Data Mining

Rant: The Big Data exercise and diet DVD

Boy, I’d love to get my hands on the cynic who invented Christmas with all that gorging and bingeing and pointless anxiety about artificial flashpoints like Black Monday, Cyber Sunday and Schmaltz Saturday.

When we’ve not all been herded into shopping areas where we don’t really belong, amateur boozers are invading our pubs, making it incredibly hard to get a place at the bar and bumping up the prices of New Year binge drinking. In revenge, many seasoned drinkers invade the gyms and cycle lanes in January, just to teach the Lycra Louts not to move into our territory.

The IT industry is now following the same pattern as the rest of the population. We’re currently all gorging on Big Data. At some stage an IT industry celebrity will inevitably launch a book of Big Data recipes. Its success will then inspire a host of Me-Too celebrity data-cook books. (As we speak, a ghost writer will be receiving his or her instructions. “I want it to be totally unique,” the poor hack will be instructed by the ‘author’, in the time-honoured tradition of hack writing for IT executives. By totally unique, they will mean: “Like Google’s book, but different.”)

My prediction is that these Big Data cookery books will begin to appear soon.

Initially, the theme of these books will be conspicuous consumption. Big Data offers lots of tasty insights. Invite your friends round and treat them to a smorgasbord of information. You know the sort of thing: ‘Come round to Jamie’s house! He’s just bought one of those In-Memory systems, and his tables will be groaning with Petabytes of specially prepared correlations.’

But, after 12 months of these monstrosities there will be a predictable backlash. Britain’s data footprint, a shock report will reveal the Christmas after next, is the fattest in Europe. As a result, we never get out much and we know nothing, the report will reveal.

The over consumption of Big Data will have left us with congested networks, silos that burst at the seams and a massive bulky bottom line.

We’ll all have had too much information. (Why didn’t somebody warn us this was a bad idea?) A data diet will be called for. Celebrity consultants will then instruct us to go back to basics. That means a sensible balanced intake of the five major data food groups and a course of exercises (include the de-duplication shuffle).

To promote the data-diet book and exercise DVD the author will be pictured working out in a park, looking rather sweaty and bloated. This is the ‘Before’ picture, which is just as important as the ‘After’ image, which will show a slimmed-down infrastructure with lovely petite footprint and a ‘beach bottom’ line.

Asked how they did it, they will explain the importance of combining the five data food groups. These five headings will each be an eclectic spread of information on (respectively) customers, employees, suppliers, finance and products.

Product data gives a company strength and allows it to move quickly and wrestle competitors out of their territory. If you bulk up too much, you can suffer high lifeblood pressure. A product can give you a presence in each market, but you can easily overdo it. Though a finger in each pie allows you to grab it if it begins to look hot, it can be fatal if your body tries to ingest too much. It gives your enterprise organs a huge amount to process, and eventually they grind painfully to a halt. It’s the enterprise version of kidney failure.

Sales data gives the body energy, but too much sales data creates high pressure in the company and it starts to sweat. This excess is usually stored somewhere and is difficult to shift it you allow it to build up.

Supplier data is a sort of vitamin, which helps the body create the products, because these big units cannot be absorbed into the body whole but must be broken down and reassembled. If companies don’t get enough finance they become constipated. No, hang on, it’s the other way around. Too much finance data is very uncomfortable and you won’t feel like dancing or being agile in any way. Employee data, of course, is the ‘lifeblood’ data, so some of it pertains to refreshing the company with energy and some of it pertains to internal battles.

Customer data, which includes the ‘bad cholesterol’ of social media videos, tweets and blogs, is the most dangerous data habit. It can really clog up your arteries.

After your Big Data diet, you will – for a short time at least – be able to fit your into one of your old IT outfits. But not for long as you’ll soon pile the data back on, and one day you’ll admit defeat and pour yourself into an elasticated outfit, that’s nice and comfortable and has room for expansion. And you’ll never have to ask, “does my data look big in this cloud?”


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Nick Booth

Nick Booth worked in IT in the UK’s National Health Service, financial services and The Met Police, witnessing at first hand the disruptive effects of new technology. As a journalist and analyst, his mission is to stop history repeating itself.

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