Monday 9 October 2017

The Emotion of Data – Your Child Is Always Beautiful

In week’s guest blog we hear from Kent Anderson, the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, on the emotional pull of well-presented data….. 

An Excel spreadsheet or data table isn’t usually enough to rouse the emotions. Rigid rows and columns crammed with shapes are difficult to bond with and even harder to get worked up over. Trends are concealed in there somewhere, meaning lurks, yet our senses are stymied by how raw data are assembled.

Over the past 18 months, guiding RedLink, a data company with the slogan “See What You’re Missing,” has opened my eyes to the wonderful emotional pull of well-presented data – what we might call the ultrasound of data, when a real emotional connection begins to occur. I’ve attended dozens of sessions in which we reveal to new customers their data in our products, and every time there is a strong emotional response – the “ooh!” and “wow!” – because they are seeing something of great interest clearly for the first time.

Visualization isn’t the only way to create emotional connections for users. There are other techniques, such as gamification, personalization, and connection.

Visualization – Seeing Is Believing

Turn a set of columns and rows into a set of interactive curves or lines or bars, and suddenly meaning leaps out. Making these trends clear is powerful for sales people, business leaders, managers, and purchasers. There is also the ability RedLink has to import data for libraries and publishers, saving them days or weeks of effort, that liberates time to look at the data and think about its implications.

Gamification – It Makes Data Engaging

Games are great ways to make complex subjects approachable and more understandable. We’ve adopted some aspects of gamification in our products, adding Unlocks and clever names and treasure maps to business-specific products that otherwise would be officious and off-putting. These conceptual candies help to sweeten the experience, adding memorable and pleasant dimensions to the user experience while boosting utility.

Personalization – It’s Your Data

Increasingly, personal data are viewed not as commodities but as elements you have a right to manage. The EU has been more proactive on this front than the US, for example, with initiatives like “the right to be forgotten” and data portability. This places new constraints on data companies. Yet, constraints drive design and innovation, so new services like Remarq – which allows users to put a lot of data about their usage of the scientific and scholarly literature in one place  – are on the leading edge of the data personalization trend.

Connection – Relevance Matters to Meaning

Data matter the most when you can immediately do something with them. We focus a lot on making this happen, whether it’s allowing users to only see data for customers they manage, to see trends across disciplines instead of just around products, to view the macro (consortia, bundles, titles from multiple sources) and the micro (individual institutions, individual titles, individual sources), giving quick paths to relevant views is crucial to making data matter. These views connect the user with the data so that decisions can happen quickly and confidently.


As an independent data company, RedLink helps libraries, consortia, publishers, and end-users “see what they’re missing.” By using visualization, gamification, personalization, and connection, data can become powerful, efficient, and even enjoyable sources of information to help publishers, librarians, administrators, researchers, editors, and authors make better decisions.

Redlink is a proud Silver Sponsor of the ALPSP 2017 Annual Conference.

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