Archive | February, 2013

If I were an Information Architect

21 Feb

Information Architect

If I were an Information Architect and I had the job of organizing all of this worlds information….how would I design the system to hold the World of information around us.  Would I do it any better than what we have today?

Like any Architect, I would like to know the users and the uses of the thing I was going to design.  All of the requirements that are needed to store and Information Architectdisplay the information should be defined before we begin any construction.  And like any Architect, someone is paying for this design and ultimately the construction of this system so it must meet their budget and cost guidelines.  Who is the customer for this project?  That is a great question.  It could be many people (literally) or it could be a Sovereign Government or maybe a Corporation.  In fact, it is all of the above.  Everyone and everything needs and uses information.  It is the absolute building block of everything around us.

Physical objects embed their information into their structure.  It becomes one with the object.  We can describe physical objects with information and very detailed photos, drawings, specifications and keep that separate from the object as well.  The information is not connected to the object so as the object changes updates to the information must be made where the embedded information in the object is always up-to-date.  We will call that information a point-in-time design specification type of information.

We receive information continuously all the time.  That information is transient in nature and is often never recorded or remembered as accurately.  Our brains remember many transient events and places and people but those memories are limited by the perspective and filters of the person recalling those memories.  This transient information we receive is like the air we breathe.

Lewis Carrol, author of “Alice in Wonderland”,  fancifully envisioned a full-scale map of the world but soon realized that it would be too big to be of any use.  Any attempt to manage all of the Worlds information would be like trying to make a full-scale map and would be too big to be of any use.

We can see that a lot of information exists, but most of the information that an Architect needs to include in a design is much smaller in nature, easily created and involves unique items whether it is a person or some other item.  This is information that would not exist if the person of object did not exist.  For a person we shall call this personal information.  For an object we shall call it object information.  It is data, made up of the discrete unit of measure called a bit.  A bit is the smallest discrete unit of information in a digital system.  Bits get organized by standard methods into sets and those bits become information.

Everyone of us creates information and needs information.  Mostly we need transient information from the sea of information around us and use as much as we create.  As we organize into families, communities and larger groups the need for different and more specialized information grows.  In today’s society without all of the structure that information provides everything would collapse.  This specialized information that we use everyday is critical to our lives and is difficult to manage.  It is located in hundreds of different places and different systems some that we have access to and many that we do not.  We have no idea who is accessing it and how securely it is managed.  Each day more information is created and deposited in more and more places.  It seems like this may be a good place to look at a re-design.

What if….all of our personal information was in just one and only one place?  Wouldn’t that make it more convenient to manage and secure?  If I were an Information Architect that is what I would start with.  A single place for each person’s information.  It would be accessible with the proper security and authentication over a “high-speed network” like the Internet.  It would always be available and there would be multiple copies of the database to ensure that it would always be available.  It would also be read-only.  You could make a copy (clearly marked as a copy) but you couldn’t change the data that was already stored.

This would be a large-scale endeavor.  Taking all of our information and putting it in one place.  Why would or why should we do this?  Security and privacy for one reason.  Convenience for another reason.  Accuracy and access for a few more.  We need to find a better way to secure and manage our personal information and paying for a service that notifies you after something bad has happened is not a good solution.  We could start small.  The rewards would be enormous.  Savings in the TRILLIONS of DOLLARS a YEAR…not to mention the better quality of information, speed and access as well as better security and privacy.