Big Data – Thoughtworks Presentation

Last night I attended a talk entitled ‘Big Data’ at the Thoughtworks offices. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into it, as I know very little about the Big Data craze. The talk was given by John Spens, the head of Thoughtworks’ Analytics Practice, who flew in from America. I was quite surprised to find very little technical detail in the presentation, with the main focus being on the business impacts and considerations.

It was interesting to hear about these technologies from the other side of the fence. As developers, we like new toys and we want our software to run as efficiently as possible, do as much as possible and break as little as possible. Hearing the reasons why management accept/ignore our requests for these toys was a nice change in perspective.

Another thing to note was that John was certainly not taking the approach of “Everyone should get involved with big data”. In fact, he was very emphatic about thinking carefully about what value it adds to your business, and not adopting for the sake of it. He was fairly critical of “Big, Shiny object syndrome” – Management hearing buzzwords and deciding what their company really needs is to be associated with the “in” thing at the time.

All in all, despite being focused around business value and principles, I found the talk informative and useful. As my aim is to learn as much as possible in as short a time as possible it was nice to hear perspectives I hadn’t considered. Whilst I didn’t learn a great deal directly, my list of things to investigate at a later date grew astronomically. Afterwards I got a chance to chat to a few people about various technology-related topics, which was nice and again massively increased the size of my to-do list.

One final point I think is worth mentioning was the atmosphere as I walked round the venue. Everyone was relaxed, cheerful and clearly knew each other fairly well. It was wonderful to be able to walk across a room and, in the space of 30 seconds, hear about 8 different tech conversations, ranging from an argument about the best way to configure apache for a specific environment right up to a complaint about integrating with a system that doesn’t have a defined schema for its services. Its nice to know that other people have these problems too!

So my thanks to Thoughtworks, John Spence and all the people I met last night who made the evening so enjoyable. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the next one!

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