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April 05, 2007



Hmmm. Is there anything in here about Information having value? Obviously some information bits are going to be more valuable than other bits. Whether that value derives from compliance needs (PCI, HIPAA, etc) or from ownership or just plain corporate need. If you lump this into metadata, then it should be one of the most important pieces of metadata since it drives the decisions for classifiction, protection and transferability.

Wayne Pauley

This discussion reminds me of the days in the 80's when Corporate Technical Architectures were the rage and we were all on a quest to define and build Enterprise Meta-data Dictionaries.

So what really has changed since then? We've done a better job (though no where near perfect) of defining information sources and a somewhat better job of amassing the information into different types of systems based on use cases (i.e. OLTP, Warehouse, OLAP). We still seem to let informational bandaids get created that pollute our information in terms of traceability, business value over time, and who the bottom line owner is.

I agree that we need some informational laws - but who is going to legislate (mandate) them (think about global requirements for example) and who is going to execute compliance?

One final thought - though not necessarily an information law - but I think there also needs to be a way to collect information about how information is used as well as what it is used for. By that I mean - let's say for example that I create a spreadsheet that creates some new derived data on market opportunity and I'm in the marketing group. The spreadsheet gets stored and now someone in engineering needs my data to create a proposal to develop a new/better product using my information as a component of their presentation. Since the original data is derived - how does the new use of the information - i.e. its original context get protected and conveyed when it is re-used and presented? Don't we need an information law that protects the information’s context and re-usability? and to take it a step further - perhaps evaluate over time the information’s use and project it future use based on usage patterns?

The analogy that I can think of in the "real world" is how new words get incorporated into a language such as "ain't" for example. When I was a kid - we were not supposed to use "ain't" and yet today it is considered acceptable due to common usage. So should we have a common usage "law" for information? Or should we protect our information from common usage? I believe information common usage has social implications too ... but that's another post :)

Chuck Hollis

Thank you for the very insightful (and extended) comment. You raise many good points that might be outside the scope of my response.

Although I agree data architects did a good job with structured data, I think it's all being undone with the rise of unstructured information. Specifically, once that well-classified and well-understood data field lands in someone's powerpoint, all hope is lost, at least from a data mgmt perspective.

I shudder to think what will happen when governments legislate IT practices, but that is exactly what appears to be happening, albeit gradually. I would like to see IT organizations self-govern in this regard, but it may not be achievable.

It should be noted that I meant "laws" in the sense of architectural guidance, and not punitive legislation, per se, but your point is still valid.

I really liked your suggestion about gathering information on how data is used. Not only to better understand its value, but -- ultimately -- to provide audit trails in regards to managing sensitive information. I don't know what to call it, though, as metadata doesn't really do the job. Usage data? Nominations are open ...

And, finally, my head spins too when I consider the social implications of common usage concepts for information. Especially if it's my personal information.

Thanks again, your comments are always welcome!


Besides the points raised by Wayne, here are a couple of added thoughts I had.

First, the use of the term “Law” and comparison to an observed law such as “Moore’s” law is a little bold, excellent discussion points they are laws they are not, only time will tell.

Second, I like the idea of usage or audit tags within the metadata. If you combine this idea with the information gathering issue you have in the “Sixth Law” I think it needs to go a step further. The issue is often confirming conflicting information you get from different parts of the organisation or data quality. I always liken this to digital (data) to analogue (information) conversions. These conversions happen many times as data is passed among, and information derived from, the structured applications. This creates the realised variations to the original. Now an audit trail would let you get back to the source. But a family tree would let you understand where else and how that source data has been used within the organisation. This, to me, makes a strong case for the external metadata repository “Third Law”.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Chuck Hollis

  • Chuck Hollis
    SVP, Oracle Converged Infrastructure Systems

    Chuck now works for Oracle, and is now deeply embroiled in IT infrastructure.

    Previously, he was with VMware for 2 years, and EMC for 18 years before that, most of them great.

    He enjoys speaking to customer and industry audiences about a variety of technology topics, and -- of course -- enjoys blogging.

    Chuck lives in Vero Beach, FL with his wife and four dogs when he's not traveling. In his spare time, Chuck is working on his second career as an aging rock musician.

    Warning: do not ever buy him a drink when there is a piano nearby.

    Note: these are my personal views, and aren't reviewed or approved by my employer.
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