Please, Big Data people, just say what you mean…


Could it be that I haven’t had my coffee yet, so I’m a bit cranky? Maybe. But, it is tweets like this that start the day on a sour note. The following is an abuse of words (and I’m not picking on Pete Warden or Michael Driscoll, both of these men are genius…. ok, I am picking on Michael Driscoll, but really it’s all in the name of clarity…..) Here’s the tweet:

“Executing across the stack” – this bugs me for a simple reason, I end up having to deal with this language all the time when I deal with clients. Instead of being comfortable writing something like, “What distinguishes a data scientist from a statistician? A data scientist knows data structures, can program, and combines these skills with a deep knowledge of statistics.” Instead we get “executing across the stack”.

“Big deal”, you say. And, yes, I’ll admit I’m a curmudgeon about words, but you should also understand that words reverberate. I’m not worried about developers, data scientists, and administrators using these words. When technical people use these terms they understand that this means a data scientist understands how to program and statistics. The problem is the non-technical people that support our work – non-technical executives, marketing, sales, and analysts.

I promise you I’ll hear “executing across the stack” parroted back at me several times on an analyst briefing: “Tell me about the ways in which your solution enables data scientists to execute across the stack.” Maybe I’ll hear this in a meeting about a web site: “Our value proposition needs to connect with data scientists as they execute stacks.” Worse yet, some job candidate will be asked, “give me an example of how you’ve executed across the stack in a previous job function.”

So, Big Data people, choose your words carefully. This industry is a giant game of telephone and half the people in the circle don’t even know what a relational database is.