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In Technology We Trust

I don’t know if this is an American thing, but we seem to have a trust in technology so deep that it can never really fulfill our fantasies. I thought about this on my trip to Europe when I saw a design for flushing a toilet that allows the person to decide whether they need a big flush or a small one. (I’ll leave it to you to figure when each is appropriate.) And I realized how America solved this same problem–the government limited the number of gallons that could be used for any one flush. And my toilet is always clogged. We could have saved just as much water with the European solution, but that would have required relying on people rather than technology.

Toilet flush

Image by exfordy via Flickr


All this was brought to mind when someone asked me why human analysts are needed to augment text analytics for social media listening. [Full disclosure: I serve as Chief Strategist for Converseon, one of the few social media listening comp0anies that uses human analysts.] The answer is quite simple—the software doesn’t yet do the job by itself.
Companies that use completely algorithmic solutions get back a number of errors in their data that they manually go through and correct before they show the charts to upper management. So, the truth is that everyone uses human analysts. Some customers pay companies to provide the human analysis. Others do the human analysis with their own employees. Nobody uses completely software-driven reports as is.
But we all think that “automated” is better than “manual.” We have this deep belief in technology that merely providing the wrong answer does not seem to shake. The burning question is whether it is better to be automated but wrong or manual and correct. You can probably guess where I stand, but I am wondering where you do.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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