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Creating bigger needles

September 25, 2008

Coming in late to the keynote this morning and one I have been looking forward to on the linke between search and knowledge. Peter Morville is the speaker. I’m late in part due to some editing duties on WIkipedia (trying to get support to rehabilitate a hopefully reformed sock puppet). So its a bit of surprise to sit down and hear the links between Wikipedia and Goggle being talked about. Good point made that we use Google to search for something, which then often leads us to a Wikipedia page on the subject. Wikipedia editors are in the main motivated by creating good content, so you have a symbiosis between content creation and search, something that the speaker advocates should be part of any organisational solution. Ten minutes in and this is good stuff. Have ordered his book while he speaks; this is what you come to conferences for.

There is a lot here so I am going to share my notes with the odd comment.

Talking about how top down architecture works with portals, controlled vocabularies etc. but won’t work in a modern environment where we need to look at what curent works in web 2.0. Key concept (and the title of his book) is Ambient Findability. His thesis is that finding your way around and finding things are beging to merge which is a good point.

Raises two major questions

  • Practical – its hard to get attention should we be doing everything we can to make our ingormation findable moving from push to pull
  • Philosophical – what is this doing to way we learn and the way we make decisions, is the quality of our decisions getting better

Illustrates the convergence of mobile devices with ambient awareness by referencing a watch that you lock onto your kid’s wrist and you can track where they go! I’m not sure I want to know to be honest and the ethics are a real issue. He makes this point, saying that customer reviews of the device did not say anything about privacy or child care, just complained about how the product worked. Big question – now we have the techology have we got the ethical understanding to hadle the consequences?

Talking now about tracking items, lovely idea of Googling to find out where you left your socks while lying on your bed! Back to privacy with a reference to David Brin’s The Transparent Society. I read the reviews of that and it seemed a bit libertarian but maybe I will look it up again.

Another wonderful image to make a question real: In a world where creating more and bigger haystacks how do we create bigger needles. Question is how do we describe the unique aboutness of our object so it could be found. Pleased to hear that he is sceptical about AI and agents but I’m not sure I agree with him on visualisation. Yes, lots of people have done things look good but aren’t useful. But we are only just touching the surface here. He argues that the librarians will help us! The internet will turn everyone ito a librarian! Metadata and Librarians are sexy (this is going down well).

Good constructive criticism of everyone tagging with whatever they want. He says that most intelligent people ahve realised that there is too much hype around this and we need to strike a balance to be found in the middle. Agree fully here, its the idea behind the sei-contrained signifier structures on SenseMaker™. I disagree with him here though. He says that in 5-10 years from now we will still be starting with a key word search box. I don’t see that and think it shows a lack of imagination.

Now it starts to get a bit frustrating. He says this is all a complex adaptive system. Great, agree, but that is it, no exploration of what that means. I can pick up in my closing keynote however. He moves to futures with lots and lots of examples which is useful (will get his slide set and study it). but we are now a bit light on praxis. You get the feeling that he should have spent more time on this. Great link here of design examples which he expands. I stop taking notes, this is great stuff but best to look at the slides.

Summarises that search is a wiked prroblem, highly uncertain etc. I agree, this guy has a lot more to say, but its over.

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