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From "Demystifying Java"..

For many of us, the terms information and data are synonymous. However, information and data are distinctly different in programming. Data is the smallest amount of meaningful information.

Can someone please give me an example that could help me out, and perhaps relate to a 14 year old? I sort of understand, but when I try to seperate the two in my head, I'm having problems for some reason (probably thinking of them as the same for my whole life is the reason for this).

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Isn't it the other way around? That information is on a higher level than data? –  user1249 Aug 14 '11 at 21:08
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4 Answers

it helps to see a wider part of the spectrum:

  • data
  • information
  • knowledge
  • wisdom

You can say that 'data' is the most raw form; maybe an amorphous mass of numbers, or a huge table without enough context. Information is something useful for a purpose, data applied in a context that makes it usable for somebody, or to a process. Knowledge is in the realm of intelligence and understanding. Wisdom is.... well, it knows what it is.

(BTW, I concur with the other answers in that it's totally unrelated to programming)

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data: humidity is 100%; information: it's raining; knowledge: you'll get wet; wisdom: take an umbrella –  Steven A. Lowe Aug 4 '11 at 7:14
    
+1 Excellent answer! –  CesarGon Aug 14 '11 at 20:20
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Here's a link which explains the two.

Data are plain facts. When data are processed, organized, structured or presented in a given context so as to make them useful, they are called Information.

It is not enough to have data (such as statistics on the economy). Data in themselves are fairly useless. But when these data are interpreted and processed to determine its true meaning, they become useful and can be called Information. Data is the computer's language. Information is our translation of this language.

Both data and information are types of knowledge or something used to attain knowledge. Though used interchangeably, there are many differences between the meanings of these two words.

Data refers to the lowest abstract or a raw input which when processed or arranged makes meaningful output. It is the group or chunks which represent quantitative and qualitative attributes pertaining to variables. Information is usually the processed outcome of data. More specifically speaking, it is derived from data. Information is a concept and can be used in many domains.

Information can be a mental stimulus, perception, representation, knowledge, or even an instruction. The examples of data can be facts, analysis, or statistics. In computer terms, symbols, characters, images, or numbers are data. These are the inputs for the system to give a meaningful interpretation. In other words, data in a meaningful form is information.

However out of context I don't see how this has anything to do with the Java Language itself. As opposed to some obtuse tidbit of information that the author is trying to convey.

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It sounds like pointless word hashing to me. I wouldn't worry about it. It certainly doesn't have any technical meaning in the context of beginning Java that I know of. There is a sub-discipline of Computer Science/EE called Information Theory where a distinction between data and information is mathematically meaningful, but it has nothing to do with learning to program in Java. When the author starts talking about bits, bytes, and words, then you might want to starting paying attention again.

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That was the next paragraph. Psychic. :) –  David Aug 4 '11 at 4:24
    
-1 Programming happens in a context: you encode information as data. If you can't distinguis between the two, you'll have a hard time interacting with whoever uses your programs; and they will have a hard time using them. Don't underestimate the need for theory. –  CesarGon Aug 14 '11 at 20:22
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I think your questions is most important. If you want to get good at things you need to be able to understand things at different levels and be able to take different perspectives.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data#Meaning_of_data.2C_information_and_knowledge

and I would also read and listen to this, more advanced but save it for later if to hard right now http://cuddletech.com/blog/?p=534

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