How much information?

Given this blog’s name we were very interested to meet up again with Michael Nelson, recently of IBM and now visiting professor at Georgetown University, teaching courses including “The Future of the Internet” and “What Shapes the Global Information Society.” Nelson was until last year director of IBM’s Internet technology and strategy, helping to implement the thoughts of people like the recently retired Irving Wladawsky-Berger and John Patrick, as well as deep involvement in various Internet Society and United Nations efforts in Internet governance. I met him in the 1990s during the various meetings that led to the creation of ICANN in 1998, during which time he left the FCC (after a stint at the Clinton White House) and joined IBM.

We met at an IBM event announcing its plans for Cognos, the acquisition of which closed at the end of January. Nelson chaired a panel of a couple of Cognos customers – one that sold pizza and one that sold gardening tools, but both of which were grappling with rapidly increasing volumes of data within their corporations and both of which used Cognos’ tools to try and do more than just figure out what they have – to actually figures out how their business are performing and how they might to do in the future – performance management tools, leading to business optimization in IBM-Cognos parlance.

Nelson’s only been there for three months, but one of the projects his students are working on is to measure the amount of data on the Internet; of course he acknowledges that depending on what you count as being ‘on the Internet’ (is a company’s on the Internet?) he and his students could be out by factors of 5, 10 or whatever. I will be finding out more soon and will report back here.