Word of e-mouth 
(we're trying to find a name for the project)

For a person, like myself, who lives on the Internet and profits by the connections I can make within the information that flows at me, the time between conception of something and finding it becomes critical.  Search engines are helpful but too much time is spent weeding and figuring out key words.  This project attempts to create a tool that will evolve to solve that problem.

My solution does not to involve building another search engine web site.  Rather it involves building a personal information organizer which has access to all the information that flows to me (emails, usenet, web pages, chat dialogues, word documents etc.). This personal organizer (PO) also has access via a peer-to-peer (chat) facility to all my contacts on the internet and consequently to the information in their POs.   Since it is relatively easy for each of us to characterize our interest it will be relatively easy for us to create SIG groups and publish the lists of members to everyone with a PO.  Consequently I should be able to have a chat dialogue with a SIG group at large rather than a specific person.  I should be able to retrieve URLs from other's PO whether or not they are present at their computers.  What might emerge, then, would be a kind of distributed search engine.

I figured for this to work, the PO would need to index my emails, usenet postings, and the web pages I bookmark; filing  them such that they could be retrieved by me (or one of my contacts) later by their context alone.  If I bookmark a page about 'latent semantic indexing' and then 6 months later type in something like 'information retrieval techniques' ideally I would want that hyper link (and others) to suddenly appear for me to click on.  The same would apply for all my contacts - though perhaps somewhat delayed.  I realize that this is a tall order,  and i don't expect results like that immediately, but I think that a peer-to-peer chat facility connected to a personal organizer connected to an advanced method of information indexing and retrieval will provide the best platform in which such a facility can emerge.

From the site  AUTOSPEC THEMATICS: KEYS TO CONTEXT AND CONCEPT FILTERING  we get the idea that the vocabulary of a special interest group (SIG) is the best background for relevant retrieval of information.  In my scheme the SIG vocabularies and references to texts based on those vocabularies are passed from peer to peer.  As such, that information becomes the shared social memory of the group.

The nature of the project

The first stage for me is to get the big pieces into their correct relationships so the project will have a chance to survive.  By big pieces I mean  social, political, and economic things.  Choosing to rely upon the social connections of chat groups and providing people with a tool to remember their own subjective information in the process of getting information from others, should set the stage for something interesting to happen.  I see an open source project where the basic personal tool is given away. It should evolve into the ideal platform for programmers to test out things like NLP intentional agents.  For that we need to open up a sand box that starts out doing some immediately useful information organizing tasks and provides vocabulary, indexing, and internet communication tools.  I'm thinking that if those ingredients are present this thing should take on a life of it's own.  So the project will be grass roots, bottom up, and fueled by people's natural interests and demands for knowledge, rather than top down and fueled by capital and control.  But that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.  I see forming a corporation early on that is destined to be publicly traded.  When people contribute in a practical way to the project , what they get out  is stock, knowledge and contacts.  Of course getting things to actually happen that way is going to be the fun part.   If that wasn'twhat you had in mind, I guess it's time to bail out.

The User Interface

A separate application that is designed to always be active on the computer.  It should have access to all the kinds of information objects that flow in and out of the computer from intentional actions of the user.  Patrik listed these, let me rephrase them as follows:  (note that these are all primary info sources intentionally accessed by the user)

  1. email (read or written)
  2. usenet articles (read or writteen)
  3. chat sessions (if saved)
  4. web pages visited 
  5. web pages bookmarked [our system replaces and/or enhances IE favorites and Netscape bookmarks] 
  6. other word files read or written (.doc etc.) 
It should also have access to the search engines on the Web just like Zurf does, as well as peer-to-peer connections with all other similar systems on its contact list.   It can make searches and and communicate with other users any time the computer is idle.  It has a standing order to enhance it's connections to the contexts of the objects that have been intentionally given it by its user. 

3 major areas of the GUI screen: 

  1. Input box (IB)- this is where you type in your queries, comments, or questions.  Input is always assumed to be in the context of the last object that was selected unless the user explicitly opts to find a new context. 
  2. SIG vocabulary list (SIGV)- this area is also always assumed to be in the context of the last object selected.  Each word would have a check box next to it showing the state of that concept relative to the object of current interest.  When the context object changes the system shows (or guesses) the SIG vocab for that object and the state of each word relative to that object.  The states would be something like [yes, no, don't care].  The user can toggle the state of each word by a click of the mouse.  Every mouse click is a vote on that word in the global SIG, and a definition of the that word relative to the current context object in the subjective view of the user.  Each mouse click can also be taken as a reward to every agent that contributed to guessing that state correctly and a punishment to all agents that guessed incorrectly. 
  3. References area (RA)- This should look like a jump list (book mark list) of the current context.  It is the POs output area to the user.  Every message, question, or pointer irelivant to the user's specified context is displayed here.  Each entry is clickable and opens in the appropriate window: browser, email, word processor etc. 
Note that these three areas look similar to the major areas of windows explorer or Zurf or a news reader.  The major difference from these other GUIs is that context is defined by a SIG vocabulary (< 50 words) and not by a heretical tree.  Objects for display in the RA  are based upon the mouse clicks inside the SIGVL and not by navigating a heretical tree of directories or folders.  Hmm ... some more though needs to happen here re moving objects from context to context ... more dialogue please ....

Revised 4/29/2000 by Seth Russell
ICQ# 69375355
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