Scott Yara's Strata Keynote: Data and Collaboration In "An Extraordinary Time"

February 27, 2013 Paul M. Davis

Scott Yara at Strata Conference 2012

Greenplum co-founder, Scott Yara struck an inspirational tone during his keynote at the Strata Conference #strataconf on Wednesday, February 27th in Santa Clara. Yara cast a wide net, paying tribute to the practitioners who have pushed the data community forward and inspired Greenplum’s vision, emphasizing collaboration and the wide swath of sectors and issues that data science can deliver insight on. “It’s an extraordinary time we find ourselves in,” Yara said, delivering the talk to “our co-conspirators in this data community.”

The increase of the Big Data market since 2010.

Reflecting on the growth of the Big Data space since his talk at the 2011 Strata Conference, Yara cited McKinsey’s projection that the industry will grow to $16 billion by 2015, and expounded on the increasing societal impact of data-driven insights. “If you think of the convergence of networking, storage, virtualization, and the cloud, and how mobile is changing the way we think of the world…the world is getting instrumented,” he said. Noting the ubiquity of Big Data coverage in large media publications, Yara stated that the data deluge is shifting from a playing “literal to a symbolic role” in the cultural conversation.

In 2011, Yara observed that the space needed more data scientists, government support, industry investment, and “startups — lots of startups.” He reflected on how this has been borne out since then. “Looking back over the past two years, we realized that what is constant, is that it’s all about people,” he said, and paid tribute to 10 practioners, change-makers, institutions, and entrepreneurs who have inspired himself and Greenplum’s efforts during that time. Among those Yara hailed were DataKind’s Jake Porway, Jon Kleinberg at Cornell, who has “reshaped how we think about machine learning algorithms,” The White House, for its support and funding of Big Data initiatives, Andrew NG and Daphne Koller of Coursera, Cowbird founder Jonathan Harris, who “tells stories through data and collaboration,” and Alpine Data Labs’ Steven Hillion.

Screen Shot 2013 02 27 at 9 31 12 AM

Yara reiterated that “we’re living in an extraordinary time,” but noted, “there’s still a lot for us to do.” Citing Jeff Hammerbacher’s 2011 quote, “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” Yara noted that while advertising plays an important role, there are “a lot of other very important things to be working on” as well. Evidence of that is the breadth of disciplines and interests expressed by how Data Science Central users self-define their function, from “catastrophe risk analyst” to “sales amplification consultant”, a “neuroscientist with eye on data integration” to “defense analyst in Washington DC.”

Promoting collaboration in the Hadoop community.

Yara concluded his talk by looking ahead, asking what the data community needs in 2013. He lauded the increasing adoption of, and investment in, open source projects such as Hadoop within the Enterprise. But with so much capital investment, open source has grown complicated, Yara noted, and he urged for software standards to ensure interoperability and the health of the community. “Collaboration and competition are both good things,” he said. In addition, the space requires more education — of practioners and non-practioners alike — and of course, ever more data and collaboration with that data. In the mass “global dataset” we are collecting and analyzing, Yara said in closing, “there’s insight to some of the world’s biggest problems.”

Screen Shot 2013 02 27 at 9 32 38 AM

Learn more about the Big Data changemakers Scott Yara paid tribute to in this slideshow at CRN.

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