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Friday, September 16, 2011

ICPSR is a .........

I read an interesting article last week about Zynga, the company that makes many of the most popular games available at Facebook.  (The article is behind the WSJ paywall, but here is a link that subscribers can use.) 

The essence of the article is that Zynga has discovered a way to generate real revenues from virtual products, and that their extensive use of data and analytics have enabled this capability.  This short paragraph caught my eye:
"We're an analytics company masquerading as a games company," said Ken Rudin, a Zynga vice president in charge of its data-analysis team, in one of a series of interviews with Zynga executives prior to the company's July filing for an initial public offering.
We often say the same sort of thing about ICPSR, particularly within the technology team. 

This happens most often when we've just inked a new grant or contract with an organization.  On the surface the agreement is all about science and investigation, promoting research, and enabling good data management.  But just underneath there is a different story, one that often shows up in the budget.  The project is, in fact, all about building technology, and will support a large team of web designers, software developers, business analysts, and project managers to define the scope of the deliverable, and then to build it.  And this leads to:
We're a web development company masquerading as a data archive.
or something similar echoing in the halls outside the IT bay.  Of course, it isn't true, but that doesn't stop us from saying it anyway.  And, of course, one could reverse the roles:
We're a data archive masquerading as a web development company.
 to get a different twist.

Do you ever describe your own organization in this way?

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