MastHead Ramana Rao's Home Page Ramana Rao's Blog Ramana Rao's Trails Ramana Rao's Sensemaking

When it comes to posts that go at “Beyond Search is ___”, one has a good chance in the blogosphere, of, well, being mostly ignored … By now, you can more or less be overloaded just by search results for Simon “Poverty of Attention”. Hence my threshold, following my first post on REAP remains high, but this doesn’t by itself prevent some flights of fancy. Think of it as a meme tasting party of some memes that have reached their time

First up is Sensemaking, originating in the foothills of Palo Alto, and as noted, my all time fav for naming the human process itself. It scales to the biggest questions that make us humans, and anthropologists and philosophers alike have been there at increasing levels of abstraction. Mark Stefik, serial sensemaker extraordinaire, commented on the first REAP post, and has a nice expository piece. Sensemaking has been a long running rubric and effort at PARC (which I was part of once). Mark raises substantive questions in his comments, which I’ll leave for later, but I’ll make one point worth underlining.

Though like Sensemaking, REAP as a whole suggests a human objective: we strive to get value from stuff and activities, it’s real emphasis is meant to be on the middle concepts that cover many particular acts that can be effectively augmented with tools. Like Retrieval, the broad areas of Extract, Arrange, and Present have proven stable and coherent in characterizing useful processing and observable outputs that work well in many different domains. Let me further illustrate with examples of REAP function that can be useful in full REAP systems.

  • Extract — pulling feature or attributes out. Good examples include isolating distinctive concepts; identifying people, places, and things mentioned; and pulling key sentences out. This phase could easily be called Analyze from the processing perspective but Extract is more particular and more clearly indicate the small beneficial bits coming out (ala tired to my ears, “golden nuggets”).
  • Arrange — putting things into structures. Good examples here include grouping documents with or without names for the groups (e.g. piles or folders); assembling bits into other conceptual structures including lists, hierarchies, networks; and assigning/discovering types, categories, or schemas. Organize would be another great word here, and one I’d happily use except for you know why.
  • Present — preparing artifacts for human consumption. Examples here are visual layouts including graphs, charts, documents of all sorts, and interactive visualizations including Wide Widgets of the See and Go kind. Here the word may be struggling a bit, but in the end I think it almost reaches what it needs to reach. There is no presentation without a purpose and audience, and each of these may be broad or narrow, one or many. The reach it doesn’t quite have is covered by whispering “personalize.”

We’re into several gulps by now, so let’s move along. Next up is the concept of “Information Supply” which Andrei Broder and friends have been pursuing (this afternoon, in fact) or the more colloquial “search without a box.” Considering an interview, a set of slides, and fading memories of a conversation, I see the key point is that information can be supplied based on intent to the point of use. This is about intelligent attachment with all the required delicacy. No query in, refined results out. Definitely a good idea.

Twisting on this but not twisting away or far, I’ll comment you needn’t kill the box. It’s not just “search without a box” but also “a box without a page.” Words like ubiquitous, pervasive, and embedded fit right in, to get at the everywhere and inbetween-ness wanted. For obvious economic and less-obvious human reasons explained by bounded rationality, there is a great deal of focus on the uber-start-page of search, but the search box should come to us too. Asking in a context should help a lot. It’s a short term aberration that it is easier to google (shall we take the verb :-) then to use Windows help or man in a Unix shell.

Now let’s go on to the final taste, with the buzz on from the two deeper darks, we’re now into party time bubbles, which make people say things like “cool, but it’s Friggin’ USEless.” Yep, talkin’ about the Y generation, and FUSE. Find Use Share Expand. Battelle, a true sense-talker, spoke sense last year and in Y! actions since, it does seem to be mostly about leveraging the social. I like this one a lot, and it nicely captures the broader sense of experiences we share together on the Internet together. And there is something, well, just expansive about that last verb.

The party’s gone too far, if we get into fussy air over four-letter apronyms. A few thoughts effervesce from the top of mind. The major difference of emphasis is consumer vs. professional, a distinction that does and doesn’t matter, but otherwise there’s plenty of shared blood. Both FUSE and REAP say there’s more to life than finding. Second, the little machine acts of EAP-ing are again the next level down of the Use phase, and probably also in Sharing and Expanding depending on exact definitions. And finally, data from the Social is clearly a big opportunity within the EAP processing itself.

So looking back at the tasting notes: Bring on the sensemaking! Bring the information supply line to where we are. And yo, you’ve got FUSE in my REAP, and I’ve got REAP in your FUSE.

Comments are closed.