TECH TALK: The Future of Search: The Wider View

Information Dashboards are the next upgrade to reading (viewing) the Web. They will be have highly intuitive and interactive interfaces using Ajax-like remote scripting technologies along with ideas from video games to integrate the query and results display environments. As an idea, dashboards are not new as an example, we see them in the cars we drive. Many enterprise products also have corporate dashboards or portals which allow users to see a wide variety of information.

What is different about the information dashboards as envisioned by portals like MyToday is that they are almost entirely built around RSS and OPML. As a result, they become the view for the Incremental Web. The Reference Web, on the other hand, is viewed via stored bookmarks, results of searches, and via links that we receive in emails sent by others. The problem in each of these cases is that it is difficult for us to track any changes or new information on the sites we see. As a result, when we like a new site, we can either add it to our own bookmarks or put it on a site like for our own benefit and share it with others. But the granularity of the Reference Web is the URL.

The Incremental Web, built around RSS and OPML, extends this and flips the model from pull to push. Sites make available new information via RSS. We can subscribe to these RSS feeds as and when we come across a new site that we like. The URL of the site no longer needs to be remembered or bookmarked. From then on, the incremental content published by the site flows to our information dashboard without us ever having to go to that site again to check whats new. Collections of RSS subscriptions OPMLs can be shared with others via transclusion.

In addition, all the RSS items that we receive from our subscriptions can be automatically stored. This becomes our Archived Web. Search should be first done across these items, followed by the Archived Webs of our neighbourhood. This allows us to get more relevant results because weve already defined what we like in our subscriptions and the flow of RSS items is a reflection of our interests. Storage space is cheap enough now to store everything and anything.

What Information Dashboards ensure is a combination of flow and focus of folk content. Flow means that information gets velocity. The problem we face is not that there isnt enough information but that the right information is not available to us at the right time. Flow via dashboards ensures that information can be tagged and tapped at the right moment. Filters can also ensure delivery to mobile devices so we have a near real-time view of the world around. Focus is about being able to get top-level views on different topics (on the Web, as well as in the enterprise context) to get a sense of what is happening quickly. Dashboards allow drill-down from top-levels. Folk content is what we are already creating via blogs because publishing tools are so much easier. Folk content can also be created by applications and sensors. Each unit of folk content has a permalink, with each stream having an RSS descriptor. Once that happens, folk content becomes part of the Incremental Web and ready for viewing and sharing via information dashboards. [My thanks to Ramesh Jain for having coined the phrase folk content.]

Tomorrow: Information Marketplaces

TECH TALK The Future of Search+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.