Just how big is big data? What problems does Hadoop solve? This mom explained it in plain English using the example of an online game.
10 More Powerful Facts About Big Data
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I'm one of those geeky moms in the big data industry who loves to talk with my family about the cool things I'm doing at work. So my 10-year-old daughter, Jo, hears about technical subjects a lot. I didn't think she was ever paying that much attention until she asked me one day, "So what is big data, anyway?"
My mind went blank at first, because I rarely talk to anyone outside the industry about big data and analytics, let alone to a fifth grader. But thinking about it from her perspective made me realize how fascinating and important big data is -- as long as I started from the right place. So I thought for a moment before telling my daughter the following.
The basics: Data you care about Me: The first two facts of big data are a) you need data, and b) companies collect data because they care about what that data can tell them. Nobody wants to go through the trouble of collecting, storing, processing, and analyzing data unless it is worth their while. So I'm going to explain big data as it relates to your favorite online game, Fantage. (For the uninitiated, this is a utopia of young girl pursuits -- shopping for virtual outfits, caring for virtual pets, decorating your virtual palace, attending virtual parties, and having other virtual fun.)
Me: Data is just a record of stuff that happened. Every time you play your game, the game company is recording what you see and do, so they can make the game better for you.
Jo: Oh. So they know everything I do?
Me: Well, not necessarily. To actually know what you did, they would have to look at the data they collected. Part of big data is capturing what happened, and the other part is understanding what happened.
(Jo plays the game for a few minutes while I record what she does. I watch the recording and enter the events into a spreadsheet.)
Volume, explained Me: So the first thing about big data is that it is big.
Jo: How big?
Me: Well, it depends on who you ask. To you, anything that doesn't fit on your iPod is big. To me, anything that doesn't fit on my laptop is big. It also depends on when you ask. What was considered big 10 years ago is not considered very big today. Did you know my first laptop was so small that it would only fit about two Disney movies, 100 songs, and two Katy Perry videos?
Jo: That is not good.
Me: At the time, it was pretty good. Another thing about big data is that it never stops growing. There will always be more data -- like movies, songs, or videos -- that you want to keep.
Jo: Does my game have big data?
Me: Well, in just one minute of playing, I saw you do about 20 things. If you played for 30 minutes, that would be 600 things just about you alone. Let's say that 500 other people were also playing at the same time. That is now 300,000 things
Daria Hutchinson is the Senior Manager of Technical Publications at Platfora, a big-data analytics software company, where she writes all types of technical prose, including user guides, training curriculum, instructional videos, whitepapers, and online help systems. Daria is ... View Full Bio
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