Overbrain: Or can the web be “intelligent”?

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I happened to read an editorial in Febrauray issue of Digit magazine the crux of which was “how can the web be intelligent”. And more importantly, the article started of with a familiar example – “Customers who bought this also bought” section in Amazon.com. When I first chanced upon Amazon a couple of years ago, I was drawn to this feature like how . It was a great place for book recommendations, and in many cases it worked out fine for me.

Back then the web wasn’t run by people, like it’s today. There weren’t any web-apps developer or a personal database which is, well, more personal than a website like Amazon. Then slowly blogs and tagging evolved. And to the relief of a lot of people, web-apps can be created in no time. It seems almost true that the internet contains information about anything under the stars.
Which presents the most important problem of Information Overload. A couple of months back, I entered a search query concerning something and got a zilch response. But a few days back, I accidentally stumbled upon what I was looking for. My joy knew no bounds on hitting the jackpot accidentally. But it also made me crib for it had been there all along and I’d wasted a good three months in searching. Not that my search skills are that bad, (even if I enter the same query now, I get no results). They are not what they have to be.

Let’s assume this hypothetical case. I’m looking for information on a particular group who will be performing at the local theatre. I enter their name, I get no results. Not even “are you looking for” suggestion. I tend to feel that their company isn’t adjusting too well to the internet boom. Later on, I almost accidentally stumble upon the group’s blog, and going through their archives, I come to know that they’ve indeed been existing in the virtual world for a long time, that my search query should have landed me here by all means. What happened to me was nearly similar to this situation.

This calls for a need to orgainze content better. The article from “Digit” calls for a “People who visited this website also visited the following other website(s)” method. This is okay as a next step to better search. Like Del.ico.us. But given the number of websites and tag clouds, it is testing the limits of exhaustion on the readers part. Whether an algorithm can handle this or human intervention is required at all stages, only the researches can answer. As a person who searches the web for information almost everyday I’ll get a sense of absolute satisfaction only when I enter a search query like, “Is tomorrow a Friday”, and get a reply, “Yes, TGIF”.

Edited to Add:

(1) In fact I was thinking of Thandora when I wrote this.

(2) TGIF means “Thank Goodness it’s Friday”, which, for most people, is a relief.

Web-Applications: The Second coming of Web

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A person can’t expect every web-applications developer (or someone who wants to be that) to be a rocket scientist. Or for that matter, to know to code in High Level languages. Assuming that a lot of people who progress to the level of wanting to develop web applications will be comfortable and familiar with a fair bit of coding, but given that nearly 99% of the population using Internet wants to create web applications, it is only logical that the process be made simple. With the complexity of web-apps increasing, the amount of coding that goes into creating it is humongous. (Let alone the fact that even many rocket scientists may not know Java or HTML)

I was introduced (or sent an invite) to Zoho Creator. I haven’t created any web-apps before. The last time I learnt about Database and SQL was nearly four years back in school and having no memory whatsoever of one, I had to try and figure out their significance before creating one. After becoming fairly familiar, I created a proper application. My first one on the web – a movie Database! It works fairly simple:

  • Created a form called YOMDb – Your Own Movie Database – having heads like “Title”, “Year”, “Genre”, “Your Ratings” etc.
  • Made a couple of fields mandatory – “Title”, for instance, without which it’d make no sense.
  • Started adding the titles I had in mind.

What started out as a sample title got converted into a full fledged catalogue of all the films I’d seen (and remembered). Complete with my ratings. 43 titles in all.I could sort them based on my ratings, the year of release, alphabetical order or the genre. And as I was scrolling down to the bottom most part of the list, I realized that I’d made a typo. And when I hit edit – the edit field options appeared right there, instead of making me scroll up by approximately forty lines. It reminded me of Gmail – upon hitting “Reply”, the field opens immediately below, instead of letting you scroll up. People who lack that feather touch when it comes to handling the mouse – and hence spoiling the scroll wheel to the extent of it being non-functional will associate with that previous sentence.

I would have been absolutely satisfied if there was some ease when it came to linking other web-sites. As such, I tried using the anchor tag, which it didn’t recognize. I wouldn’t want to leave a lengthy permalink which points to, say (as in my case), a critic’s review, for it spoils the otherwise chic look of the web-app. (There’s an e-mail field, though)
Rocket scientists or not, it is time to rejoice, for, the web is heading in the right direction. Which means a lot of such web technologies will let users of the web to think on a higher level (such as the relevance of the application they’ve created or regarding the loop holes) and not worry whether they’ve got the syntax for a particular code right.