Copy, Point & Tether

by Thomas Vander Wal in , , ,

In the Personal InfoCloud people have various means of keeping information close to them. But, these actions come down to two actions, which are non-exclusive (we can do both). These actions are copying the information to a device or location we are comfortable storing the information and pointing to where the information is located.

Copy, Point: What are We Missing?

Each action (copy & point) has its own benefits and detractors, but both methods are missing a central component that causes us grief at some point or another. We are missing a tether to that information. In our action of copy & point we are making an explicit action declaring our interest in the item. But, when that item changes we should have the option of finding that out. Sometimes it is a minor inconvenience that the information changed, such as spelling errors have been corrected or a more detailed explanation offered. When the modifications are not minor, we most often would benefit from having notification, such as the price of an object changes, the definition is changed, errors corrected, the date or time of an event changed, new article/post on the subject has been made, etc.

We live in a world of ever increasing updates and modifications, mostly because it is so easy to make the modification and we are increasingly becoming an iterative society. Digital information is making providing a platform for this iterative society. In a limited interaction we hit refresh to see the news updates on CNN or ESPN. This iterative society also builds tools to track systems that have a lot of volume and volatility, such as EBay.

Information volatility is a given, but when the flood of information we have interest in or have made explicit action statements about is more than we can refresh, how do we cope? How do those developing and designing these information systems make it easier for us?

We are tethering to the inflow of information. We subscribe to e-mail for product updates from services like Amazon and we have RSS/ATOM feeds for inflow of news services. These inflow tethers are adding to our information overload. We are finding new tools that allow us to copy & point to the bits that are of interest to us, such as social bookmarking tools like, Shadows, etc., but these tools do not truly tether the information in a manner that is helpful when the information changes.

Similarly, when we copy a chunk of information (microcontent) from a report, article, or on-line source we have no means to get an alert when that body of work we copied from was altered. We may be using, or more appropriately reusing the information. We should have an easy means of providing attribution for the item we found of interest (allowing credit where credit is dues is not something that most people are against, but it is not currently easy). There needs to be a solution that would allow easy attribution, in that action we are tethering the information chunk to our source. This attribution mechanism is similar to social bookmarking for larger addressable works (some services like Yahoo's MyWeb 2.0 save a copy of the work we are bookmarking), but neither provides an active tether that alerts us to changes in something we have made an explicit action show our interest in.