Todd Mostak’s first tangle with big data didn’t go well. As a master’s student at the Center of Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard in 2012, he was mapping tweets for his thesis project on Egyptian politics during the Arab Spring uprising. It was taking hours or even days to process the 40 million tweets he was analyzing.
Mostak saw immediately the value in geolocated tweets for socio-economic research, but he did not have access to a system that would allow him to map the large dataset quickly for interactive analysis.
So over the next year, Mostak created a cost-effective workaround. By applying his analytical skills and creativity, taking advantage of access to education and using hardware designed for computer gamers, he performed his own version of a data science project, developing a new database that solved his problem. Now his inventive approach has the potential to benefit others in both academia and business.