Importing your data into the UBOS Personal Data Mesh



Now that you have obtained your personal data from Facebook, Google or Amazon, and you have the Docker container running, you will:

  • import some or all of the personal data you obtained;

  • then, with your web browser, you browse the data that you just imported, served by the UBOS Personal Data Mesh, not Facebook and the like.


This is an engineering preview. Many things are still expected to change before this becomes a released product suitable for end users. For example, the various importers do not cover all exported data yet, the user interface needs lots of work, the entire import process in this tutorial is something only a hard-core geek could love (whom it is written for, so you can understand how things work instead of hiding them under lots of eye candy), and there many other issues. Expect bugs, too. (Please file them.)

But it’s good enough to give you a taste. So in this spirit, carry on!

Put the downloaded data into the right place

Copy the files you obtained from Facebook, Google, or Amazon:

  • not in the the same directory where you ran the docker command, but:
  • in its sub-directory named shared.
  • If you downloaded Amazon data and you followed our advice to store all Amazon files in a separate directory, copy that entire directory into shared as a subdirectory. Do not commingle individual files from the Amazon export with files from Google or Facebook in the same directory.
  • Do not uncompress the files. The importer needs the formats in which the data was exported.

Log into the Docker container as user ubosdev

Converting the data and pushing it into the UBOS Personal Data Mesh needs to be done from inside the Docker container, where the UBOS Personal Data Mesh runs. So in another terminal, log into the Docker container as pre-configured user ubosdev:

% sudo docker exec -i -t -u ubosdev demo-ubos-mesh /bin/bash

We will be performing data conversion and import in this terminal.

Convert the obtained data into the Universal Personal Data format

Remember the shared directory into which you copied your data files a couple of steps back? This directory has been mounted into your container at directory ~ubosdev/shared (i.e. directory shared below your user’s home directory). Go to that directory in the container terminal:

% cd ~/shared

Then, for each of the data files you obtained from Facebook or Google, run the mesh-converter command, replacing the file names suitably. For example, if your Facebook export file is called, you might want to invoke the converter like this:

% mesh-converter --in --out facebook-williamsmith.mesh

The --in argument specifies the name of the input file, the --out that of the converted export file. We recommend you use the .mesh extension.

For the Amazon data, use the name of the directory as the --in argument, e.g. like this:

% mesh-converter --in amazon/ --out amazon.mesh

If you have three exports, this should give you three .mesh files, which contain your exported data in the Universal Personal Data format.


Some people are far more active online than others. Depending on that, your data files may be significantly larger (or smaller) than other people’s. Factors of 1000 are not unheard of. Depending on this, your conversion times may be seconds, or take a long time.

In this engineering preview, for now, if you have large data files, you may run out of memory, depending on how much RAM your computer has available. Sorry about that, we’ll fix that for production.

Interlude: the problem with repeat imports

Now we have the data in the Universal Personal Data format.

We could take that converted data as-is, and send it over to the UBOS Personal Data Mesh. This would work, but only the first time! What if we exported, say, our Facebook data again in six months, and tried to re-import it? We would have lots of duplicates on the UBOS Personal Data Mesh, and what if some data was actually deleted in the meantime? We’d end up with a big mess.

Alternatively we could delete the old version of the data on the UBOS Personal Data Mesh before importing the new version. But we don’t want to do that either: if we did, all annotations the user might have created on their imported data, and all relationships between the imported data and other data, would become orphaned and useless. Another potential mess.

We don’t like messes on the UBOS Personal Data Mesh. So instead, we send a delta to the UBOS Personal Data Mesh, i.e. only the differences between the most recent export from some data source (like Facebook), and the second-most recent export of the same data that we imported last time.

Right now, this is our very first import, so the baseline (the “last import”) is empty. Run the following command for each one of your .mesh files. Adjust the name of the --out file suitable. We recommend you use the .peertalk extension.

For example:

% cd ~/shared
% mesh-differencer --in facebook-williamsmith.mesh --baselineempty --out facebook-williamsmith.peertalk

When we have a new version of some data (e.g. the Facebook data), say exported 6 months later, we would specify the previous import file as the (then non-empty) baseline, so we only push the difference to the UBOS Personal Data Mesh.

Let’s send the delta over to the UBOS Personal Data Mesh

Like this, for each one of the .peertalk files you created, such as:

% mesh-peertalk push --in facebook-williamsmith.peertalk

Like all “data load” operations everywere in computing, his will take a little while. Once the command prints out “Success”, the UBOS Personal Data Mesh will have imported that data file.

Browse the imported data

Refresh your browser window at http://localhost:1080/ (not: 8080 as in the screenshot.) The “No data” message has gone away, and instead you see a search field, and a categorization of the data objects currently held by the UBOS Personal Data Mesh.

The end of this tutorial

You have made it to the end of this tutorial! Here are some ideas for next steps:

  • To stop your container, enter ^C (control-C) in the shell where you are running docker-compose. This will:

    • delete the (mock) data you uploaded to the UBOS Personal Data Mesh
    • but not the converted files in the shared directory.

    When running the container again, you can always load the data again with commands such as:

    % mesh-peertalk push --in facebook-williamsmith.peertalk
  • Please file issues with anything odd you encounter.