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Has Big Data Jumped The Shark?

It seemed that, for the last few years, you couldn’t get away from the talk about Big Data. To be fair, the hype was warranted on some level. After all, picture being able to shape and plan out your business’ marketing strategy with detailed information about your audience! It sounded like the perfect e-commerce tool, and sure enough, suddenly that’s all you heard about.

However, like “Keep Calm” memes and Ice Bucket Challenge videos, you eventually reach a saturation point where you say “Enough!” Now, the thing to remember is that the idea of Big Data actually predates the Internet revolution. It’s just that the tools that today’s online world brings to the table have allowed Big Data to really grow exponentially.

The first one of you who tries to jump over me gets a mouthful of sharp teeth!

But have things gotten to the point where we’ve had enough of Big Data? Here are some reasons why it’s very possible that the bloom is off the virtual rose.

It’s Overkill

Not only is there a lot of press devoted to the concept of Big Data, the sheer volume of information that Big Data offers is rather overwhelming. There’s such a thing as knowing too much, or having too many choices. Big Data can give you useful chunks of information on website traffic, demographics, buying patterns, customer feedback, and Internet searches, but at what point do you hit Big Data information overload?

While it’s smart to create campaigns with a solid understanding of who your audience is and what they want, too much knowledge may actually result in an impasse. With too many factors to consider, it’s possible for a company to be incapable of choosing a direction in a timely fashion. And here we thought that the term “TMI” (otherwise known as Too Much Information), was only applied to people talking about their recent surgery or the intimate details of their love life!

Well, It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time …

It’s difficult for marketing people to not be dazzled by the prospect of having volumes of information at their fingertips. Bear in mind, Big Data encompasses not only the information types spelled out earlier, but even things like the weather or electricity usage. There’s just so much information to wade through.

And that’s the problem. In order to make the most of that information, you need to divert people, time, resources, and money to the task of processing Big Data into useful pieces. Eventually there’s the realization that all of that work may not be yielding the kind of returns that justify the whole deal to begin with.

In other words, there’s the growing realization out there that Big Data isn’t some kind of magic bullet.

A Matter of Privacy

Pause and consider the implications of Big Data’s content. You have all of this information about consumers, Internet users, whoever else. You have access to their age, gender, nationality, where they live, what kind of job they have, whether or not they have kids, and a lot of other personal information.

That’s when those people start wondering exactly how much you know about them, where the data is stored, who else has access to that information, and how is it used. All of a sudden, you have people taking issue with all of that data gathering and storage, and getting rather vocal about it.

Hand in hand with privacy is the whole matter of how secure that stored information is in the first place. Just how safe, how impregnable, is the cloud? Looking at recent headlines and seeing stories about credit card companies, store chains, and even celebrities using smart phones being hacked, and you’re tempted to respond “not very”.

Introducing Small Data!

Another indication that Big Data may have overstayed its welcome is the emergence of an idea that’s directly the opposite. In this particular case, say hello to Small Data. Gleaning information from Big Data as well as local sources directly, Small Data takes relevant, useful information and gives it to users in ways that are easily understood and put into practice.

So if Small Data turns out to be the next big thing, it could push Big Data off the center stage, and the possibility that this could happen shows that perhaps Big Data has overstayed its welcome.

Before we start writing Big Data’s obituary, it’s only fair to point out that Big Data is indeed still alive and well. The torrent of information continues unabated, with even drones getting in on the action. But too much of a good thing has a way of backfiring, and Big Data may just be in danger of doing just that.

Photo Credit: Ken Bondy

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Born in the Boston area in 1959, I started writing in 1985. I live in Nashua NH with my wife and three cats. We have four kids in our blended family. I am an utter geek who's into gaming, horror, SF/fantasy, the Red Sox, trains, running, history, and a bunch of other things.

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