Teaching non-techies about big data

Big data workshop at publisher Brill

big data-workshop

Data at a publisher

Brill is a publisher in the humanities. They have been in existence since 1683. Brill specialises in history, theology, languages and similar subjects; they publish both printed and digital books, periodicals, reference works and more.

Landscape organised a big data workshop for Brill, as part of its teambuilding day.

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For 333 years now, brill has been collecting data - information contained in all of their books. Given current technologies, what can a publisher do with all of this data? Brill is aware of the possibilities big data provides with respect to discovering and retrieving publications. Some examples are: enriching the data with data from external sources, or coupling a semantic data model to an interactive interface.

This changes the ways in which the data is used. Initially the data was mainly used for publishing books. In the two examples above, it is used to build a semantic model and an interface. This has an impact on processes within the organisation: data will have to be collected and manipulated on a larger scale, or the [usage rights] of outside data will have to be considered.

Company processes & support

Adjusting company processes is not an easy task, which becomes even more difficult when these processes touch upon the company's business model and the new processes aren't fully fleshed out yet. It then is important to ask employees for feedback on the changes. This creates widespread support for the changes, and employees often have good ideas and often suggest efficient methods of implementation.

Discovering possibilities

One of Brill's managers wanted Brill's employees to discover the possibilities of big data in their organisation: What are the possibilities? What is the use of those possibilities? What has to change? At the request of this manager Landscape organised, as part of a teambuilding day, a big data workshop.

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The workshop revolved around two unique cases

Together, Brill and Landscape came up with a program and Landscape developed two cases specifically for Brill, which were then approved by Brill.

Case 1 - Understanding the user

Brill's customers are mostly large organisations such as universities. Their users are mainly researchers at those universities. For Brill, it is valuable to know what users are searching for, and whether they can find what they're looking for. It's also interesting for Brill to know why potential customers sometimes don't end up at Brill, as well as what research areas are increasing in popularity. How can Brill better understand its users?

Case 2 - Earning money with free information

The 21st century is often called the information age. Users expect all information to be freely available in a single place, regardless of its source. More and more information becoming available for free puts the core business of publishers under pressure. How can Brill still earn money while making the user happy with free information?

To get employees out of their day-to-day work mindset, the workshop took place at an external location. After the workshop there was lunch and a team building activity. The day was concluded with drinks.

The workshop was kicked off with a presentation on the possibilities and risks of big data. After the presentation the participants spent an hour in smaller groups tackling three cases.

To get some hands on experience with working with (big) data, the participants also learned to couple two data sets with the programming language SQL.

Working with a card game stimulates creativity

It's not easy to determine how big data can help tackle a problem. That's why we use a card game that was developed in-house, specifically for this workshop.

Each card describes a data set and explains the possibilities and consequences of using that data set. We will thoroughly explain concepts such as structuredness, personal data, costs and data types.



The workshop is concluded with a discussion of the insights and experiences of the participants. The most important points are summarised on a poster custom made by Landscape for Brill that can be put up in Brill's office as a tangible reminder of the workshop, and for inspiration.

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