I am a data person. I love knowing the meaning of things and how they fit together. One of my favourite things to do in school was to diagram sentences to show how words form communication. Data is not just models and diagrams of structure, but also the meaning of the content within those structures. Containers for data do not in themselves mean anything. Remember the old days when switching phones meant re-entering all your contacts? So what if your new shiny phone could hold more entries, you’d still have to get them all in there somehow. What’s more important: more memory or more things to remember?
Obviously data itself changes all the time. For years data was incidental to the function and form of applications and software. Hardware was built to process it faster and hold more of it but no one really discussed what ‘it’ represented. Data was not the important thing on its own. Software and hardware were the important things because you can buy and sell them, less so with data. Now data is if not THE thing, at least it’s held in much higher regard than it was previously. What’s noticeable now is the huge shift in how we talk about data, how we treat it and what value it has to us.
What I want to learn is how do we shift from focusing on the containers that hold data and the wires that move it around to looking at the data itself as part of the code, part of the thing that makes up our universe of information. Tim Berners-Lee’s TED talk about the Semantic Web talks about how linking things to other things builds the Semantic Web. Making data an object in that universe is key to unlocking what data can do for us.
I don’t know how this will turn out. I don’t know where it will take me. I chose ‘hello world’ for the title of this post because anyone and everyone who’s programmed anything has written their first program to print ‘hello world’ on screen or wherever. This was true a few months ago when I was learning python – yes, python! the cool new language! We wrote ‘hello world’ and then proceeded to do some data science-y things that I can’t remember now as I’ve not touched it for 3 months, but there we are.
So here is my inaugural ‘hello world’ post, like so many programmers and bloggers before me. I hope you’ll find it as interesting as I do.