Beware the Echo Chamber

There is a concept of spatial auto-correlation in GIS (Geographic Information Systems). This is a measure of the degree to which a set of spatial features and their associated data values tend to be clustered together in space (reference). So in small words: similar things tend to hang out together.

This is often true of friends and professionals, and indeed friendly-professionals. We typically gravitate towards people who have similar skills, similar world views and similar opinions. Its both validating and pleasant to talk with people who generally agree.

I am here today to tell you this is dangerous. As a business person this is dangerous, and as a citizen this is dangerous.

At Sparkgeo we have been launching a product called Maptiks which is an analytics layer for web maps. For the last few years we have been in our own geospatial echo chamber. We have been talking to geospatial developers; helping them build cutting edge mapping technology; stretching the boundaries of what has previously happened with maps on the web. We talk about web maps and breathe data. Thus, we built our own analytics platform to scratch our own itch: “how good are our own maps?” There is no doubt we have a strong and growing market, but there are a large number of people who simply do not care as much about maps as we do. Some people don’t care at all!

You know? That’s ok. Not everyone has to like your product. In fact not everyone has to even understand your product. That said, the people who do understand your product’s value must love it!

Considering the echo chamber here is hugely valuable. It can define your market, it can define your “low hanging fruit”, but it could easily be misleading you. As a business you must ensure that your echo chamber is big enough to support your needs.

Better, perhaps you should consider stepping outside the chamber and testing your hypothesis against less friendly opinion. Having a place to go to test your opinions against different world views is essential. Do you feel you have access to diverse thinking? I would argue that there is always one more new (perhaps crazy) opinion.

For us at Sparkgeo this has been a critical step forward in our thinking concerning Maptiks. We have realized that users must first feel the value of their web map before they want to optimize that value through instrumentation and analytics. Apparently many companies have been happy enough just to get a functional map on their website. So happy, in fact that they stopped there. Our echo chamber had misled us into thinking that everyone hugely valued their web maps. For a great many organizations having a web map was cool, but it didn’t necessarily “turn the dial” in itself. This leaves now planning to take our future customers through an education process, even prior to describing Maptiks’ s value.

Now we are stepping out of our echo chamber into a much bigger world; under our arm however, we now have a much bigger and better plan. This post was originally published as LinkedIN post

Image: NASA
Image: NASA