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How big is big data: Part 3

For those who have already read Parts 1 and 2, I’m now actually going to write the blog I’d originally intended.

The idea was prompted by my colleague Stu Wannop’s presentation at our recent Futuretech events. I always love hearing him talk about data; he gets so enthused that it’s difficult not to get carried along on the BI journey with him.

Interestingly, his subject matter also cropped up in conversation with my daughter who is currently studying the history of medicine.

So what’s the connection?

The answer is John Snow.

But which one, I hear you ask.

Apparently, that’s the name of a character from Game of Thrones, (Jon not John) but I’ve never watched it.

You might also think I’d be referring to the rightful owner of the swingometer; after all there’s plenty of data that sits behind the swingometer.

However, the John Snow, or rather Dr John Snow, in question was an English physician and a leader in the adoption of anaesthesia and medical hygiene.

Until he came along with his controversial views, it was thought that cholera was caused by breathing vapours in from the atmosphere.

The now famous Broad Street Pump Outbreak in 1854 was particularly nasty and Dr Snow decided to plot the location of the victims on a map, with very illuminating results.

He identified that the outbreak was localised to one particular water supply that was used by a popular coffee shop.

Interestingly, a nearby prison with 535 inmates, but which didn’t take water from the Broad Street Pump, was unaffected. Not a single victim of cholera. That’s justice for you!

Thanks to his work and the compelling data he was able to visualise, the council agreed to turn off the pump for one week. As a result, the outbreak was brought to a halt.

So, in Stu’s words here are three simple lessons that we can all take from this episode.

• You don’t need “Big Data” to uncover meaningful insights

• One critical insight can have a huge impact

• Without data you are just another person with an opinion

So, if you haven’t already thought about moving from traditional reporting to business intelligence and analytics then maybe you should.

And if you think you don’t have enough data to analyse then maybe you should think again; Dr John Snow didn't use swathes of data in his discovery, simply some local information.

I’m sure that 20 minutes in the company of Mr Wannop would convince you that this blog isn’t just opinion. But hopefully, at a future event or on a forthcoming webinar, you’ll be able to judge for yourself.

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