We had a meeting with Eugene the other day, and took a
look at what he had been hammering on for a while. I have
to say that I saw it in a whole new light, which previous
posts on the subject had not adequately brought to my
In those posts, Eugene described making "dialog maps" of
conversations. There was a nice graphic version in PNG
form, and also an HTML version.
I recall looking at the PNG. Nice, but not too useful. (Diagrams
with a few words, lines between them, but no embedded links
that would let you get to the meat of the discussion.)
I don't recall that I looked at the HTML form. THERE is where
the real valuable work-product lies.
Those HTML pages are not HTML renditions of "dialog maps"
so much as they are FAQ-style indexes into the discussions!!
In other words, they would make a superb method for collecting
and codifying the information available in email archives, WITHOUT
modifying the archives.
A few salient points woth mentioning:
* There are thousands of words in the unrev archives that may
never see the light of day, because its just to damn hard to
find anything. This mechanism could provide the answer to
* The archives are plinked (purple numbered). But Eugene has
the modified mail server to do that as messages are archived,
as well as tools to plink past archives.
* It takes a lof of effort to build the map. Basically, each day he
has to build in the information content from the day's posts.
I suspect that this will be normal -- that the addition of topic
maps and structured argumentation methodologies will require,
and will in fact produce a new profession of, practicing
ontologists who do this work as their full time job. In addition:
a) As users get more familiar with it, they will pre-identify
material as they create it.
b) Ontologists will also find themselves re-categorizing
existing material to make it part of the archive.
c) Ontologiests will be defining ontology-translations, so
as to do wholesale imports of information in other
d) Ontologists will monitor results produced by "ontology-
inspection agents" -- computerized programs that run
around searching for isomorphic ontologies, with an
eye towards finding and mining relevant work.
* Eugene currently uses QuestMap to build the dialog map. The
results are then converted to an HTML page. That mechanism
probably makes it difficult for others to massage the FAQ. But
other mechanisms could be developed, and probably will be,
once the value of the result is recognized.
* One thing the system needs to do is to post links to the
summarized information. Those links would "complete the
circle" -- the index has pointers into the email archive, and
the messages would have responses that point to where the
information is summarized. The most important result of such
notification pages would be the ability to click a link to see
how a discussion I have been part of was summarized -- in
case I want to make changes. (Or maybe become further
* The methodology is nicely applicable to structured arguments.
Especially since, as we have observed, the structure tends to
become apparent after the fact.
* One of the examples Eugene pointed to was a collection of issues
that had been discussed in a disparate collection of emails. Since
IBIS mandated that there had to be a question, he was motivated
to identify the commonality. He gathered them all under the
question: "What problems pertain to preserving link integrity",
thereby coming up with a whole new category to add to the
ontology (link integrity).
* The ontology is currently captured as a glossary. So all the
are present, but relationships among them are intuitively
rather than made explicit. (But, should we advance to topic maps
at some point, life may get a lot more interesting.)
* The glossary pages are maintained as T-Wiki pages, which means
that anyone can edit them, but they are access-controlled,
and there is a lot more flexibility for creating links.
In short, Eugene has come up with some good stuff that may well be the
first step in constructing a "knowledge base" out of an email archive.
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This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0.0 : Sun Sep 16 2001 - 21:27:12 PDT