Personally I really enjoyed the recent advert for Microsoft Bing showing people apparently losing control of their minds and just spouting various disconnected facts triggered from a slight relationship to the topic. To the question ‘where can I get a greenhouse like yours’ comes the answers green bananas, green tea, etc; an experience that we are all familiar with in using various forms of search and tags. The punch line at the end was ‘what has information overload done to us?’
I guess there are two questions; one is the cost and issues about how and where to store the increasing amount of data; and the other is are there better ways to find and consume information? The first answer is immediately concerning, and has been an issue for some years, but it’s about to take a hockey stick curve upwards again. The rapidly increasing volume to store and its cost has been a painful matter for some time, but the storage vendors have used a mixture of technology and commercial deals around pay as you use to give ‘more for less’, as well as adding sophistication with tools for de-duplication, compression etc to still further help.

The challenge is about to become how we access the data, and that’s a combination of its unstructured nature and shifting to requiring real time access from tablets, phones, etc that are not designed to have onboard storage in the manner of a PC. I already drew attention to this in a recent blog under the title, ‘It’s not the individual technologies – it’s the solution implications’ in which I pointed out that smart and interesting new devices such as the Apple MacBook AIR have huge implications for systems design, and in particular storage.
This time I want to draw attention to the other question; ‘are there better ways to find and consume information?’. It was this very question posed and answered by Qwiki at the September TechCrunch Disrupt SF event that got me excited. To win the $50,000 top prize, and to get the tough geek audience to break into spontaneous applause, meant beating more than 500 other entries. The two runners-up CloudFlare and Pinger both came up with strongly commercial improvements to existing operational issues, but Qwiki showed, LIVE and by INTERACTING with the audience, that theirs wasn’t a canned demo, and has a real disruptive potential capability.
The introduction by the two founders stated their vision for the future of information consumption through ‘Information Experiences’ which render information into experiences that we can watch. Asking questions on a topic produces an instant Qwiki which mashes together data from various sources into an interactive audio experience that is absolutely the right way to present information for consumption on a tablet or a smartphone. Frankly you just have to watch the video of their demonstration, and the best piece comes at the end when they prove it is live and real by getting the audience to ask for information on obscure topics. Unbelievable was my first reaction, and that was when the audience broke into spontaneous applause! So sit somewhere quiet and watch the video on their main site.
Now reflect on what you have watched: is it Data as a Service? Is it Crowd Sourcing? Streaming Video? Real Time Analytics? Frankly it’s all of them, and has the feel to me of being another real disruptive breakthough at exactly the right time to catch the wind of all of these technologies becoming mainstream. It’s only at an Alpha release currently, but just think what could be done with Qwiki if it comes with some open APIs that allow it to be embedded into other services. I am willing to bet that it will be a viral hit and spread through the ‘hot’ crowd wanting to use it, and show it off, on their tablets and Android phones!
Mmm – now think a little harder about what this is going to do to your network and storage issues, more system consequences, but in the shift to devices and video I doubt it will be easy to stop. On the other hand is Qwiki going to be the driver of the shift to Data as a Service, just as Yammer has been the driver to Social Networks as a Service? Would you choose have an in-house version or is Qwiki just another pointer to the new technology wave based on external ‘services’ models?