Big data

If you're part of a large website then understanding human behavioral data will be central to the advancement of your career.

"Data, in my view, is a transformative new currency for science, engineering, education, commerce and government," Farnam Jahanian, head of the National Science Foundation's computer and information science and engineering directorate told the New York Times in March 2012. "Foundational research in data management and data analytics promise breakthrough discoveries and innovations across all disciplines."

Big data is the latest buzzword. We are currently experiencing a data flood. So much data that it's hard to organize, analyze, interpret. This is a huge challenge, and a massive opportunity.

It's nothing new. The wave of data has been rising every year. In some way we could say that Big Data is associated with Information Overload. It's all the result of our dramatically increasing ability to record and store.

Communication is about the transfer of information. There are two forms of information, formal and informal. The informal kind is the one with which we're most familiar. In earlier societies, when a baby was born the neighbors came and everyone smiled and thirty years later probably only the mother could remember what the baby looked like.

Today, information is becoming more and more formalized. A baby is born, the neighbors come with their cameras and there are photos, videos and blogs on the Web and in lots of other places. There is a human record like there has never been a record before.

The Web is the great laboratory of human life. It is the ultimate library of human existence. Often it feels like a library with the lights turned out and all the books on the floor. How do we make sense of all this data?

If you don't make sense of this data your competitors will. Or your colleagues will and their career will advance and yours won't. Big Data is like an extra super powerful brain. It can help you know what is really happening, not what you think is happening or what your boss thinks is happening.

The Age of Data gives us a great big window into the world of our customers. Websites are meant for people to use. We now have an idea how people use. What they ACTUALLY do rather than what they say they do or what we think they do.

Right now, we're doing a project that involves examining how employees sort tasks into classes. The software (by Optimal Workshop) allows us to get far more people to do the sorting than we used to get when we did this sorting manually. We get much richer data.

From this analysis we come up with a level one classification but we don't stop there. We then ask employees a range of top task questions and ask them where they would click. We aim to place tasks in the exact place employees would click at least 90% of the time.

Data is your friend. It can help you make better decisions. This is the Age of Data, the age of evidence and facts, not opinion and gut instinct. Embrace data and your career will thrive.