Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wilfing, or What Was I Looking For Again?

I get lost in Wikipedia sometimes. It's great example of chaos in that way: a dive into a robust subject can spread to any of a million fourth- and fifth-order nodes with only the slightest difference in entry points. I like having the option to go anywhere. But what I'd like even more is for Wikipedia, like a good librarian, to understand at some level what I'm ultimately looking for and nudge me toward that goal.

To that end, I wondered the other night whether someone had considered ways to make that happen. This being the Internet age, of course someone was on top of it. A guy named Rob Lee (watch him speak about his ideas here) is doing cool research into how we can use socially authored content to generate new routes through data archives. The basic idea is similar to Google's original page rank algorithm: given a context, the more popular an idea is, the more likely it is to be relevant. As the Internet grows and wilfing becomes more common (if it's not already ubiquitous), these ideas are going to provide us the roadmap we are all looking for--even when we're just trying to get lost.

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