Tuesday, July 15, 2008

WALL•E and Enterprise Data Landfills

"Life is nothing but imperfection and the computer likes perfection, so we spent probably 90% of our time putting in all of the imperfections, whether it's in the design of something or just the unconscious stuff. "
-Andrew Stanton, director of Disney/Pixar's WALL-E, in an interview on the topic of graphic detailing.

I'm enough of a sci-fi geek that I had to take my kids to see WALL*E the day it opened. I found it so entertaining that, while on vacation, I started browsing around the internet... digging for addititonal tidbits about the backstory.

I came across the quote, above, initially on Wikipedia's Wall-E page.

The simple truth carries across all applications of contemporary computer technology. Technology tools are designed for the "general" cases, and yet, more and more often, we're running into the imperfect, inconsistent, outlying, and exceptional cases.

To follow the thought along, perhaps 90% of what we do as software developers is about trying to get a grip on the complexities of... everything we get to touch on. I guess the remaining 10% would be akin to the root classes... the "Object" class, and the first few subordinates, for example.

Andrew Stanton's quote reminds me of the 90-10 rule of software engineering... 90% of the code is implemented in 10% of the time. (conversely, the remaining 10% of the code is implemented in the remaining 90% of time). I tend to think of this one as a myth, but it's fun thought.

It's dealing with the rough fringes of our data that's among the industry's current challenges, but it's not just corporate data landfills.

I recently heard a report that suggested that technology will get to the point that commercially available vehicles with an auto-pilot will be available within the next 20 or so years. What's really the difference, to a computer, between financial data, and, say, navigational sensor data?

So to flip that idea on its head, again, and you could have more intelligent artificial agents spelunking through data warehouses... WALL-DW ? (Data Warehouse edition)

Then again, I wonder if the 80-20% rule isn't what gets us into our binds to begin with.
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