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news and thoughts on and around the development of the iCite net
by Jay Fienberg

Example: iCites and Harry Potter

posted: Jun 21, 2003 4:06:08 PM

This morning at about 8:40 am Pacific Daylight Time, our copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was delivered to our door by FedEx. Anastasia had pre-ordered this from ages ago, and obviously FedEx employees throughout the universe are busy delivering at least the 1,000,000 pre-sold copies of the book today.

Anastasia is actually at a pinhole camera photography workshop today, so this is one of those posts in the vein of "those who can't, blog". Anastasia and I are going to read the book together, so I am going to just have to blog about the book all day until she gets home later ;-)

I am betting a significant number of bloggers have already or shortly will have copies of this book in their possesion or household. And, I was thinking last night, while anticipating the book's arrival, that it would have been fun to organize some kind of specific "hook" for blogs to log everyone's reading of this book.

I was just thinking about different ways people could log their Harry Potter reading and realized that iCites will actually be well suited for logging these kinds of activities, which are kind-of like real-time trivia games. So, here are some of my ideas:

First, iCites are basically lists with data-rich links and guaranteed cross-referencing (i.e., if you link to something, that thing tracks that you are linked to it). So, let's say I set up a template for a Who's reading Harry Potter, Book 5 iCite, and a template for a I'm reading Harry Potter, Book 5 iCite.

The template iCite is something that anyone can use as the basis for their own iCite. They can extend it too. But, everyone who uses a template will be creating links using a common set of metadata, and so queries across these iCites can utilize a common set of attributes.

So, the Who's reading iCite aggregates information from I'm reading iCites. And, each Who's reading iCite can also aggregate information from any or all other Who's reading iCites.

Each Who's reading iCite could be used to aggregate information about a local group of readers, but some or all Who's reading iCites could also aggregate info on collection of many groups of readers, or even every reader.

So, what kind of info might be fun to track:

First, at what time and what place did you receive your copy of the book? This info could be plugged into a visualization application like Mikel Maron's World as a Blog and we could watch as people around the world get their copies of the book.

More elaborate visualizations could show areas of planet changing color as quantities of the book are delivered.

So, how do these iCites facilitate this kind of tracking? Pretty simple, anyone with an I'm reading iCite would just add a link to a Who's reading iCite, and that link's definition would have some extra data indicating a timestamp and a state of "in hand".

When you create an iCite or create a link on an iCite, you create it with an identity, which is simply a link to an identity iCite. So, I will have a Jay Fienberg identity iCite and all the iCites and links on iCites I create will link to my identity iCite.

Some of the default fields of identity iCites are GeoURLs, which indicate one's location on the planet. One field is for your current location.

So, queries on and views of the Who's reading iCites can account, for each reader, for the timestamp (with each link, such as when the book was received), the identity of the reader, and the location of the reader.

The next thing to track is: what chapter are you on? I am assuming that people won't want to blog what page they are on, but I can imagine putting the book down at the end of each chapter and, through something like a simple browser-based interface, or an email or IM message, adding a another link to an iCite.

Note: if someone wanted to create an iCite to track what page they were on, someone could also create an iCite that translated page numbers to chapter numbers, and these could be combined to plug the information into the same Who's reading ecosystem.

Like the first link, this "what chapter are you on" link will have timestamp and state data. The state for this link will indicate the chapter number. Again, this information can be visualized in various ways, like an animated graph showing the average chapter number by location as if it were some kind of race.

The kind of statistics that could be produced from these iCites might be interesting to businesses, right? So, maybe businesses will run Who's reading iCites and offer prizes through a raffle. Local libraries and bookstores could similarly create events integrated with this information, purely to encourage reading and love of books. Business or civic motivated incentives can be offered to encourage people to track this info about themselves.

But, I was thinking about all of this for a personal, social, reason: I want to know, day by day, who of my friends have read as much of the book as I have so I can talk about happenings in the story with them.

A final obvious thing to track is: when did you finish reading the book? Again, add a link to your iCite through a simple template (which can have things like automatic timestamping).

Since I haven't read the book yet, I don't know what other things would be fun to track, based on the story itself. I can guess things like, based on the chapter you are on, do you think the next chapter will be one where Harry nearly gets killed.

But, in any case, with iCites, new templates can be created and shared so that anything someone wants to track personally can be tracked by others using the same format, and then aggregated and sliced-and-diced. Other data, like a rating for each chapter, could be added to the mix, etc.

Disclaimer: If you know enough about databases, XML, HTML, and webserver application programming, I am sure you are thinking of ways to do all of these things without using iCites. I don't claim that this is impossible, but simply that iCites should facilitate doing these kinds of things.

In particular, iCites should allow individuals to do these kinds of things and easily share how they are doing them with others. And, the iCite net is just an experiment to see if these things can be facilitated on that scale (i.e., for each person online) and to explore what value there might be in such facilitation.

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Comment by: mikel ·
posted: Jun 22, 2003 8:53:34 AM

get the data and let's make it happen would love to see the memetic atom bomb of harry potter diseminate through the worlds neural processing need to make those final fixes to worldKit (geoblog for any data set). maybe i'll get a chance in sweden. a simple way would be to have weblog search engines output in geovisualizations -- just search technorati for potter.

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