Unless you’re living off the grid, or a paranoid rendition of Tony Soprano operating on a cash basis and only taking in-person meetings -- your life is full of streams of data that track what you are doing

If Tony Has a Data Stream...

Heck, come to think of it -- Tony probably has a pile of phony receipts he uses for taxes both personal and for the waste management company he runs, so he also has a stream of data about his activities (albeit a fabricated one), and I’ll bet Meadow Soprano talks about him indirectly via her MySpace and Facebook status updates.

The feds probably have files and photos -- and although they are not on Flickr. They are stored and tagged in a secure database somewhere. So, scratch that. Tony Soprano has a definite data stream circulating that will be measurable at some point in the future.

If Tony has a data stream out there you should assume most of us do. Especially those of us that are here at SXSWi.

Streaming Data by Choice

We’re all over the place and many of us have our data set out for public consumption by choice. And that’s where Chris Messina (@Chrismessina) comes into play. He’s taking this baseline reality that we all have data streams out there and building on some great foundational elements and theories all of which culminate into the notion of an activity stream.

In his talk today -- Activitystrea.ms (#gettingstreamy) -- Chris explained the history of activity streams, and what they are. Hopefully I’ll be able to do him justice…

The Evolution of Activity Streams

For the folks that process information in equations, this is what I understood:

  • First (circa 1999) there was RSS defined as RSS = title + link + description.
  • Then, after six years (2005) of progress there was ATOM defined as ATOM=RSS + author + unique id + when updated. Six years of progress got us three new elements.
  • Today, we’re talking about activity streams defined as Activity Stream = ATOM + actor + verb + object. Three is the magic number (De La Soul anyone) of new elements apparently.

Historical equations representing how we got here aside, there is a reason that Chris is spending his time on this. Mostly it comes down to solving a problem for many (how thoughtful) by setting open standards.

The idea being that with a small incremental change in the variables tracked, we should be able to improve the story that can be told through the contributions people are making without asking anyone to significantly change how or what they are doing.

Endless Possibilities in the Future

Looking to future applications of the data being collected, there are endless possibilities. For example, taking all the data from Flickr, iLike, Twitter, Facebook and aggregating the data to create a story telling depiction of what you were experiencing, feeling, and projecting to the outside world during a specific life event like meeting your future wife, or when your child entered your life, or when you got that big promotion, or finished rebuilding a home for a Katrina victim’s family.

This story is told by the music you were listening to, the pictures you were taking, the comments you were posting the people you were befriending. That’s some pretty cool stuff right there and from what I can tell it sounds like we are headed in the right direction with activity streams. Interested in learning more? You can do so at http://activitystrea.ms.