Big data, big deal?

Defining “big data” is as difficult to define as knowledge. Why? Because it means different things to different people. According to IBM in its report Analytics: The real-world use of big data:

“big data has been used to convey all sorts of ideas, including: huge quantities of data, social media analytics, next generation data management capabilities, real-time data, and much more” ( ).

Irrespective of the name you give this rose it presents opportunities for organisation to uncover detailed information on their organisations online/electronic behaviour. But is tracking the clicks the answer for libraries seeking to understand their users?

Answer – yes and no

Big data can assist in libraries bridging the information gap between what users say they do and what they actually do. It can assist in tracking task paths and activity trends helping you eradicate dead ends and confusing navigation paths from your intranet or web site.

This is all valuable information however it cannot be employed as the sole means of understanding your user group because you can’t gauge everything from the stats. Talking to your users about what they do, what they use and most importantly what they want is invaluable not only with respect of building relationships but also in assisting you to understand the trends. When it comes to stats there’s an ever-present risk of reading too much into a series of tends or getting it disastrously wrong.

Libraries should consider harnessing the big data that their clients are creating when using their products however the essentials of user focused design cannot be thrown aside. REMEMBER TO TALK TO YOUR USERS!!! 

I have collated below a series of resources on big data for those who are unfamiliar with it:

IBM Analytics: The real-world use of big data: 

Mike 2.0 Definition of big data –

European Commission – Big data at your service –

McKinsey & Company Global Institute – Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition and productivity


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