Streams and the PRIME Model

Visionary computer scientist David Gelernter recently wrote an opinion piece for Wired in which he threw out this provocative proposal: the end of the Web, search, and browsers as we know them. From the tenor of comments posted on the Wired web site, many people think Gelernter is mad, or on drugs. Perhaps there’s a method to this alleged drug-fueled madness.

Exit the browser, enter the stream

To sum up, Gelernter’s piece foresees the method of stream-based timeline browsing featured in RSS feeds, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn becoming the norm. These streams, he proclaims, will replace the static web site as the default interface for people using computers. Further, the computers themselves will change from being the relatively static devices of the past and present and become a real-time extension of our consciousness, connecting us to all the available streams, and which we can customize to form our personal lifestream. Google’s Chromebook concept, which I wrote about yesterday, seems to be a step in this direction, Chromebook makes the whole computer a browser. In Gelernter’s future, the whole computer will become a stream presenter.

How PRIME fits in

For those who haven’t read this site, I have a conceptual framework for how humans interact with data. I call it PRIME for its component activities: producing, reviewing, investigating, monitoring, and extrapolating. Further, I propose that one can envision use cases for business intelligence applications based on these activities. For example, much of what is called business intelligence begins with reviewing a report or chart, followed by investigating causes behind the reported results, and ending in the production of new information in the form of decisions or some other output.

Viewed in the PRIME context, Gelernter’s real message is that monitoring (one of the PRIME components), in this case the monitoring of a stream, will become the preferred activity of computer users. Instead of having to go check your email account every now and then, the stream will herald the arrival of a new message, which you can choose to review (another PRIME component) now or later. Thinking about it, this is really about technology catching up to the way the human brain naturally works. As we live in the moment, we constantly monitor our surroundings. When something  catches our eye, we investigate it, think about what it means, extrapolate our thoughts into the future (“if I don’t move that bus will hit me!”). Later, we may discuss this experience with another person (producing new information) that the other person can then review.

All of these concepts have potential applications in the way we distribute data in our organizations. Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, and others: are you monitoring this stream?

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