Using new tools to share your thinking

Several years ago, I had an idea for a tool I’ve called the “exonet.” The name derives from both being separate and distinct from the intranet/extranet and from the idea that our DNA is typically divided into introns and exons by geneticists. (The introns are the parts between the “genes” that don’t, strictly speaking, code for proteins. The exons are the parts that do the heavy lifting.)

This 2005 article by Steven Berlin Johnson, which I only recently found, contains a great succinct description of something awfully close to what I envisioned:

The other thing that would be fascinating would be to open up these personal libraries to the external world. That would be a lovely combination of old-fashioned book-based wisdom, advanced semantic search technology, and the personality-driven filters that we’ve come to enjoy in the blogosphere. I can imagine someone sitting down to write an article about complexity theory and the web, and saying, “I bet Johnson’s got some good material on this in his ‘library.'” (You wouldn’t be able to pull down the entire database, just query it, so there wouldn’t be any potential for intellectual property abuse.) I can imagine saying to myself: “I have to write this essay on taxonomies, so I’d better sift through Weinberger’s library, and that chapter about power laws won’t be complete without a visit to Shirky’s database.”

Now that more tools have become available to capture, analyze, and share what other folks are reading, writing, watching, and hearing, the idea of putting these pieces together in a different form of curated library is much more viable than when I first saw this sort of heat map version of connected topics. (This sentence and thought is so old that I think the concept of using heat map-style visualizations is dead and the most likely thing now is a tag cloud or perhaps some new search visualization. Maybe some poking around would help on this front, but the vis is not the important piece.)

And there’s more here for talking about capturing what you’re writing and creating. When you consider the value of owning your content, it becomes readily apparent that we should be masters of everything that we contribute, and sites that aggregate our postings should be grateful for the users who generate all the content and bring all the eyeballs to be monetized.

I’ll start putting the rest of these pieces out on the blog so the form can start to take shape.