Big Data

Next week, I’m heading to Santa Clara for a few days of “big data” at the O’Reilly Strata Conference.  I’m really looking forward to it, and expect to have my mind blown several times over.  I’m on the program committee for the conference, though I joined late and missed the chance to review proposals, so I’ll be coming at it with pretty fresh eyes.

The illustration above is from a recent Economist issue dedicated to the subject — according to the article, worldwide data production has increased nearly tenfold in the past 5 years. It’s really hard to fathom the scope of this increase, and I’m excited to spend a few days with a group of people who are at the cutting edge of understanding and managing this space.

It seems clear to me that manipulating massive amounts of data is one of the next great skills.  A few months ago, Andrew Parker wrote a post (quoting Zed Shaw) that really stuck with me — the gist of which is that programming is a great “secret weapon” to apply to your work in another field. I totally agree.

So, I’ll add that manipulating big data — a sub of programming in some ways, but an independent field in others — should be part of every rising undergrad’s toolkit.  If I could press rewind on my life, there’s no question that I’d add computer science (with a focus on data and stats) as a minor area of study, and use it to supercharge my major.

I will definitely be posting quotes and photos from the conference at The Exobrain.

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