Archive for the ‘Panopticon’ Category

Big Data Reference Model (And Panopticons)

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Big Data Reference Model

Michael Nygard writes:

A project that approaches Big Data as a purely technical challenge will not deliver results. It is about more than just massive Hadoop clusters and number-crunching. In order to deliver value, a Big Data project has to enable change and adaptation. This requires that there are known problems to be solved. Yet, identifying the problem can be the hardest part. It’s often the case that you have to collect some information to even discover what problem to solve. Deciding how to solve that problem creates a need for more information and analysis. This is an empirical discovery loop similar to that found in any research project or Six Sigma initiative.

Michael takes you on a sensible loop of discover and evaluation, making you more likely (no guarantees) to succeed with your next “big data” project. In particular see the following caution:

… it is tempting to think that we could build a complete panopticon: a universal data warehouse with everything in the company. This is an expensive endeavor, and not a historically successful path. Whether structured or unstructured, any data store is suited to answer some questions but not others. No matter how much you invest in building the panopticon, there will be dimensions you don’t think to support. It is better to skip the massive up-front time and expense, focusing instead on making it very fast and easy to add new data sources or new elements to existing sources.

I like the term panopticon. In part because if its historical association with prisons.

Data warehouses/structures are prisons and suited better for one purpose (or group of purposes) than another.

We must build prisons for today and leave tomorrow’s prisons for tomorrow.

The problem that topic maps trys to address is how to safely transfer prisoners from today’s prisons to tomorrows? Which is made more complicated by some people still using old prisons, sometimes generations of prisons older than most people. Not to mention the variety of prisons across businesses, governments, nationalities.

All of them have legitimate purposes and serve some purpose now, else their users would have migrated their prisoners to a new prison.

I will have to think about the prison metaphor. I think it works fairly well.