Monthly Archives: January 2014

Big Data

There is too much hype on big data these days, promising the next big revolution in information technology which will change the way we do business. It purports to have a big impact on economy, science, and society at large. In fact, big data right now is at the “peak of inflated expectations” on the Gartner technology hype cycle.

Big data “refers to our burgeoning ability to crunch vast collections of information, analyze it instantly, and draw sometimes profoundly surprising conclusions from it.” It answers questions that are sometimes not so obvious.

Big data definitely has tremendous potential. After all the hype has subsided, entities that do not take advantage of its power will be left out. In fact big data is already being used by technology companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and many other companies. IT vendors such as Oracle, EMC, and IBM started offering big data solutions for companies and enterprises.

There are three drivers that is making big data possible:

First, a robust and cheap IT infrastructure – powerful server platforms that crunch data, advanced storage systems that store huge amount of data, and ubiquitous network – Wifi, 4G, fiber, etc.

Second, the explosion of data from mobile devices, social networks, web searches, sensors, and data from many different devices.

Lastly, the proliferation of powerful analytics and data mining tools suited for big data, such as Hadoop, MapReduce, NoSQL, and many other software yet to be created. These tools will only get better and better.

I recently read the book entitled “Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think” by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier.

The book is spot on its predictions. With big data, there will be yet another paradigm shift on how we understand the world. With big data, “what” is more important than “why”. Big data is also the processing of complete data, not just a sampling of data. It also means accepting less than perfect accurate result.

The book also talks about the dark side of big data – such as the loss of privacy. It also talks about how big data predictions can be used to police and punish individuals, and how organizations may blindly defer to what the data says without understanding its limitations.

I highly recommend the book to those who like to fully understand big data and its implications.

Toastmasters Is Also About Leadership

Many people join Toastmasters Club to improve their communications skills. But Toastmasters is not only about communications; it’s also about leadership. There is a leadership program that members can take advantage of to improve their leadership skills. In fact, before a member can become a distinguished Toastmaster – the highest Toastmaster educational award – one needs to complete both the leadership and communications tracks.

It makes sense that communications and leadership skills go hand in hand. Great communicators are great leaders, and great leaders are great communicators. Many areas of our society require leaders. People just need to step up and lead.

In Toastmasters, there are many opportunities to lead at the club, district, and international levels, thus improving our leadership skills. When I became a club president a year ago, I learned so many things including organizing events, motivating people, and managing the club. Now that I am an area governor, I have to face a new set of challenges, thus more opportunities to learn and lead.