Saturday, October 29, 2005

Next gen information cloud

The personal information cloud is a new and interesting way of looking at information, different than looking at a list of key words as a meta or abstract of a data set and different than scanning the data itself (e.g.; series of blog posts, articles, other written word formats, etc.). The information cloud is the picture that tells a thousand words. It doesn't matter how large the data set is, the important coverage areas can be seen at a glance (assuming appropriate user tagging) by the size and presence of key words.

One example of the information cloud, though not maximally visually expressive is on the right of the screen here. It is pretty clear that "Flash" content is one of the most prevalent areas in Bob's material.

Some of the most interesting aspects of the information cloud are the next steps:

1. Machine Tagging
When can machine tagging or application auto-tagging begin more robustly? Blogs and other websites should have a clickable information cloud button at the top so the entirety of their content can be assessed at a glance with the information cloud auto-summarizing tool. Machine tagging under another name probably already occurs in the indexing algorithms of Google and others. A precursor to machine tagging does exist now in the sense of suggested tags if the webpage/information has already been tagged in that service, as with

2. Conceptual Tagging
Key word tagging is just the beginning. The next level is conceptual tagging. The meta meta of key words. It would be a field day for librarians and information managers. Conceptual tagging may involve subjective judgment. One person might tag a passage of text as socialist or empiricist or whatever to the disagreement of others. A wiki-type group editing tool could settle differences.

3. Group Tagsets as an Educational Tool
There can be different tag sets for different groups or eras. Applying today's key word and conceptual tagset to historical eras would be different than what that era would have applied, for example, today's views would quickly assess sexism and racism in previous eras which would not have been called out then. It would be an interesting educational tool to try on the tags (regular key word and conceptual) of different groups, for example, trying on the GOP or Democrat tagset views or Muslim and Israeli tagset views would be an interesting way to understand the worldviews of these groups to a greater extent and compare and contrast their perceptions.

4. Functional Tagging
Another variation of conceptual tagging is functional tagging, for example tagging "scissors" not as "scissors" but by their function, "cut." There can be many different classification systems for different applications.

5. Interacting with your Physical Personal Information Cloud
The personal information cloud is an idea that right now only applies to our online identity in certain limited segments, like our social bookmarking activity. Imagine a cloud of words surrounding your physical body, bouncing like avatar conversation, growing or shrinking as you emphasize different thoughts and ideas. One cloud might accompany you to work for example, and other clouds to other settings. What about being able to access a mobile information cloud that surrounds you, wireless data motes at the ready.

6. Visible Personal Information Clouds as a Communications Tool
What about being able to selectively permission your information cloud to be visible to others. Seeing someone's full life information cloud is being able to see a proxy for their value system, the ability to know what is important to them. This would allow for deeper more meaningful communication than our current primitive verbal streams and body language perceptions. Seeing that someone sorts on information and ideas, for example, would suggest that an effective communications approach would not involve telling stories about people but rather citing data, and the converse would also be true.