As I work through the XML, tab & comma separated, and spreadsheet strewn landscape of federal government data as part of my Adopta.Agency work, I’m constantly reminded of how the data being published is often retribution, more than it is anything of actual use. Most of what I find, despite much of it being part of some sort of “open data” or “data portability” mandate is not actually meant to be usable by its publishers.
In between the cracks of my government open data work, I’m also dealing with the portability of my own digital legacy, and working to migrate exported Evernote notes into my system, as well as legacy Tweets from my Twitter archive download. While the communicated intent of these exports from Evernote and Twitter may be about data portability, like the government data, they really do not give a shit about you actually doing anything with the data.
The requests for software as a service providers, and government agencies to produce open data versions of our own user or public data, has upset the gate-keepers, resulting in what I see as passive aggressive data portability vomit–here you go, put that to use!! A president mandating that us database administrators open up our resources, and give up our power? Ha! The users who helped us grow into a successful startup, actually want a copy of their data? Ha! Fuck you! Take that!
This is why there is so much data janitorial work today, because many of us are playing the role of janitor in the elementary school that is information technology (IT), and constantly coming across the data portability vomit that the gatekeepers of legacy IT power structures (1st and 2nd graders), and the 2.0 silicon valley version (3rd and 4th graders), produce. You see, they don’t actually want us to be successful, and this is one of the ways they protect the power they perceive they possess.