From the post:
Let’s say you work in a modern digital newsroom. Your colleagues are looking at interesting stuff online all day long — reading stimulating news stories, searching down rabbit holes you’ve never thought of. There are probably connections between what the reporter five desks down from you is looking for and what you already know — or vice versa. Wouldn’t it be useful if you could somehow gather up that all that knowledge-questing and turn it into a kind of intraoffice intel?
A version of that vision is what Noah Feehan and others in The New York Times’ R&D Lab is working on with a new system called Curriculum. It started as an in-house browser extension he and Jer Thorp built last year called Semex, which monitored your browsing and, by semantically analyzing the web pages you visit, rendered it as a series of themes.
…if Semex was most useful to me as a way to record my cognitive context, the state in which I left a problem, maybe I could share that state with other people who might need to know it. Sharing topics from my browsing history with a close group of colleagues can afford us insight into one another’s processes, yet is abstracted enough (and constrained to a trusted group) to not feel too invasive…
Each user in a group has a Chrome extension that submits pageviews to a server to perform semantic analysis and publish a private, authenticated feed. (I should note here that the extension ignores any pages using HTTPS, to avoid analyzing emails, bank statements, and other secure pages.) Curriculum is carefully designed to be anonymous; that is, no topic in the feed can be traced back to any one particular user. The anonymity isn’t perfect, of course: because there are only five people using it, and because we five are in very close communication with each other, it is usually not too difficult to figure out who might be researching a particular topic.
… Curriculum is kind of like a Fitbit for context, an effortless way to record what’s on our minds throughout the day and make it available to the people who need it most: the people we work with. The function Curriculum performs, that of semantic listening, is fantastically useful when people need to share their contexts (what they were working on, what approaches they were investigating, what problems they’re facing) with each other.
The Curriculum feed is truly a new channel of input for us, a stream of information of a different character than we’ve encountered before. Having access to the residue of our collective web travels has led to many questions, conversations, and jokes that wouldn’t have happened without it. (emphasis added)
Are you ready for real information sharing?
I was rather surprised that anyone in a newsroom would be that sensitive about their browsing history. I would stream mine to the Net if I thought anyone were interested. You might be offended by what you find, but that’s not my problem. 😉
I do know of rumored intelligence service projects that never got off the ground because of information sharing concerns. As well as one state legislature that decided it liked to talk about transparency more than it enjoyed practicing it.
While we call for tearing down data silos (those of others) are we anxious to keep our own personal data silos in place?