Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Intellectual Ant Trail

The web does okay at helping you to find the answers to some questions, others maybe not. Can it show the evolution of my thinking, how answering one question leads to the next? Seems to me that I could greatly profit from being able to follow the ant-trail of net-thinking left behind by someone who beat me to my current question, and I'd very happily leave some net-pheromone to show that I was following the trail with enthusiasm.

Right now, after reading about something or searching for something, I sometimes can leave a comment or a thumbs up or a plus one. I can find blogs or web sites where a person has explicitly curated ideas and discussion threads by hand. I'm not sure whether or not Google learns from what we click on after we search for something. But I imagine weird and wonderful possibilities if the process could self-organize, like an ant trail. I want my response to mark the things that attract my attention.

This might make more sense if I could think of specific examples. Maybe it doesn't really make sense except as a nice metaphor.

I'm interested in skepticism, fanaticism, fringey politics, psychology, persuasion, cults, beliefs, logic, rhetoric, motivation. I could use google alerts or twitter to gather a massive haystack of links on any of these topics. I could write blog entries, allow comments, incorporate suggested links, but it just doesn't seem to scale. Is it like a college degree, or a single college course, or a boy scout merit badge, or an initiation rite, or a museum exhibit?

Say I want to satisfy my curiosity about how cults recruit new members. I want to create a trail that someone else can stumble onto, and add to. It should grow links to new items about cult recruitment. It should grow different sorts of links to items about cult membership retention, cult finance, recruiting for the military, advertising, group psychology. It should grow links to items that contain background info or basic knowledge that the items assumes the reader knows about, so it I don't understand it, I can go learn or review "the basics" in sociology, psychology. While I dredge the net for answers, I build a structure of knowledge in my head. I want to be able to externalize and track my progress, and allow others to view the result and add to it.

I would link to existing items on the web, but emphasize some connections, de-emphasize others, and make new ones without altering the contents of the pages.

I guess this relates to my arguepedia idea, especially the anti-trolling measures where you see a different web depending on how you rate contributors.

This idea is far from mature, but I want to publish this anyhow. Maybe someone wants to join my trail, or can point me at an existing one.

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