Sisyphus didn’t need a fitness tracker


In his pithy style, Seth Godin’s recent blog post Analytics without action said more in 32 words than most posts say in 320 words or most white papers say in 3200 words.

(For those counting along, my opening sentence alone used 32 words).

Godin’s blog post, in its entirety, stated:

“Don’t measure anything unless the data helps you make a better decision or change your actions. If you’re not prepared to change your diet or your workouts, don’t get on the scale.”

We are often told to collect data from wherever we find it. In the era of big data, that's is pretty much anywhere you look. Advocates of the quantified self tell us to measure every aspect of our lives on a daily basis, such as how many hours we sleep, how much we weigh, how many calories we consume with each meal, and how many calories we burn with each exercise. All that data and all those measurements must have value, right?

Being data-driven doesn’t mean you should be driven to collect data. It means you should be driven to do something with the data you collect. Otherwise, you are a modern-day Sisyphus pushing the big data boulder up the hill just to watch it roll back down again, repeatedly. Outfitting the mythological Sisyphus with a fitness tracker to measure how fast he pushes the boulder up the hill, and how many calories he burns while doing so, wouldn’t have changed the pointless tedium of his punishment. Sisyphus didn’t need a fitness tracker since no amount of data or number of measurements was going to help him make a better decision or change his actions.

My 320 word post concludes with these 32 words:

Don’t be Sisyphean in your approach to big data and analytics. Be Godinian—only collect, measure, and analyze big data if it helps you make a better decision or change your actions.


About Author

Jim Harris

Blogger-in-Chief at Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality (OCDQ)

Jim Harris is a recognized data quality thought leader with 25 years of enterprise data management industry experience. Jim is an independent consultant, speaker, and freelance writer. Jim is the Blogger-in-Chief at Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality, an independent blog offering a vendor-neutral perspective on data quality and its related disciplines, including data governance, master data management, and business intelligence.


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