Weekly Wrap Up: Big Data is Kind of a Big Deal

June 14, 2013 - by rachelbalik

It’s Friday, which means it’s time to kick back, relax, and make sure you didn’t miss any important news this week so you can enjoy your weekend all caught up to speed. We figured we’d lend a hand by sharing a few stories that are worth a read. This week, we’re focusing on big data, primarily because it’s hit a big milestone today.

What’s that, you ask? Well, as we know, advancements in technology are happening at an exponential rate (compare the time between the invention of morse code, the first phone, the first car phone, and the iPhone, etc). It turns out that in order to keep up, the austere Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has decided to break some of its own long-standing rules. Today, it officially added “big data,” among others words, such as “tweet,” to the dictionary. Although the OED usually requires that a word has been in use for 10 years before it warrants inclusion, these were catching on so fast they made an exception.

The OED is certainly isn’t the only institution placing a more formalized importance on big data. Facebook has just rolled out a big data training program for all employees, so that the hundred or so data analysts they employ don’t have a monopoly on analysis. Fortune reports that the company believes not just in tools, but also in teaching an analytic “mindset,” ensuring that all employees are constantly thinking about how to make data-driven decisions.

While we’re all interested in investigating how data can help make us better decisions, people are considerably less excited when they think about the government accessing all of our data. In this video from PBS, data and privacy thought leaders discuss the recent NSA story and the role that big data plays. In particular, they focus on the critical balance between security and privacy.

But given the popularity of Foursquare’s newly launched Time Machine, many people are more fascinated by data than alarmed by threats to their privacy. The Time Machine allows you to relive your entire check-in history through a dynamic visualization, then view infographics and other analysis of your check-in data. As long as you’re prepared to face the reality of your gym to pizzeria ratio, it’s worth a look this weekend. As soon as you’re done watching the whole PBS video, of course...