Is Algorithm the New Mantra of the Information Age? 21 Jan 2015

Is Algorithm the New Mantra of the Information Age?

Algorithms are one of the most important pieces of the puzzle in an increasingly “Big Data” world. No matter whether you are using Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Amazon or another destination on the World Wide Web, an invisible algorithm — mathematical computer instructions that control processes and outcomes — will help guide you to choices and answers along the way.

How Do Algorithms Influence Our Lives?

When you go to a library, how do you find the information you are looking for? Usually this amounts to a combination of an index and help from a librarian. In the early days of internet search engines, pioneers such as the founders of Google realized that computer users needed a similar tool to find information on the internet. But this is a monumental chore given millions of web sites, images, data tables, articles and videos.

The evolving answer to this dilemma was to develop computer robots to constantly search the internet, analyze what is found and then tell someone the answer to internet-based questions. Harnessing big data is increasingly seen as an impossible task without relying on sophisticated algorithms that can integrate all of the information on the internet and then help you to decide what movie to go to, what stock to buy or whatever else is on your mind. Whether we like it or not, our lives are influenced every day by a Google algorithm or one of a growing number of other algorithms.

How Algorithms Influence What We Buy?

One of the best examples of how algorithms shape our world is contained in data mining that can predict buying behavior. On social networks, algorithms are constantly evaluating your likes and dislikes to present you with ads and recommended content — for example, a Twitter algorithm and a LinkedIn algorithm operate differently but still have similar goals of pleasing users and monetizing the website by suggesting something you should buy before you even look for it. For example, if you are communicating on Facebook about tablet computers, don’t be surprised if Amazon features an iPad Air when you visit their site.

How Algorithms Influence What We Read and Recommend?

Social media comments often feature more opinions than facts. Today’s algorithms must be equally capable of analyzing emotions and opinions about books and other consumer products. For example, the Amazon algorithm illustrates “how algorithms rule the world” by analyzing both what people buy and say on Amazon’s website — the latest technological development by Amazon plays music and is constantly listening to conversations in the home (or office) of anyone with the “Amazon Echo.” This device has the potential to take algorithms to a whole new level by incorporating spoken conversations in the algorithm. E-commerce sites such as Amazon are logical users of algorithm-based technology to influence what we read, buy and recommend — but businesses of all sizes can also take advantage of algorithms for their own purposes.

How Algorithms Influence What Videos We View?

Watching online videos, movies and streamed content has finally surpassed DVDs as a content-delivery system. Although Netflix pioneered home-delivery of DVDs by mail, they have switched their current marketing emphasis to streaming. Netflix is also very good at using their own algorithm to recommend what you should watch — by the company’s own estimate, 75 percent of viewers watch what is “recommended.” The recommendations are based on a sophisticated combination of what you actually watch plus what you search for, what type of device you are using to watch, the time of day and how you browse.

Since YouTube is owned by Google, the Watch Time YouTube algorithm is undoubtedly influenced by Google’s algorithm technology. YouTube incorporates viewing session data such as how long videos are watched rather than merely tracking initial clicks for a video. The end result is that YouTube promotes the most engaging videos to potential viewers.

Algorithms in the Future: Going From Level 1 to Level 5

As with any technology, changes and improvements are part of the “new normal.” By one estimate provided by Gartner, current algorithms are at level 1 — not much more than 50 percent accurate. By the time we get to level 5, 98 percent accuracy will be possible. Getting to this advanced level of accuracy will require crunching more data and doing a much better job of it. Research Optimus can help you get there!

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– Research Optimus

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