Thursday, May 26, 2011

data, information and knowledge

What is data? What is not data?
Data is NOT information. Data is NOT knowledge.

Data is a word in a book you are reading. Data is a number of interest rate that you learn from news. Data is the price of something that you try to buy or sell.

Data can be unstructured, like the words in a text. Data can be structured, like your selling data in database.

Data is out of context. That means, it has no meaningful relation to anything else. 4.75% is a piece of data. Does it mean anything to you? You may associate it with something. You may think it is interest rate. You may think it is inflation rate.

We can collect hugh amount of data. They may already exist in your database? They may be out there, somewhere, on the internet, in books, in articles, in TV news, in peoples' brain. When you are selling something, you are generating data. When you are doing a survey, you are collecting data.

We need data. But data alone doesn't mean anything. Sweeter, male, 20, they are data. But they have no meaning without context. On top of data, we need to find 'information'.

What is information?
Information is NOT knowledge.
nformation is quite simply an understanding of the relationships between pieces of data, or between pieces of data and other information.
Information relates to description, definition, or perspective (what, who, when, where)

4.75% is data. It tells you nothing. But interest rate 4.75% tells you something. What will you know when you see a single word 'rising'? What will you know when you see the words 'water price is rising'?

Sweeter, male, 20 are data. They are collected in a survey. They tell you nothing. But "males at 20 age like sweeter coca cola" does tell you something.

While information is an understanding of the relations between data, it doesn't tell you why the data is what it is, nor an indication as to how the data is likely to change over time. Information has a tendency to be relatively static in time and linear in nature. Information is a relationship between data and, quite simply, is what it is, with great dependence on context for its meaning and with little implication for the future.

You know interest rate is 4.75%. So what? How is it gonna affect your life? Is it high? Or is it low? Is it gonna rise, is it gonna stay there, or is it gonna come down? In a survey, Jack reckons he is 20, male, and he wishes coca cola could be a little sweeter. What does it mean to coca cola corp?

On top of information, we need knowledge
What is knowledge?
Knowledge tells you how. Knowledge comprises strategy, practice, method, or approach(how).
Knowledge is a pattern that you can understand and provides reliability or predictability as to how the pattern will evolve over time.

interest rate is 4.75%. This is the information. You know if you deposit 100$ in a bank, the bank will pay 4.75% interest yearly, and at the end of one year you will have 104.75$ in your bank account. You know the pattern, your money will keep growing in this way. If you withdraw, you will earn less interest. That is your knowledge.

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