Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Data Entropy, my new battleground

In a recent Blog Simon Wardley was bemoaning the inappropriate use of the terms Structured and Unstructured as they pertained to data, I started writing a comment that turned into this Blog.

I believed the words that he was exploring also pointed to the power Entropy has over data. The simplified post (I didn't see the EP/LP version of his Blog, he had reduced its length b4 I read it) seemed to assume an inexorable flow from Unstructured to Structured. As humans we are in a constant battle to bring structure, order, form meaning to the world around us, this especially applies to data.

History is still only what we believe happened, as we have yet to gain dominion over data. A key difference between energy and data is that data can be destroyed and far too frequently is destroyed, as the non-existance of many historic records can attest!

I was trying to find the word equivalent to exergy, which applies to energy, in the world of data, when it struck me the lack of its existence maybe because that with data there is no "maximal value". Which on reflection is obvious as when one uses data or information and take nothing from it, far from it more often than not combining data can create new data/information plus there is no natural friction in the world of data just entropy. This in itself was on obvious realisation, but then I already knew that the more I knew the more I realised I did not know!

In our journey of transformation, fighting data entropy all the way
- with data (bits) to information (informs) we add form to create new facts or "informs"
- with "informs" to knowledge (knogs) we discover new forms, & meaning 
- to achieve the highest form we make the right use knowledge and attain wisdom!

Aside: It strikes me that with data, entropy reduces the value of data with the square of time, like gravity reduces with the square of distance.

This is shown very well when I look at the graphical data that I have stored about my life, I can readily access images from a month ago, but many of the images taken a decade ago are lost to my iPhoto album, or of they exist in the Album have lost meaning. The majority of images from my childhood are lost with a few hanging on by their finger tips in physical photo albums, the meta data around even older photos makes them all but meaningless; Who is that man in a soldiers uniform in that fading sepia photo?

Thus my final comment after the mind storm that Simon's Blog evoked is:-

Thankyou I created this Blog as a direct result of your post Simon
I enjoyed the journey and find myself even more motivated to fight data entropy, and add or maintain the order, structure/form and meaning of my personal data. 

Which makes me even hungrier for the Linked Data tools I can only envision but have not the skills or time to create. ORAC is sounding more important and desirable every day, Blakes Seven has a lot to answer for! 

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