A domestic endorsement of big data


My bride stopped asking what I write about more than 10 years ago, somewhere between the early days of VoIP and electronic bill presentment. I think she was trying valiantly to separate the very boring daytime me from whatever it was she envisioned me to be otherwise when my laptop snapped shut at the end of the workday. Bless her soul.

Since I began covering big data about five months ago, she's never asked the obvious question: What's big data? She probably couldn't bear it, thinking I might launch into a database discussion, or worse start talking about the merits of open source. Sometimes I forget myself and raise the subject of my work on my own, but silly me, I always seem to bring it up just as she remembers that she left her wine in the other room.

I know about her job. I get to hear about it all the time and don't even have to ask. Part of her role running the office of our local garbage company is to oversee the IT department. It's by default, really, as IT kind of grew up within her realm. She's no geek. Hates computers. But she's smart enough to know you run IT from a business perspective, not a technology perspective, and she's got it goin' on in that regard. So the other day, as I stood in the doorway of her "dressing room" watching Estee Lauder get erased by a cotton ball and my bride slip into what she likes to call her "uniform" for the evening, I was treated to a summary of her day. I don't drink wine, unfortunately. 

Turns out she has this colleague with a penchant for reports--all kinds of reports. He likes to evaluate the performance of his underlings from every angle, always looking for new ways to maximize their output. Subsequently, he is in constant contact with the IT department and his conversations go something like this: "What if we took all of last year's blah blah blah and sorted it by this, that or the other thing and then took the numbers from this other system and …oh wait! What if we could see…"

She halted in the middle of her story, pushed her sleeves up before splashing water on her face and asked, "What are you smiling about?"

"That's what I do," I said. "That's what I write about."

"What? That's big data? Creating reports all day?" she said with more than a little pity in her fresh-faced eyes.

"That's not all," I said, and turned my iPad toward her hitting play. "It's also this."

It was only because her two-year-old granddaughter was herself beginning to put words together into short sentences that she paused from her routine to watch the big data video I thrust upon her. (You can see it here.)

Four minutes later, after drying her hands on a towel, she patted my shoulder and said, "Aw, good for you, hon."

And that, my friends, is quite an endorsement. - Tim

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