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news and thoughts on and around the development of the iCite net
by Jay Fienberg

Wal-Mart's own Internet, and coming soon, your own Internet too!

posted: Nov 16, 2004 6:59:05 PM

What Wal-Mart Knows About Its Customer's Habits is an interesting New York Times article (via Rebecca Blood). As Rebecca quotes, so do I (emphasis mine):

By its own count, Wal-Mart has 460 terabytes of data stored on Teradata mainframes, made by NCR, at its Bentonville headquarters. To put that in perspective, the Internet has less than half as much data, according to experts.

This article also pops-up nicely in my thinking today about David Weinberger's Digital Futures talk on C-SPAN, which is excellent.

Basically, the future of how people deal with huge amounts of information (i.e., because of the Internet and all things digital) is, in some ways, already seen in the past of organizations like Wal-Mart. There are also aspects of this past one can see in pre-web digital catalogs for libraries.

We (ordinary folk) haven't lived closely with much of this stuff because it's not accessible—both in the sense of being locked up inside organizations, and in the sense of being data in "for work use" systems (rather than in "for personal use" systems).

So, now, we are digitally tracking lots of things, people, places, events, contents (documents). And, we want this data to be accessible to us in both senses of being on or near our person most of the time, and being of direct personal use and benefit.

I'm not saying that our personal information systems of the future will look like Wal-Mart's. Rather, that some of the questions about what it takes to organize this volume of information have been answered very practically in the systems of these organizations.

But, the unanswered questions are all in the realm of what will happen when we, individually and collectively, respond to masses of our own digital data, without a singular structure of authority like a corporation policy or cataloging standard binding and guiding us. These are less questions of how, and more questions of why and who and when and where.

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