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What Exactly is Data Anyway?

What Exactly is Data Anyway?

What Exactly is Data Anyway?

By Ed Weisberg

At AnswerPoint, we always talk about data.   We live, breath, and sleep data!  Data optimization, data-cleanup, Database, we even count data points to fall asleep!

What exactly is data, and how does it differ from information?

By definition, data is a set of qualitative or quantitative values about something or someone, often simply a collection of text, numbers, or symbols, which may or may not be organized.  Data on its own may not be meaningful, it must be analyzed to develop Information.  To do this, one collects, categorizes, reports, and analyzes data to draw meaningful conclusions. Information then becomes knowledge.   Knowledge leads to informed decision making or forecasting for the future.

For example, here are some differences between data and information:

DataInformation
Daily weight readings from you scaleWhether you are losing weight on your diet
Typing the word “dogs” in a search engine  (input data)the list of search results that includes pictures, articles and videos of dogs (output information)
7818553211a phone number (781)855-3211
100, 212, 0, 32the freezing and boiling points of water in Fahrenheit and Celsius

Before we even had computers, we had libraries, which are giant databases, organized into a body of information which, in the human brain, becomes knowledge.  If you needed to find the letter A,B, or C, I bet you could find one pretty quickly in the library.  Fortunately, those A,B, and C s are organized in books and categories.  Thanks to the Dewey Decimal System, (The mySQL or  Oracle of the time), we could find a book, say about Frogs. If we had to write a term paper about frogs, we could probably find a dozen other books right next to the one we located, to expand our base of information and further our knowledge.  Unfortunately, if one of those books was physically misplaced, say in the rhinoceros section, that chunk of information could be lost for years.  Plus, someone studying rhinoceroses would be confused when they opened that frog book, getting the wrong information, and making a bad decision on how big their rhinoceros cage needed to be. Of course today, with database management systems, it doesn’t matter where the books are, or even where the A,B, and Cs are, as we have the computing power to put it all together, accurately, exactly the way we need it to make knowledgeable and informed decisions.

Closer to home, I like to use the analogy of thinking about your dresser.  Socks and t-shirts can be viewed as data.  If the socks are in the sock drawer, and t-shirts is in the t-shirt drawer, it becomes easy to find what you need and get dressed in the morning.  However, if they are disorganized and scattered, then it takes longer, and you may be surprised when you find out that, since things were place randomly, all of your socks are in the laundry hamper.   If the data (socks) are organized, it becomes easy to find what you need, keep organized, and to know when it is time to do your laundry before you run out of clothes. Then you have information.   What can you do with that information?  Once you know what you have and where it is, you could even use your knowledge (or Artificial intelligence), to coordinate and match the color of your socks with a particular t-shirt. That’s come a long way from simply knowing that you have socks!

One of the challenges of todays’ mega-data world is having overwhelming amounts of data, not knowing how best to organize and use it, thus making it irrelevant and confusing.  AI and other filtering tools can sort out this clutter. Remember that data is not information. Information has relevance and purpose, while data in its purest state does not.  It’s just a bunch of A,B, and Cs.

So what does AnswerPoint do?  We work with data from the basic needs (i.e., counting your socks) turning it into information, and then using it to create knowledge for better decision making.  We start with understanding the knowledge that you seek, and the information that you need to model your challenge.  From there we determine what data you need and how to organize it.  Then we source that data, developing rules to keep it structured and organized. Along the way there are dozens of steps and checkpoints to ensure that the information and knowledge that is delivered is accurate, the database structure is efficient, and the results are secure and protected.  That is how we can help streamline your business, understand your market, and enable you to put together the knowledge to improve your profitability and growth.

Have any questions?  Please give us a call, we’d be happy to help you out.

Ed Weisberg is VP of Sales at AnswerPoint LLC. You can reach him at Ed.Weisberg@AnswerPoint.com