Online communications offer vast opportunities for interconnecting people and information. How to organize the vast access in a way that realizes the potential without being overwhelming is a crucial, ongoing challenge.
The challenges in scaling communications among groups of people used to be due to the effort to actually convey the info, physically, and to organize the accumulated artifacts. With the emergence of instant online communications, the effort to share info is tending towards zero, and the organizing challenge has become overwhelming, with almost unlimited wealth of connections, making it difficult to arrange things so that what's relevant can be found where it's relevant.
Contemporary technology, like hyperlinking, smartly indexed search, syndication, transitively connected social networks, and so on, provides for elaborate interconnection of all that stuff, but salient connections between related details can still be lost amidst the wealth of all connections. What's generally lacking is comprehensive, progressive scoping, so that details are relatively "near" to other details depending on how closely related they are.
To put it another way, navigating the currently prevailing online world is like living in a sci-fi world where every connection between neighborhoods and buildings is by teleporter. You can get instantaneously to the connected "neighbors", but it's hard to arrange for comprehensive perspectives of where you are, within progressively expanding contexts. Provisions like comprehensive indexing and search engines provide means to jump into vast collections, and hyperlinks provide the means to jump around from place to place within those collections, but none of these things help for getting a comprehensive sense of scope - for realizing where any place is situated with respect to other places, according to their informational content.
In fact, informational neighborhoods don't necessarily bear only a single relationship with each other - their proximities differ depending on the concerns by which you're considering them.
For example, some of the details in some software application's user's guide - e.g., powering off the system, upgrading it, whatever - often also belongs in the application's manager's guide, and in the sales brochure, etc. But the arrangements of the respective guides are different, and the particular aspects of the details that are relevant in the various contexts can vary substantially, so that the details currently are just described completely separately. Yet the consolidations of those various aspects would convey a comprehensive picture of the details, and info about the presence of the details in the different contexts would provide a kind of directory of the salient roles of the details in the system. This "comprehension" of details in different contexts can usefully be extended - federated - across common details in different applications, for a consolidated perspective on the details across the systems. System documentation is a convenient, fairly clear-cut example, but this principle applies to all kinds of details.
What I am suggesting would be useful, and what I'm working on, is a way to arrange for describing details - items - differently in different contexts, including contexts which present consolidated views of the items, and connections to the various views in more specific contexts. Ultimately, it would provide for progressively scoped views of connections between informational neighborhoods according to different contexts.
Here are some high-level examples of how such a thing could be useful:
- Progressively organizing and disseminating activity events information - meetings, gatherings, competitions, etc - about regional activities across local groups within that region, and progressively larger regions. An "activity group" is a group of people that gathers, physically, to do some activity together. See the purpose described in Interconnecting Groups of People.
- Progressively developing news stories, with room for different perspectives on the significance of events, or even which events are salient. See Evolving News: Turning Answers Into Stories.
- Managing personal information, with many details that belong in more than one context, and provisions for collaboratively managing similar information for/among groups, etc. (This is a bridge between PIM and collaborative news.)
The focus of my response is development of a way to organize collections of details so that details can reside in multiple places in each collection, where each item can have different characteristics specific to the different contexts in which they reside. Further, different collections can be interconnected, so they can act as extensions of one another - so that the federation of collections can extend the scope of the respective collection's element relationships across the collections. I sketch out the basic characteristics in Spherical Database Characteristics.
What follows are descriptions of ways this scheme for spherical databases can be applied.
|Interconnecting Groups of People||Organized online support is needed not just for interconnection within affiliated groups of people, but also for organized interconnection between such groups. This describes how that would be useful, and how such support could be arranged.|
|Interconnecting Groups of Details||There is a gap between the contained organization of details in a document on the web and the boundlessly intricate and haphazard interconnection of details between documents across the web. A comphrensively extensible means for organizing details within and between web sites can remedy gap, enablin...|
|Extensible Organization||Details of an extensible facility for organizing details and connections.|