Big Is Relative

By DANIEL ANTION posted 03-06-2012 07:46



Last November, I had the privilege of listening to a keynote presentation byChrister Johnson from IBM about Big Data at the Gilbane Conference. I wrote about my reaction to that keynote shortly after hearing it, but somehow I knew that this concept would haunt me. Before I started writing this, I went back and reread that earlier post. Part of my reason was to make sure that I didn’t bore the three people who might read both blogs, but part was to make sure the two entries work together. That doesn’t mean I can’t change my mind in three months, but if I did, I should tell you. Newsflash, I haven’t changed my mind, but I have refined my opinion on Big Data (read that as if I were using a megaphone please). As the title indicates, big is relative.

Clearly, American Nuclear Insurers, the company I work for, will never have big data woes that involve the word Exabyte, as much as I would love buying a multi-Exabyte storage array before I retire. On the other hand, we insure a big industry, we put big money out there in the form of limits, and we are expected to know what we are doing. More than knowing what we are doing, we are expected to know what everyone in this industry is doing. Historically, we digest all available material, review it among ourselves and then disburse that knowledge in the form of white papers and e-Newsletters to our owners. Most of the aggregating and distribution has been handled with apparent ease by a coworker and friend of mine who will be retiring later this year. How we fill the void his retirement will leave behind is anybody’s guess, but we (IT) have begun to experiment with ways in which we can automate at least the aggregation terms in the equation. That’s going to be hard; IBM has Watson at their disposal – we have SharePoint.

The technical task at hand will be to monitor Twitter feeds, newspapers, magazine articles, blogs and other social media for potential candidates, i.e. the things our owners might be concerned about, the things that reference our customers, the things that reference us, well, you know the drill. This could include the predicted path of an Atlantic hurricane, the damage from a Midwest tornado, a new technology, or the release of nuclear material into the environment. Obviously, we have other sources for some of these bits of content, but our need to know is bigger than what we need to conduct our business. We need to know the facts, and we also need to know what other people are saying about these things – including the things that they say that aren’t true.

If you have read this far in search of a description of our solution, I am sorry to disappoint you. We are working on a solution, but it’s nowhere near complete. We can follow Twitter, we can receive email copies of, or links to articles, and we are pretty sure we can alert a network of experts to review, act or opine on what we collect. We can also distribute SharePoint content to others. In other words, the mechanical aspects are all in place, it’s the human element we need to nail down. I’ll let you know how that works for us, after we have it working.

#SharePoint #knowledgemanagement #BigData #socialmedia