Distilling meter, rhyme and verse from your database

I don’t know how I missed this job in my post this year on “New disciplines for a real-time data world” but this week the position for a Data Griot and Community Activator popped up at Last.fm and was brought to my attention by Chris Heathcote’s post who did some griotting into Grindr (an interesting app worth a post on its own).

The posited Data Griot is a great position that combines institutional knowledge and knowledge of data with public understanding. There is so much work to be done in this field to increase public awareness of the importance of and practices around data that it’s quite staggering. Nice on Last.fm too to have coined such an apt phrase for it.

So the Griot has both a deep knowledge of history and trends as well as a finger on the pulse of current events and combines both to create acute relevance. She is ad res and can combine resources both within and outside of the organization with social/technical/design skills of her own to massive effect.

Sounds like a very nice job. An important role already in journalistic and political organizations if they manage to see the need. In corporations any aspiring griot will have a hard time the further their work is diluted by PR/Legal/Accounting/Marketing and other departments. But most likely they won’t hire one anyway. Those companies that have a solid (mutual) relation with the public and a track record of rapid innovation (like most web2.0 sites) will be in a better position to act than others (not to say that other companies can’t benefit, but they’ll have a lot of institutional learning and organizational change to do at the same time).

The Griot goes beyond the already known data scientist position which seems to be less of a conversational and more of an academic/metrics one and actually is a really tall order to fill. More organizations are looking for griots but because it is at the same time both broad and specialized1 that will be pretty hard.

In the Netherlands there are already so few people active in the data field that it’s even more difficult. I would be a good fit for the role, though I’m not looking for a permanent position —organizational embedding (i.e. not consulting) is I think an important requirement for somebody doing this. I know nrc.next has some people dedicated among which Thalia Verkade. I don’t know about the other papers.

But maybe there are more that I am missing. Is your organization looking for data griots? Are you one yourself? I’d like to hear more.

Update: My friends at QD are doing some very cool things with internet tracking and have an open position for a function that borders on this: A Statistical Market Researcher.

  1. The UX profession prides itself on T-shaped people but most people working there aren’t nearly wide or deep enough for this work.

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