Amazon, metadata, and data democracy


"Trust but verify." --Ronald Regan

I've written before on this site about how companies like Amazon do an exceptional job at data management. In part, Jeff Bezos, et al, understand the primary importance of good data--e.g., metadata, operational data, analytics, etc. When you're selling north of hundreds of millions of products, though, it helps when customers give you a hand.

It turns out, though, that Amazon has plenty of help here. The company, in effect, "enlists" authors and publishers as well to assist with the its data management efforts.

A Little Vignette

In late January of 2013, my acquisitions editor (AE) at John Wiley & Sons sent me the final galley of my fifth book, Too Big to Ignore: The Business Case for Big Data. The final page count: 256 pages, including all front and back matter. Based upon what Wiley had told me, I had originally estimated that the book would contain about 220 pages--and that's exactly what the book's Amazon page reflected.

What to do about the discrepancy? After all, the new book contains 36 more pages of Big Data goodness, right?

I could have emailed my AE and asked him to update Amazon with the right information (or the book's metadata, if I wanted to drop a 50-cent word on him). I doubt that he would have placed that task at the top of his to-do list, though. I've learned that emailing many busy people is a case of less is more, to paraphrase the title of a great Marillion album.

No bother. Amazon allows its authors to submit product updates to their own books. An extra 36 pages isn't likely to catapult the book to best-seller status. (Dare to dream, right?) However, Amazon empowers its vendors, customers, and partners to update their own information when changes take place.

Simon Says

Of course, for good reason, I can only update my own books – and Wiley can't update the books of its competition. Imagine the data anarchy that would result. Reagan's quote at the beginning of this quote is entirely apropos.

Still, wise is the organization that embraces democratized data management. Those (like Amazon) that sell zillions of products can only do so much with a "data management" department.


Is your organization empowering non-employees vis-à-vis data management? How?


About Author

Phil Simon

Author, Speaker, and Professor

Phil Simon is a keynote speaker and recognized technology expert. He is the award-winning author of eight management books, most recently Analytics: The Agile Way. His ninth will be Slack For Dummies (April, 2020, Wiley) He consults organizations on matters related to strategy, data, analytics, and technology. His contributions have appeared in The Harvard Business Review, CNN, Wired, The New York Times, and many other sites. He teaches information systems and analytics at Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business.

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