Where is the “Mining” in Data Mining?

Editor — Sulayman Saleem

This blog is just my take on data mining and the analogy I give to my parents and friends on what I do everyday for work. It’s a definition that plays on my mind quite a bit and when someone asks me to define it. I normally just give a word for word definition that I memorised of Wikipedia:

“The computer process of discovering patterns in large data sets involving machine learning, statistics and database systems”.

But where does the “mining” part come from? With this definition, it sounds more like Data Patterning. The first time I heard about data mining I instantly thought of a labourer with a pick axe having at it with a rock. So how does that scene relate to data?

Professor Stephen P Kudyba said relating to mining in businesses “Any organisation which has data and has processes can be analysed with data mining. And the results are extracting information, actual information”.

Let’s take our database or our data set as our mountain. We are the miners. Our machine learning techniques, mathematical techniques, any method you use to get a result, is our pickaxe. We are hunting for the buried gold.

The gold is the goal, and our goal is to extract information.

In today’s world we live in, our “mountain” or data is growing every day and businesses are now mining at a significant rate. Data miners are now using more complex methods, you could almost say they are using big tunnel boring machines instead of pickaxes now. And of course, with a bigger mountain, we are likely to find more gold and patterns to utilize in the business world.

Of course the best miners of today would know what tools to use for their large data sets. This could be anything from Machine Learning techniques or Statistical analysis and is all relevant to the big picture and the growing definition of what we are now calling “Data Science”.