Last week I’d had a little bit of an epiphany while reading one of Brad Feld’s posts. I made the following comment to his post:
When I read your paragraph about legacy data, I started thinking about your Glue theme and the bad Terminator (T-1000) in the movie Terminator 2. When the bad Terminator was torn apart, its various pieces would return to collective (for lack of a better description). Wouldn't it be cool if your data could automagically find its way home?
Since then, the possibility of auto-homing data has been rolling around in my head. The basic idea is to have your data return home to a central repository regardless of the original entry point for the data.
For example, I typed the comment above into Brad Feld’s blog, but I would like to have a copy of the comment along with the comment’s context (date, blog etc.) for my own personal data store. Currently, Brad Feld has my data; I can copy it and paste it into a document or a database, but I have to do that myself, there’s nothing that will do it for me.
With auto-homing data, I want my data to automatically find my data store and incorporate itself into the collective. This may seem a little strange at first, but in many ways it’s similar to email. With email, content is created and sent to an address; the content did not have to be created at a specific place or within a specific application, it just has to be sent to the correct address.
I think we have all of the technologies we need to make auto-homing data happen. Something as simple as an html tag or a microformat could be used to demarcate data for auto-homing. We have the transport protocols, POP, XMPP and other standards to help move data around. Almost all data storage systems (i.e. databases) can interact with XML and JSON formatted data. And, there’s a ping service, Gnip Central, that could be used to notify a system that new and updated auto-homing data is available.
Of course, there are a number of obstacles to overcome such as walled gardens and data spam (yep!), but I think those obstacles could be overcome. I think it’ll happen; I think I’ll see the day when my data will automagically appear in the collective and I want to be a part of making that happen.