We start Part 2 of “When is a Database nothing more than a digital filing cabinet?” where we left off in Part 1
. According to Wikipedia, “a database is an organized collection of data
If we truly embrace this definition of data, then we can completely redefine the issues of security, privacy, interoperability and identity. However, there are two essential words in this short definition of a database. One of them is data; the other key word is “organized.” Nowhere in the idea of organizing data is a further definition of when
it must be organized. We used to organize data by carving information into wet mud that then dried into tablets. We progressed to scribes replicating information with ink on papyrus and really accelerated things when Gutenberg rethought the wine press and moveable type with the printing press. Unfortunately, for all the horsepower and capacity of our databases, our organizing principles remain paper-based.
This rebellion against paper-based thinking is a consistent and strong meme in CLOUD’s world view. At the same time as our vision for a new language for the Internet was being born, I was reading David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous
. He points out, quite insightfully, that in the new digital disorder, we have the tools to curate (organize) information on the way out not just on the way in. David put it this way, “It is better to have it in the pile than out.” He continued, “It’s a perfect example of the wisdom of the two-pronged strategy for going miscellaneous: Include and postpone.” David shines a beautiful and brilliant light on a different way of thinking about an organized collection of data.
Here’s the challenge. Even though the Web has spawned a wide landscape of information, it is all tucked away in a physical geography of information (David’s term) constrained by the respective database or web server which contains the necessary information. Like we pointed out in Part 1, we’ve come up with a lot of ways of rethinking the tags for the data or ways to get it and out to make it more accessible. Unfortunately, the whole idea of getting information in and out flows from the very paper-based paradigm that is causing the problem in the first place. As we pointed out in Part 1, the fact that the drug companies had to “move” their data from their digital filing cabinet to the FDA’s is the problem. When @PharmaMfg (Pharmaceutical Manufcaturing) tweeted just before the holidays, they asked, “What would be a better, practical option for the FDA?”
As Part 1 and now Part 2 of this blog post is making clear, there is not a practical option right now, other than a wider moat, more alligators or removing the drawbridge that allows access to the castle completely. In order to include and postpone as David articulates, the current information architecture of the Internet will have to change. We will have to wrap databases around the data, rather than data around the databases. As I said in my talks at TEDxAustin in 2011
and again at TEDxTrastevere in Rome in October 2013
, “from the perspective of the raindrop, there is no such thing as a cloud.”
With CLOUD’s new tagging language and information architecture, the drops of information on the Internet will act the same way. Public clouds, private clouds, and hybrid clouds will all become irrelevant, because the relevant ownership rights will exist in identity and ownership tags directly related to the data. It won’t matter if you breach the castle, because the princess (personally identifiable information) won’t be there. Our clouds of information will assemble and disassemble like raindrops. (We will update this post with a link to Gary’s talk at TEDxTrastevere, when it is uploaded, that expands on this theme.) Rather than move whole files of proprietary data, drugmakers can instead provide far more discrete rights to both individual and aggregated information sets. Which database that information is actually in will become irrelevant, because the rights will exist at the data level.
This article, authored by Ch’ng Chin Chin and just published by Penang Monthly, following my talk at TEDxWeldQuay in Malaysia does an excellent job of putting the vision and the reason for CLOUD in context. Think of it as Part III of this set of posts: “Gary Thompson on the Internet’s CLOUD-y future.