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cbrandtbuffalo (4462)

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Perl programmer at the University at Buffalo.
Wednesday November 19, 2003
10:19 AM

James Burke's Knowledge Web

[ #15867 ]
I'm at a Gartner conference right now (more about that later), but one of the keynotes was by James Burke of Connections [1](and 2 and 3) fame. I've been a fan for a long time, so it was worth the conference just to see him. He gave just the sort of entertaining and thought-provoking talk you'd expect from him.

Anyway, seeing him reminded me about his Knowledge Web project. He is running it as a sort of grassroots effort, so basically an open source project. As I get a little older and have kids, this is the sort of open source contribution I can get behind because it's easier to see a real contribution to more people (many of them kids).

Now, a question. They have some key technology guys already involved, but they haven't yet selected a technology for their final implementation. Is this a space Perl or some other open source product could inhabit? They need some good interactive graphing, but James made it very clear that they want it to be very polished and fancy to get kids involved.

Any thoughts out there? Are Java and Flash the only way to do this?
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  • For a project of that scale, I see opportunities for many technologies, and a good architect will use the strengths of many of them.

    Or, so I would like to beleive. I've heard too many "We're a *Foo* shop" in my consulting time, and as much as Randal or I would like everyone to use Perl (a perverse incentive), we end up using what works best. Heck, at some ObWebCon we were giving a Perl presentation but it was SmallTalk behind the scenes (partly). :)
    • I know you're big into graphing information, so I'd be really interested to hear your suggestions. I know you're pretty busy right now, but maybe when you get back you'd be able to take a look.

      Basically, they are trying to create an undirected graph with nodes and connections between them (lines or edges). Burke would like to see it in 3D, on the web, and somewhat dynamic. They've got some demos with the look, but not the true functionality.

      At its base, this really seems like a problem from the math w
      • I don't think they would be able to store the graph anywhere, unless they had a really small universe. The number of links will grow too fast.
        Indeed, just storing all of the information itself takes up a lot of space.

        Say we take any subject, like "Dogs". How many links to we show? Categorization becomes a nightmare. Do you just show breeds? What about personalities, like Lassie? How many ways can you group dogs together? How far do you have to drill down to get to the first link that you want to expl
        • The Knowledge Web sounds like a thesis projects, and thesis projects are thesis projects because nobody else wants to deal with those problems. :)

          I loved James Burke's show growing up. I was always amazed at how he made those connections. I doubt he started with two events/people etc that he wanted to connect, and then went about connecting them...which amounts to the travelling salesman problem [].

          From what I saw at the KnowledgeWeb site, it's going to be an exploratory system, where each topic is then