The Webpreneur Nerd

What on earth is Big Data and why do I care?

Something that came up a great deal at Digital Hollywood over the last few days is the concept of big data. With terms like NoSQL and Hadoop being thrown around my inner nerd was thinking about the technical side of big data and how these huge online merchants like Amazon and Walmart are having to figure out new ways to store the massive amounts of customer and product data that comes with being a mega-store online.

The folks at the conference had another take on the concept of big data. They’re looking at how to mine the stuff so they can do a better job of not only creating entertainment that’s more entertaining but also creating advertising that’s more meaningful and will have more bang for the buck.

One of the panelists gave a pretty apt description of big data from his perspective. He basically said that it has three elements; volume, variety, and velocity. Here’s the deal: in order for this big data stuff to even matter you have to be able to do something with it and that means; the ability to store the absolutely massive amounts of data reliably (volume), a way to organize the data so it actually means something (variety), and a way to pull the information so it doesn’t take two years to get the answer to the questions you have (velocity).

So, if you’re not a Walmart or an Amazon why the heck should you give a flying flip about this big data stuff? The simple answer is because some of the tools you might already be using are being built with this in mind. This means that you get all the advantages of the big data movement without having to get into all the techy stuff. Tools like Google Analytics and FaceBook Insights are a great way to take full advantage of all the data that’s ready for you to peruse.

It doesn’t even stop with what you can learn about your visitors and customers. Big data also allows companies like Acxiom to collect data from millions of users and provide that information to advertisers so they can make smarter – more profitable – decisions. I know, this brings up the topic of privacy; but that’s for another day.

Are you just a little bit curious about what the data says about you? If so, you’ll need to get an account – which is free – by entering all your data; yup, you got it. If you still want to see . . .

Of course, in the name of due diligence for this post I had to give it a go. Obviously, there’s work to be done on the data gathering algorithms they’re using. Why? Well, the site said it gathered all my data and that I’m black and that I don’t have any kids. Hmm, or does it know that you can hear me coming a mile away with Dr. Dre or Tech N9ne bumpin’?

If you do want to nerd it up a bit and you’re thinking of using some of the cool storage tech that’s solving some of the big data problems then checkout these sites . . .

While I don’t have a ton of experience with these products, I can tell you that many of my programmer friends say great things about Mongo and are using it with large scale projects.

What’s your take on Big Data?

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