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The topic and theme presented by Mr. Gelernter resonate with other information-centric aspects of the interaction of technology and the economy with recent cultural trends. The rapid upshot of various kinds of time-streaming via the internet and mobile devices constitutes a dramatic departure from modes of interaction and communication which have heretofore been possible.

However, Gelernter's metaphor of "time-indexed" as opposed to "space-arranged" as a new paradigm for organizing data has some shortcomings, in my opinion. I would suggest that *data* is still organized by humans in a spatial, categorical fashion, even if the files, folders, and rooms are electronic and virtual. This is particularly true if the data is viewed as being something which has informational value and which may be desired to be located or randomly accessed on demand.

Although archives of conversations -- be they email, blogs, forums, or social network updates -- contain a time-ordered record of streaming experiences, information, opinions, facts, and thoughts, it seems to me that the recent advent of time-streaming is a completely new development and dimension when it comes to human interaction with each other and the web.

Streaming in and of itself is not the most natural way to organize data, if only because, if left untended or groomed, streams upon streams will defy the temporal mode of the mind to remember, locate, and recall specific points in the stream -- however much we may recall experiencing a particular event in a past stream.

There is also the issue of time itself. It takes time to simply monitor and interact with a variety of streaming interfaces -- to the extreme that a growing percentage of the younger generation are becoming glued to the hip with their realtime mobile updates of their current experience in the world as they move through it. At some point, the "cup runneth over", and, as the cursor of time moves on, previous stream interactions fade into the fuzzy fabric of historical minutiae.

I would offer up two "use cases" which might be illustrative. First, consider the (now outdated and unheard of) practice where people would record radio broadcasts on reel-to-reel tape. A simplex radio broadcast is of course an early form of streaming :) Those who would record radio programs would need to put the tape in a carton and label the carton with not just the date of the recording but also -- in order to have any chance of 'indexing the stream archive' at a later time -- the pseudo-random sequence of music titles recorded from the broadcast. This is an early example of recording metadata needed to locate information in a stream.

One of the issues with current streaming interfaces, as discussed elsewhere in these Techonomy sessions, is the *absence* of metadata which accompanies unstructured streams. Another issue is the simple fact that, to replay or access stream archives, time itself is required. The more time-based streams that we record and archive, the less likely that we will ever be able to replay or re-experience them because of the unbounded accumulation of former time and the unsuitability of "time acceleration" to revisit them given the limitations of current (and finite) time.

A second example, which is closer to the point that Gelernter makes, is the use of "labels" (keyword attributes) which users of gmail can assign to tag emails, as well as the grouping by gmail of emails sharing the same subject into "conversations" (threads). This is a good example of 'organizing' stream/conversation content for later use. Surprisingly, gmail does not allow the sorting of emails, which is a gratuitous gripe that I will throw in while on the subject.


I think David Gelernter is likely to be more widely regarded as a greedy and self serving patent squatter trying to squeeze money out of others who have actually built commercial successful implementations of patents that he has absolutely no comparable implementation of (either existing or imminent).

As a get rich quick scheme, trying to get your mits on some "eff you" money by exploiting a software patent of dubious integrity has proven quite effective in the past (especially, but not exclusively, in the US) but it tends to leave people with the lasting impression that you're a douchebag.

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