When I was in the third grade, I cheated on my 7’s multiplication tables (sorry, mom and dad) and I’ve been cursed ever since with the inability to succeed in math. That same year, I achieved something slightly more noble and had a short story published in a children’s magazine. It was then that I realized I would manifest my destiny through creative writing rather than spend my life crunching numbers and manipulating equations. And yet here I am, about to justify the relevance of math and how it is molding my industry I work in.
Algorithms in Simple Terms
Kevin Slavin, an assistant professor and founder of Playful Systems at MIT Media Lab, said in his 2011 TED Talk that algorithms “acquire the sensibility of truth because they repeat over and over again, and they ossify and calcify, and they become real.” In layman’s terms, an algorithm is a mathematical code that is entered into a computer program by computer scientists that obtains “big data” from you, me and any other stranger on this Earth online.
Breaking Down “Big Data”
Big data can be defined back to 2001 when industry analyst Doug Laney separated it into three parts: Volume, velocity and variety.
- Volume: Ranging from transaction-based data to data from social media that is so large it is challenging to analyze it.
- Velocity: The speed at which all this information is being shifted through.
- Variety: Numeric data in traditional databases, information from applications, videos, e-mail, and beyond.
What the Pros are Doing
These three parts of big data are changing business operations for companies like Facebook, Google and Netflix because it’s aiding in better decision making. For instance, toward the end of 2013, Facebook replaced their News Feed algorithm from EdgeRank to Story Bumping. Story Bumping deciphers all the posts a specific user has seen and moves all the unread stories to the top. Netflix has their head in the cloud, literally. They are improving their online recommendation engine through “deep-learning” algorithms through Amazon’s cloud service. And can you even imagine your daily life without Google? Google computer scientists unveiled their newest search algorithm called Hummingbird that provides direct answers to complex questions.
Through all these different complex algorithms being created by, in my opinion, geniuses, big data is revealing insightful information about populations, segmented audiences and individuals. Social media account managers like myself are using this information to tailor how our brands target and nurture consumers to increase ROI.
Now here is a two part equation I can understand:
Computer scientists + Algorithms = Big Data
Big Data ÷ Analytics = Tailored campaigns for consumers that increase ROI
Want to chat about deciphering big data or school me on new and emerging algorithms? I welcome the conversation! Follow me on Twitter @whatupTUT or leave a comment below.