In Search of the AndrewPWilson Data API

Our footprints in the digital world are deep and they extend farther than we can readily comprehend. We have been told that this information is of tremendous value to marketers and that this value will only grow as tools and services create additional data (think foursquare, GoWalla, etc.) and further the translation of this information into more personalized and targeted advertising. There is no end to commentaries on related personal privacy issues as well as discussions covering the seemingly beneficial trade offs of allowing access to personal data. My recent thinking around this is that if I am using a service or buying a product, I want access to all of the data that I am generating. Not just the information that is commonly held out as being inherently beneficial, such as my personal health information, but ALL of my data. This includes things such as my:

  • Grocery Shopping: This information would be useful when paired with other financial data and with any nutritional tracking that I may do.
  • Ratings: Having the ability to easily access all of my ratings – books, services, restaurants, hotels, videos, music, etc. – in one centralized location would be a big step forward. Moreover, my recent experience with the Who Gives a Tweet platform showed me the value in examining, from a more meta perspective, my own preferences and biases. How I rate and evaluate different sites, services, business and content provides personal insight on many different levels.
  • Social Media Connections & Interactions: Understanding our social graph and how, when & where we interact with friends, family & colleagues will become an increasingly important skill for people trying to navigate a digitally enmeshed world. Comprehensive, unlimited access to the entire catalog of your connections, posts and status updates holds incredible value. (Note: I tested out Tweetstream this week and this only confirmed this assumption).
  • Digital Consumption Patterns: Google Reader Trends is a good, though far too simple, step in this direction. For example, I would love to know how much time I spend using individual websites and apps. Imagine if you could easily calculate the cost per unit of time used for the apps you purchase on iTunes?

What, specifically, would this look like – I’m not entirely sure. I can imagine something along the lines of a personalized RSS feed associated with every site or service. Even better, when you sign up for a service and click on the terms of service agreement, you automatically get a prompt asking if you want to subscribe to your own data (again seeing something akin to Google Reader for data). In the brick and mortar world, the data pipeline could be connected to your use of digital currency. Every time you swipe you card or enter a PIN number, your bank could be authorized to pull related data into a personalized data warehouse (and then into your preferred UI for visualization and analysis).

I realize all the complexitites involved with this and that there could be some serious privacy and data security issues to navigate. However, having used a nutrition and exercise tracking app (LoseIt) for most of this year, I have seen firsthand the power of having access to and being intimately aware of my own personal data. Knowledge is power and if I am responsible for the creation and generation of this knowledge, then I want access this to this power.

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