As I flick through another web page that flashes ads for several items that I bought months ago, before checking my inbox to find a personalized email trying to sell me something that I was researching but would never buy, a thought came to me; In many ways, I hate Big Data.
The hype surrounding the new technology has meant that the benefits it once had are now seen as something basic, such as targeting and personalized messages and people are now expecting more.
We have seen the success that this kind of approach has had with personalized adverts, targeting people who have visited specific sites and viewed specific products. Data tells companies the best time to advertise to people to get them to buy and it also revealed the best places to do so. However, what this has done is create a similar situation to what our parents had to deal with on television adverts; you learn to know when you should ignore adverts.
However, rather than walking out of the room or changing the channel for two minutes, we have learnt to just ignore them. This is far worse for companies as we no longer simply avoid these adverts but subconsciously block them out.
Facebook has been one of the main beneficiaries of this system, with their complex algorithms based on the vast amounts of data available to them through people’s profiles. However, when you look at their pricing for targeted adverts compared to placing ads on other similar sites that are not targeted, the difference is negligible. If it was such a money driving advertising technique then surely they would be able to charge considerably more.
Even the most high profile use of Big Data today, GCHQ and the NSA, have failed to use it to effectively stop terrorism or arrest potential terrorists. After all, if it was so successful why have there been an estimated 150 US citizens and upto 400 British citizens leaving the country to fight for ISIS in the Middle East? If Big Data could do what was claimed, then we should be able to track who is thinking about going to Syria and then be able to stop them.
However, neither of these things are the fault of Big Data itself.
Instead, the fact that I am disappointed by these is down the hype surrounding Big Data and the expectation that has come from its initial use cases.
We have seen such massive jumps from its use that now when I look at something that hasn’t worked with data, I get disappointed, which is hardly fair, but is the feeling that people tend to get today. We are starting a stage of disillusionment as the huge gains we have made are largely under appreciated and instead we are concentrating on the failures of elements that were oversold as solutions. Perhaps we could argue that it is the fault of companies who have claimed much simply to gain clients, but without considering the long term impacts of their work.
This disillusionment has meant that we need to look at a strong and robust way to enter Big Data 2.0, which will need to be a realistic view of what we should be able to achieve with data, rather than what we want or hope. It will require a different approach, without the hype surrounding the product at the moment. It is potentially world changing, but the view of it and the potential impacts that it will have need to be reigned in, creating a situation where people are happy with the results that we get, not disappointed that they haven’t changed the world as much as they thought.
It is not to say that what has been achieved so far has not been successful, but more that the potential that people were sold is not the same as the reality of what has been achieved.