Steve Lohr on the Origins of the Term “Big Data”

Data hounds will appreciate reading Steve Lohr’s concise but informative article in the February 1 edition of the New York Times, in which he takes a look at the origins of the moniker “big data.” It’s fun insofar as the term has drifted into common parlance after being mentioned here and there, but it may not be so easy to find a single individual whom to credit for its creation. The first time I ever regarded it seriously was when it appeared in a NBER Working Paper that addressed future career opportunities for economists in big data (I’ll add the cite once I track down again).

It reminds me of a local story involving moniker-manufacturing on a grand scale. During the late 1970s, The Oakland-Berkeley regional newspaper East Bay Express published an article by humorist Alice Kahn. In the article, Ms. Kahn coined the term “Yuppie.”  So far as anyone could tell, she was the first person to use the term, which meme-exploded across the USA in a few months. In subsequent issues The Express she turned it into an ongoing gag, because everybody she knew kept telling her, “We think you should sue” –for rights to the term. Humor being an “open source” product first and foremost, she didn’t sue, but did “work it” for what it was worth.

Back to big data.  Here’s a quote from the article, given by Fred R. Shapiro, Associate Librarian at Yale Law School and editor of the Yale Book of Quotations:

“The Web…opens up new terrain.What you’re seeing is a marriage of structured databases and novel, less structured materials. It can be a powerful tool to see far more.”

This is exactly the point that Autonomy and other e-discovery firms such as Recommind make:  to analyze the full output of a given company, corporation or legal case, you now have to look at all of the data. That includes the easier-to-parse world of structured data, but more and more it includes social media, email, recorded telephone conversations and many other casual (but critical) information resources.

 

12 thoughts on “Steve Lohr on the Origins of the Term “Big Data”

  1. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the
    video to make your point. You definitely know what youre talking
    about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your blog when you could be giving us something
    enlightening to read?

  2. Howdy! This is kind of off topic but I need some advice from an established blog.
    Is it difficult to set up your own blog?
    I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking
    about making my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any points or suggestions? Thank you

    • If you’re willing to invest a bit of money (about $380 for an annual subscription) I would strongly recommend checking out Lynda.com, a terrific e-learning outfit. They have a number of classes that give a very comprehensive overview of how to make the most of WordPress (and other programs as well). You don’t have to be “technical” to be good at running a blog on WordPress, but it’s a very good idea to understand how it works. WordPress is organized so that you need not be a programmer to publish a polished blog–it may just the ticket, and Lynda is a great place to deepen your awareness.

  3. Hello there! Quick question that’s entirely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My web site looks weird when viewing from my iphone. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin
    that might be able to resolve this problem. If you have any suggestions, please share.
    Many thanks!

  4. We absolutely love your blog and find a lot of your post’s to be exactly I’m looking for.
    Would you offer guest writers to write content to suit your needs?
    I wouldn’t mind writing a post or elaborating on a number of the subjects you write related to here. Again, awesome weblog!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s