Dear Fred, As a user and enjoyer (?) of your technical subscription and its interesting and pertinent information that it provides so regularly, I thought that you might find this information of interest to you and your readers.
Last night I watched a PBS show called "Re-Connections" featuring James Burke and his zany science productions. He had a regular BBC show that I enjoyed the few times I saw it in England.
His latest project which has been in the works since 2002 is called "Knowledge Web" (or K-Web). As was demonstrated on the PBS show and also on the links below, it seems to allow links among 18,000 or so knowledge items in any manner the user wishes. Somehow Wikipedia’s knowledgebase is involved. The way he explains it is:
"The Knowledge Web presents knowledge in a highly interconnected, holistic way that makes it possible to follow an almost infinite number of paths of exploration among people, places, things, and events.
Each such person, place, thing, or event is represented by a node in a web of connections. Selecting a node brings up in-depth information, a ‘vital statistics’ summary, and links to multimedia or other web sites.
From each node, users can travel to other nodes that are connected via historical relationships. The Knowledge Web also allows users to ‘zoom out’ and see the constellation of other nodes that relate to any given starting point. Users are never lost because they are oriented in space by maps, in time by a timeline, and in their own journey by an archived list of all the nodes they’ve visited. They can even save maps of their journeys and e-mail them to other explorers. The map and timeline can also be used as input with other filtering devices, so users can find, for instance, French 17th-century chemists who were self-educated.
The possible pathways are infinite. The first iteration of the Knowledge Web will contain nearly 2,000 nodes connected in tens of thousands of ways."
It is a non-profit project, and it is looking for volunteers to provide technical assistance. "Building the Knowledge Web is currently an all-volunteer endeavor. Teams include interface designers, web application and database architects, ontologists, content editors, and experts in applying information technology to education. To volunteer your own expertise, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. "
Links to view the project-in-process, along with a pretty good 8-min demo are:
Thanks, Steve Green
Burke is a marvel; his first "Connections" (book and TV series) was truly great stuff, showing how seemingly-disparate facts actually weave together into a larger whole.
Famous Burkian example:
Q: How was Napoleon important to the development of the PC on your desk?
A: "Napoleon’s troops in Egypt buy shawls and start a fashion craze. In Europe the shawls get made on automated, perforated-paper-control looms. This gives an American engineer Herman Hollerith the idea to automate calculation using punch cards. Which get used to control ENIAC, the first electronic computer…."
The "Knowledgeweb" is designed to illuminate and reveal interconnections like that. It will be very interesting to watch this new project evolve. Thanks for the tip, Steve!