On Doug Engelbart, DKRs, and Federation


The Demo@50 celebration will commemorate the contributions of Doug Engelbart, the visionary that has inspired countless projects including TopicQuests. To honor the man, a group of individuals are coming together to create new technology that promotes Engelbart’s dream of building a system that augments humanity.
The group identifies a couple key components in building a Dynamic Knowledge Respository (DKR) that Engelbart referenced but were not developed. A DKR is a living, breathing, rapidly evolving repository of all the stuff accumulating moment to moment throughout the life of a project or pursuit. We like to call a DKR a knowledge garden.
Of the elements identified by the subcomittee for building a new demo, we believe the first step to developing a DKR is addressing the following issue:

xFiles, a data container, a format, conventions and structure for data storage for the DKR

TopicQuests has been working on the data storage question for a while now. Our goal is to create an environment of federation; where we can all build what we want, while allowing for an easy exchange of information between those systems. By creating a standard federation protocol, we can create an ecosystem of tools that allow for rapid augmentation of human operators.
For the federation protocols to work, it must be ecumenical; this cannot be a TopicQuests project. It must be a collaborative project.
With that in mind, we make the following first moves in our quest to build a federation protocol with others. Consider it a series of observations and suggestions to build future conversations:
  • JSON-LD is a popular, adopted methodology that helps unscramble and address ontology issues, which is crucial for a DKR that covers several different types of knowledge bases. Given its adoption rate and function, JSON-LD would make a good basis for a federation protocol.
  • People on the web do things. They make posts, join groups, leave groups, edit entries. These are all events.
  • ActivityPub provides all the standard infrastructure and vocabulary to federate activities and should be considered to be a basis for a federation protocol.
  • Conversations do not universally share the same vocabulary, but all conversations center around the same or related subjects of conversation, or topics.
  • While TopicMaps are the way that TopicQuests is going to build their network of ideas, TopicMaps aren’t necessarily required for Federation.
  • If you want to federate conversations, or even papers which like conversations are networks of topics, a system needs to do the following:
    • Recognize Topics
    • Represent recognized topics in ways which can be mapped to the federation JSON-LD Protocol
    • Be able to accept topics sent in from other systems and map them back to your system
We believe that a federation protocol to develop a DKR environment is possible. The list above is our first steps towards for developing that protocol. We look forward to working with others to make this a reality.

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