data_selfWe all view the world differently and on our own terms. Each of us use different words to describe the same book, movie, favorite food, person, work of art, or news article. We express our uniqueness by reviewing, tagging, commenting, liking, and rating things online. Taken together, all of this data can be viewed as a reflection of ourselves.

But on Amazon, Facebook, Youtube, IMDb and Yelp our unique interpretations and descriptions of the world are trapped inside separate boxes. The things I love on one service don’t apply to the next app that I download. By isolating my unique contributions, these services make my personal data “small” instead of “big.”

Less data leads to lower quality user experience. There’s no consistency or continuity between different apps and environments. Every time I create a new profile or download a new app I feel like I’m starting all over again. At first I’m reduced to a stereotype who needs to sign in to see irrelevant content or meaningless ads. Fragmented data and inconsistent algorithms provide noise instead of signal.

My interfaces to information are not optimized for me.

I’m inspired by the thought that I should benefit from all of my tags, comments, likes, and reviews across different apps and services. I should be able to continuously contribute in creating a better personal interface to the information around me. I want all of my data to be brought together into my own personal interface.

Before solving the “Big Data” we should figure out the “small” personal part. Algorithms alone can’t make me whole. Different services need my continuous contribution to understand who I really am and what I want. And I believe that apps and services that openly share their data to provide me a better user experience are not far off.

In the future, our data will flow more freely between different services, because that will entice us to contribute even more. If my every tag, comment or “like” improves my user experience across other apps and services, I think I will contribute more actively in the apps that I love.

But when our scattered data becomes available we’ll need technologies to deal with the information that originated from different systems. The evolution of an API ecosystem — that allows developers to bring different data flows together — could provide new tools to process and unite scattered personal data.

Simultaneously, we need systems that can capture and contextualize my data faster and without an extra-effort on my part. They should learn from my every interaction — be it touch, speech or a facial expression — to enable me to express my unique interests and intentions.

Then my fragmented personal contributions will start to come together. My likes, reviews and retweets will serve me everywhere. I’ll be deliberately creating and completing my digital self to help different apps and services understand me better. Everyone wins.

However, we are still missing that killer app to combine my different data flows. Why shouldn’t there be a mobile device or a TV that uses my Amazon, Rdio, IMDb, Facebook and Twitter data topped by my Yelp profile to optimize my home screen? How about a browser with an adaptive interface that automatically provides pages based on my digital footprint, crowd-wisdom and smart algorithms thus avoiding filter bubbles and social echo-chambers?

What will be the next big thing, a great paradigm shift that follows “Portal,” “Search” and “Social Feed”? Will it be a service or a device that safely unites my scattered personal data and provides a better, more accurate interfaces to the world around me — by understanding who I really am?

Then my data becomes my interface, and I am then whole, digitally and in reality.

[Image courtesy psd]