Learning Curve – Beyond Search Engines

Nobody doubts that Internet search has revolutionized human endeavor of gathering information. I have been using Internet for 20 years for now. Over the period of time, I have started realizing limits of just a “Search Engine”.

If you look back at the most prominent search engine Google, it has changed in only the following ways from black box point of view:

  1. Predictive search, which in turn killed “I’m feeling lucky”
  2. Tag based search on images etc.
  3. Infinite scrolling of search results rather than pagination
  4. More relevant search

Nothing of above was non-trivial achievement. However, it is still search, search and search. Wolform Alpha has a new approach to search – and some other search engines may have some more angles to search.

However, as an intelligent being, searching for the information isn’t enough. A lot of times another longer intellectual activity may be going in the end user’s mind. This activity is called “learning”.

My wonder is, can an engine be designed that takes all the random information on the web and draw a Learning Curve for a given concept? That means, out of given concept (keyword), can the Web be rendered in ordered manner to introduce that concept and gradually leading the reader to deeper and deeper concepts? I will call such an engine Learning Curve

Outcome of such an engine on human intelligent activity will be dramatic. Suddenly searching will sound too consumerist. If we can draw such a curve (or curves) for a given concept – and associate learning sessions to a tool like browser, potential of human civilization can be realized like it has never been. If we can make such an engine (and popularize it 🙂 human knowledge growth curve will be much steeper than current “search and get lucky” approach. If Learning Curve approach is like stable agriculture, searching is like hunting-gathering.

Next question is, how do we order the ever-increasing –knowledge-in-the-web in the order of easy to hard?

First negatives:

  • User rating of a standalone page is likely to be defrauded, misjudged
  • Asking administrators to rate the page is likely to be misjudged or devoid of motivation
  • Based on human learning habits, one way to learn may not exist

Now how it may be achieved:

  • Absolute rating of pages doesn’t make sense but relative rating does. A browser plugin may display two pages about a concept side by side with end user rating easier-harder
  • An engine storing each page’s ranking with each concept with other rating (now, that is computationally suicidal)
  • Upon next request to serve the page, the engine serves pages by rank. The user can adjust rank like chess engine according to her/his level in a particular subject. The service may not be serving pages like rank 1, 2, 3 and so on. The service may bunch pages in links for 1-50, 51-100, …

Do you think it may work? If not, what can work? Is this idea worth pursuing at all?

BTW, commercialization of this idea is easy 🙂



Of flu, Japanese and computers

At times, readers of this blog ask me where I get (often nonsense) ideas from. Let me walk you through a real, workable idea generation.

We are having flu season in Bangalore. I am having flu too. I have very little attention span at this point of time and should be home sleeping.

As a part of my job, I was required to go conduct a couple of dozens of performance reviews of my reports. So I am at work. My brain is busted – from intellectual, sentimental and physical demands of this task.

When done, I am sitting on my laptop to finish another urgent and important task. That is to gather a team reporting to me to finish a collective task of reorganizing a test database. They have to sit in a common room for nearly a month. I am struggling with my brain to book a big enough room with enough facilities to carry out this reorganization of test database.

[Please notice the necessity to arrange for the room.]

My temperature has risen to 102F and my brain starts missing signals. I start confusing between Outlook’s duration, date, number of people invited and all the numbers of pay rises in my brain. I need some way to tell these numbers apart clearer.

[Please notice the frustration part.]

Add to the fact that my entire family is sick. With spinning head and 102F temperature, I am the healthiest. My elder son is down with much higher fever and cough since last 15 days. He has his final exams of the year. Luckily now only one paper is left – his third language, Japanese.

[Please notice the distraction.]

He told me that Japanese has one of the hardest way of counting. They have different counters for small animals, people, things etc.

[Please notice the lateral information.]

Why can’t all these confusing numbers appear different for different items – like date and time, number of people etc.? How would it look?

[Please notice the spark.]

The younger one is also sick. He has English to go through. I know once he is done, he is going to jump and finish all Geronimo Stilton books. Ah! Wait a minute, Geronimo Stilton books read like those different fonts for different number counting!

[Please notice the mental modeling.]

Why can’t we come up with a text processor that skims through the text and introduce annotations and fonts for better grasping? It could be a natural extension to my earlier post “Here, Now and Me”! It will help people grasp complex presentation better – or read better when they are distracted.

[Please notice how it links with an earlier idea.]