How the Web Can Relieve Our Information Glut and Get Us Talking to Each Other
Blogs Can Change Things
How will giving individual users their own posting space change the linkage problem? First, giving us free rein over content would rid Intelink of its hierarchical structure. The mess you see in Figure 1 is a good thing. Second, because users are the same people who write the content, they are in a unique position to give it a good online home. Analysts and collectors understand their information better than Web programmers and technical editors, so we know what links to place where. And because the quality of a personal home page would reflect upon its owner, we would have motivation to see that our pages provide good information for readers.
A web-like structure would take some time to realize, but the benefits would be enormous. Imagine having tools that could spot emerging patterns for you and guide you to documents that might be the missing pieces of evidence you’re looking for. Analytical puzzles, such as terror plots, are often too piecemeal for individual brains to put together. Having our documents aware of each other would be like hooking several brains up in a line, so that each one knows what the others know, making the puzzle much easier to solve. The moral is that logical dots are easier to connect if the virtual ones are already connected.
In the opening paragraph of this article, I mentioned that I had expected “search engines that could read my mind.” This probably elicited some laughs. But it is not far-fetched. Many e-commerce sites do this already. Amazon.com, for example, customizes its home page for each person depending on his or her past purchases. One of Google's stated goals is to know what users are looking for before they start typing. How can they do this? By gathering information on their users’ interests. This is hard to do in the public world.
Corporate intranets like Intelink, however, have an advantage. All IC employees consent to having their computer actions monitored. This means that every Web page we read and every e-mail we write could be used to create a profile of our interests. Intelink search engines would then be able to automatically weed out reams of information they knew we didn’t want, helping to ease the information overload that has burdened the IC in recent years.