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I said in my first post in this blog that I’m working on solutions to problems that most people don’t yet realize are problems. And I’ve hit on some possibilities sporadically as I’ve talked about new developments. It might be time to bring some of that thinking together into a few scenarios for which I think these approaches will be useful. Here’s a few of the things I have in mind.

“Just go to my blog at….”

Having an online presence that corresponds with a real-life presence is interesting. There are plenty of anecdotal stories people making connections in and out of the online environment. We need to foster mutual interaction of both.

I want people to be able to talk about their blogs and say “Just go to…” without having to find a cocktail napkin or matchbook to write it on. We should be able to find things later with only a hazy memory of how to get there, not the full URL. That’s what the “Contains” and “Starts With” searches aim at. You have just a few bits of where you want to get to, and those searches help you get to it from limited information.

So you know a blog is at something-or-other-“marching”. Or the blog has “marching” somewhere in the title. Or the post has “marching” in the title. Or the person you are talking to has a display name with “marching” in the title. Type “marching” into those searches and check out what comes up from there.

“Who’s got good pics?”

Start with the Image Gallery. It’ll show the images that’ve been included in online content from UMW (at least what I’ve been able to incorporate so far.). Each image will guide you to the post and/or the blog that it comes from.

“What’s the history of this blog?”

A lot of wonderful material gets buried in the reverse-chronological structure of blogs. Once something slips into the ‘archives’ (which only means that it’s not recent), it’s really hard to get back to it. But if you know the blog you want, do a “Contains” or “Starts With” search to dig up the blog, then go the Exhibit for that blog and you’ll get a better overview. (Improvements on that mechanism are coming soon).

“What interests do I have in common with others?”

This is a big-big-biggie for me. I have a suspicion that links are more reliable indicators of interests than tags, and so the “Link Friends” Exhibit is working toward helping people find others who have linked to the same places.

In my happy world, people will get into the habit of including lots of links, especially to Wikipedia. That’ll semi-tacitly provide information about you and your post, and make it easier to use these techniques to find possible common interests. For example, say you are writing a response to something in “Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus” for your chemistry class (yes, thanks to Leanna Giancarlo, that could happen!). And someone else is writing about the same work for a literature class. If they both include a link to the Wikipedia article on it, that’ll provide a great way to identify common interests and topics.

“Why not use tags?” you ask? Follow me to a more nuanced example. Instead of ‘Frankenstein’, you are writing about ‘Paris‘. ‘Paris‘, France?” No, the other ‘Paris’. ‘Paris‘, Texas?” No no, the other ‘Paris’. ‘Paris‘ Hilton?” No no no, the other ‘Paris’. ‘Paris’ the Trojan prince?” Yes! That’s the one!

The tag ‘Paris’ goes nowhere for disambiguating those possibilities, even though it is likely to be natural enough within the context of that blog. But connecting with others requires bridging contexts. In addition to the tag, a link to the relevant Wikipedia article will help to disambiguate and classify the blog post.

“What has so-and-so person written?”

Browse though the “Bloggers” Exhbit to find the display name you are looking for. That’ll guide you toward lots more info about what they’ve written and where.
“Who else loves Helena Bonham Carter?”

Links are always happy, but with semantic technologies they can also encourage serendipitous discovery (See “Links: They’re Not Just For Breakfast and Google Anymore”  Coming soon, I’ll be looking for links to the Internet Movie DataBase and putting those to good use with the Linked Data Cloud.  That will let me build a page not just of movies that people have linked to, but a page showing the stars of movies people have linked to and other data about the movie.  That way, you’ll be able to find people who have blogged about a movie with your favorite actors.

These questions seem like they come naturally, but don’t have a handy mechanism for answering them. Providing that mechanism is at the core of what this blog and project is all about.

Got other questions you think would be useful? Let me know!


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