Developers grapple with data all the time, so the idea that someone might characterise data as “broken” is probably not going to take many aback.
But, participating in a panel discussion during the THack event at ITA Software offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Hopper CEO Fred Lalonde certainly had some of the programmers talking even hours later with his assertions that APIs are “evil” and that “XML is dead, we just donâ€™t know it yet”.
The backdrop for Lalondeâ€™s views is what he believes is a period of tech innovation in the works which may one day be compared to the invention of the wheel and the sextant.
Lalonde believes strides in storage technologies, including cloud computing, and open systems will enable travel — and non-travel — companies to process massive amounts of data, and the end product will be tremendously innovative solutions.
Different parties will be able to merge and interpret this data in unforeseen ways, Lalonde maintains.
Referring to Facebookâ€™s “firehose” of a data feed, Lalonde says companies should seek access to the most amount of data possible, although he concedes the hope is that your computers wonâ€™t “blow up” in the process.
APIs are evil, Lalonde says, because they generally provide access to limited amounts of data for individual functions. And, this is a burden to the distribution process, slowing innovation.
XMLâ€™s days are numbered, Lalonde argues, because of its layers of complexity, whereas messaging in this new era of data processing needs to be more “lightweight”.
Of course, there were plenty of developers at the THack who would counter that all technologies die eventually, but XML does have more than a few good years ahead of it.
Other techies on the open-ended panel retold some of their war stories regarding their battles against uncooperative or elusive data.
Todd Williamson, an ITA Software engineer who works on the QPX airfare shopping and pricing system, says years ago ATPCO didnâ€™t have documentation about its faresâ€™ data, but it has â€śgotten betterâ€ť and ATPCO today documents about 80% of its airline data.
“Liberating the data from that perspective was very different than it is now,” Williamson says.
These ITA engineers seem to be preoccupied with data liberation.
Glenn McDonald, who works on ITAâ€™s Needlebase data aggregation tool, grapples with the real-time availability of data and explains that the initial step is to access all the data â€śand liberate it from what it is behind.â€ť
As the THackers in the audience set out to choose which APIs to tap into and to begin work on their 24-hour hacks, the alleged evils, transgressions and liberation of data were definitely on their minds.
NB: Disclosure – Frederic Lalonde is the chairman of Tnooz.