Getting Fuzzy: The Line Between Social, Big Data and Predictive Analytics

4 minute read
Virginia Backaitis avatar

The term “Social” means different things to different people. Same for “Big Data” (believe it or not, some people even use it as a verb). And while in one sense their precise definitions don’t matter, if you’re using them as labels, they do. We need some clarification. Now, before their meanings get lost and become irretrievable.

This is not a random thought; it came up duringLarry Ellison’s second keynote at this year’s Oracle OpenWorld Conference. It was titled “The Oracle Cloud: Where Social is Built In."

Clear as a Bell

During the talk Ellison spent several minutes talking about “Social” in contexts we hear used most often -- engaging with customers, families and friends via Facebook and Twitter on the Consumer side; and with co-workers and business partners via Yammer, IBM Connections, Jive and the like on the Enterprise side.

Social centers on engagement, no? 

Ellison explained that Oracle had built Social into its SaaS applications and that there was an SRM (Social Relationship Management) Platform which would work with Oracle’s Fusion layer (WebCenter, Fatwire, ERP, Human Resources, Accounting and so on).

So far so good ...

Getting Hazy

But a few minutes later, still in the same keynote, Ellison rehashed a demo Oracle had recently done on how its SRM platform could be used to determine which member of the U.S. Olympic team would be the best choice to promote a Lexus LF-A (the US$ 375,000 automobile that Ellison recently bought).

During the demo, he explained to the crowd that a tweet held a lot more information than its 140 (or less) character message; it also carried with it geotags (from what location did the tweet come?), type of device data (iPhone, Android or RIM), time stamps and more … some of the information was structured, he said, some of it was not.

He also revealed that in order to select the ideal Olympian,Oracle had analyzed 5 billion tweets, almost a billion retweets and hashtags, 27 billion relationships and so on (sounds like big data, no?), to determine that (drumroll please!) Gabby Douglas would be the best spokesperson for the car.

(As an aside, I don’t think that technology provided the right answer.Hot cars and young girls might both win attention from men of means (remember the car costs 375k), but the only image of Gabby I can fathom in that car would be with Justin Bieber as the driver. (Maybe Larry and/or the Oracle team could have used a tip from Opera Solutions. They say Predictive Analytics = Machines + Human.)

But before I digress too far …

Learning Opportunities

Social Big Data Mash Up

As Ellison went on about Twitter fire hoses, Oracle's Exadata database and its Exalytics in-memory analytics appliance were also mentioned.

Are we still talking about Social? I wondered. It sounded more like Big Data or Predictive Analytics to me. At first I thought that I must have missed a transition somewhere, so I checked Twitter. “He thinks he’s talking about Social but he’s talking about Big Data,” some of them implied.

But could Larry Ellison be that confused?

It turns out, maybe not. It seems that Oracle might be planning to have a “Social Relationship Management Platform for Big Data” (I don’t suspect they actually have it yet because it renders only two Google hits, neither of them by Oracle).

Altimeter Group analyst Jeremiah Owyang may have some insight. He writes that his findings from the keynote are the following:

  1. Oracle applies social across many business functions from support, marketing, HR and internal social tools.
  2. They're applying business intelligence software to mine social data, to derive value beyond engagement.
  3. The suite of social products is called SRM (Social Relationship Management) based on three acquisitions (VB note: Collective Intellect, Involver, Virtue)

So through Owyang’s lens it seems that Social and Business Intelligence (which would have to incorporate Big Data in this day and age) are coming together. What will that be called outside of Oracle’s world?

It’s getting fuzzy out there. Lens cleaner anyone?

Editor's Note: To read more of Virginia's takeaways from Oracle OpenWorld, why not read Opera Solutions, Oracle Partner to Help Companies Find 'Gold' in Big Data Flows #oow