“With the other technology, you need to model something first. But what if you don’t know the questions? Big data is all about exploration without preconceived notions.”

October 1st, 2011

A good piece in the Times about the evolution of “Big Data” and using data to make decisions. The crux of the article is the need for people who can interpret the mess of data.

Forrester Research report, published Friday, provides some leavening perspective on the big data phenomenon. The report is based on a survey of 60 Forrester clients who are using or experimenting with big data computing. It tries to define big data, assess its current applications and offer tips for corporate managers.

The takeaway points, from reading the report and an interview with a co-author, include: big data is an applied science project in most companies, and a major potential constraint is not the cost of the computing technology but the skilled people needed to carry out these projects — the data scientists. …

Indeed, big data is about finding patterns in the proverbial noise of vast, unstructured data sets…

Yet if the tools are comparatively low-cost, the skills needed are specialized and technical. Exploring for patterns in the data is not yet for the corporate rank and file.

“In big data today,” Mr. Evelson said, “it’s all about programming. You need Java programmers, computational statisticians and mathematicians.”

The above quote made me think a lot about FantasySCOTUS. When we start looking at the data, we really don’t even know what question we want to answer. In many respects, the data point out trends and patterns totally divorced from common sense or preconceived notions.