from diverse sources, synthesized into
a mental framework that allows us to
make sense of it. As the user is materializing their framework explicitly in a
PKB tool, it should be easy to grab the
short excerpts that they find relevant
and import them into the knowledge
base in a painless way. This is equivalent to the simpler form of transclusion, as defined previously.
˲ ˲ Standardization between PKB vendors needs to take place so that a user’s
knowledge is not inextricably bound
to a particular tool. A PKB should conform to these standards through some
kind of import/export facility.
˲ ˲ Finally, researchers should take a
good look at the tools that have been
adopted on a wide scale—blogs or
wikis, for instance. Though heavily
based on free text rather than richly
interconnected knowledge elements,
one of their functions can be seen as
makeshift knowledge management.
Perhaps the best route to a successful PKB would be to take advantage of
the broad adoption of such tools and
enhance them with the capability of
expressing knowledge in a more structured form.
To pull all these ideas together,
imagine a distributed system that se-
curely stores your personal knowledge
and is available to you anywhere, any-
time: from any computer, or from a
handheld device that you always carry
with you. Furthermore, the knowl-
edge it contains is in a flexible form
that can readily accommodate your
very thoughts. It contains all the con-
cepts you have perceived in the past
and want to recall—historical events,
business plans, phone numbers, sci-
entific formulas—and does not en-
courage you to isolate them from one
another, or to prematurely commit to
a structure that you might find restric-
tive later. The concepts can be linked
together as in a graph, clustered visu-
ally on canvases, classified in multiple
categories, and/or arranged hierar-
chically, all for different purposes. As
further information is encountered—
from reading documents, brainstorm-
ing project plans, or just experiencing
life—it is easy to assimilate into the
tool, either by capturing snippets of
text and relating it to what is already
known, or by creating new concepts
and combining them with the easily
retrievable old. External documents
can be linked into the knowledge
structure in key places, so that they
can be classified and easily retrieved.
It is effortless to augment the content
with annotations, and to rearrange it
to reflect new understandings. And
this gold mine of knowledge is always
exportable in a form that is compatible
with other, similar systems that have
different features and price points.
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Stephen Davies ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is an assistant
professor of computer science at the University of Mary
Washington, Fredericksburg, VA.
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