Why Big Data Is Not Truth

5. June 2013

Date: 04-06-2013
Source: The New York Times By QUENTIN HARDY

The word “data” connotes fixed numbers inside hard grids of information, and as a result, it is easily mistaken for fact. But including bad product introductions and wars, we have many examples of bad data causing big mistakes.

Big Data raises bigger issues. The term suggests assembling many facts to create greater, previously unseen truths. It suggests the certainty of math.

That promise of certainty has been a hallmark of the technology industry for decades. With Big Data, however, there are even more hazards, some human and some inherent in the technology.

Kate Crawford, a researcher at Microsoft Research, calls the problem “Big Data fundamentalism — the idea with larger data sets, we get closer to objective truth.” Speaking at a conference in Berkeley, Calif., on Thursday, she identified what she calls “six myths of Big Data.”

Myth 1: Big Data is New

In 1997, there was a paper that discussed the difficulty of visualizing Big Data, and in 1999, a paper that discussed the problems of gaining insight from the numbers in Big Data. That indicates that two prominent issues today in Big Data, display and insight, had been around for awhile.

“But now it’s reaching us in new ways,” because of the scale and prevalence of Big Data, Ms. Crawford said. That also means it is a widespread social phenomenon, like mobile phones were in the 1990s, that “generates a lot of comment, and then disappears into the background, as something that’s just part of life.”

Myth 2: Big Data Is Objective Read the rest of this entry »

Europe’s ‘Lost’ Tech $1 Trillion

3. June 2013

Date: 03-06-2013
Source: The Wall Street Journal

The annual publication of analyst Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report is something of an Internet tradition, providing a rich source of hard data over which much chin stroking will now take place.

Unveiled at the All Things D annual conference, the report shows two slides that stand out in particular for a European tech audience, highlighting just how much value, and how many jobs, have been “lost” in Europe by the families of founders finding the prospect of the U.S. more enticing than staying home; and as a consequence how little European web companies contribute to the global web economy.

In one slide Ms. Meeker, the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner, lists 25 leading web companies by their country of origin and 2013 market value. Of the $1.38 billion in market value only an anaemic $20 billion comes from Europe. While Europe comprises just under 11% of the world’s population, the European companies on the list contribute just 1.5% by value. (And $16 billion of that comes from Russia — search engine OAO Yandex and portal Mail.ru Group Ltd. The U.K. retailer ASOS PLC contributes the remaining $4 billion.)

By contrast the U.S. contributed $1.17 billion or 85%. Americans comprise about 4.5% of the world’s population. Read the rest of this entry »