Mingwei Gu

writings on business, meditation, technology, markets, sci-fi, organizations

07 Oct 2020

Data Broke

Greg ran his fingers over the smooth glass display case. His eyes darted from one data crystal to another, and preview info displayed on his optical feed. This shop was known for carrying the most selective audience segments.

Greg was on shaky ground with his wife Belinda. Her birthday was coming up soon, and he hoped a spectacular birthday present would get him out of trouble. And he wanted to get her a top-of-the-line data crystal. The perfect audience segment to grow her follower count. But he wasn’t sure where to start.

“May I be of assistance, sir?”

Greg turned around. The shopkeep was heavyset man in his fifties. He wore a two piece tweed suit and a crisp white shirt.

“Why yes. I’m looking for something special. For my wife’s birthday.”

“Of course, sir. Her influence will surely grow from a carefully chosen audience segment from our selection. Might I ask her content strategy?”

Greg scratched his head. “I gotta be honest. I’ve never bought an audience segment before. Belinda’s always shopped for herself. How does this work? Once you attach the data crystal into your follower tracker, whatever you write will go to that audience segment’s optical feed?”

“Yes, sir. A preview of what you write will appear in their field of vision. And our crystals will help you rank favorably among other solicitations your audience may receive.”

“And everyone in the audience segment has agreed to this?” Greg raised his eyebrows.

“Of course, sir. In one way or another, they have all consented to be solicited. That is the law.”


“Well, sir. On what topics does your wife write?”

“She writes about interior design, gardening, and little bit about entertaining guests.”

The shopkeep walks behind the counter. He unlocks the back of a display case, reaches in to retrieve a data crystal and hands it to Greg.

“Households with three or more children who have purchased gardening equipment in the last six months. Living in suburban areas of Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Columbus, Ohio.”

The shopkeep paces a few feet away. He retrieves another data crystal and gives it to Greg.

“Adults in their thirties with a trust fund of at least one million dollars. They have purchased at least one decorative art piece in the last year. Living in downtown Los Angeles.”

Details of both audience segments fill Greg’s optical feed. He sees the names, addresses, purchase history, and bank statements of the people in the audiences.

Greg closes the details in his feed. “I don’t think the suburbanites are right for us. But this segment of trust funders in LA. I feel like they would re-transmit the solicitations. That could really help with Belinda’s organic growth”

“I agree, sir”

And this would excite Belinda enough to hopefully forgive me. “Alright, I’ll take it!”

“Very well, sir. Please confirm the payment details.”

“Ten thousand dollars? Well that’s not gonna work, that’s way outside my budget!”

“Sir, if you’re willing to put your household data into a few of our audience segments.” The shopkeep sends a summary to Greg.

“That’s a more reasonable number. But it says here I consent to forward solicitations to my one hundred closest contacts for five years! And to be solicited up to one hundred solicitations a day for a decade.”

The shopkeep looks at him.

“Well alright, I’ll take it”

Greg walks out of the store with a data crystal in his bag. He scrolls through the sea of solicitations in his optical feed. What’s another one hundred solicitations a day and annoying his friends and family. His wife will love the gift. It’s a price he’s willing to pay.