Is big data giving you a big headache?

Posted by Raashida Khan on 11 May 2016 12:40 PM CAT

Twenty years ago, I heard a statistic, which was astounding to me: Knowledge (everything that is known) doubles every twenty-five years. This was at the early stages of the Internet in South Africa, when connections were slow (the standing joke at the time was that www stood for world wide wait) and mobile phones were just that – devices used to make phone calls only. Internet access was restricted to computers.

When googling if that statistic is still relevant, guess what the general consensus says? ‘Knowledge doubles every 12 months, soon to be every 12 hours


Big data – the term used to describe the massive amount of data and content that is being created every minute – applies more to companies, but individuals too are feeling the weight of the overwhelming amount of information available. Imagine the thousands of conversations taking place on Facebook, images being shared on Instagram, videos being uploaded on YouTube, articles being published on blogs and websites, every minute.

How does one keep up?

Honestly, it’s impossible, even if one is trying to keep abreast of only a single area of expertise. A Google search on a topic can list hundreds of thousands of hits. Most people will click on a couple of these on the first page and scan a couple of lines before deciding to read it. Even the best researcher has to quickly and instinctively choose to ignore the bulk of the information available in the multitudes of articles.  

There are several ways that help access pertinent information. One can learn how to mine the titles of articles published on credible websites using a simple web scraping tool, and then running the titles through a basic word counting tool to find out the buzz words that appear frequently in the titles. Buzzsumo ( helps to assess quality of content, while is a constantly updated database of authors, allowing for collaboration on topics, to name just two. Clearvoice’s tagline sums it up well: Building relationships for increased engagement and greater influence.

Analytic tools help to make sense of the data and guide on what is the most effective way of using this data. Free online tools assist with data visualisation, can help clean, sort, reformat data; analysis; and creation of dashboards.

But even with all these tools and assistance, the only way to be able to assimilate a small percentage of the information, is to collaborate with others. The amount and quality of content a single person can create, check, post and distribute is increased by the number and quality of connections. Professionals ask questions of experts and peers on various online platforms, and responses will direct to the most authoritative articles, sites or tools. Time needed to trawl the Internet is lessened to an absolute minimum. This is not to say that one does not have to do the leg work, but at least have a starting point.

So, next time you have to research or create content on a topic and are overwhelmed by what’s out there, take heart. There are ways to get the job done efficiently.

Raashida Khan is the account director at Indigo New Media, who dreams of an engaged, collaborative world, and dabbles in writing.




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