Is big data the real deal, or is it just another B.S. buzzword used to shill consulting services and massive infrastructure upgrades?

That’s the question blogger Peter Houston asked in a recent posting titled, Getting past the Big Data bullshit and it’s something that even the smallest casino affiliates and web publishers should be asking themselves.

Of course Houston, and a host of other big data critics aren’t saying that the reams of customer data and web metrics generated every day are useless; quite the opposite. What they are saying is that there’s a big difference between big data and good data.

Here’s here a few of his observations that are particularly relevant to affiliate marketers.

What is Big Data?
Big data, like so many other business buzzwords, means different things to different people. It’s also important to remember that big data doesn’t just apply to big companies.

Over at Forbes.com, contributor Lisa Arthur offers a working definition of big data along the lines of:

Big data is a collection of data from traditional and digital sources inside and outside your company that represents a source for ongoing discovery and analysis.

For affiliates, that can include everything from traffic patterns to page views and e-mail open rates. Neither you, nor your data, really needs to be all that big to qualify as big data under this definition.

Why Does(‘nt) Big Data Matter?

Data for data’s sake isn’t all that useful and that’s why more and more industry analysts are calling, “B.S.,” on big data. Houston, quite correctly, points out that the value of data is all in the end-user’s ability to decode the signals. In his words:

…it doesn’t have to be big, it’s not about data, it’s about insight.

You don’t have to be IBM to see the truth in that statement. Anyone who’s ever suffered information overload while trying to decipher the wealth of information on programs like Google Analytics knows this conundrum all too well.

Houston, and just about everyone else, suggests giving a greater priority to analysis over simply gathering huge amounts of data. He says, simply:

So as you wrap up your plans for next year and beyond, thinking about how to use data to build a single, multiplatform view of your customers or automate your marketing processes, bear in mind that getting the analysis right and acting on it is way more important than how big your data is.

That’s pretty good advice for world where even big data can turn out be total B.S.


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