“I’ve been accused of vulgarity. I say that’s bullshit.” – Mel Brooks
Being brutally honest, Big Data is bullshit. Not only is Big Data bullshit but it comes with a surfeit of pranksters, pundits and prissy big data bullshit-babblers, all willing (cue narration by Morgan Freeman) to “big-up Big Data in a vulgar, ill-mannered and predictably nauseating dance of professional-hustling… as old as time.”
However, is all Big Data bullshit? Is it all a fad, a load of old tripe and a confusion of weasels together with their surfeit of weasel words? Or, is there something of value, substance, and tangibility to be found amongst the volumes, velocities, and varieties of brazen and opportunistic self-aggrandizement, toxic speculation and opinions and unverifiable miracles?
For Google, Facebook and Twitter, Big Data certainly isn’t BS. For example, Google relies on Big Data as the biggest irreplaceable element in their colossal advertising business – so I am lead to believe. A business that accounts for more than 90% of Google’s revenue. So clearly, for the masters of web-based unstructured and complex search, Big Data is an essential element in their business model. The biggest essential element by far.
However, let´s be honest, we should consider the obvious. How many of us are really going to do business like Google?
Big Data technology and service vendors benefit tangibly from the Big Data movement, at least this is the impression that I get. Indeed, there is much talk about the relationship between Big Data, the Hadoop ecosphere and the big wild world of open source, but what is more interesting is that companies are bringing in revenue on the back of Big Data by offering battle-hardened business and enterprise versions of open source software. Then there is the business in consulting, with such a demand for Big Data gurus, Master Data Scientists and Number Conjurors, there must presumably be real people working in these roles, and paid handsomely for doing so.
But apart from the ‘success’ associated with the foundation of so many Big Data start-up businesses and the market-based commitment of some of ITs’ ‘great and good’ to the new digital zeitgeist of data volumes, velocities and varieties, just where are the other success stories of Big Data coming from?
To help us in our quest, I earlier compiled a not-so-exhaustive list of Big Data success stories, celebrity-chef like, to help us out. Here are some of the Big Data gems that I managed to track down:
- Thanks to Big Data, the taxi service alternative channel Uber is making massive waves and shaking things up in the transport sector.
- By leveraging Big Data Airbnb is turning the hospitality business on its head, and what´s more, making friends, and influencing people as they are doing so.
- Amazon would not be what they are today if it were not for Big Data, in fact, without Big Data, they would be nothing.
- One of the industries that will suffer revolutionary transformation because of Big Data will be the banking industry.
- Big Data will increase the GDP of the USA by at least 1% or more, and the Spanish GDP could likewise add an additional 1%, for similar reasons.
These would be all great headlines for Big Data success stories, apart from one small flaw. None of them is exactly a Big Data success story in the Big Data defining characteristics of volumes, varieties, and velocities of mainly unstructured data or in terms of the Hadoop technological kitchen-drawer ecosphere.
Something is happening, and it is not exactly legitimate. Can you guess what it is yet?
When it rains it pours, and when it rains Big Data hype it quickly turns into a monsoon of cloying hysteria. Spotting and pointing at Big Data bullshit babblers on forums like LinkedIn Pulse, Forbes and Information Management is no fun, unless your fun is nuking a school of intellectually challenged fish floundering in a barrel of vintage Malmsey.
However, it not only is no fun but also more times than not it is a complete and utter waste of time trying to get people to adopt a more critical approach to thinking. Because for every Big Data bullshit babbler, there is a battalion of intransigent Big Data believers stuck in untenable and absurd positions, marooned from reason and ways back to rationality. You can’t use logic against belief, and you can´t turn back a rising tide of IT refugees who are desperately seeking succor in the apparently safer-havens of Big Data, Data Science and Data-driven voodoo.
Only the other day I read that “The emergence of Big Data is now allowing CEOs to increasingly base decisions on current “reality” rather than past experience, but the risks in the integrity and fullness of the data that they are “seeing” and “hearing” is often a barrier to getting a clear picture of what is actually going on.” This is really taking shameless baloney and willful ignorance to all new heights, but it doesn’t stop there.
Elsewhere another eminent Big Data bullshit babbler wrote, “Clearly big data and AI will change almost every industry this decade… but none more than these”, referring vaguely and vacuously to “Healthcare, Finance and Insurance”. What species of shameless and fatuous willy-waving goes so far out on a limb that it becomes massively removed from even being a grandiose and beguiling ‘bigging-up’ of a fad?
Finally, yet importantly, I almost choked on my supersized Big Data popcorn the other day when I read, “Today, with the rise of the Internet, we capture “data” on everything. Therefore, the new term “Big Data” is honestly like 1985 again. But this time, Big Data will actually be really big and by some forecasts, be a $40 billion industry by 2018.”
This is not hype, it is not even simple deceit, it is astroturfing of 22-carat bullshit, and in most cases, it’s clearly deliberate, it´s intentional and it´s grossly misleading. So why do people do it?
Given that Big Data is very much a niche technology, with very much a niche appeal, why do so many buffoons go around pretending that Big Data is for all of us? Like as if it was some sort of digital universal-panacea, when at the moment, and at best, it is a walk on bit-player with just a couple of lies who aspires to B actor status. In this sense, at present Big Data isn´t even the hero´s best friend.
Before I close the piece, I will leave you with the thoughts of Dan Ariely. Why? Because it just irritates the hell out of a section of the community of Big Data bullshit babblers, and it´s actually very accurate. Here it is:
“Big data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it…”
Many thanks for reading.
In subsequent blog pieces I will be sharing my views on the evolution of information management in general, and the incorporation novel and innovative techniques, technologies and methods into well architected mainstream information supply frameworks, for primarily strategic and tactical objectives.
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