Needed: MindWeb

17Feb14

I’m glad Google searches are so rapid and informative.  Or at least I used to be.  Now I’ve gotten used to that.  Now I think we need something that I proposed to CompuServe in 1987.  I don’t think MindWeb is necessarily the best name, but let’s go with that for the moment.

Here’s a question.  What tent should I buy?  That was the question I faced earlier this evening.  The answer to that question was, gee, I guess I should not buy the tent that I thought I should buy last week, because it arrived and it wasn’t really what I wanted.  And that was after hours of shopping and reading reviews.

My way of answering that question was to go to the usual suspects (e.g., Google Shopping, Amazon) and see what they were selling.  Their internal search engines are pretty lame for this purpose.  You can narrow down the product selection by a few criteria, but there are many more.  In this case, there was a criterion that I didn’t even think of until the tent arrived.

What I needed was to be able to browse through a web of simple statements and questions about the Eureka Tetragon tent.  Each statement needed to appear on its own page or chat bubble.  Let’s call it a node.  An example of a node I would have liked to see:  “Worst things about the Eureka Tetragon tent.”  The contents of that particular node would be driven by a user survey.

Each node would be set up and maintained by volunteers, like Wikipedia.  Instead of having to choose one merchant (e.g., Amazon) where you’d enter your review or comment regarding the Eureka Tetragon, knowing that shoppers elsewhere would not see it, you’d have the option of contributing something to the set of MindWeb nodes pertaining to that tent.  Eureka, itself, might wish to contribute, say, a node listing the tent models it currently offers.

The important thing about MindWeb would be its simplicity.  I would find the node offering a survey; I would follow from there to the node displaying the results of the survey so far; I would click a link to add a node offering an additional observation; I would draw lines to indicate which nodes I wanted my new addition to link to.  Rarely used links would atrophy to tiny font, or be removed by volunteers.

The point of MindWeb would be to break knowledge down into bite-sized pieces, enabling users to move much more rapidly among bits of information and, perhaps with the aid of graphics, to see quickly which factoids are drawing the highest ratings (which themselves might be generated automatically, based on e.g., the numbers of visits to various nodes and the average duration per visit).

Ultimately, MindWeb could supplement and perhaps replace most of the world’s webpages.  Their contents are highly redundant, often poorly informed and infrequently visited.  If people entertain divergent opinions about the Eureka Tetragon, that’s fine; just give me a set of nodes that I can rip through in a matter of minutes, so as to get the information.

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