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Author: Ted Cuzzillo

Data lake: compositional or architectural?

Is the data lake following the typical path for new technology? Merv Adrian, research VP, data management and integration and Gartner was talking about data lakes and big data projects at the just-concluded Pacific Northwest BI and Analytics Summit. Josh Good, senior director of product marketing at Qlik asked the question.

Merv’s answer:

That’s a terrific question. We’re talking about a phenomenon of some recency which is the notion of the new platform sell. [It’s] not a new application, not a new function, but a new platform designed to replace existing ones or supplement them (usually the first until they figure out that’s not practical). And that, I think, is the larger market failure … or the blunting of the thrust that there’s this new opportunity to build new platforms.

I’m relatively convinced that people coming into the market now are not thinking about the replacement of the end to end. They are looking for parts. If they’ve gotten at all sophisticated or knowledgable about how to achieve the outcome that they presumably have defined, then they have put together in their head at least some sort of chart they can draw on the wall, which is a bunch of boxes that connect to one another with flows, and they’re identifying the APIs among them.

That’s becoming an issue especially as we move to the cloud and people start talking about services-based architectures and are thinking about the way they want to get to where they want to go is a composition exercise, not an architecture one.

BI Summit / Goin’ up north where the wind blows tall

I’ve never figured out why one hard-thumping song by Tom Waits brings to my mind the annual Pacific Northwest BI and Analytics Summit. Yet it does, even now as I prepare for the six-hour drive up to Grants Pass, Oregon. It’s my sixth consecutive time, and the Summit’s sixteenth.

I start out the drive with “Goin’ Out West” on my mind. “I’m goin’ out west where the wind blows tall / ‘Cause Tony Franciosa used to date my ma.” By the time I arrive on the Weasku Inn’s big lawn, dig out a beer from the ice chest, and say hello to the nearest person, the song’s gone. It’s show time.

The pessimism of “Goin’ Out West” seems like a raspberry at the event’s breezy conversation and such traditions as grilled salmon dinner on the deck, tequila shots later, and friendly conversation until you can’t stay up any longer. Very late, you can glance up at one window and imagine Clark Gable mourning Carole Lombard. He spent two weeks doing that up there.

But forget the raspberry. It’s just fun. Though the leading men and women there do obsess about technology and bluff about everything else, this is a summit, you know. Wind happens at high altitude, and everyone’s got altitude here.

Astute readers will observe that “Goin’ Out West” makes fun of those who, it would seem, should stay home. “I’m no extra, baby, I’m a leading man,” says Waits’ character. He drives his “Olds 88” with “a hole in the roof the shape of a heart.” He’s “goin’ out west where they’ll appreciate me.” He’s headed for Hollywood.

No one wears a name badge here. Anyone can hang out on the deck and be a leading man or leading woman. Everyone knows each other or is about to. You can change your name to Hannibal or maybe just Rex.

Twitter hashtag is #BISUM.

BI Summit / Putting one more V on big data: virtue

Big data needs a bigger heart than it’s shown so far — essentially the point that Jill Dyché will make this Friday at the sixteenth annual Pacific Northwest BI and Analytics Summit in Grants Pass, OR.

Organizations have a responsibility to improve lives, as she puts it, “one citizen, patient, taxpayer, sports fan, and dog at a time.” To report on her presentation, which precedes a 90 minute discussion among 20 industry experts and observers, will be three dutiful reporters: longtime industry observer Steve Swoyer, TechTarget executive editor Craig Stedman, and me.

Jill’s session will be one of four. The first two occur on Friday, one on Saturday, and the last one on Sunday. The three others are by Donald Farmer, recently of Qlik and now of his own Treehive Strategy, on the analytic experience; Mike Ferguson of his own, UK-based Intelligent Business Strategies on the new-and-cool edge analytics; and Merv Adrian of Gartner on data lake architectures.

Jill’s topic continues on her theme of last year. She told how a dog shelter using pre-digital processes sent a dog to be euthanized just as would-be adoptees asked to take the dog. That was sad, but the eventual adoption of digital processes, which she drove, certainly prevented future tragedies.

Getting for-profit organizations to use data for more than profit might be harder. Do companies really care about philanthropy? Or does most business leadership believe that one-offs are good enough? Is it good enough to ally with the Sierra Club?

We’ll see what she and others have to say.

Twitter hashtag is #BISUM.

‘How’s it compare with Tableau?’

No matter what BI product Suzanne Hoffman mentions during needs-assessment meetings with business users at SMBs, she says, the question is the same nine times out of ten: “How’s it compare with Tableau?”

“No one ever asks how it compares with Power BI,” says Hoffman, an industry consultant with vast experience. She does mention Power BI as a “low cost alternative.” But it’s thrown out more often than not.

They want down and dirty and a low learning curve, she finds. The winners of that contest are things like Tableau and Domo. Ask for a line of code, such as in Qlik or Power BI, and it gets wiped off the whiteboard.

The market has taken note. Tableau lookalikes pop up, change, and disappear so fast it’s hard to keep track . “It’s like trying to compare drops of water on pavement,” she said. “They dry up before you get a chance to look at them.”

A fun, lively path to smarter cities

San Francisco-area designer Steve Pepple wondered whether data could help him explore neighborhoods — on the way to helping city planners build better, perhaps “smarter” cities.

He describes in a fun post on Medium, a genuine “data story,” how he set out to help people find “pockets of activity, vibrance, and new things.”

First, he joined a do-it-yourself project called Sense Your City. Sensors around the world reaped “hyper-local data about environmental conditions, such as noise, dust, light, and pollutants.” That data led to “pockets of activity, vibrance, and new things.” In San Francisco, he writes, “you could see when the fog rolls in.”

That sounds like fun, but could he find a key insights about mobility, housing, or neighborhood change? He had frustrating moments. “I had a bunch of data to work with,” he writes. His many sources included DataSF, San Francisco Planning, SPUR, and the City of Oakland. But he didn’t know what he was doing. Perhaps worse, “I was stymied by trying to find a significant, cumulative insight by cobbling together and analyzing all the data.”

He had been inspired by one man’s discovery who famously found such an insight in San Francisco rental data. Eric Fischer had pored over newspaper ads back to 1948 and surprised urbanists with his conclusion: the usual levers for regulating demand wouldn’t solve the city’s housing crisis.

Smaller experiments

With no big discoveries in sight, Pepple turned to shorter experiments. Apparently as part of a fellowship with Stamen Design and Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, he looked at Instagram photos to track street movement, such as some taken during the 2015 Pride Parade. Data from those photos showed events like parade formation and, in the afternoon, a drift into block parties.

His Medium post includes a short series of visualizations that are more fun and vibrant than you might think any “smart city” has a right to be. With “color quantization,” he created a “spatial database of color” that showed parks and murals in the Mission District. In another map, colors expressed “density of people and establishments,” with brighter and more colorful buildings showing the most active.

Tangible, street-level meaning came in large, street-level screens…that showed passersby how they could “interact with data about their neighborhood and arrive at their own discoveries.”

Clues

It was his work with the urban designers and architects Perkins + Will that his approach had what I find the most interesting and possibly the most meaningful clue. Pepple and team could see and hear neighborhoods with the most activity. Could that be found with data? Indeed, data tracked activity and what people said about the places where it occurred; social media helped characterize those places; mapping tools connected hotspots.

A look at the maps Pepple and team produced shows that transit, living space, restaurants, and other amenities fail to anchor social hotspots. Fine, but why? If the data can reveal this, perhaps it can go the rest of the way.

Keep your eye on Pepple. His playful and often fun analysis puts a bright, even inspiring face on urban data.

Thanks to Stephanie Langenfeld McReynolds, vice president of marketing at Alation, for alerting me to Pepple’s work.