What is "Big Data?" It is large groups of gathered information (data sets) that may be studied, reviewed or analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions.
So let's break this MONSTER down. Think of a spreadsheet. At the top of this document is a series of titles for each column on this sheet. These columns could be endless (and most of the time they appear to be!) and will include a given column title for ANY desired piece of information.
Typically, on the far left is the "Number" column which tells us how many records we have from top to bottom. All other columns are "parts" of the info you desire, like NAME, ADDRESS, EMAIL, and so on and each entry is in a LINE all the way across the spreadsheet no matter how many columns you have. The total accummulation of this information is called a Database.
All of these columns will categorize similar attributes of multiple data sets. So if you wanted to focus on "NAMES" of your data, you would focus on THAT column and all similar attributes for each LINE of input data sets. Regardless of OTHER columns, you can review, study, analyze or sort this information. You may wish to search or sort so you can find a particular NAME. This is like a stack of bricks. So now let's picture this stack of bricks as a big brick wall. Pretend that each brick is the NAME of a person in our Database. It could be just the column for the FIRST NAME of each entry. So we will search for all of the names of "Tom" in our database.
The bricks all look the same. Well they SHOULD because they are all "TOM" and what would we expect? But you have to look closer at this data. Each and EVERY brick is similar but no two are alike! As a matter of fact they are COMPLETELY different! We will begin to see the differences as we dig deeper into our BIG DATA file!
What good does it do you to look at all data with the name "Tom?" Not very helpful, so lets choose another column to separate further. Lets add the column of LAST NAME into the sort, and CITY, and AREA CODE, and any other column that will helps us determine WHO these people are. We could have columns representing "INTERESTS" or "HOBBY" or even "OWNS A PET" as just a few examples for titles. The column titles can get as specific as we want but the column is only good if we COLLECT the data correctly in the first place (which is another blog altogether) but let's assume we have the info for this illustration.
So we want to search for something other than all entry's named TOM in our database.
Let's say we desire to find "CAT" owners within 50 miles of our Pet Store that have a household income of $40,000 or more and have visited a movie theater in the past 6 months, and maybe they belong to a given community group that supports environmentally sensitive issues.
WOW! Did THAT just get narrowed down?! Well, with BIG DATA, you can DO that! The more data that is available, the more you can work give angles to benefit you and your business. But here is where it starts getting crazy! Not on a "koo-koo" kind of way, but more in a "which way is up" kind of way!
Because our lives are truly "organic" and they constantly change, we are actually a MOVING target! Data being collected today, may or may not be accurate next year, or next month, or next WEEK for that matter!
Just like a school of fish undulating and swirling, our data LOOKS the same but rotates and replaces at an alarming rate! So, we have to continually refresh our data and make sure that it has been updated as frequently as possible.
And just when you think you have a grasp on the BIG DATA stack as a whole, you realize that it is dimension in nature and you are standing in the midst of this wild creature that surrounds you from every angle! You have heard the phrase "You can't see the forest for the trees" and this is truly how it feels!
It gets more difficult to see exactly what you WANT to see because you are right in the middle of this forest of information. You need to begin to decide WHAT you want to see, and more importantly, WHY you want to see it! This will help you BREAK DOWN the massive amount of information into manageable stacks for the specific purpose you desire!
It may be hard to see the forest for the trees, but know that the very tree that you want is within that forest! As a matter of fact, the very LEAF is on that TREE within that FOREST!
But we're not looking for BRICKS, or LEAFS, and we are wanting to market our product or service to a PERSON with certain HABITS or INTERESTS. Great! NOW we are getting down to brass tacks...well, that's another database...so we will look at PEOPLE! We are living in and around PEOPLE everyday, so just stand back and look at the forest...or uh, crowd!
PEOPLE come in all shapes, sizes, walks of life, and they live in different places with different types of homes, and have varied lifestyles with multiple interests and hobbies that consume their time! Now THAT is Big Data! There are certain times that are better than another to gather big data, but again, let's assume we HAVE that data.
At any given time, people gather in groups, crowds or audiences. Many times these people have VERY similar interests. So we can say a "general" message to these people and therefore accomplish a MASS statement to maximize our exposure. We would step up to the mic on the stage with this crowd and say something like "Get beverages at the drink stand" and the entire crowd could receive our message and hopefully would retain it, and react upon it!
If we could ask the crowd to organize by taste, hobby, interest or other "column title" in our data base, it would be great! We could break it down and ask everyone wearing a hat to stand in one place! We might even go as far as to say "if you are thirsty" to gather in a given place. We could ask for "fans of citrus" to group together. Then we could talk SPECIFICALLY to them about a given item that might be of interest to JUST them like "Lemonade is just 25 cents at the booth right beside you!" Because they are wearing hats, it might mean they are sensitive to heat, and they are thirsty at THAT very moment and probably would like a tangy fruit like a lemon, ...now our message is heard by the right people at the right time in the right place!
But since a crowd is not that controllable, we use our BIG DATA "sort" function to do this for us! We take a large pile (database) of information (names) and separate it into relevant stacks (target audience) to deliver a pertinent message (advertisement) that has a higher propensity to deliver a desired response (Sales) in a given moment.
Big Data is all of these categories of information gathered for our use as we see fit! It is expansive, overwhelming and dynamically changing every single second of every day!
We are responsible to choose what part of this that we want, and how we will use it to our benefit. That is truly what BIG DATA is and why it is so important to us!
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