WatersTechnology: In the world of financial data, context—not content—is the new king

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They say a picture tells a thousand words. For example, JMW Turner’s 1838 painting The Fighting Temeraire, tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838—which depicts the last voyage of the HMS Temeraire, a British warship that fought at the Battle of Trafalgar, to a berth in Rotherhithe to be scrapped—does just that. However, each component of the painting, taken individually, requires the others to complete the scene. Taken alone, each element would be a masterpiece, but would not tell the story of the ship’s last journey. Each requires the context that all the other elements, when taken together, provide—plus the painting’s title.

But at best, every picture, like a single frame of film, is still merely a snapshot of a specific moment in time. If a picture tells a thousand words, the additional context that turns that snapshot into a story tells a thousand more. So to then place that story into a broader historical context and to understand its significance, we need additional contextual information from other sources.

Context isn’t new. It’s something that traders and asset managers have instinctively added from their own experience or sought out to enrich decision-making processes. But whereas in the past it was a nice-to-have, now it’s essential. Because if you want to tell how the market is moving or what’s going to happen next, a data point is basically a “You are here” arrow on a blank page. For it to have value, you need more data, and to be able to connect that data. You need the whole street map.

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