Data Is The New Tofu

I found this neat shirt online just now after a few searches for “Data Is The New Bacon” — which was on a t-shirt I was happy to get at a Tableau conference a few years back. Bacon’s really bad for you, but it tastes really good. Tofu’s good for you, but it doesn’t taste like … anything. Really?

Well, if you’ve ever bought tofu at your local supermarket, then indeed — it tastes like nothing. And it’s a teense icky.

A way to think about it is that the tofu you get at the supermarket is like buying American cheese — the kind that is super bright orange and is individually wrapped. When you compare that cheese to a Vermont cheddar or any other artisanally-constructed cheese, then you encounter something quite delicious.

Artisanal tofu is really something else. There’s a richness and sweetness to the tofu that you’ll be surprised to experience.

Much in the same way, data can be like supermarket tofu. It’s a chunk of information that doesn’t look like anything. It doesn’t smell like anything too. It’s all kind of the same — gray and featureless. And it definitely doesn’t smell as amazing as bacon. Even the cheapest supermarket bacon smells great — but data isn’t like that. It’s more work to capture and find, plus refine, the deliciousness of what it can bring you.

I’m in a data-y mood this morning because my Automattic product colleague Barry presented this framing to me that I often hear, but I want to take a note to myself on this personal blog:

Data Driven vs Data Informed

The latter term “data informed” is a better one because it means that you’re adding human judgement to the next step you’ll take. That connects to this framing that another Automattic product colleague Brie likes to raise:

Design Led vs Design Infused

which originally came from Jared Spool as a way to ensure that designers don’t mistakenly think that the universe revolves around them. A culture that is “design infused” can do a lot because everyone knows what design’s about, and everyone’s designing for the customers.

Now I need to go back to my design infusing work … —JM

PS Check out some awesome writings on from my colleagues at Automattic in our Data Sciences team!