Tim muses briefly on how he thinks about the data on his computer. If there’s ever a time and a place to have this kind of thinking widely deployed, it is now. So I make a lazyweb request: If you’re a designer, I’d like to see a t-shirt that has something like this: On one side, we have a 2 column chart. The headings for the columns will be “You:” and “Me:”. Under the “You:” heading is the phrase “data”, or “office documents”. Under the “Me:” heading is “Intellectual heritage”. On the back, I want it to say something like “You created it. Why should the software you use own it?”
Gah, there’s a reason why I’m not in marketing. Look, if you need a clue, here’s a good one. You create something using commercial software, which you don’t own, but is licensed to you by the vendor. Odds are pretty good that the software you use isn’t the best at doing anything you might need it to be good at. Maybe you love a certain word processor’s UI, but hate the way they make you build tables in the document. If you saved your document using that software’s proprietary file format, you will have to use the crappy table layout feature. On the other hand, if you could save it in an open, publically documented and standardised format, then you can shop around for any other program that just might do tables better than the first program, and use it just for your tables. You get to do whatever you want with your creation. If that’s not freedom, I don’t know what is.
One not-very-related thought that Tim’s musings brings to mind is that this is so important, that for almost none of us to have gotten the point right away must imply that our mandatory history classes have failed to teach us some important lessons. Lessons about racial memory. Lessons about how much we can’t learn because information was truly, permanently lost to us.