Why Holding Data Prisoner is Not a Good Idea
by Michael Hay on Jul 18, 2011
Have you watched Apple’s Lion and iOS 5 keynotes? Being the fanboy that I am, I snuck a peek on my AppleTV and was greeted with several new concepts including making the cloud invisible. I was, however, struck by a comment from Steve Jobs that I’d like to address:
“A lot of us have been working for 10 years to get rid of the file system so the user doesn’t have to learn about it.” – Steve Jobs (06 June 2011 WWDC).
I know that there is a lot of debate over this statement and I want to weigh in on the topic – especially in the context of Big Data.
As I discussed in my previous post, I think about Big Data as a way to transform existing data/content into appreciating assets. To do that we will need applications that are separate or independent from the content they produce; the combination of seemingly disparate content may yield new super valuable information we haven’t thought of before. One might call this “ah ha” data or data mashups, and I believe that the mashup idea is actually a great way to visualize what is possible. We can visualize GUI platforms that combine many different data sources into one, and help the user reach new conclusions.
The image above is a screenshot of the iGeoPix application on the iPad/iPhone, which links photos to your current location with a bit of a twist: the larger photo in the center is close to your currently selected location, whereas the smaller ones are farther away. This kind of information can help you as the user better plan a vacation day so that you know what places are nearby on any given day. We also could imagine other data or content complementing the application, like which venues are the most popular, etc.
This mashup application requires various content types to be brought together, which allows the user to see the content in a new way to create new information or establish a new perspective. If the content was all self contained and could not escape from the containing application, then iGeoPix would be impossible to build. So if we take Mr. Jobs’ statement literally, and make the file system or another mechanism of free interchange go away, then this class of mashup application would disappear. (Note that I’m pretty sure Steve was more focused on the user experience, but during his keynote speech he didn’t really make the distinction.)
Storing data in a non-obfuscated form in which unleashing the data from the application is possible is a key theme by which Hitachi lives and breathes. We view ourselves as guardians or trustees of the data and metadata you store with us, and not the owners nor the warden guarding you from accessing your data.