Data Mining: Online Examples

Roughly three years ago, I received the following nugget of wisdom regarding entrepreneurship: do something at the “intersection of your interests, skills and where the market is going.” This came from a presenter at VLAB who gave the same advice to her son as he was heading to college and felt that the advice was appropriate for aspiring entrepreneurs as well.

With so much going on in the glamorous worlds of mobile, social networks, music etc., why would one pick something as boring, mundane, prosaic ( fill in your favorite synonym for “boring” here) _______ as data ??? For me it’s because I’m a numbers guy, I like the worlds of planning, forecasting etc. and it appears that data analysis is emerging as an area of growth – for me data mining is at the intersection of my skills, likes and where the market is going.

What is data mining? My informal definition is that data mining is the process of getting some benefit, whether economic or non-economic, from information. A simple example, courtesy of Roger Magoulus from OReilly Media,  is’s listing of each book’s “ Sales Rank” – that single piece of data helps buyers make decisions.

Everyone is aware of the tremendous growth of social networks. Anyone who uses LinkedIn has probably noticed the “People You May Know” box – that’s a case of LinkedIn using information on connections between your contacts and the contacts’ contacts  – another example of data mining. If you do a search for “data mining” on a job site like Simply Hired, you may find social networking companies like Yelp and Facebook advertising for data mining experts. Today I noticed that Simple Hired itself has added a neat capability – it can show your Linkedin contacts next to a job listing – the value being that you can ask your LinkedIn contact to possibly to give you a referral – another example of using data for your benefit.

What about those “other” companies?  Can a “normal” company, not just a social networking site, also mine online data? Sure. Take a look at this chart that shows trends for Google searches for rental car companies:

Trends in Google Searches

In this case each rental car company can investigate why there were relatively more searches for Enterprise Rental Car – was it because Enterprise advertised more in a specific location? This is an example of data mining of external information (i.e., information that does not reside within the corporate technology systems). You can view the actual chart here, and even drill into specific locations (for example, there were more searches for Dollar Rental Car in Hawaii).

Hal Varian, an economist who works for Google, recently said that statistics may be a good career choice in the future: “… The ability to take data—to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it—that’s going to be a hugely important skill..”

I hope these examples gave you a better understanding of data mining as it pertains to online data. What do you think?


2 Responses to “Data Mining: Online Examples”

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  2. […] Data Mining: Online Examples « Sales, Software & Entrepreneurship […]

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