My blood boils and I want to punch a unicorn any time I hear the moniker "BIG DATA"...especially when I am at a trade show where some 26-year old decked out in a snazzy company polo shirt tries to spout out how important it is. Not just because "BIG DATA" is some made-up, buzzy phrase that marketing folks invented to generate a bunch of foggy-type of hype, but it's also like the phrase "CLOUD", in that nobody really knows what the heck it means. Everybody WANTS to know what "BIG DATA" is all about, but nobody is brave enough to admit they might be sketchy on it and appear like they just fell off the turnip truck.
Don't believe me? Try this the next time you're struggling to win friends and influence people at a career mixer - "The promise for BIG DATA to revolutionize the human social and demographic dynamic is the future of how we'll interact with people of similar ideals and values." Despite the fact this sentence is stupid and laden with more psychobabble than a college philosophy student's term paper, listeners will stroke their chins and nod pensively because you used the "BIG DATA" phrase. Heck, you may even get a study grant or spare Nobel Prize if one is lying around with no takers...
Anyway, back to my belief that the phrase "BIG DATA" is terrible. What does the phrase really mean? Well, it could be any or all of these:
- A large amount of data (duh)
- A big storage ecosystem dedicated to storing data (this is predominantly what my company wants it to be)
- Data that is BIG. You know - like videos, satellite images, or Lindsay Lohan's rap sheet
- The IMDB page dedicated to the movie Big (awesome flick, BTW)
- A manageable data warehouse populated from disparate sources that can be combed with with "Data Scientist" eggheads armed with business intelligence software to glean abstract analytical trends
Anyway, back to today's inferred understanding of "Big Data". While I think I sort of understand what it is as well as what its benefits could be, I also believe the technology vendors who surround the concept may be a little pushy on something that could still be construed as a solution looking for a problem. I don't think there's enough maturity to the concept just yet that allows these big tech companies to hype the idea they have all of the answers, fancy technical bits, and people to help guide business decision makers to a Utopia of better decisions through analytics.
Don't believe me? Take a look at this article from The Register. Basically, it says that as data continues to grow at an exponential rate, it will continually grow tougher to separate the "signal from the noise"; thus constantly making it harder to capture any real information the data can represent. Wait a minute...that argument sounds familiar. OH WAIT - I wrote about that earlier in this post. Turning DATA into INFORMATION that drives KNOWLEDGE is a very, very complicated process that cannot be fixed by simply throwing a burlap bag full of technologies at it.
Adding "Data Scientists" into the mix isn't going to help grow the concept out, either. In case you didn't understand their role in all of this, these big-brained folks are mathematicians who live and breathe statistical analysis, and can model the data with stuff like business intelligence software to produce "big picture" results a mouth breathing commoner like myself can understand. And, according to this article, adding these folks to the mix is simply throwing more ingredients into an ecosystem that has yet to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up.
So, take caution gentle readers. If somebody tries to corner you and open your mind to the wonders of "Big Data", they may just be using a little too much hype to sell you on something that's not quite there yet.
Not that ANYBODY would do that, right?