THE MOST PUBLIC OWNER of rich data is Google and access to its data is quite straightforward thanks to the variety of application programming interfaces vetted by Google. You can't say the same for Facebook.
People use Google to find answers. People use Facebook to find connections. In my experience, there is greater social value in the answers people discover on Google than in the connections people make on Facebook. Could you imagine asking Facebook "Why?"
I watch people view the internet through dashboards I have on Google Analytics and Facebook business pages. I'm interested in joining conversations by engaging with terms of reference that appear in referral strings associated with my web properties. I'm also interested in what brings someone onto a Facebook page and can discern a lot about the (self-reported) demographics of a person through Facebook's statistics.
Our rudimentary Web Analytics module in the Limerick Institute of Technology helps creative multimedia extract meaning from online behaviour. We concentrate on clickstreams, both inside websites and on data from email traffic. We know consultants who make their living by measuring what matters. Students first learn to measure web analytics. Then they learn to measure reach and the amplification of memes. Finally they produce metrics of influence. There is good money in doing these skills well.
Like several articulate voices in Ireland's social media space, I'm watching how much personal information people give up in exchange for access to free information and services. I think people need to hear cautionary tales, especially about divulging too much through the plumbing of Facebook.
Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Pinterest are how people want to interact through their phones nowadays. Text messaging is a distant memory for a lot of us because online social networking is often built into the standard notification systems of new phones. Under the surface, I can see how social networks like Facebook and Twitter have reduced the pulling power of my blog from 1200 page views per day to fewer than 500 page views per day. I can also see people coming onto my blog from Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. It's easier for information to swirl around in all three of those spaces now, instead of just being predominantly on individual websites.
I'm learning a lot from the rich data that exists in all of these networks. And appreciating the public sharing offered by Google's search engine in the process.