BOOK: What Data Has Done to Capitalism


Years ago, Susan Ganz of Lion Brothers created Thread Works, an attempt to build one online version of a garment’s Tech Pack. At the same time, Kurt Cavano started TradeCard to create one online version of the Purchase Order. For the entire history of our industry, there has been wave after wave of attempts to create the list, the book, the database, the online website of every factory. It has never worked and it never will because no-one maintains it. So, where do you turn?

This coming Wednesday, I’ll open the New York AAPN Regional Conference. I’ll tell the Nordstrom’s private label underwear story. Nordstrom wrote me asking if we had any members in the Americas who could sew high needle men’s underwear. We had a database built from our membership applications of a number of factories who SAID they made underwear (meaning they would if asked). But who actually was MAKING underwear?

Guess who knew. It was our two elastic producers. Why would they know? Because they sell ELASTIC. If you’ve ever made a living selling something, then you know that you had to build a list of every possible prospect. Over time, this would evolve into a database of customers. What would you know about them? You’d know what they made, who they made it for, their capacity to make and if they paid their bills on time.

So, I contacted our two elastic producers and in less than an hour, Nordstrom was talking to the same factory each of the elastic members had recommended independently. THAT is what we have here. The following article addresses very big picture attempts to do this galactically.

What Data Has Done to Capitalism
NYTimes, June 7, 2018

Reinventing Capitalism in the Age of Big Data
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Thomas Ramge
288 pp. Basic Books. $28.

I’m regularly frustrated by the process of searching for hotel accommodations for my family of five. We know what we want: a basic suite, like at a Residence Inn, with four beds, two bedrooms and a bathroom off the common area. But we struggle to find it, because hotel search engines make it surprisingly difficult to figure out the specifications of rooms.

Lacking that information, I sometimes end up calling a hotel reservations agent, who typically can’t tell me much more than I can read online. Then I go back to the search engine, make a decision based on price and hope for the best. If someone — either a hotel chain or an aggregator — built a better search engine, I would happily use it. I would also be willing to pay a bit more for the kind of room my family wants, rather than shopping almost exclusively by price. Read More


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