Turning Data into Information

Seth Godin has a nice post where he talks about the power of visualization in turning data into information.  He’s actually touting a new item (well, a poster, really…) on turning U.S. budget data into understandable information, but Seth makes a statement that’s important when it comes to data and information:

“Data is not useful until it becomes information, and that’s because data is hard for human beings to digest.”

Exactly – Data is the raw form of information, at least the way we use the words “data” and “information”.  Information is something that useful to us, aiding the decisionmaking process.  Data is where information comes from, but the important part is how to turn data into information that’s reliable.  This is what data science is really all about…

Right now, the analytics field is like the Wild West, creating platforms and tools to manipulate data, and creating color schemes, visualizations, and word maps to display data for our consumption (the Death & Taxes poster is an example of this).  Some of these are extremely useful, there is no doubt.  But only in answering easy questions.

If analytics are used to aid decisionmaking, then there needs to be a discipline – a scientific discipline – to engineering these analytics.  This engineering discipline will become more and more important as the questions we’re trying to answer get harder…


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I currently serve as Vice President of Decision Science at CenturyLink. I've previously served as a leader in the Advanced Risk & Compliance Analytics (ARCA) practice at PwC and as Director of Data Science & Analytics Engineering at Areté Associates. I've served the public as Chair of the Thousand Oaks, CA Planning Commission. I have been married to my wife Stephanie since 1993, and we have a wonderful daughter Monroe. Learn more about me »

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