The internet is really a vast sea of information, where each URL, each blog post, each highlight, is a lonely island in the ocean. I’m most interested in how we can improve the way we create and document connections among disparate bits of information, such as news pieces, long-form articles, blog posts, comments, photographs, highlights, and tweets. I’m most interested in how all these things taken together, with annotation, can create new meaning, and start new conversations. No good tools exist for this yet. We have text files, Evernote files, Simplenote files, but those are inaccessible to others, hidden away in the ether an on our hard drives. We can collect these items on blogs, though our current tools make it difficult to annotate in a meaningful, semantic, public way. Comment threading is just a start, but not suited to this larger purpose. I see this as the an important challenge the internet needs to solve.
2 thoughts on “Cobbling meaning and conversation”
Compelling challenge. It’s almost like the stream of consciousness in our brains is spread across the internet now, with no mind to make sense of it all. Moving from a background in academic writing, where everything is carefully cited, to blogging was strange at first–a hyperlink standing in as a citation–but ultimately freeing. I can write my opinions–and write out my personal take on how things I’ve read are interconnected–without worrying about making an airtight case. But, just like a thought that goes unspoken, what is a blog post that goes unread? Just another lonely island in a tsunami of information. Sometimes I feel like the information and social connections online are moving too quickly to truly take it in, process it, and make meaning out of it all.
There is collaborative movement called the Semantic Web which I believe aims to solve part of the problem you’ve identified. But it’s progress or uptake has been slow. The general idea being that documents are self describing in some form, so that extracting identifying data from them is much simpler. This would mean building links automatically between related documents could become a reality, effectively creating a “web of data” rather than just a web of unrelated documents which is largely what we have now. It’s an interesting idea, but I expect almost impossible to implement especially in the short to medium term. It is certainly a huge challenge, but unlocking it could transform the way we use the web.
Thanks for the follow, it’s very much appreciated!