Here’s some non-technical, peripheral understanding only, commentary on what I think is happening to the state of personal information management.
Like many of you, I’m a bit hesitant to let my entire life be run under the GOOGleplex. Honestly, these guys are owning our lives, only so they can monetize it for the benefit of their shareholders. (I use more and more of their services too). But they get it. They get that the ultimate destiny of computing is that users will simply "jack into the net" using a device. They also get that "life is one big filing cabinet" and that today’s computing world doesn’t really create efficiencies when it comes to finding things, re-finding things, noting what’s actually important, and doing so without unnecessary replication or time waste. Don’t you have things saved on hard drives, remote hosted environments, laptops, cds, dvds, usb keys, portable devices…and gasp…paper?
William Jones in his new book (not a business buzz book…a real meaty academic book) called, "Keeping Found Things Found" talks about a PSI (personal space of information), i.e. the mega life filing cabinet with no end. Like Jones, Google understands that the required space and computing power to search, tag and manage all of the "stuff" life throws at one today are simply too great to "own". Heck GOOG is even building its own network of bandwidth, power, and perhaps wireless infrastructure. They know the drill.
GOOG also gets that this big personal filing cabinet in the sky should be a universal safe source of information that we allow others to have access to. The recent Google Open Social announcements seem to indicate that they’re headed this direction. Although we’re far from that today. Thankfully, GOOG still breaks things out into products so we don’t get overwhelmed (reader, notebook, gmail, docs, blogger) just yet.
Is it really efficient to create 200+ profiles on social networking, travel, wiki, hosted application, portal, blogging, and shopping sites? Why don’t we own our own medical records and simply allow our new doctor to hop into that file using an ultra secure API or biometric access medium? I’m sure we’d all be better off creating one master profile with all of our preferences and frequent flier numbers, etc. inside.
The computing/software world is not ready for this reality. But when it is, should we give the power of owning and securing our life to a company like Google that is simply monetizing it for their gain along the way? Should the GOOG machine be able to troll our medical records, buying habits, and stored documents for targeted ads delivered to your googlephone let’s say? (They already do most of this). In the most extreme example, the google machine could read your recently updated medical records that contain the diagnoses that you have 3 months to live, then begin pummeling your phone and other mediums you’ve subscribed to with funeral home, attorney, and financial planner ads. Think that’s over the top? You gave permission when you accepted the user agreement that you never read.)
But who else out there will construct this world for us if not GOOG? I’d lay some money on Amazon.
Although Amazon appears to be a shopping site to the average consumer, they’ve been working on search technology and an open platform for some time now. Today we find that Amazon has released an open database platform. Hum, are things taking shape? They have a trusted brand and have built a massive IT infrastructure.
Since I’ve embraced this idea of the universal filing cabinet, I find it harder to put value on the "pieces" of the solution that ask me to house bookmarks, documents, and notes. Why should I social bookmark at X different places when I can bookmark to my own personal filing cabinet…then choose to "socialize" those? Why should I store a contract in a contact record in salesforce.com…when I’d have to search within salesforce.com to find it again someday? In fact, why should I use Salesforce.com to manage contacts? Why don’t programs simply access my "life’s phone book" and let me do what I want with it? It seems everyday that I’m confronted with "where to save or bookmark or store" things in their proper context. I keep resorting to Google products to accomplish this and that generally worries me for the long term. (Mainly due to mobility vs. functionality)
I want to own my life’s information and let you see what I want you all to see. I want to type this entry into my text editor screen…then select "post to blog"…then select which one (personal, business, etc.), what tags I want, etc. You may say that I can do this already..and I can…but this blog entry is stored on TypePad’s servers not in my PSI.
I’m willing to pay for this…..if for no other reason that to disallow GOOG from charging others for ads that feed on my life’s work like algorithmic parasites.
I’m sure the digerati out there have some other start up going that support the "new new" model. Perhaps it’s the World Beam. Want to be blown away? Read the article and see the future.