A new method of knowledge management on the web is “making links between websites”. Yes, I know, the hyperlink is there since the start of the WWW, but it didn’t evolve a lot, did it?
It’s still a priviledge of the website author to make hyperlinks to other content on the web. An author has the full right to be selective in the links he’s making, but how on earth can someone even get close to a complete coverage of related knowledge? Yet, there are maybe hundreds or thousands of visitors to his site, who know about other web-conent that’s relevant to some website, because they know about or they’re searching on a specific topic. These visitors have ‘knowledge’, in the sense that they collect links to various websites that hold related content, but it’s difficult to share this knowledge in a practical way.
A typical case: I read an article about the Mombay terrorist attacks and how the historical figure of Shivaji, founder of the Indian empire, may play a relevant role in this. Logically, I’ll be launching a google search on Shivaji, to find more information or other opinions. After reading through some wiki entries and other articles, I’ve in fact collected a file of webpages that represents a consistent package of ‘knowledge’ about this particular issue. I’d find it useful to store the knowledge for later use and to share this knowledge, either actively, by publishing the file in some way on my Facebook or other social bulletin board, or passively, by enabling other websurfers that visit one of my collected sites to easily find the other related sites in my knowledge package.
Social bookmarking (delicious, in my case) is coming closest to this type of knowledge sharing. If I bookmark all the sites in my knowledge package with a common tag, the package is accessible as a whole. I can share the package, by sharing the delicious webpage that lists all bookmarks for a specific tag. This can then include other’s tags as well.
But how can other surfers take advantage of my knowledge? Obviously, they can go looking on delicious and launch a search, and start browsing the tags and the related topics, and in the end, they may bump in to my stored knowledge package. But what if my knowledge package was on digg-it? Social bookmarking services are no good as a search engine, because they’ll only give you access to the knowledge stored on their own servers.
The better use case would be for a general search engine to have a social bookmarking-mode, returning knowledge packages based on information compiled from multiple social bookmarking sites.
But the ideal use case would be for a browser to implement a community knowledge pane, where webpages are listed that other surfers have tagged with the same description as the currently displayed webpage. Then I can browse both the hyperlinks implemented by the webpage’s author and the hyperlinks created by the internet community. Worth mentioning is the concept of the diigo social bookmarking service, that implements a browser side-bar where the users are listed that have bookmarked the currently displayed website, including the notes or highlights they may have added. That’s nice to find new people to extend your network with, but not opening a direct gateway to the knowledge they’ve collected on the topic being studied.
An important practical question is how the browser could visualize the related sites. There are touchgraph implementations available already for google searches and for delicious tags, that represent the related knowledge for some topic. However nice (the comment about resembling a neural network is quite accurace, talking about knowledge!), they’re not very practical in use.
Google is offering a related links widget that you can include on your website. Can’t they implement it the other way around, and make the widget a part of the browser?
I tested similicious on my original article, but it didn’t return anything. Going to throw this out of my toolbox one of these days.
Once again: all parts and pieces are there, just missing someone to integrate it properly…