The need for the user profile

The beginning of the shift in how we consume data is an expansion of the user profile.

Christian Buckley

by Christian Buckley on 4/21/2014

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How often do you update your online profile? Maybe the bigger question is: How many online profiles do you maintain? For me, my primary profiles are Facebook and LinkedIn. Facebook doesn't feel much like a "profile" as its contents are more dynamic and experience/interaction-driven, while LinkedIn is much more structured and detailed, acting as a public-facing resume, of sorts.

Profile setup is core to most collaborative platforms:

  • It is the diving-board off of which you jump into different interactions
  • It can provide a filtered view of your world, your experiences, your work history
  • It should be maintained, kept relevant
  • It provides context to your activities

In SharePoint, the user profile is becoming increasingly important as organizations mature from ad hoc collaboration to enterprise content management to social collaboration. Expertise search is just a scratch on the surface of what is possible when organizations encourage their users to complete their profiles, providing powerful lenses through which content can be tied to current and past experiences + social tagging + noteboard comments. All of this adds to the metadata associated with your content, improving search and making connections that simply would not exist without social.

What is the value of the user profile? Consider a seemingly disconnected story from the May 2012 edition of Wired magazine by Steven Levy (The Rise of the Robot Reporter). The creators of Stats Monkey describe their algorithms and process for generating content: driven first and foremost by data, and then from a profile-driven subject matter expert (SME)perspective.

Narrative Science’s writing engine requires several steps. First, it must amass high-quality data. That’s why finance and sports are such natural subjects: Both involve the fluctuations of numbers—earnings per share, stock swings, ERAs, RBI. And stats geeks are always creating new data that can enrich a story. 

Then the algorithms must fit that data into some broader understanding of the subject matter. The company has hired a team of meta-writers, trained journalists who have built a set of templates. They work with the engineers to coach the computers to identify various angles from the data. The algorithm considers context and information from other databases as well.

Similarly, in a broader sense, your profile acts as the SME, a template that provides context for the content you create and consume. It is the lens through which others can look at and gain perspective on content you provide, a view of the world through your eyes.

The beginning of the shift in how we consume data is an expansion of the user profile. 

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Topic: Business Productivity

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