Sunday, 7 July 2013

LIKE Ideas 2013 - From big data to little apps

The full title of the second LIKEIdeas conference to be held was: 'From Big Data to Little Apps; How you can access, present and deliver information in the workplace' and this is exactly what the five speakers showed us over the course of the afternoon.

The keynote speaker, Dom Pollard from Big Data Insightannounced he was going to demystify big data & explain how to apply it in the workplace. He explained that big data is about volume, variety & velocity and it has become much more accessible to smaller companies due to cloud computing. Strong emphasis was given to the benefits of collaboration which can open up many new possibilities, some examples given were:

  • the pairing of Spotify and Songkick
  • retailers using Met Office weather data to boost bikini sales
  • the UK government potentially saving billions if it used social media data to prevent benefit fraud

Both Dom and the next speaker Michael Agar emphasised the importance of data analysis, stressing that it is important to ask the right questions, to not just do analysis for the sake of it and that data in and of itself is not useful until it has been interpreted. Michael's role was to help people visualise data and explore it in more detail through the use of infographics in order to tell a story. This led to questions from the audience about transparency as the sources are not always clear; infographics are being used quite heavily by marketers so it is becoming increasingly important to question and verify where the data originated from though this is not always easy to do.

Manny Cohen, told us what it was like to be a technological innovator, apparently this is difficult because no-one realises they need your creation! The technology is fairly simple to develop and, according to him, is generally the easy part; the most difficult aspect is changing social attitudes. This became clear when we were all asked to, in groups, consider the future of data in the next 5,10 and 15 years. There was a lot of optimism regarding technical advances and social adoption as we shared our answers, many of which were very similar focusing on better battery life, augmented reality, wearable technology and possibly revolting in 15 years away from all the technology as we realise it's taken over our lives. 

One thing which did vary massively was the time scales - there was a huge variation around the room regarding when we though the 'take-up' of these technologies might occur. And perhaps the revolt away from technology has already started as I have recently seen holidays advertised as being technology free and there seems to a proliferation of people returning to 'dumbphones'. In the future, maybe people will choose which side of the digital divide to be on. And, people will still be sharing picture of cats.

#LIKEIdeas attendees listening to Monique Ritchie's take on big data.

After we spent the break ruminating about the future of data, with a bit of networking thrown in for good measure, we returned to LIKE MIC, a panel of speakers comprising James Mullan, Monique Ritchie and Andrew Grave who in turn spoke about creating well-designed dashboards to create meaning from information within law firms, emphasising the importance of relationship building within the academic sector and ensuring academic staff are creating stable and secure places for their data, ie, not memory sticks, and finally, looking at how technology processes have changed in the last five years.

I went to this conference partly because I was helping to organise it but also because I wasn't quite sure I 'got' big data. It's a term which is used often and seemingly by everyone but which no-one seems to be able to succinctly explain. By attending the conference, I felt that actually, after all, big data is not a big deal. It's about information and people - something I am perfectly at home with.

The slides from the day can be found on the LIKE website.
The #LIKEIdeas tweets have been archived at Eventifier.

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