Tim Berners-Lee wants more raw data

Posted: 5/24/2009 4:52:47 PM
Tim Berners-Lee in this TED talk describes a web dominated by the power Qrimp provides. Find out why in this blog post.
In this video, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, argues for more raw data on the web. This video really struck a chord with me, because what he is arguing for here was one of the driving forces behind the Qrimp Platform. I'll talk about how Qrimp enables what he is describing and makes it easier for organizations to provide their data in the format he wants.

It's really important to have a lot of data

Data is the driver behind every Qrimp application. Qrimp makes it easy to input data. Qrimp makes it easy to get data out. You can use any REST api to get out any data in your Qrimp app. You can get it in CSV, XML, JSON, RSS, or any other custom format you create to interact with consumers of your data.

Having lots of data is critical. Lots of data about customers will help you understand which ones are happy and which ones are not. It will help you understand why and how to make your customers happy. It will tell you where your company has come and help you better understand where it is going.

The first step is getting the data into the computer. If you are stuck with paper or email or some other unstructured format for your data, it's more difficult to analyze later. Get lots of data.

Linked Data

Qrimp is built on top of a relational database. If you have customers and those customers make orders, then when you click on a customer, you see on the right hand side of your browser, the orders belonging to that customer. You can click the "Add..." link to add another order and it will automatically be linked to that customer, or you can select another customer to link it to.

These relationships between items in your database are critical and Qrimp makes it easy to manage them, view them, build reports around the data and more.

Those HTTP things...

Those HTTP thing are the pointer to the linked data. They are the link. For example, if you want to link to a particular customer, you create an http thing that looks like this: http://yourapp.qrimp.com/customers/Acme+Inc and then you have a link to your customer called Acme Inc.

Perhaps you want to see a list of your customers, you could build a more complicated url like this: http://yourapp.qrimp.com/db.aspx?t=customers and that would show the entire list of customers. If you want to see those customers in an excel spreadsheet, build a link like this: http://yourapp.qrimp.com/db.aspx?t=customers&vid=csv That vid describes how you want to view the data, in this case, you want to view it in a CSV format, which launches Excel when you click the link.

You can even build really complex queries that will give you a list of customers in a particular city: http://yourapp.qrimp.com/db.aspx?t=customers&city=Seattle

Pretty easy isn't it?

The web lets you put all kinds of data up there

So does Qrimp! Qrimp doesn't limit the kind of data you can put on the web. It can be business related or personal. Really, the more data we have on the web, the better. Personal data is important to businesses and business data is important to people.

Of course, some data is more private than others. You might not want some people to see some of your data, but that's why we make it easy to secure it and limit who has access to your data.

Look what we can do with data about Technology Jobs.

You don't want to let your database go until you've made a beautiful website for it

Unfortunately this is all too true. But your data does not need a special interface. It needs to be accessible. It needs to be browsable. One Qrimper has created a list of data and put it up there without doing anything special to the interface. I believe the consumers of the data, those who want to see the data, care less about what the web page looks like than they do about seeing the data itself. But, if you want to put a pretty interface on top of your data, Qrimp makes that easy too.

Check out what one Qrimper has done without changing the look and feel of his Qrimp app at all: http://scripturetunes.qrimp.com. That data is up there and choir leaders from all over the country can get ideas for songs they too can sing and teach the choir. If that Qrimper had waited until he had a totally custom interface for the data, how many people who have used his data already would have been left waiting for ideas for songs?

Don't wait. Get the data up there. You can make it prettier as you go! I could even argue that it is due to all these pretty interfaces that the web is so hard to use. Every website has links in a different place, they have different menu structures, the search box is in a different location. I do understand that it is through the appearance of our data that we "stand out," but it also makes it more difficult to use the web in general.

Remember, all things being equal, it is the content of your website that is important. If your website looks great, but no one can find anything or it is difficult to use, then people won't come back. Focus on the data first, then what the data looks like. You'll learn over time how to make it easier to visualize.

Raw data now!

It is the raw data that is important. When you go to a car dealer and ask how much a car costs, if the dealer packages up the price into lots of long sentences and explanations and talks about the features, do you get frustrated? Yes, of course, because you asked for the price of the car. The price of the car is the Raw Data! You want the price, you don't want a picture of the car and a fancy border around the price with some particular font -- you want the data!

Now, imagine if you could go to your car dealer's website and pull down a list of every car on the lot, the make, model, and year of the car, what color it is and a list of all the options in raw data without having to hunt through some fancy interface to find that information? You could sort by price or filter by make. Wouldn't that be easier than having to view each car independently and click on the link to drill into more details about the car on yet another type of page?

Give us the RAW DATA!

No more excuses!

In the past, it was difficult to go from the raw data to the web. You may need a database guru or a programmer. Well, not anymore! Not with Qrimp, just upload your raw data. Copy/paste from excel right into Qrimp and your raw data is available immediately! Qrimp puts a nice interface on it. You can filter by any field, you can import into other applications, you can mix and match it across other data sets.

Stop making excuses for why you aren't making your data available. Even this blog is available in raw data format. Look at this:
Table View: http://www.qrimp.com/db.aspx?t=blog&vid=table
A bulleted list of links: http://www.qrimp.com/db.aspx?t=blog&vid=bulletedlist
You can even download it in Excel: http://www.qrimp.com/db.aspx?t=blog&vid=csv

Unlike other blog programs that focus on making your blog pretty, I didn't have to do anything special with Qrimp to be able to provide the data in those different formats. All those different formats come standard with every Qrimp app. Imagine if all the data on the web was as easy to access and use with other programs as data inside your Qrimp app!

Want to get more serious

How many articles have you read about cancer and heard a statistic like this: 25% of Americans get Cancer. Does that tell you anything? Which of those Americans got cancer? how old were they? How tall were they? Did they smoke? How much did those Americans with cancer look like me? Perhaps I am in a demographic that never got cancer!

How can we know that without the raw data? If we had an excel spreadsheet that listed all the different properties of people who got cancer, we could filter that list to include the properties we have. We could see how likely it is to get cancer at a particular age, or if we frequently drink coffee -- or don't! We could model our lives after those types of Americans, or any other country's citizens, don't get cancer.

Why do Japanese people live longer? What is common, or not common among Japanese people, compared to people from other countries. Without the raw data, it will be difficult for the average person to know. We are left to sound bites and articles in the newspaper geared to the population at large -- not each of us as individuals.