When I learned to play the guitar, the first thing I did was obviously buy a guitar. Then I got a guitar teacher. And then I practised, and then practised, and when I had finished practising I practised some more. I made many mistakes. I got frustrated. But I never gave up. And over time I got better, made less mistakes, picked up some tips and tricks to make playing easier. I developed an ear for notes. I understood scales and keys and relative minors. And now I’m good. not great, but I can play a bunch of Smashing Pumpkins songs and really have a lot of fun playing the guitar without really putting too much effort into practising because I put so much effort in the beginning.

90% of my learning was based on practice. 10% was based on reading books and putting it into practice. The books came some time after buying a guitar. To be clear: I did not learn the pentatonic scale and it’s different position on the fretboard by reading books. I put the theory into practice. To really hammer the point home: I did not learn how to play the guitar by picking up a book and reading it. It was merely a guide to point me in the right direction.

So how does this relate to databases?

I really don’t get what Hadoop is. Like I understand it is working with large data sets on distributed computers, but that doesn’t doesn’t mean I get it. I’ve read about it, attended talks about Hadoop and watched demos but I just don’t get it. In fact I struggle to understand what is is I don’t get. And I don’t like not getting it.

Then it hit me today; if I learned to play the guitar not by reading books and watching people play the guitar, but by actually playing the guitar, so why don’t I learn about Hadoop by actually working with Hadoop?

To that end, over the Christmas period, I’m going to build a Hadoop cluster using Raspberry Pi’s. Ironically enough, there is a book about it, and there’s also blogs about it, and no doubt I’ll use them as a guide, but if I don’t actually play with Hadoop, I’ll never understand it.

I’m going to post bits of my experiences here, and his post is pretty much a public commitment to ensure that I can’t back out, just like how I can’t back out of that ultra marathon now that my boss, who suggested I run it, has told everyone at work I’m running it with him.

Wish me luck (on both counts)