Many people know Metcaff’s law:
the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2)
but it occurs to me we need a new law. Something that goes along the lines of:
the value of a piece of information increases as the square of the number of interfaces that information is exposed via
This thought has been kicking around in my head for the last couple of months after trying out Hiveminder, an online todo list. Unlike other todo list applications I’ve tried Hiveminder strives to provide the same information in as many different ways as possible. There is a website, a mail interface, an IM interface, a twitter interface, an IMAP interface, an iCal interface, etc, etc. I think I sorted out that there are about 12 ways to get access to data in hiveminder. It makes the information so much more useful, because how I need to interact with that information changes depending on the task at hand. I actively use 3 interfaces for Hiveminder on any given day, because how I want to glance at things is different from how I want to edit things.
That todo list is definitely far more valuable to me now that any other todo list that I’ve tried to keep. When you are building some system that is primarily about data, think about this approach to it. The value of the data goes way up if there are more ways to interact with it. Maybe it’s not quite as the square, but I do know that a piece of data available via 2 interfaces is at least twice as valuable as exposed in only one way.