You Either Die a Hero or Live Long Enough to See Yourself Become the Villain (or How to avoid becoming Lex Luthor)

Me, trying to convince myself that I wouldn’t monetize and vastly overuse data-mining as a publisher

If I was a publisher who had access to any data that existed on the internet I think I would be most interested in what readers enjoy about my books and what trends exist in books that sell the best in the long run. I think it is very difficult to predict a bestseller, and even more difficult to get ahold of one as a publisher, but seeing what sells well consistently over time could be a solid plan for your backlist books. This information could be used to pad out your income as a publisher in order to continue to stay open as a company and to take chances on work that is a bit different and is not a sure-in for being a bestseller.

It would also be awesome to tell exactly what will be a bestseller before you spend a bunch of money publishing it, but I think that this particular thing takes a bit more guts than digits, so I’ll leave that for Lynn Neary to debate (Nearly, Publisher’s).

It is easy as a business to fall back on the ‘evil’ practices and just take what you want while your audience is unaware and dazzled by your amazing platform, especially with the commercial success of Facebook and Google to compete with. And it is understandable– unfettered access to people’s private data is a marketer’s candy land and can put tons of money in the bank.

Facebook and Google giving us their business advice

However, I think by being straight forward about what you’re planning on taking and what you’re going to do with it stands on its own as a way for you to prevent privacy violations while still collecting data that can help you as a company. I would plan to be incredibly straight forward with the data I would collect and why I would collect it. I would also try to be straight forward about what I was applying that data too in order to de-mystify the process. Plain language is our friend in this situation.

Another big portion of this question is how the data is being gathered. The only way to ensure that the data is not misused it to collect it yourself and not sell it to marketers, or, if you get it from a company, make sure that it doesn’t go further than your company and that those who have contributed the data know you have it and what you are doing with it. If you go with the first option, it can cost you a ton of money. So unless you have a big income outside of the data mining situation, you could easily be tempted to sell the data you’ve collected to outside marketers. And a lot of times in business the lure of money is too strong to resist, despite your first intentions.

Where everyone using data mining starts out…

Due to this, I think I would be more comfortable collecting the data through a company but making sure that those whose data I  was using were aware I was using it and for what. I also would not collect super personal information, like their address or their names. I would say that a layer of anonymity is needed.

Data analytics and collection is a very controversial topic. Although it is a very uncomfortable subject for many, it is easy to see yourself becoming the villain in a situation where you envision yourself as the business doing the data collection. The best way thing to do is just be honest and upfront about what you’re doing, and to allow your visitors a way to opt out, if they so choose.


Work Cited

Neary, Lynn. “Publishers’ Dilemma: Judge A Book By Its Data Or Trust The Editor’s Gut?” NPR, NPR, 2 Aug. 2016,

2 Replies to “You Either Die a Hero or Live Long Enough to See Yourself Become the Villain (or How to avoid becoming Lex Luthor)”

  1. Hi Moorea,
    Thanks for your feedback. Love all the captions on the GIF’s! I agree that data analytics is a controversial topic. Large companies who have the means are profiting from their ability to gather and sell date. More companies should be using plain language as transparency is such an issue with tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon. I like the point you made about companies you plan to use knowing what you’ll be doing with their data. I think there should be a level of responsibility on the part of companies that are selling data (although I don’t really know how I feel about this).

  2. On the face of it, your suggestions make sense—use plain language, collect the minimum required, let people opt out. Yet, this is much more difficult to do in practice. Collecting some data is often necessary for you to carry out your business (e.g., an address for shipping and billing). Not collecting might provide a worse user experience and limit the business models that are possible.

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