Tuesday 7 April 2009

Diamonds are a girl's best friend

I wrote about data mining the other day and got some interesting comments. One was that my analogy of gold wasn’t quite accurate. Analogies are dangerous things.

The comment was quite correct, though, because although data mining can turn up information that is of significant value, it takes work to get there. The new analogy was offered - that of an uncut diamond. A diamond is as unappealing as coal in its raw state – but much sought-after in its cut and polished state.

So it is with data mining – gold coins do not drop into your lap as if you were playing a slot machine, you have to work with the new knowledge to figure out whether you have an uncut diamond or a piece of coal. It could be either – and of course an uncut diamond in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what to do with it might as well be coal.

A business intelligence specialist told me recently that he felt uncovering new knowledge from data was only part of the solution –the remainder being to display the data clearly and to communicate its meaning in an effective way.

Whilst the underlying data mining or statistical skills clearly have to be present, there is an element of polishing and crafting the newly found information to let its brilliance be seen. Perhaps what we need are some rather different skill sets in getting the full message across: communication and visionary skills.

It also goes some way to explain why business intelligence, data mining, performance management, and data visualisation fit together so well.


  1. Blimey -- mastery of oneself?

    That seems like a full-time job in an age where just getting through your inbox each morning is an achievement let alone providing a meaningful response.

    Can we ever be masters of ourselves in an age when we are bombarded incessantly with information much of which is just detritus from cyberspace created by well-meaning colleagues who think it would be helpful to include on the copy list of their latest e-mail together with half the population of China? Mastering ourselves requires not just knowing ourselves but managing the daily tsunami of new e-mails or SMS or instant messaging or did I mention to you what I posted on YouTube last night as you really shouldn't miss it especially before you have your omega 3 rich breakfast as it will set you up for the day.

    What a creative mind and genius Leonardo was -- I wonder if he would have harnessed the power of the Internet to advantage or succumbed to information overload -- infoluenza?

  2. A business intelligence specialist told me recently that he felt uncovering new knowledge from data was only part of the solution –the remainder being to display the data clearly and to communicate its meaning in an effective way.

    "The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been achieved" So said Bernard-Shaw. So the BI specialist you mentioned has a valid point....except communication is a 2 way process requiring checking that the received has understood rather than just received the information. Helping others to understand the message, meaning, idea etc has always been a stumbling block for scientists.........I wonder if this is all part of the unconsciously competent trying to share with the consciously incompetent?

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