hardcore-vs-love-data

Behind Closed Doors

Jonny Darling Insight Leave a Comment

Patterns emerge in data-sets. In the case of human behavioural data, the patterns of our daily lives and intentions expressed in the form of Google search queries, we follow some predictable paths. From an expression of loneliness expressed early in the evening through to interaction with dating websites later that night, on to searches for “how to put on a condom”, climaxing with large volumes of “porn” consumption in the twilight hours!

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz latest contribution to New York Times Opinion draws on the recent release of Google Trends real-time.

One of the most important powers of big data is simple. Just as the microscope allowed us to look at smaller and smaller parts of physical objects, big data allows us to zoom in on our minds.

search-around-the-clock


Data tells stories, revealing, intimate stories about people (anonymised, aggregate data-sets) that they might not share otherwise. How we behave online yields telling insight into society, the data is a fertile hot-bed for scientists to gorge and orgy on. This stuff really stimulates, these guys get their kicks out of it.

#DataPorn

It’s trendy now-a-days to be a geek, to get high on data crack, to be a data scientist, to drill in to data with the lustre of porn! I’m a self-confessed analytics junkie. I can’t get enough of data visualisation, of information modelling and intelligence systems. I don’t pretend to know how these algorithms and computer programmes work it all out, but they do make data look pretty, data is beautiful, and in the knowledge economy, information is power. Every other day we hear soundbites of technology companies with eye-popping valuations, valuations based on the value of the data that they collect, store and interpret. The collection of data comes back to that tired old adage, “if you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product”. We, the “users” of the product, are the data bundles that technology business sell to their customers. We are not the customers, the buyers of our data are!  What’s in it for them? In a word, Power. Companies pay for the privilege of information about us as it arms them with power to steer our behaviour toward their desired outcomes, be it increased brand awareness, social advocacy or product purchase. They make sure they get what they pay for, not data in and of itself, but a return on investment in that data by way of sales revenue.

The essence of website personalisation, of contextual advertising or remarketing is to customise a sales proposition to match the intended target customer. It’s about serving the content that the person wants. Porn sites employ some of the most advanced recommendation engine techniques to create an experience tailored to the viewer, or voyeur. Not only that, these are some of the most popular websites in the world with enormous traffic numbers and what’s especially unique about this medium, users are active, not passive! Hey, hey, hey, I don’t mean in that way. I propose that porn websites have some of the highest internal or custom search keyword data of any site online. This is valuable, and no, not in a creepy “I’m watching you” way!

#PornData

Revelations about basic human psyche, our primal desires, subconscious needs and emotional desires biologically built-in aren’t necessarily as easily packages as more tangible bundles such as buying habits, discretionary spending, consumption patterns, travel routines, health and lifestyle tracking. Porn usage, particularly statistical evidence based on physical preference, scene selection, mood set, character role-play, this is data that can reveal the state of the nation!

As stated in The Guardian in April 2015, Porn Data: Visualising Fetish Space,

Porn is one of the biggest yet worst-covered topics in popular discourse. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that sits at the heart of human sexuality in the 21st century. Many people watch it, though few talk about it, and for better or worse it exerts a major influence over our culture; but we know relatively little about it. What if we could find some big source of data?

The Irish Times Sex Survey in June 2015 reported the response of 12,134 participants to a wide array of questions. Much was revealed voluntarily by respondents as to their sex lives and sexual inclination. Likewise the break-down of responses by male and female, heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual, alluded to the sexual fabric of Irish society, as highlighted by psychotherapist Trish Murphy

PornHub Insights goes a step further, releases an in-depth report in to Irish usage patterns of the porn website, particularly popular in Dublin’s south-side!

pornhub-insights-ireland-website-usage-trends

Revisiting The Guardian’s piece on porn preference, data clusters emerge from popular content tags. Robbins concludes

There’s really only one concrete conclusion I want to make, and it’s this: there is a vast ocean of data on the web about human sexuality, far more than I think people realise, and it could be an enormously valuable tool in developing our understanding of a really important topic.

content tag cloud sex psychology


Human Story

My interest is in human behaviour, less so consumer behaviour. My professional life has been all about “optimising the customer journey”, setting out a stall for my clients that is attractive to Google, attractive to visitors, who become window-shoppers, who enter, browse, try stuff on for size and buy. Over time, I’ve focused more on optimisation for optimisation sake, rather than the euro end-goal. I’ve concentrated on website performance management: Structure, Security, Speed. I’m a webmaster who’s developed out a healthcheck formula of checks and changes that passes a website fit for business. My journey, rather than the customer journey, has peeked my fascination in user behaviour or user experience. Like any hard-core data addict, I want to get inside the heads of people. There’s another word for this human science.

Psychology

I’m not qualified, but psychology seems to be about understanding people and helping them to understand themselves. Knowledge is power. It’s the social graph that I’m drawn to. Underlying this soft underbelly of #porndata is a valuable insight. Valuable to the user that is. We can hold a mirror to the porn industry and learn something about ourselves in the reflection. We can discover that our cravings and fetishes are quite “normal”, and we can be enlightened by infographics that illuminate our humanity. The porngram experiment by Sexualitics (slogan “Data Love. Porn Data”) is Google trends for porn. This open data organisation has done some detailed studies. Go run some comparative analysis on porngram and I’ll leave you with this graphic which to my mind is heartening. Porn might be a dirty word but just look what people visiting porn sites are most searching for.

hardcore-vs-love-data