Data is everywhere — The Great British Bake Off

You’ve probably heard the term big data. It’s been heavily used over recent years to help explain the trend in open-sourcing or sharing previously private information. Often that information relates to areas such as an organisation’s activities, a public authority’s usage and funding data, or information about our parliament and political system. It doesn’t however have to be public. The term big data is also used in connection with Facebook, privacy and online advertising companies.

Google defines big data as:

extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions.

A lot of what we do at Human makes use of big data. We love large interesting data sets; how to build them, what they contain; how we can combine them, and what we can do with the information and insights that they offer.

Whether we’re helping to find the value in an existing data set, or creating a new one which we can use to drive traffic, gather insights or streamline a process, the majority of our projects — both internal and in development teams with our clients — involve them.

The amount of data Human deals with is no coincidence. As a team we see data everywhere, in everything. If we’re asked to create a public facing product we’ll ask questions about how data might make it more appealing, successful or valuable. If we’re crafting a mobile application we brainstorm how existing data might make it sticky, or simple, or how recording and making use of a new set of data could allow it to connect to other services.

So what has all this got to do with The Great British Bake Off?
Well if you see the world in that way we do at Human you’ll realise that the popular BBC programme is a potential gold mine. Big data sets can be built from data which exists in anything.

Just skimming the surface, each contestant has a biography. A name, a gender, age, a home town, a favourite type of baking, strengths and weaknesses. In that biographic data alone we have averages, patterns, regional income statistics, average appetite info and more.

Now how about we bring in the data from previous years of The Great British Bake Off and use that to find trends and interesting patterns? Now we’re talking. Average age of winner, common cakes baked in the final, does having children improve your finishing position.

Some are already making use of this data. gamifies the programme by challenging you to select who you think will stay. It adds a further element by allowing groups of people to compete. Users of the site can view the group’s selections while being encouraged to discuss individuals successes and fails. I have made by prediction for this week.

There are Great British Bake Off bingo and drinking games. The creators have noted the patterns across episodes (Paul Hollywood shaking a baker’s hand or a contestant struggling for space in a freezer) and made them into a set of rules.


The options are endless. Combining with other data sets makes the potential uses varied and interesting.

If you run a small bakery you could connect the recipes that the contestants make to the data from Twitter about positive tweets during broadcast and use that set of data to guide what you bake and sell the following week.

You could compare the amount of air time contestants get across the previous series to check for a correlation between time on the tv and people who either win or lose — allowing you to do better if you choose to gamble or take part in a fantasy league.

What about building a niche statistics site for the show and recording some ‘interesting’ data? Display infographics about average height of cake, number of cakes in a batch, average tiers, number of times Paul Hollywood shakes people’s hands, how many minutes in the first cry for help is heard, total cakes baked over the series etc.

Data can be seen in everything, and one of our talents at Human is working out how to make use of that data to improve what we’re crafting; whether that’s a web app, mobile app or bespoke software.

Confirming what success looks like from the start, and using data, insight, user acceptance testing and a wealth of experience helps ensure that everybody with a stake in the products we create and support are able to share in the joy that comes from a common goal, shared priorities and an agile development process.

If you want to explore your data and the benefits of improved analysis, contact or call 0161 850 1692.

Open for discussion

Get in touch if you wish to discuss this article further or if you would like to contribute to our Thoughts section.