Data models age like parents

15. März 2018 um 21:51 Keine Kommentare

Denny Vrandečić, employed as ontologist at Google, noticed that all six of of six linked data applications linked to 8 years ago (IWB, Tabulator, Disko, Marbles, rdfbrowser2, and Zitgist) have disappeared or changed their calling syntax. This reminded me at a proverb about software and data:

software ages like fish, data ages like wine.


The original form of this saying seems to come from James Governor (@monkchips) who in 2007 derived it from from an earlier phrase:

Hardware is like fish, operating systems are like wine.

The analogy of fishy applications and delightful data has been repeated and explained and criticized several times. I fully agree with the part about software rot but I doubt that data actually ages like wine (I’d prefer Whisky anyway). A more accurate simile may be „data ages like things you put into your crowded cellar and then forget about“.

Thinking a lot about data I found that data is less interesting than the structures and rules that shape and restrict data: data models, ontologies, schemas, forms etc. How do they age compared with software and data? I soon realized:

data models age like parents.

First they guide you, give good advise, and support you as best as they can. But at some point data begin to rebel against their models. Sooner or later parents become uncool, disconnected from current trends, outdated or even embarrassing. Eventually you have to accept their quaint peculiarities and live your own life. That’s how standards proliferate. Both ontologies and parents ultimately become weaker and need support. And in the end you have to let them go, sadly looking back.

(The analogy could further be extended, for instance data models might be frustrated confronted by how actual data compares to their ideals, but that’s another story)

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