Tools for Inspiration


2005-10-20

I was musing about what kind of tech I actually am passionate enough about. My one constantly re-occuring tech topic is what started as "similar entries" and which I now prefer to call "associative text".

So I was thinking: "Is text similarity actually such a usefull tool?" Everything and their dog now has such features as "related pages|products|tags" so where is the bell or the whistle? And honestly, how special is that anyway, how usefull?

Thinking down these lines I had one major insight: It's not "related" or actually "similar" what I'm after at all!

What I'm really after is not search-engine like recall, but dream/inspirational like associations. I'm looking for "related" in a sense of "what's the first thing that comes to mind?"

What I'm building is not yet another "show me more like this" engine, but a "inspire me" engine. A lot like Steven Berlin Johnson's "Tool for Thought" essay I talked about some time ago. A tool that will show me connections that I might not have found, that were non-obvious. Even if the material it shows me was actually already known to me. ("Related pages" features do a good job if the material was yet unknown, showing me new sources etc)

The more I think about it, the more I can see it even pointing to totally "unrelated" thing, but still being considered usefull. A "Tool for Inspiration" much more, and much less a "Tool for Research".

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