Cost of Information

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Big Data As Defined By Constraints: "Camel Meets Eye Of Needle", Or, "Surviving Your First Week On The Job"

Needle-And-ThreadCamelIf you are an executive charged with a "big data project", here's a prediction. On your first week on the job you'll likely be surprised. And the surprise concerns what you'll actually spend your time doing.

What might be the surprise on your first week on the job? The surprise is that your biggest responsibility won't concern what you thought you signed up for, which is likely something like "generating analytical insights". Rather, your biggest responsibility is almost the opposite, which is focusing on everything but generating analytical insights.

And if you've been dreaming of fishing in sea of data, with a big net to scoop up any of the myriad insights just swimming by your boat, your surprise might even be one of disappointment. Because this blue ocean metaphor, lovely to imagine, is also seriously misleading about the nature of the world of big data. It's more likely that your ocean will consist of nothing but fish, all of which have three eyes and which are inedible! You'll have lots of data but nothing to take home that you can call a great insight.

Here's the problem, which could define the basis of your surprise, your job responsibility and the sort of metaphor that you should use to describe the world of big data. The problem with big data concerns the very definition of big data, which is that it is "big" -- but although big is subjective, there's a very practical and non-trivial definition of "big". Your set of big data is defined as such if it is too big for any of your machines to process in one chunk in a reasonable amount of time. In other words, the world of big data is defined by the system capacity constraints.
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Value Of Information: Three Decision Criteria -- And Applicability To Cloud Services

Would you like to learn a secret about how to be more successful in the coming year? Either personally, or as a manager or professional?
 
OK, this trashy "come-on"  is only justified because it's almost year end (2012), and time for lots of management how-tos, especially "how to cope with information overload".  Most of the advice is common sense, and if we are very disciplined, might even help us to be more effective.
 
But how about some advice that might actually work?  
 
This blog post is about managing more effectively by considering the cost and utility of information.  So much of our work every day is spent wrestling with information management,  And information has a whole lifecycle, from identification of need, to acquisition, usage, curation and even secure destruction.  In fact, much of common sense management advice is about better information management.  (It's not for nothing that computers and software are collectively known as "information technology".)
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