Brad Feld

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Sync vs. Slurp vs. Spew

Oct 12, 2006
Category Technology

While I like TLAs, I much prefer short descriptive words.  I’ve been living in the world of “sync” for a long time, dating back to when – as an early Lotus Notes user – I discovered the joy of “replication.”  While Amy and I never had any replicants running around our house, I have always been infatuated with the notion of one copy of my data being available to me anywhere I happen to me with it always automagically being kept in “sync.” 

In the last few years, I’ve gotten sync working nicely with things other than email.  My Firefox bookmarks/cookies/history is now synced (thanks Google), my RSS stuff is now synced (thanks NewsGator), my files will soon be synced (thanks Tilana), my contact data is sort of synced (um – thanks Plaxo?), all my social networks are – er – wait a sec.  I like working on a desktop so I’ve got them scattered all over the place and – for the most part – whenever I sit down at one it works like all the others.  Except for all that new data I’m generating out there on the web in all those nifty new web applications that TechCrunch reviews every day that I feel compelled to create a user name and password for (wait – what about my password data – why isn’t that synced?)  Shit – maybe it doesn’t work so well.

I was in a meeting the other day where we were talking about two different data modalities whose instantiations are spreading like tribbles.  There are all kinds of fancy names for them – I like to think of them as “slurp” (as in my system can slurp in data from anywhere) and “spew” (as in my system can spew out data to anywhere).  Yeah – I know API’s and Web Services enable all this stuff – and that’s nothing new, but my dad understands slurp and spew a lot better.

The second order issues with slurp and spew are brutal.  Thanks – now I’ve got copies of my data everywhere.  But – unlike sync – when I change something on one system – the receiver needs to know what to do with it.  While sync might solve that, then everyone has to sync with everything and that won’t work.  Or – someone has to come up with a universal sync format – and that won’t ever happen.  Or – everyone just has to trust someone who then has to build a 100% uptime / 100% secure / 100% transparent system.  Yeah right.

A couple of companies that I’m an investor in are doing really clever things with slurp and spew.  I like those words – maybe they’ll stick.