A friend asked me recently to comment on some candidate research and development projects that might help people make (more) sense out of huge quantities of disorganized information. I came up with some tentative "rules for tools" --- criteria that good knowledge discovery software must meet.

But first, an aside: for any tool to be truly useful there's a really hard problem that's not (very) technical: people --- developers, managers, and customers --- must collectively recognize the system which tools need to augment and enhance (and fit within, and help to evolve). Otherwise, technical/organizational/personnel fixes aren't likely to have any significant impact. By "system" I mean something in the Senge "Fifth Discipline" systems-engineering sense --- a set of feedback loops and delay lines and dashpots and actuators and so forth, to put it mechanistically. (see FifthDisciplinarians, 10 September 2000)

A few rare people understand this sort of thing --- generally from lessons that they've learned by having lived within a dysfunctional system for years. Most such tool customers, alas, aren't technologically savvy; contrariwise, most tool developers aren't sufficiently customer-problem-space savvy. Hence, among other recent catastrophes, witness so many dot-com silly shipwrecks, projects which ran aground when good technical ideas hit reefs of social issues such as privacy, security, inertia, data noise, etc.

But to answer the original question --- in general, good tools must:

Past attempts to deliver revolutionary tools often failed because:

On the brighter side, during the recent past there are real signs of:

So there is hope....

TopicProgramming - 2001-11-10

(correlates: GoodNotation, FreedomPeaceCommerceEducation, UpsideDownShadows, ...)