Data, Data Everywhere

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(Beware: Poetry alert.)

Today’s lesson will combine three unrelated topics into one unified theme.

The three topics are:
1. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
2. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
3. Enterprise Content Management

(for you Sesame Street fans – which two do not belong?)

The goal is to combine the first two and illustrate the third. So here we go.

At our seminar on Enterprise Content Management at Alfresco a few weeks ago, I drew a word picture to explain what I call the Hierarchy of Data Importance. I began with the stunning fact that of all the data in the world today, 90% was created/generated in the last TWO years. In other words from the beginning of time to 2 yrs ago, we only created 10% of the data available today. Do I believe that? Never mind. I read it on the internet and that is good enough for me. But here is the surprising tidbit. Everyone I tell that statistic to is totally nonplussed. Like, oh yeah, so let’s get a latte. Are you kidding. Do we have a data problem? I’ll say. We also have a problem separating the good, the bad and the ugly data. No wonder data security is the hottest job prospect today.

Anyway back to the story. I likened all this data to a pyramid (or cone, if you must), where the broader lower levels are less important to a particular business and narrower upper levels are more important and more critical. In my mind was like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Starting to get the picture?) So we can label the levels something like this – going from bottom to top:

1. Of no interest at all (someone’s tweet about the price of bread, youtube of the pet cat sleeping.)
2. Of potential interest (stock prices, today’s news)
3. Of value if I could sort the good stuff from the noise (all phone call meta data – oops).
4. Of competitive value, but I can live without it.
5. Of definite importance to the business, but not proprietary.
6. Proprietary, but open to all employees.
7. Proprietary, only for certain eyes.
8. The secret sauce.
9. Contracts, customer lists, HR files.
10. The formula for Coke.

Now I know what you are asking. “What does this have to do with the Ancient Mariner? This is the mental glue that holds the whole thing together. I got to thinking that the pyramid is not an accurate picture. Too linear. All this data is, well, like the ocean and the cone of importance is like a small crest of a small wave somewhere near the Marianas. It is a small cone which grows to infinity at the bottom. In the vastness of the ocean of the internet, your data is of no import. But to you it is everything.

If you do not protect it, no one else will.

Get the picture?


Disclaimer: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is not true. I am not so sure about this Maslow guy. The word picture is still valid.


About the Author:

While I was at Stanford, I got to know Dr. William Schockley, the inventor of the transistor. While at Bell Labs I produced the first computer generated animation, I worked on the first packet switch and the first picture-phone. I worked with the inventors of Unix and C. I produced multiple compilers, operating systems and microcode. I worked with the Snobal language - the precursor to Perl and Ramis the precursor to SQL. The building I worked in was home for 5000 of the smartest people in the industry. We had Phd's cutting the grass. (just kidding). I never had it so good again. Today that building is empty and for sale. After the Bell System, I spent 25 years in the satellite industry. I led development teams in the VSAT industry. I started and grew early stage companies in this industry. Recently I have been involved in cloud computing startups focused on infrastructure and virtual desktops.
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