Thursday, 26 July 2007

Classified Information

You'll have noticed recently that I've been having to translate a little bit of what I say into American English because I talk in British English, or even "English English", or maybe just English. Being, that is, as I am from England, land of the Angles, where English is from.

Apparently most Americans think England is somewhere in London. Confusingly enough, the Angles, after (for) whom England is named, hail from Angeln, in Northern Germany, and the majority of UK inhabitants have their roots in Anglo-Saxon - a partnering of the Angles with the Saxons of Northern France. There's all sorts of other influences, from Scandinavia in the North to the Celts in the North and West, even Denmark and Holland have some sort of claim over our dialectical diversity and web-fingered ancestry, which goes some way to explaining why they speak funny up North.

As a result we're marked out as a half German, half French mongrel breed of heathens who speak a hundred different dialects, and yet, or maybe because, the rest of the world uses our language for business and leisure activities. And they still call it English! All this and I can't speak a word of German, Spanish, Welsh or Chinese. I get by in French, but most of them speak English these days so I just speak nice and loud when I'm over there, just to make my point clear. :)

I mentioned earlier a quote from Vannevar Bush about how the human mind operates, and how it is completely NOT the same as a computer. He put it a bit better than I did, but then I'm still alive, so I have the last word. What Van was getting at is basically what we call "tagging" today. At the bottom of this post you will see the words "language", "data classification", "English", and "The Welsh". These are the tags I have chosen to associate with this post. That's because I know what I'm talking about.

Or do I? Perhaps you will read this post and come up with "Vannevar Bush", "Germans", "Scandinavia" and "sausages" (oh yes, there's exciting things to come!) Maybe you are a computer and you've just scanned for the most used words, "I", "English", etc.

And here you have the first issue in data-classification. A sensible, meaningful way of tagging things which everyone can use. "One man's meat is another man's poison" as they say in English. "I say tomato, you say tomato" as the song goes, although that's maybe not such a good example now I read it...

Anyway, you'll see that in a closed system, this can work. I believe Mr. Christofer Hoff has such a system in his magical boxes at Crossbeam. As long as 1 entity is making all the tags, and monitoring the usage, all is well. Actually, even if one person is doing it, it can get tricky. A computer can do it reasonably well. Restricting the number and type of tags is a good way for example.

So this is classification, but we need to have a reason to do it. Once it's done, it has myriad functions with which it can assist. Classified data inside a controlled network is a security dream, and therefore completely unrealistic to achieve. So how are we to convince people that it's worth doing?

I'll tell you tomorrow. Sorry not to mention sausages until now.

P.S. My passport says I'm British, from the United Kingdom, but I think as myself as English, mainly to separate myself from the Welsh. Of course I have many great friends who are Welsh, having studied in the West Country, but there is still a great mutual disrespect between us which I admire in the leek-munching sheep worriers.

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