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Ban pan doeth peir

ogyrwen awen teir

The Book of Taliesin 

Once upon a time, a hobgoblin of digital moonshine stalked the land. Its name was Shirley Temple (but, it was better known as Big Data), and it had many followers.

Few really knew where Big Data had come from, because it just appeared overnight. Like owls, snow, rumour and astroturfing flim-flam merchants.

Some say the Gardner brought it in on the bottom of their wellies after a particularly tough night on the lemonade.

One night, a man with a black dog told me that it was really all a load of old nonsense, dreamed up by Redwood Shore Larry, to shake things up a bit.

Others, of the more superstitious bent, claimed that the giant who lived in the Big Blue mansion on the hill, had concocted it, from sugar and spice and all things dodgy and nice

The more cynical amongst the population just pointed at its high priests, acolytes and bicycle boys, and had a good old laugh.

Yet others claimed that it was a digital immaculate conception and a divine-revelation of mega-trend setting proportions that would change the face of the Lleyn peninsula, forever.

Elsewhere, some talked of dark deeds, of wickedness, or that it was a psycho-paranormal phenomenon closely associated with the cultish cult of the badly drawn Yellow Elephant. A wonderful wacky, off-the-wall and global orco-centric sect that sacrificed the processing-cycles of reason, strategy and coherence on the altar of half-baked pragmatism, bodgerism and winging-it.

Nonetheless, some of the global villagers did express opinion that this was no new phenomenon, and that they had seen such a sinister semblance before. Knowledge and experience had informed them. They seemed to intrinsically know that a timeless feature of data is its variable volumes, its variable velocities, its increasing varieties and, because we insisted on hoarding so much of it, its increasingly expansive footprint.

But, how did they know?

They only had the gardener, the butler and the cook to corroborate their suspicions.

We know what we know, and what we don’t know we know what we don’t know, now, that is, but don’t tell, unless we do, or don’t, or not. So I’m glad we cleared that one up.

Down the valleys, across the moors and over the waves. From Bangor to Abertawe via Machynlleth and Caerfilli. Big Data, it moved and expanded, and expanded and moved again. Dong! Dong! Dong! Ominous, humongous and smelling of sulphur and a badly spiced kebab.

The Big Data mini-meme spread like wildfire fuelled by petrol and crack. It was a force to be harnessed, a force for good and bad. Even though no one really knew what it was, and nobody knew how to do it, many claimed to have done it, and successfully so. It didn’t matter how, what where or when. Front interface, back-end processor, client-server, no one and nothing was free or safe.

The benevolent Big Data virus reached everyone. The rich, the poor, the shop on the corner, and the girl next door. Everyone knew its name and that it was new and mega and good and bad and all of that.

The thing is, Big Data wasn’t really anything new. As we now know.

But, at the time, for some people, especially the so called high-ups and professional people, it was a big deal, even in Pontypridd! Like a major inflection point in the evolution of the generation and use of what we now call data, or to use the vernacular, digital gold-gold.

You see, back then, people wanted to make another class of data and another class of gold, and another series of lovely, chubby little verbose categories to describe it. People needed another name, one that represented some data class values, spirituality and imprecision. It was a time of post-modernism, and we were always stoned, mazed or drunk.

Some of my peers at the time – not all of them, just the exceptionally plain Jane, weird and alternative ones – told me that Big Data was data that came in bigger volumes, at greater velocities and in greater varieties.

The first I heard that, I was gobsmacked… Honest to God!

I know probably you’ll laugh at that, now, and you may even tell your friends and butties just how superstitious, primitive and money-grubbing we were back then.

So whilst you are making fun of your old granddad, do not forget either, that is the way it was in those days, down the data mining towns and Big Data pits of South Wales.

I know it is hard to believe, but back in those days, people really believed in that nonsense. I didn’t have any time for it myself, but many did, and many people made a living of sorts just talking and writing about it.

It’s hard to believe now, but at one time we were really dumb, but as we didn’t want to stand out from the crowd by revealing that we didn’t know, we just stood back and let the buffoons, clowns and comics run the show. Whilst we exclaimed, “these guys are really good”, “I wonder if he can turn Big Data into wine” or “maybe he does requests and children’s parties”.

Now we look at data, all data, and we call it…. Yes… data.

How we have advanced. It’s amazing.

But then, when it all died down, as these things do, in their given time, we regained our senses, of sorts, we got back on our feet and we progressed in a sane, rational and humane way.

Now we can look back and see things for what they were. The Big Data hullaballoo, that you have never heard of, was the last gasp of some the biggest IT dinosaurs, who had tied their hopes and aspirations, ridiculously so in my view, to some toys created by the naïve for the gullible. It was always going to end in tears, and it did.

Now you know.

So, this ends the story of Big Data, also known as Shirley Temple.

Goodnight kids!

Many thanks for reading.

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