Ramblings of General Geekery

Data First

I like to think I’m being careful and responsible with my data, especially when I look at what most people do with theirs, so I thought I’d start a new series of posts on the subject.

Hard Disk

Data-first” is about choosing applications, services and devices based, first and foremost, on the data that you will get out of them, or the data they accept as input. It’s important because, at the end of the day, once you’ve quit your apps and turned off your devices, your data is the only thing that’s left, and the only thing from which you’ll start again tomorrow. It’s also the only thing you’ll have when you decide to switch to different applications, different OSes, or different devices.

Who is this for?

Some companies – Apple, Google, Amazon, or Microsoft – want you to trust them with your data. Trust that they will keep it available to you as the technological landscape around us changes. Trust that they will keep it stored for the next 50 years or so. And that they’ll always be there to unlock the files for you. And that they’ll pass it all on to your kids when you die.

If you can trust at least one of them, “data-first” is probably not for you. Instead you’ll choose the path of least resistance where all you have to do is tap a button on your iPad or Kindle Fire, watch that movie or read that book, and forget about it. Did you just rent or purchase? Do you own or merely lease? Does it have DRM? What about maybe switching to another eco-system in the future? Who cares! I applaud your ability to not worry about such things. Be on your way, you blissfully lucky person, I wish you well.

If you’re like me, however, there’s no way you can think that way. Being French means, at best, having a… let’s say: a “healthy” distrust of governments and corporations. Even if I trusted a company right now (which I don’t), I have no guarantee that the next CEO or board of directors are not going to screw their customers over. And this is important when you want to keep consuming your data for a long time. Am I ever going to stop re-watching “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” or “The Shining”? Or stop re-reading any Alan Moore comic? Probably not. And how long is “Game Of Thrones” going to last? Another 6 years, maybe? Remember how things were 6 years ago? Yeah, that was when people were eagerly waiting for the first iPhone to be released, and Netflix was still about mailing DVDs to people.

So no, I will not trust anybody but myself to manage my data for the next 50 years, let alone the next 10.

What is it for?

Keep in mind that the “data-first” approach has nothing to do with services and applications where you’re not supposed to keep any data. This includes iTunes rentals and subscription based services like Spotify or Netflix. I have absolutely no problem with those, which I use extensively.

What it’s for is any data you’ve chosen to purchase (videos, music, books, whatever), or that you have created or shared (emails, IMs, or other social media bullshit). That’s what we’ll be talking about.

Data-first” posts will be tagged with the eponymous tag, so keep an eye on it for case-by-case studies.