[unrev-II] Groupware and Corporate Repositories

From: Eric Armstrong (eric.armstrong@eng.sun.com)
Date: Tue Apr 25 2000 - 13:37:34 PDT

  • Next message: Eric Armstrong: "[unrev-II] Why WBI?"

    "John J. Deneen" wrote:
    > http://pangaro.com/proposals/corp-repos.html
    > Groupware and Corporate Repositories: A Proposal for Leveraging
    > Intellectual Capital ... allows an associative hypertext network
    > to "self-organize" into a simpler, more meaningful, and more easily
    > usable multidimensional network (aka ZigZag by Ted Nelson).
    > "The ZigZag space may be thought of as a multidimensional
    > generalization of rows and columns, without any shape or structure
    > imposed."
    > http://www.sfc.keio.ac.jp/~ted/zigzag/xybrap.html.
    Unfortunately, that link is broken
    > .... "The term "self-organization" is appropriate to the degree that
    > there is no external programmer or designer deciding which node to link
    > to which other node: better linking patterns emerge spontaneously. The
    > existing links "bootstrap" new links into existence, which in turn
    > change the existing link patterns. The information used to create new
    > links is not internal to the network, though: it derives from the
    > collective actions of the different users. In that sense one might say
    > that the network "learns" from the way it is used." ...
    > ... "The algorithms for such a learning web are very simple. Every
    > potential link is assigned a certain "strength". For a given node a,
    > only the links with the highest strength are actualized, i.e. are
    > visible to the user. Within the node, these links are ordered by
    > strength, so that the user will encounter the strongest link first.
    > There are three separate learning rules for adapting the strengths.
    > 1) Each time an existing link, say a -> b, is chosen by the user, its
    > strength is increased. Thus, the strength of a link becomes a reflection of the frequency with which it is used by hypertext navigators. This rather obvious rule can only consolidate links that are already available within the node. In that sense, it functions as a selector
    > of strong connections. However, it cannot actualize new links, since
    > these are not accessible to the user.
    Unfortunately, I suspect that this rule only acts as an amplifier. If a
    bad link is chosen, it rises in strength. The next user to follow it
    increases its strength. Because it is a "strong" link, many others
    follow it, only to be disappointed. Such a mechanism rewards links with
    great titles, regardless of the value of their contents. I suspect that
    an evaluation mechanism of some kind makes sense, so that people who
    follow the link can predict the value to others of doing so.

    > Therefore we need complementary rules that generate novelty or
    > variation.
    > 2) A user might follow an indirect connection between two nodes, say a
    > -> b, b -> c. In that case the potential link a -> c increases its strength. This is a weak form of transitivity. It
    > opens up an unlimited realm of new links.
    > Indeed, one or several increases in strength of a -> c may be
    > sufficient to make the potential link actual. The
    > user can now directly select a -> c, and from there perhaps c -> d.
    > This increases the strength of the potential
    > link a -> d, which may in turn become actual, and so on. Eventually,
    > an indefinitely extended path may thus be
    > replaced by a single link a -> z. Of course, this assumes that a
    > sufficient number of users effectively follow that
    > path. Otherwise it will not be able to overcome the competition from
    > paths chosen by other users, which will also
    > increase their strengths. The underlying principle is that the paths
    > that are most popular, i.e. followed most
    > often, will eventually be replaced by direct links, thus minimizing
    > the average number of links a user must follow
    > in order to reach his or her preferred destination.
    That's an interesting prospect.

    > 3) A similar rule can be used to implement a weak form of symmetry.
    > When a user chooses a link a -> b, implying
    > that there exists some association between the nodes a and b, we may
    > assume that this also implies some
    > association between b and a. Therefore, the reverse link b -> a gets a
    > strength increase. This symmetry rule on
    > its own is much more limited than transitivity, since it can only
    > actualize a single new link for each existing link." ....
    Also interesting. But in any sort of hierarchical information structure,
    the strongest links will undoubtedly turn out to be the parent node that
    contains a pointer to a given destination. Index pages (tables of links)
    will therefore get the highest strength ratings. That may not be *all*
    bad, given the transitivity proposition -- eventually the other links
    chosen from the index pages will rise in strength. However, (a) no one
    such page is liable to reach the level of the index pages themselves,
    (b) the system still rewards any link simply for being chosen, rather
    than for being "rewarding", in some fashion.

    > Therefore, by abandoning the correspondence epistemology and its
    > reliance on fixed primitives, bootstrapping approaches open the way to
    > a truly flexible, adaptive and creative knowledge system.
    Sounds good, but I'm not sure the claim can be substantiated in
    Are there any proof-of-principle projects they can point to? Thinking in
    terms of our own use cases -- where we posit one or more software
    developers using the system, the "malleable link ordering" would have to
    provide some benefit. In a larger educational environment (for example,
    on that explained design patterns) I can see some utility. But in the
    smaller context of several developers collaborating to create a design,
    how much help would it be?

    Taking our own project, I can think of the reference list or the list of
    collaborative design projects. If we organize on the basis of who chose
    which links, we will most definitely reward the best titles -- not the
    best content. As nice as it sounds, I don't see it improving our
    position materially. I think it is fundamentally "content" that needs to
    be rewarded. The notions of transitivity and symettery are good -- if
    they can be based on content evaluations.

    Thinking in terms of the atomic data structure, I can see adding a list
    of links to a node. Those links can then be augmented using transitivity
    and symettry -- maybe.

    [Come to think of it, a transitivity issue springs to mind, as well.
    Following a tutorial, the pages go in sequence 1 to 2 to 3. Since pretty
    nearly everyone who starts at 1 will go to 2 and then to 3, the
    transitivity will create links that invite bypassing the intended
    sequence -- which would could make the material rather difficult to
    Again, the links have been rewarded, without regard for the suitablitity
    of the content, starting from the present location...]

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