Weblogs: Semantic Web

Mitch Kapor, Agent and organising knowledge

Monday, October 21, 2002

Mitch Kapor, the original founder of Lotus Corporation (now an IBM subsidiary) is talking (and doing) a better Personal Information System than Outlook. Lucky for us, its open source and cross-platform. In his words it is an organiser of information as well as time management, but not requiring a server. Looks like he has the RDF bug! Some of his ideas of breaking content down into items and containers that can be imported and reused I have already tried in my varied attempts at a wiki-fied content management system, although the web frontend of mine was extremely clunky. I probably need some good DHTML to create a more natural and interactive content entry system.

I admit, although I left IBM quite some time ago, I have a great fondness for Lotus Notes. This might possibly be the most underrated piece of software ever. I'm using it at the moment to transfer FAQ information from newsgroup postings to an organised collection within Notes, then I'll have everything sorted ready to enter directly in to my FAQ pages. I'm only using the discussion template modified to sort by topic instead of date. There's room in there for a perfect dynamically flexible content management system, if I actually spent the time, and money in obtaining a copy of Lotus Domino. The one big limitation I find with Notes is that its not the sort of tool readily accessible over the web using shared hosting.

Mitch's new project, a potential reinvention of Lotus Agent, sounds like it tackles the same ideas that I'm trying to piece together. Using RDF to manage the relationships between pieces of text. But I want to take it that one step further and bring in Nick Kew's Holistic Hypertext framework.

I want an application that isn't fixed to one machine, that allows me to surf the web, read newsgroups, catch up on email, entering my own freeform notes on various topics -- but combined in a way that allows me to annotate a webpage (like W3C's incredible RDF annotation system), but do the same with emails and usenet posts. I want the ability to reference stuff, convert offline references to online resources, even translate newsposts into their groups.google references. I want to be able to reference a certain part of somone elses' HTML document and treat it an an item (in Mitch's definition) but without falling into copyright traps.

The above is my ideal Web. A Web that's editable and built around my interests. But with a structure I can share with others as they add their own comments and ideas. The uploading to a website should be transparent to my application, it should know that an offline resource needs to be uploaded. I want the ability to tag my own notes on other websites, and see them referenced later on. This goes back to Tim Berners Lee's original idea of the World Wide Web, its an idea I feel that would convert a read-only medium to an correspondence of reads and writes, a living reflection of its users.

Agent links

Greatest Britons: Tim Berners Lee

On the mention of Tim Berners Lee he was voted in the top 100 of the "Greatest Britons" on BBC2 last night. IIRC he was listed at 96. Missing from the list were Sir Clive Sinclair who single-handedly ignited the UK personal computer market with his affordable and ingenious machines, and Sir Christopher Cockrell the inventor of the Hovercraft.

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