TECH TALK: Constructing the Memex: Memex Objectives

Let us begin by outlining the objectives of what we want our Memex to do.

Gathering and Storing: Information and Insight comes to us through various sources email, print, web pages, CDs, webcams, sensors, conversations, and our own thinking. The Memex needs to be able to aggregate all of the information coming in, and store it in a manner where it is easily accessible. One issue to consider is that at times, it may not be enough to just store links to articles. For example, in sites like Wall Street Journal and New York Times, articles in the archives are charged extra after a month or so. So, it may make sense to store a copy of the full-text of these articles locally.

Annotating: As the information items are stored, we may want to annotate them with our comments. This is akin to what many bloggers are doing with links to articles that they like this helps give a context to why that piece of information is useful, even though it may not have an immediate relevance.

Indexing: Vannevar Bush talks about associative indexing connecting a set of related ideas together by association, rather than classes, much the way our memory works. Either way, an indexing system is important so one can find information faster.

Publishing: We may want to selectively publish the information that we have on the Intranet or the Web, once again similar to what bloggers are doing. By making information publish, we are contributing back the system that is, we are making the transition from an information consumer to an information producer. By itself, we may appear a cog in the wheel. In fact, we are more like ants building an anthill. Our local actions help create the global system. This is emergence at work.

Accessing: This is perhaps at the heart of all that we are doing. Most information is not something that can be processed and consumed right away. So, we are storing it with our annotations. The reason is that we want to access it at a later date. This process of information retrieval needs to ensure that we get the right information at the right time. Multiple devices may be available for access from desktops to PDAs to cellphones. It should also be possible to have layers of information for example, first, the search is performed within the constellation of documents that one has stored; next, the search is done on documents within two degrees (think of this as a friend of a friend approach); and finally, the search could be done on the global database that Google and other search engines have.

Recording Trails: One of the key elements of the Memex as Bus has described it is its ability to record the leaps that people make. This is the one weak area in the infrastructure of the Web as we know it (and a point echoed by Steven Johnson in his idea of personalised link collections). Two ways to record the trails of websites visited would be to use the local history of the browser, or to get the data from a proxy server. Either way, the trails links that we select are the decisions we make which need to feed back into the system.

Tomorrow: Memex Objectives (continued)

TECH TALK Constructing the Memex+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.