes a hair expert, a data analyst, a realtor, or simply someone with a lot of time. Your product will inspire them to make that leap.

I’m skeptical.

Past the Data

“If I knew X, what happens after?”

When information was scarce and every piece of information which came through was stronger than the emptiness around it, it made sense to grab more data. With the world’s knowledge base at our fingertips, this no longer brings value. We need curators (influencers) and analysts (recommendation engines)2 more than we need more data.

Quantity of information is not correlated with value. We should be collecting the data, synthesizing it into a way which makes sense for our users’ contexts, and making it easier on them. This means: more efficient, less decisions, and overall, less management.

A decent hair stylist tells you your hair is dry and tells you how to fix it. A great hair stylist knows your hair is dry, fixes it for you, and sends you home with the right products to maintain it.

Tech stands to learn something from great hair stylists.

1 Tiffany, K., Robertson, A., Plaugic, L., Lopatt, E. (2017, Jan 4). Do beauty gadgets have to be terrible? Retrieved from

2 Rudimentary but better than data dashboards.