Thursday, November 16, 2006

Provenance of Life

We are moving. Our current landlord claims the carpet is "new". Although it does not look like a new one at all, and I remember it was not very clean when I moved in one year ago, we do not have any evidence to support our point. The landlord also blames us that we did not report problems to them promptly. Having consulted the university accommodation officer, we now learn that we had better write to them and keep a photocopy of the letter.

The evidence matters. The evidence could be pictures, receipts, letters, or anything concrete, not transient, but retrievable. Furthermore, the evidences should not be isolated. They should be logically linked together, and finally lead to some conclusion. Put it in another way, when we see an event in the life, we would like to "see" the complete process that leads to this event. By "see" we really mean to reconstruct it in a convincible way.

My boss is investigating a "provenance" project, which defines "the provenance of a piece of data is the process that led to that piece of data". The aim of the project is to "to conceive a computer-based representation of provenance that allows us to perform useful analysis and reasoning ...".

I argue we also need provenance support in our lives. Important facts should be documented in a retrievable and searchable way, for instance, in a computer-based way. We should keep recording provenance of life.

Google advocates searching instead of organizing. Ideally, as long as we record the provenance of life in our computer or on the internet, there should be a way to query and retrieve it.

I am interested in all techniques to improve productivity. It is great that some software could help to record the provenance of life an query over it, which will definitely improve our productivity of life.

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