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January 01, 2009

Out With the Old Bookmarks, In with the New Bookmarks

Ah, New Years Day, with a whole year stretched out in front of us as tabula rasa. People mark the occasion differently. Some people jump in the Mon. Some people ride their bikes. Me, I re-organize my Bookmarks in my browser.

This blog's namesake, Vannevar Bush wrote an article, As We May Think in The Atlantic Monthly in July 1945 speculating about where all our technology would take us. He described a machine called the Memex, which was a hyperlinked information system and the conceptual forerunner of the World Wide Web.

Bush connected numerous existing technologies, projected reasonable advances, and described an information system based on "associative indexing", where you could read one article of interest and have connections developed automatically and instantly. He thought that people would mark up significant finds, add comments, and contribute their own thoughts and conculsions. He was Web2.0 before there was Web1.0.

Vannevar Bush predicted that the "trails" between these documents would be significant, and would be recorded and retrievable by the device. Speaking of mankind, Bush wrote:
He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory. His excursions may be more enjoyable if he can reacquire the privilege of forgetting the manifold things he does not need to have immediately at hand, with some assurance that he can find them again if they prove important.

Bush said that the record of trails might be passed down from as an inheritance, and I found that to be a significant notion. So I categorize my bookmarks by year and topic. Each year I start a new set of bookmarks, moving the previous year's folders into a "2008" meta-folder. Each new computer I've moved through gets the previous bookmarks. It's a reading list of where I've been. I don't know that it'll be of any value, but if might be interesting and it's certainly not expensive to maintain.

Bush wasn't right about everything. His memex, for instance, was an optical rather than a digital repository, and the record was stored locally rather than on a network. His words provide rich evidence of the gender and class assumptions of a patrician society. But He described the web in 1945, and described it as part of the hope of mankind, and he came out of the war mentality with positive hope for the future. A man could do worse. Few have done better.

So today, I lift a grateful thought to Vannevar Bush and start a set of bookmark folders based on year and topic - 2009 Me, 2009 kids, 2009 news, 2009 blogs, 2009 web design, 2009 programming, 2009 aviation, 2009 Pittsburgh, 2009 bike trips, etc - and start populating a new record of this year's resources.

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