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The Visual Organization: Data Visualization, Big Data, and the Quest for Better Decisions by Phil Simon

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CHAPTER 3

The Quintessential Visual Organization

People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come in to the mind of others.

—Blaise Pascal

What's the biggest Big Data company today? Is it Facebook with 1.2 billion registered users, many of whom are authentic? What about Amazon or Google? They're not exactly slouches.

It's a silly question with no correct answer. It all depends on what you're measuring. The definitive answer isn't terribly important, but one could credibly argue that the honor currently belongs to Netflix.

NETFLIX 1.0: UPSETTING THE APPLECART

Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph founded Netflix in 1997, originally as a DVD-by-mail business. At that time, the process of renting a video entailed a trip to the local Blockbuster or Hollywood Video, looking around, and hoping to find something interesting in stock. Many customers didn't find the titles they wanted. When they did, they often incurred late fees upon returning their videos. In 2000, “Blockbuster collected nearly $800 million in late fees, accounting for 16 percent of its revenue.”1

NOTE

In the interest of full disclosure, I treated Netflix a bit differently than the other case studies in this book. Although I asked politely, Netflix did not provide me with exclusive interviews or visuals for this book.*

The company is understandably protective about what it releases to journalists and outsiders in general. However, to their credit, the ...

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