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Do you know about Informational Timing? May 28, 2006

Posted by Matsu in Information Technology, Management, News and politics, Other, Random, Technology.

What is 'informational timing,' you ask? Well, it's simply the recognition that information has value that increases and decreases over time. You might even call this the temporal value of information.

For instance, let's look at the newspaper. If you could get tomorrow's news today, then that would be extremely valuable. And, getting today's newspaper tomorrow is a lot less valuable. This may be a bad example because I am not talking about looking into the future.

Let me use a different example. Let’s say you had a professional event (like a meeting for a group of managers or technical staff) and you used a web site to announce the event. You will probably have a large demand for that information soon after it gets posted and people notice it. Then, as the event approaches, the demand (as measured by web traffic) would go up until the day of the meeting when people are doing their last minute verification of the time, place, and possibility getting directions.

Believe it or not, even after the event people will still need that information and there is still value in it. They may have attended the meeting and forgot the sponsor's name or wanted to get contact information for the next meeting or event. Or, they were unable to attend the meeting and wanted to know what the purpose was after the fact. So, in this case, you should not remove the information from the web site the day of the event, or even the day after the event. Ideally, it would be accessible for a long time after the event took place, even though the value of that information and number of hits would eventually diminish to zero.

Since some information like announcements will drop in value over time. It would be nice if Information like that had a TTL (time to live) setting or tag. Other information, such as information on how to do something or factual data or historic information would all have a much longer TTL. There may even be a need for some information to have the TTL set to infinity.

Finally, information like the phone number for a business or the hours of a store that should have a TTL that extends to the point when that information is changed. Then, the old phone number or business hours should no longer exist, because it would no longer be accurate. That kind of factual data has a TTL equal to the moment it changes. In that example, the TTL would be a conditional statement. If new data then TTL=0, else TTL=infinity.



1. Pedro Pinheiro - May 29, 2006

With the decreasing cost of storage and bandwidth, your suggestion could be used to turn on the “archive” flag for a certain piece of information, instead of deleting it. Perhaps it could be standardized, and on search engines we could search for “live” or “archived” information. This would be of great benefit for the future historians – our lifes are now lived a great part online, and we don’t give enough value to current info, but it will be very interesting to track historic changes – tracking the blog post that changed history, for instance!! 😀

2. Matsu - May 29, 2006

Pedro – that’s an interesting idea to have an ‘archive’ flag for data. That would really be interesting if there was a standard followed by everyone so that search engines could allow users to chose live data or achrived date.

3. Chris J. Davis - May 30, 2006

Yeah I agree with Pedro. I have in recent years been brought over to the dark side of web data retention. Namely that once posted content should never disappear.

The idea that there shouldn’t be permenance to the web is a false one. The web by its very nature lends itself to permanent data archival and storage.

Good post.

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