This week FirstRain’s COO YY Lee gave an advanced-level class to Big Data TechCon conference attendees on how to develop and drive personalization of information experience in a Big Data world. Personalization is quickly becoming an assumed part of technology UX. These rapid advances, also affected by increased expectations set by flagship consumer apps create a need and an opportunity for enterprise software to deliver personalized experiences inside traditional applications and workflows. YY’s class covered data and analytics techniques for building user profiles, leveraging explicit and implicit factors into the process, and addressing the challenges of user behavior and expectations in order to create a highly adaptive, individualized information experience.
As part of her class, YY spoke to the fact that the application of information science techniques is core to creating a very personal mobile era user experience. She shared some of the lessons learned by the FirstRain R&D team, who are pioneers in developing and introducing our customers to an adaptive and pragmatic semantic information space model – a model that allows for the marriage of deep data science and personal business analytics. FirstRain technology understands human perspective, awareness and preferences to deliver analytics with each user in mind. YY advised what factors can be leveraged to build profiles and nuanced understanding of users including: building rationally-derived/real life characteristics; isolating real–time, structural, transient, in the moment user preferences; leveraging common personal tendencies; etc. “We are successful when a person looks at the application and thinks: Wow, this is me! This is exactly what I need to do my job today’, said YY.
She also talked about the importance of developing and applying skepticism filters to discover, for example, whether any given case ‘in-doubt’ is an opportunity for a non-linear development or if the system really got it wrong and needs to be re-educated. She also mentioned the importance of human analyst inputs in the process of building precise personalization models to further refine information and adopt it to deliver better results each time. Other methodologies in developing personalization were discussed such as correlations, pattern recognitions, network relationships, leveraging external data, etc.
During this class, YY highlighted that the best opportunity to create the user experience that says “this is about me, my job, and what I need to know at this moment” is to develop a fine balance of information space modeling and user data modeling in your apps. She wrapped up an engaging discussion by sharing her team’s advice for some simple ways to get started personalizing your data delivery:
1. Find easy ways to customize – learn and refine your work. Users often have little appetite to providing input, therefore the developer needs to carefully select their points of engagement.
2. Start with easy tricks to customize by making the UX feel personal, such as simply adding a profile picture.
3. Start with the personalization characteristics that are easy and obvious to your user and how they use your apps: what role the person is in, what place they live, etc.
4. You don’t have to start by solving really big problems
5. Moderation and balance are important in providing suggestions. Change is sometimes difficult for a user. Too many choices may be annoying. Learn the art of notification by selecting things with the right information density.
5. Minimize the mysteries to minimize risks. Explain where the content is coming from: ‘I am showing you this because of X”
6. Inject small reminders for personalizations through the whole user so that the user can be in charge.
If you are interested in having YY come to your next event to talk about driving truly personal information experiences, please contact us!
This post was written by YY Lee, FirstRain COO.
I appreciate FirstRain’s own Penny Herscher(@pennyherscher) for putting herself out there to moderate the Male Allies Panel, despite the concerns going-in about how to constructively include that perspective. The fiery reaction to that session raised the level of engagement around deep-seated systemic equity issues in our industry in a way that would not have been achieved otherwise. And in Penny’s usual way — she engaged those issues head-on, in direct personal and online exchanges with the men & women, leadership & grassroots members of the community.
Satya Nadella’s wrong-headed comment the next morning (as he has acknowledged), underscored the complacency and problems around gender-equity issues, even among the thoughtful and well-intentioned. This forced the realization that this is not an simply an issue of perception, interpretation or over-reaction. But will require a real introspection and major change — even from colleagues and leaders who are confident they are already totally on-board and acting as allies for equity.
This was the near-perfect opportunity, timing and forum to examine the truth. It is remarkable that even given the charged emotions around this, the discussion started relatively politely, and besides excessive piling on, it remained safe — this in stark contrast to the ugly violent targeting has been simultaneously unfolding around GamerGate. Which only further highlights the reality of the technology industry’s toxic differences in how men and women are treated.
It is too bad that before Nadella’s KarmaGate comment, he stated one of my favorite quotes of the whole conference —summing up why I’ve loved doing this work, nearly every day for over two decades:
“[We work with] the most malleable of our resources, software… That’s the rich canvas that we get to shape… paint…” -Satya Nadella
He nailed it. He put his finger on that the one thing that probably links all the men and women in that event. This is a deep-thinker who understands the heart of matters, which is what made his later comment so doubly surprising and disheartening.
I am encouraged to see the after-effects like Alan Eustace trying to do things differently. And honest conversations with ABI executives about their awareness and struggle with the impossible balance of growing their reach and impact while containing the inevitable, unintended side effect of corporate co-opting.
To all of you “good guys who do care” — Satya, Alan, Mike Schroepfer, Blake Irving, Tayloe Stansbury — less patronizing talk is nice, listening is refreshing, but which of you and your companies is going to commit to results?
==> Here my question to all the “good guys” out there as well as my fellow female leaders: Who is going to set and deliver specific targets for ratios of women and minorities that reflect the real population — in technical leadership by a specific date… 2016? 2017? Who is going to hack their orgs & companies to solve this problem, rather than running feel-good, look-good “programs”?
The Grace Hopper Celebration is an inspiring, important and high-quality gathering in an industry that is littered with mediocre PR-flogging events.
“The Asian community owes a lot to the black community. They opened a lot of doors for us [in the fight for equality].” -Barb Gee
I’m not going to end this post with some rah-rah “just go get ’em girls!” trope. Because the women technologists are already out there — delivering effort, innovation and results at 120% while receiving 70%… 80%… (to be wildly optimistic) of the recognition and reward.
I will share just one final favorite conference quote, which is how this gathering makes me feel every time I attend:
“… at #GHC14… Just not enough space to desc. Wow. Much women. So much brain” -@michelesliger
It is our industry and companies that need to be fixed, not the women in it. I have to believe it is becoming increasingly obvious to our leaders, managers and co-workers that under-valuing this incredibly intellectual resource is idiotic, bad business, and just plain wrong.
- YY Lee (@thisisyy), COO of FirstRain