As Uri Friedman points out in his Anthropology of an Idea on "Big Data" in Foreign Policy's November issue, the Internet has sparked an information explosion -- to the point where the amount of new data created last year alone surpassed an estimated 1.8 trillion gigabytes, growing by a factor of nine in just five years. But while Web-based household names such as Facebook and Google may have pioneered the Big Data revolution by developing new technologies to help store, process, and mine the trillions of bits making up the foundation of their businesses, numerous startups and established technology companies have followed in their footsteps and discovered new ways of mining data.
After surveying a number of data scientists about their favorite Internet destinations and excluding websites of companies developing and selling Big Data technologies, I've selected ten sites that explore this information revolution in interesting and innovative ways. By visiting them, you'll get a chance not only to play with Big Data but also to learn more about this much-hyped phenomenon and its potential impact on society.
Is the U.S. presidential campaign drivel making you hungry for facts? Data.gov, which was launched by the Obama administration as part of its Open Government Initiative in 2009, offers access to data generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Enterprising government agencies and private citizens have built on the site's hundreds of thousands of data sets (and other sources) to help you find everything from the most on-time flight between two airports to the latest product recalls.
I know what you're thinking. You, too, would like to get in on the Big Data payday, if only you had some "computing for data analysis" skills. Or maybe studying improvisation with a renowned jazz musician is more your speed. Coursera offers these and 196 other online courses from top universities for free. But unlike other initiatives that simply make classroom lectures available on the Internet, Coursera has developed an educational platform at Big Data scale. "We see a future where world-renowned universities serve millions instead of thousands," Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller told ReadWriteWeb. LinkedIn's Monica Rogati has called Coursera's approach to assessment (tests are either computer-graded or peer-graded) and use of machine learning to provide feedback to students and instructors "a very interesting application of data science."