Big data used to have a specific meaning. Meant to describe cast-offs such as log files, this information was "big" because of the amount of electronic refuse created when processing, say, an e-commerce transaction. Big data used to be an exercise in digital dumpster diving.

Those days are gone. At the annual South by Southwest Interactive conference, "big data" became a proxy for social data compiled by the likes of Facebook and Twitter. A synonym for capturing sentiment, but on a grand scale. Every company had to become a "big data" company, panelists enthused.

Is that really the case? Or is it just hyperbole? In this interview with The Motley Fool's Alison Southwick, Tim Beyers of Motley Fool Rule Breakers and Motley Fool Supernova says the hype is reminiscent of when "cloud computing" took on generic meaning, and launched early pioneers to new levels of profitability. Please watch, and then leave a comment to let us know what you think.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.