02 June 2006

Interactive Access

For the past few months, I've been watching a very interesting trend emerge. I call it "Interactive Access," and plan to do some serious writing about it shortly.

Here's the thing - thanks to Google, online banking, Amazon.com, etc... access to all the world's data is basically a present reality. Obviously, some types of data are easier to locate than others, but generally speaking we currently have the ability to locate any piece of information we are searching for.

So, I contend that Access is not really a trend. It's already here, and while it will continue to grow & mature, it's basically yesterday's news.

Interactive Access, on the other hand, is all about the ability to manipulate the data we find. Wikipedia is a great example, because it enables users to add, delete, correct, correlate, expand and generally do stuff with the info. Google Map mashups let people aggregate data from a variety of sources and create interesting new information products. Ancient Spaces lets users contribute to & manipulate a 3-D representation of the ancient world. The list goes on.

Finding data is no longer enough. Interacting with that data, correcting it and adding to it, putting it together in new ways... that is a trend with some very cool implications.

More to follow...


Mark said...

I agree... its not the data itself that is useful, its all about what you can do with it. Sorta like sitting on top of an oil field before gasoline combustion engines. The Information Age will quickly be eclipsed by the Interactive Age.

Passante said...

It's easy to be seduced by the ease with which you can find fascinating information about anything you're interested in and a huge amount you didn't know you were interested in.

But here are the problems for me: How much of this information can be relied on; and where is it being disseminated?

Wikis are, indeed, cool. But (big BUT) my concern with wikis is that when anyone can post and amend information, we have no way of knowing how much of it is actually valid. I've taught college and it's frightening to me that students happily accept anything that is on the Internet as gospel truth. I'm going to sound like an intellectual snob here, but so be it: I don't suppose scholars of the caliber of Stephen Hawking spend time updating Wikipedia.

Eskimos have 200 words for snow, right? Wrong. That's linguistic urban legend, and it became entrenched common belief way before the Internet and Wikipedia. So think how much faster misinformation can spread now.

I agree that all this is cool and exciting. But its other potential scares me.

Dan said...

Great comments! It's been pointed out (often) that Wikipedia is a bit like a public restroom - you don't know who was there last...

The tricky thing, though, is that even the Experts get it wrong sometimes. All too often we assume they are 100% correct, which is as dangerous an assumption to make about Experts as it is to make about the Wiki amateurs.

So I agree that it's Caveat Emptor when dealing with Wikipedia... but the same applies to any source of information.

The journal Nature recently ran an article showing that Wikipedia's quality (correctness, etc) was equivalent to that of Encyclopedia Brittanica.

The really powerful thing, to my mind, is that when Wikipedia gets it wrong, anyone can correct it (& quickly). When Britannica gets it wrong... how does it get fixed?