Sunday, September 16, 2007

I don't know what to call it, but I know I don't like it

You know the story. I've got an appointment tomorrow. My phone knows about it. My calendar program knows about it and can even tell the phone. The other person's corporate schedule knows about it. The other person's PDA knows about it. That's four copies of the same thing, variously synced up automatically, semi-automatically or manually (as when we both agree verbally on the time and place, then each enter the information into the appropriate system).

There ought to be one resource with one URN and (potentially) several URLs. Instead we just have the copies and the potential URLs.

I've heard several names for this, but none of them quite works for me. I'd be glad to hear more and better:
  • Silos: You know, those tall towers in the countryside, each full of, well, something, and each separate from the others. Except that a silo is generally full of silage. You take stuff like corn stubble that the combine leaves behind, dump it in a silo (maybe the familiar tower, maybe just a big trench or plastic bag) let it ferment and then feed it to the livestock in the winter. Not the flow of information we're talking about (or hmm ... maybe it is).
  • Balkanization: Refers, of course, to the Balkans, small states formed from the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, and later Yugoslavia. Each has its own government, language, culture etc. and they don't necessarily cooperate all that well. That matches up pretty well with a mess of operating systems, file formats and so forth, but my cell phone didn't suddenly declare independence from my laptop. I'd also prefer to stay out of recent geopolitical history out of deference to those actually involved.
  • Fragmentation: Again, this assumes there was a coherent whole to begin with.
  • Fiefdoms: This may be closest. Fiefdoms could arise for all kinds of reasons. Each had its own house rules and customs. Sometimes they would cooperate, sometimes they would guard their resources like, well, little fiefdoms. The defining feature of a fiefdom is allegiance to a higher rank of nobility, ultimately up to the monarch. My laptop and cell phone both owe fealty to me. My counterpart's cell phone is liege to my counterpart or to corporate, depending. If you buy that, the metaphor works fairly well.

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