OPML and Directories

Dave Winer writes about a topic I will be covering in my forthcoming Tech Talk series (starting next week):

There’s no single root of the Web, so why should directories (like Yahoo, DMOZ, Looksmart) have single roots? And therein lies the problem with directories, and why we’re not effectively cataloging the knowledge of our species on the Internet.

A case in point. Last week I pointed to a great directory of RSS aggregators. So why not also have it available in a format that allows it to be included in other directories? I should be able to include it in the directory I keep for RSS developers. Why should I have to reinvent the wheel? Would he want me to? And maybe it fits into a directory of tools that are useful for librarians, alongside book inventory software; or in a directory for lawyers, alongside legal databases. See the point? There is no single address for a directory, every directory is a sub-directory of something, yet all the directories we build on the Internet try to put everything in exactly one place, which leads to some really ludicrous placements. My Windows software is categorized under Mac software because we were only available on Mac when it was first categorized. This one-category-for-all-information approach is a vestige of paper catalogs, not a limit of computer-managed catalogs.

I’m burning to get this idea broadly implemented. When we do, the Web will grow by another order of magnitude.

The challenge: Put all that we know on the Internet and give people the tools to present it in a myriad of ways. Let a thousand flowers bloom. No one owns the keys to knowledge. That’s Jeffersonian software. The Web, of course, was modeled after the printed page, with all its limits. This new Web is modeled after the mind of man.

Here’s a small snapshot of what I have started writing. Have titled it “Constructing the Memex”.

Imagine if each of us could build out personal directories outlines of topics and connections to other directories, people and documents. Much of this would happen automatically as we browsed and marked pages of interest, embellishing them with our comments. When we search, it would first scan our world of relevant information rather than the world wide web of documents.

In other words, each of us would have a microcosm of the information space, created and updated continuously by what we did. It would ensure that our ideas would have a context, that we would never forget something, and that we could leverage on similar work done by millions of others like us. This is the real two-way web linking not just documents, but people, ideas and information.

Vannevar Bush imagined just such a system in 1945. He called it the Memex.

It is where we want to take BlogStreet.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.