Basics of Big Data

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
You have probably heard the term 'big data' thrown around a lot lately, but what does it actually mean? Not only does this lesson explain big data, but it also provides an example of how it's used in your everyday life.

The Lure of Big Data

Do you ever wonder how certain streaming services are able to come up with pretty convoluted plots to some of their original content, but still manage to draw you in? Let's face it, many of us are guilty of streaming an entire season (or more) of shows, and I won't make you feel guilty by naming them. There just seems something so addictive about the ones that work, right? And the ones that don't, well, thankfully they don't appear in your queue again.

However, this approach of combining certain plot points with certain actors is not random, nor is it purely creative. It's all a result of using big data. Now you've probably heard that term thrown around quite a bit. However, in this lesson, we're going to nail down exactly what it is and how companies use it.

What Is Big Data?

Before we can really appreciate what big data is, we first have to understand that something drastic has happened over the past 30 years. For millennia, information was largely limited to a few libraries. With the advent of cheap printing presses and devices like cassettes and vinyl records, more and more data could be produced, but you still had to physically have it. However, with the creation of the internet and the move towards digital information, all that changed. Suddenly vast amounts of data were within easy reach. Big data refers to all this digital information that can now be analyzed. From comments on websites to social media poll results to massive amounts of personal information, a great deal of data is now available for analysis.

Analyzing Big Data

Of course, analyzing it is the issue. In fact, we're still perfecting a number of techniques to really be able to dig into big data. After all, it is so big - the information on a typical data center's servers would rival all the information produced for hundreds of years only a few decades ago! Yet, with more powerful computers and more precise programming, we can draw some interesting conclusions. We'll see how interesting in the following example.

Big Data Example

Before big data, if an entertainment company was going to produce a new product, it relied on tried and true methods plus sheer creativity. Actors and writers who had proven themselves were given the go ahead, while a script that captivated a focus group was bought on board. That's about all the data we could really analyze - what actors and writers worked, and if a particular script or idea was palatable. All that changed with big data!

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