David Smith Slays Big Data Straw Person

The Business Economics And Opportunity Of Open-Source Data Science by David Smith.

David sets out to slay the big data myth that: “It’s largely hype, with little practical business value.”


The second myth, that big data is hype with no clear economic benefits, is also easy to disprove. The fastest-growing sectors of the global economy are enabled by big data technologies. Mobile and social services would be impossible today without big data fueled by open-source software. (Google’s search and advertising businesses were built on top of data science applications running on open-source software.)

You may have read on my blog earlier today, Slicing and Dicing Users – Google Style, which details how Google has built that search and advertising business. If rights to privacy don’t trouble you, Google’s business models beckons.

David is right that the straw person myth he erected, that big data is “…largely hype, with little practical business value,” is certainly a myth.

In his haste to slay that straw person, David overlooks is the repeated hype — there is value in big data. That is incorrect.

You can create value, lots of it, from big data, but that isn’t the same thing. Creating value from big data requires appropriate big data, technical expertise, a clear business plan for a product or service, marketing, all the things that any business requires.

The current hype about “…there is value in big data” reminds me of the header for lottery by the Virginia Company:


True enough, Virginia is quite valuable now and has been for some time. However, there was no gold on the ground to be gathered by the sack full and big data isn’t any different.

Value can and will be extracted from big data, but only by hard work and sound business plans.

Ask yourself, would you invest in a big data project proposed by this person?


[Images are from: The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Virginia Company Of London, 1606-1624, by Wesley Frank Craven.]

PS: The vast majority of the time I deeply enjoy David Smith‘s posts but I do tire of seeing “there is value in big data” as a religious mantra at every turn. A number of investors are only going to hear “there is value in big data” and not stop to ask why or how? We all suffer when technology bubbles burst. Best not to build them at all.

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