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Why You’re Thinking About Big Data All Wrong: A Perspective

By on January 20, 2015

We get it. It’s getting cheaper and cheaper to process data over ‘loads of nodes’. Big data isn’t just for big companies any more. Big data isn’t that big. Big data, big data, big data, cluster, Hadoop, Spark, social, drill-down, structured, unstructured, schema, something, something <insert buzzword here>.

The reason that people have ‘big data’ all wrong is because they’re focusing on the variable definition of big data, when I personally believe they should forget about however many “V’s” there are, and think about it as the simple concept of listening.

We used to only have these traditional data warehouses that spoke very simple languages in this super loud and slow voice, so it was easy to understand. It was like that movie announcer guy and it always started with “In a world” with big pauses, and predicable breaks, and it’s basically the same guy for every movie no matter the topic. 

Suddenly, after years of only having to listen to this movie guy, a lady voice emerges. Maybe the lady voice is your website and she’s speaking in a thick accent to describe what people are doing on your site. It’s not impossible to understand, but it’s definitely harder. The language structure is different; the pace is different. You have to listen harder.

Fast-forward to 2012 and listening is damn near impossible. You’re on one of those conference calls with 15 people from around the world. Movie guy starts the meeting because we can’t seem to fire him, the woman with the accent is saying the same thing she’s said since 2001, we’ve got Facebook guy who’s got ADD and just rapid-fire throwing information in a 226-slide presentation that literally has no breaks between topics. Whispering is the ops guy, who’s shy, speaks Klingon and you almost forgot he was there until you email stopped working and the boss ‘demanded an answer for this’. Speaking of the boss, the CMO, she has come to the meeting with a list of 27 questions that she needs answered TODAY because a new product is launching. But the product was designed by this other guy who quit last year, so there’s a consultant at the table waiting for their chance to talk. Nobody has asked for their opinion, but they happen to have done research on what your customers ‘actually’ want. Everybody at this meeting has something important to say… but it’s impossible to organize, and nobody is listening

We don’t know how to listen to data, and we don’t know how to negotiate between the sources. So how do you get the opinions of everyone, consider the information, and make a plan? #Datameer. Datameer is like that project manager who just knows how to bring the right people into the room at the right time, without kicking anyone out. 

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Jason Arrigo