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The Database of Record

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Feb. 25th, 2003 | 02:16 pm
mood: nerdynerdy
music: A variety of unfamiliar electronic music

Where do you, gentle readers, keep your information?

No, not information about you, I mean information about your world and your experience of it, bits and pieces to remember or keep, however mundane. I have a lot to say about this topic, but I'd start with that question. I have personal solutions to some of the traditional problems of storage, retrieval, and organization (somewhat), but not the one I call the Database of Record (DoR) problem.

The Database of Record Problem
For a variety of reasons (and purposes), we accumulate the same information or types of information in different places.

If I write your phone number and address on a napkin, but my e-mail program and your old business card in my wallet each have a yet another different number, then later, when I've forgotten the origins of each of these scraps of stored information, I have the problem of deciding which one is the "real", useful, accurate information. I might be out somewhere and not have access at that moment to one or more of the places where I've written or recorded the accurate address. I might....

Obstacles to Keeping a Database of Record
In no particular order, and not a complete list:
  • Insidious, systematic corruption of data due to flaws or idiosyncrasies in the chosen DoR
  • Choosing a DoR that is convenient and accessible enough to be useful, like at those times you'd write on napkins
  • accidentally creating more than one DoR, and/or forgetting which of several perfectly logical places to use as a DoR is the "real" one
  • The multivariate failure modes of automated synchronization
  • making the fatal mistake of having a "to file" file!
  • takes more effort sometimes than it's worth
  • possibility of single-point failure (your DoR is lost; say, when your purse is stolen[1] or your computer crashes).
  • cluttering the DoR with things you don't really need.


I like the formal concepts of Information Theory and Knowledge Management so much, I'll eventually have a web site just for thinking about them -- a DoR for information on those topics....

--
Triple Entente


[1] You WILL lose your purse/wallet/bag. It will happen. Be prepared:
  • clean it out
  • make a xerox copy of all the IDs and cards
  • make lists of risky items like credit cards and bank cards, and include the numbers to call for cancellation and replacements to avoid losses to fraud. While it's true that both credit and bank cards are guaranteed against losses, the banks are slooow to replace the money you've lost.
  • make a list of any valuable items for insurance and police reports. Sometimes your personal items are recovered separately, and descriptions help.
  • lastly, make a list of the ordinary items that have a permanent home there -- you can't replace something you haven't yet noticed is gone. Sometimes not knowing what it is you've lost feels even worse.


File all this away securely in a particular place where you'll know where it is -- uh oh! That's another DoR!

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Aurifex

(no subject)

from: aurifex
date: Feb. 27th, 2003 02:56 pm (UTC)
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then later, when I've forgotten the origins of each of these scraps of stored information, I have the problem of deciding which one is the "real", useful, accurate information.


Possibly a mundane solution; one word: timestamp... sometimes difficult to do on the spot, but with dilligence one can be added later. Time is the one dimension for which we have only one direction -- thus, a perfect, human readable, key.

Access to information is the key to victory... intepretation is important and required, but access is critical. I appreciate your need "to have all the information"... I feel it too.

Let me know when you get around to that Web site.

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