How to explain data mining to your mother

Like many subjects related to computer science, data mining is a complex area. More than that, it is interdisciplinary and applicable in many domains. Working in data mining (whether you come from computer science or not is of no importance) is one of these job that is difficult to explain to your friends and family. Perhaps your friends work with technology or at least they now it, but what about your mother or your grand mother?

After many unsuccessful attempts to explain what I’m doing to my mother, I have tried to find an example. Indeed, explaining what I’m really doing every day is certainly too technical for her (note that understanding how she cooks a specific meal is certainly too technical for me). Therefore, I’ve been looking for a good example of “what is data mining”. To my opinion, a nice one is regarding the fidelity cards you can have in supermarkets.

As you certainly know, fidelity cards work like this: the shop gives you a small (10%) reduction of price each month (or on certain items) in exchange of all the information of who your are and what you buy. They can thus mine this information to discover knowledge such as “people buying this and this have 80% of chance to buy that too” or “70% of people between 20 and 25 years old purchase on Saturday”, etc. Therefore, with a smart use of this information they can increase their benefits and target their offers more precisely.

Since a mother is usually used to supermarkets, I think this is quite a good example to explain very simple and basic concepts of data mining. If you have other examples, feel free to share them by commenting.


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Comments IconOne comment found on “How to explain data mining to your mother

  1. Well, I think there is a little mistake there. The bonus reduction percentage for using supermarket bonus cards, in SWITZERLAND, is something about 1% of the purchase amount. However,if you know one with 10% reduction let me know. 🙂

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