What We Talk About When We Talk About Structured Data (Part 3)

August 24, 2010 at 2:17 pm Leave a comment

In this post, the final attempt at making structured data make sense in our daily lives, we’re going to examine one last way that we use structured data. Part one was about baseball, and how statistics are captured and presented to followers of the sport. Part two focused on baking, and how synoptic reporting can find the most concise way of presenting the record of a particular event. So what is this final part of the trilogy about? Is it a synthesis of these Baseball and Baking? Baseking? Bakeball?

Best of Both Worlds

Sorry, David Wells, but I’m going with another All-American past time. Let’s jump in the car and hit the open road as we talk about driving directions!

Was it ever established why the fish don't fry in the kitchen?

We’ve all received those invitations for some event with the directions appearing in large block paragraphs. It looks more like a riddle to be solved than steps to get from here to there. Here’s an example of directions presented in a paragraph form, this one showing how to get from our mTuitive offices to MGM Grand at Foxwoods:

From mTuitive office, drive on Old Stage Road towards Route 6W. Stay on RT 6W as it merges with/becomes MA-25W and then I-195W until you reach the exit for I-95 South (to New York). Take I-95 South to Exit 92 in Connecticut. Go straight at the stoplight. At the next stoplight, turn right onto Route 2 West for eight miles. Take the Foxwoods Blvd / Ledyard Center exit. At the bottom of the exit bear right and take a left at the third light to arrive at the MGM Grand.


Again, it lays out everything perfectly fine, and if I were to follow them, I would be able to adequately go from work to losing all of my money at the craps table.

You Hustlin' Me, Boy?


Another way of viewing these directions is using the format one gets from a GPS device or from Google Maps.

1.Head west on Falmouth Rd toward Old Stage Rd – 0.2 mi
2.Turn right at Old Stage Rd – 2.0 mi
3.Turn right to stay on Old Stage Rd – 1.1 mi
4.Slight left at Service Rd0. – 4 mi
5.Take the 1st right onto Meetinghouse Way – 0.1 mi
6.Merge onto US-6 W via the ramp to Boston/Providence – 11.1 mi
7.Exit onto US-6 W/Scenic Hwy toward Buzzards Bay Continue to follow US-6 W – 3.9 mi
8.Take the MA-28 S/MA-25 W ramp to Falmouth the Islands/I-495 – 0.1 mi
9.Keep left at the fork to continue toward MA-25 W and merge onto MA-25 W – 9.4 mi
10.Take exit 1 to merge onto I-195 W toward New Bedford/Providence Rl Entering Rhode Island – 42.1 mi
11.Take exit 6 toward US-44 – 0.1 mi
12.Turn right at Broadway – 0.2 mi
13.Slight left at N Broadway – 0.6 mi
14.Slight right onto the ramp to Providence E – 0.2 mi
15.Merge onto Henderson Expy – 0.5 mi
16.Continue onto Henderson Bridge – 0.3 mi
17.Continue onto S Angell – 0.6 mi
18.Turn left at Gano St – 0.7 mi
19.Turn right to merge onto I-195 W/US-44 W/US-6 W Continue to follow I-195 W – 0.8 mi
20.Take the exit onto I-95 S toward New York Entering Connecticut – 39.0 mi
21.Take exit 92 for CT-49 toward CT-2/Pawcatuck/No. Stonington – 0.2 mi
22.Merge onto State Hwy 617 – 0.9 mi
23.Sharp right at CT-2 W/Norwich-Westerly Rd – 0.8 mi
24.At the traffic circle, continue straight onto CT-2 W/Norwich-Westerly Rd/Providence-New London Turnpike Continue to follow CT-2 W/Norwich-Westerly Rd (Destination will be on the left) – 6.7 mi


Personally, I use the latter version of directions. I know each step I need to take. If someone asked me how I arrived at the destination, I provide him with that sheet and he would know exactly how I did it. He may not know how fast I did it, but he knows how much distance was covered. And while there’s no connective verbiage, our minds turn the list into a sequence with events occurring after each other.

This is structured data – isolated points of information that are easy to reference, research and use however you see fit. When formatted in such a manner, data becomes easier to see, easier to find, easier to use. It is most assuredly different than unstructured text – but it’s not inferior. Nor is it a new system of interpreting the world or recording events. Structured data is everywhere:

  • instructions for assembling furniture
  • programming your smartphone
  • your email program
  • searching for books on Amazon
  • Health facilities

Much of the information that is captured at a health facility is in structured form – from the schedule to vital signs. Structured data enables you to look up patients by age, sex, nationality or specific ailments. Pieces of information are isolated in unique fields where they are readily available when you need them. And each piece is brought together with related pieces of data so that one bit of information is now part of something larger – every Big Picture is built on the contributions of multiple pixels.

What we’re talking about today is the strength and power of structured data. It’s not a new concept. It’s just a new term that most of us probably haven’t heard before – and now it’s being applied to a very old and familiar idea. Structured data allows a specificity that eludes records when there is no formatting. It is the foundation for creating a universal language that will inform decisions and treatments and whole schools of thoughts in the medical world. That’s what we mean when we talk about the “power of structured data” – and that’s why we believe it’s the future of medical reporting.

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Structured Data (Part 2) In Remembrance

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