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Ask, Measure, Learn by Lutz Finger, Soumitra Dutta

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Chapter 9. Use the Right Data

It’s not about “good” or “bad” data, it’s about “right” data.[164]

Tom Anderson, the CEO of OdinText, sounds almost philosophical in his statement on good and bad, but his quote summarizes nicely what many have tried to say: Only with the right data will you be able to draw conclusions and act on them. But what is right? Once you have defined a good question—that is, once you define the ask—the next challenge is to determine what data can help answer this question. The best question might be unanswered because we are using or measuring the wrong data. There are two important factors in this discussion:

  • What kind of data (sometimes also called features or variables[165]) should we use? Often companies have premade measurements available, such as click rates of users, their ages, or financial KPIs. The more of them you use, the harder it is to find relationships and not get overwhelmed by noise. With too few variables and features, however, you might not find what has the biggest effect in a given situation.

    Take as an example the work of a behavioral-targeting company. It has many variables about a visitor, such as the pages she has clicked before, the time she clicked the advertisement, and her network ID. It might even store the stock market situation and the weather at the time of the click. Not all of these data elements are equally helpful. For example, it turns out that the information about the browser is ...

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