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TECH TALK: Constructing the Memex: Building Blocks: Blogs

May 15th, 2003 · No Comments

Let us begin by taking a look at the building blocks for the Memex. Later, we will see how these can be combined together to construct the Memex. The building blocks can be classified under three categories: Blogs, RSS and OPML. A number of technologies can be thought of as coming together in each of these three ecosystems to enable the construction of the Memex. Well begin with the Blogs Ecosystem.

Weblogs are personal journals, with links, comment and analysis. They represent the individuals likes (or dislikes). A blogger is making decisions about what to include on the blog, and where to link to. Links can be to other blogs as part of a blogroll or to specific articles from news media sites and blog posts as part of a blog entry. In each of these cases, there is a certain structure that a blog has, with the granularity of a blog is its blog post. A blog is created by using a blogging tool or service, like Userlands Radio, SixAparts MovableType or Blogger.com of Pyra Labs (now owned by Google). Every blog post has a permalink and can thus be referred by someone else.

Unlike websites which are self-standing and exist on their own, blogs are part of an ecology think of it as the blogosphere. Blogs point to other blogs. This enables us to think in terms of the neighbourhood of a blog a collection of blogs linked directly or indirectly with two degrees of separation. The analogy here is that we have friends, and these friends in turn have friends. A term used in this context is FOAF – friend of a friend. With blogs,it is possible to therefore do a scan of the blogosphere to search for both friends and FOAF for a given blog. This is what BlogStreet does here is an example of the neighbourhood of my blog.

Why is this important? Just as we are more likely to listen or turn to friends for advice and recommendations, the blog neighbourhood can be an important consideration when it comes to searching and finding appropriate content. It is a set of people we are more likely to trust than any other.

What is now required from each of us is to create a personal blog. For a start, it could just provide links to articles that we read and like, along with a blogroll. As a next step, it could fetch the articles that we like from some sources we know will not be available later. For example, stories from the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal become available for additional fees (even if one is a subscriber) after a specified time (7 or 30 days). What the personal blog tool could do is fetch the stories and archive them locally so that they are always available by posting them to the personalblog using the MetaWeblog API.

The potential of blogs was highlighted by Steven Johnson in an article in Salon about a year ago: The true revolution promised by the rise of bloggerdom is not about journalism. It’s about information management. The bloggers have the potential to do something far more original than offer up packaged opinions on the news of the day; they can actually help organize the Web in ways tailored to your minute-by-minute needs. Often dismissed as self-obsessed `vanity sites’, the bloggers actually have an important collective role to play on the Web. But they’re not challengers to the throne of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. They’re challengers to the throne of Google.

Tomorrow: Building Blocks: Blogs (continued)


TECH TALK Constructing the Memex+T

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