Information Trajectory

trajectory is a sequence (f^k(x))_{k \in \mathbb{N}} of values calculated by the iterated application of a mapping f to an element x of its source (wikipedia).

Put simply, anything that can be measured several times  can be graphed.  That graph reveals many interesting things.  It reveals direction and intensity.  It reveals associations – the sequence is itself an association.

When put in the context of business information, the vast amounts of corporate information we are producing, interacting with and storing yield a wealth of actionable business intelligence when trajectory is mapped over the interactions . Think about how how customers, partners and employees access and interact with your systems.  They browse your website, your blog, your forums.  They order products. They log in and access their order history or support tickets.  They email you.  They search the intranet for documents, presentations and images.  They email you again.

These revelations from a trajectory-based approach hold vast array of  business intelligence that is typically un- or under-used.  The direction of the graph suggests what is coming next.  It also provides hints as to what is close and what is far away.  Intensity suggests speed, interest and need.  The identification of the sequence itself is an incredibly powerful tool.

In browsing the intranet at work I reveal how my mind associates information.  This is a kind of “organic tagging”.  It is not explicit, but rather inherent to the interactions I have with information.  Cultivating that organic tagging by spotting and collecting the patterns of user interaction with information is the next big frontier in enterprise information management.

What are some things  can be measured? How about the documents you looked at in the last week at work.  How about who you emailed or tweeted during the last month, your browser history for your current session.  Most of these things are either currently measured or at least stored.

Lets take a look at an example.  Accessing a product presentation deck and then several images and then updating the internal wiki page for my marketing team suggests that the combination of product information plus some visual representation of it spurs feedback.  What if you took those findings and started placing better graphics with your product descriptions online alongside an easy “tell us what you think” feedback form?  Would your interactions from customers go up?  I’ll bet they would.

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