Deciphering the World’s Data with Doug Merritt, CEO of Splunk

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Throughout the last few decades, the amount of data that has accumulated on the Internet and in our systems has grown by orders of magnitude. Most believe that much of this data is useless. Logs, miscellaneous accounts, and lines of code were just floating in the ether, and to many people, that was okay. 

But Doug Merritt was not one of those people. Doug is the CEO of Splunk, which is helping people and companies turn “dark data” into usable, measurable, analytical tools that can push a business forward. 

It’s not all business, though.  

For Doug, the story of data is more than just what Splunk is doing for businesses. In today’s society, the population is giving all kinds of data to various companies and third parties, which then go and sell that data to others for profit. Doug believes that we can democratize all of this data and create an economic good that will benefit all people. 

Plus, by analyzing big data and partnering with others doing the same, problems as largescale as human trafficking are being addressed in a way that’s never been done before. And it’s actually been successful. 

“Over a three-year time period, using Splunk and a host of other technologies, Global Emancipation Network has been able to make a significant dent in both identifying victims of human trafficking and the perpetrators. It is starting to actually turn the tide in a positive direction just by being curious enough to begin to ask questions like: What would it take to solve a problem like this?”

On this episode, Doug and Chad dive deeper into how that was possible, plus they discuss the ways data can be used to solve all manner of problems, and how we might prepare for a future where data is the key to everything. 

Quotes from Doug:

“The interesting thing for all of us as individuals is if we become a little bit more aware of what our actions are and how much data we’re generating, and we marry that with different interesting regulations, there’s a huge economic opportunity for each one of us. And while I think data privacy is important, one of the things that I really passionately care about is: How do we provide constructs for economic advantage around data?”

“As an industry, it’s up to all of us to lower the bar on how you can create insights — and ultimately create actions from those insights — around datasets and any type of machine learning or algorithms that are attached to those datasets.”

“We’re definitely on a journey as a species on data, the different formats, and how to master it. And Splunk is, as well.” 

“We’re taught from a young age to show our work and to be proud of our work, and there’s so much emphasis on being right about different things. What I’ve seen over and over is there are so many paths to any answer. For all of our intelligence and creativity, we wind up being wrong on outcomes far more often than we’re right. So what I have observed reading history and through my 50 plus years of life, is things tend to work themselves out. There are certainly dark periods where it’s looking pretty depressing. But then we figure out the next solution and pull ourselves back out of whatever hole we’ve gotten ourselves into. The one thing I believe is you can’t go backward and you can’t standstill. There is the illusion of being able to do both. The universe, from everything we can tell, is expanding at an expanding rate. We’re just part of that universe. Every invention that comes is going to play itself out. So if you are not part of the program, become part of the program — go with it. And if you’re scared of something, get involved, and then figure out how you can steer it in a direction that makes you a little bit less scared or hopefully becomes more beneficial to the people around you.”


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