I Love it When You Call Me Big Da-ta

I Love it When You Call Me Big Da-ta

I am dying to know: how many of you caught that ever so subtle Biggie Smalls reference? Not that I’m a super huge fan of 90’s hip-hop; but, how can you not like Biggie? In any event, this was the song that inspired the article for this round of InfoEdge. Let me preface this with: I’m not a leading expert on big data, and I have no desire to be.

Believe it or not, big data is not a new concept nor conundrum. Most companies “have” big data, to some extent, in my opinion. What’s interesting here is the evolution of the term “big data”, and the meaning behind it. Typically, you would hear the definition of it being data that would exceed the processing power of conventional database systems (and I’d quote that; however, at least 100,000 people have laid claim to that definition). But, really, is that definition accurate? Probably not today, as of right now. Now we use the term big data to refer to not only the data itself, but the mining of that data and potential social and privacy impacts. Also, it’s not just the “bigness” of the data, it’s the diversity and velocity that contribute to the definition (a good reference for these points Wikipedia’s big data page).

We now know what big data means in context of this article. So, what’s next? What’s next is the application of this to business (whatever business that may be). How can we utilize this, why do we care and why is everyone making such a big fuss?

We can answer that question with a situational example. Let’s be honest, [insert your favorite internet search engine name here] knows more about me than 99.5% of everyone with whom I associate. [Well, that is until I changed my favorite search engine to DuckDuckGo.] This data is collected about me not only by name but by any demographic information I have in my profile, by the area of the country I live, etc. Huge amounts of data regarding web sites visited, searches executed, ads clicked (the list literally goes on and on). And that’s just on ME. Toss in a few hundred million more people – and you can see how fast the data accumulates, the amount of storage needed and the diversity of data collected (because it wouldn’t just use my PC – I’m also utilizing more of the services on my mobile phone and tablet). Mix all this into cosmic mixing bowl, bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, and out comes – targeted marketing campaigns.

Essentially, we have taken the IT infrastructure that keeps the business going and transformed it into probably the most efficient business development tool we could ask for (and at 0% commission). Now that’s a win, and, it’s not limited to marketing. The only limits to this are (1) our technical capabilities to mine and extract and connect all of the data collected and (2) our imagination on how we utilize that. IT is slowly being divided: one side keeps the business running while the other side develops the technical and analytical strategies to get more business. We won’t delve into the social or privacy aspects of this here, but as our data collection mediums and methods change and advance – so must our philosophical and legal definition of “what’s right”.

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