This editorial was orignally published on Dec 8, 2009. It is being re-run as Steve is on vacation.
There’s a new book from Microsoft Research called Total Recall. It’s actually on my list to read soon. It’s from Gordon Bell of Microsoft Research, and it talks about the idea of life logging, of capturing things about what you do and what you’ve done, in audio, video, and text. These might be things that are private, available to you and not the public. Or things that you might want to share with some people, like your family, but not others. Dr. Bell actually carried around devices to record his life for a long time, with the idea of working through the technological hurdles of life logging.
Whether you think you’d like this in your life or not, it’s an interesting knowledge idea for companies or individuals. Maybe it’s a good idea for programmers or DBAs. What if you could have all the code you’d ever written? What about tests of that code and the applications where it had been used? Would a walkthrough of tuning efforts you’d made for some types of SQL or even queries that solved particular challenges be useful? What about a walkthrough of the changes to your schema across time?
There are some interesting possibilities here in terms of your career work. If you could add meta data, annotations, correlations between emails, requests for work, problems, your particular implementation, and then the later results, you might learn from your mistakes quicker. You could perform some type of root-cause analysis of your efforts across time, or on a system and find out what you are doing wrong, or what you’re doing well.
I don’t know how well you could analyze someone’s work and help them find out what they’re doing well or not well. I also have some serious concerns about the privacy and security of the details about someone’s efforts being shared without their consent, or even the ownership of this data. But I think there are some great possibilities here as we develop new, and cheaper, ways to collect and store all kinds of data.
At the very least having a “life log” of a server might prove to be a very valuable troubleshooting tool.