Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Google and Language - version 1

Google works best when you have a unique set of search terms to describe a concept.

It's handy to have many definitions clustered around a single word in a human vocabulary.

The ability to fork a new definition from an existing term is a very powerful feature of human languages. They help provide a conceptual anchor, something you can stick a fork in, while providing room to move the word into new applications.

This cluster of similar usages is great for us, but has some bad effects when combined with word based search engines such as Google. This limitation of what we can easily find has a result of limiting our imagination, and eventually what we can express or accomplish.

For example, if you want to search for things about the hypertext markup (adding corrections to mark up hypertext - like comments, notes, etc... on top of a page of hypertext), it's impossible to find it using those terms, because HTML has swamped out the prior meaning of markup, which was the editorial and proofreaders addition of information to an existing piece of text.

To counter this limitation, I've become adept at finding terms which describe the concept in less frequently used words, thus making it possible (but not easy) to find things related to the annotation of hypertext documents. (Note the new terms) All of this is necessary to counteract the use of HTML, which is not a Language for Marking Up of Hypertext, but about embedding formatting to text which has hyper-links.

Another way to do this is to coin a completely new term, a neologism. This can allow you, if you are insistent enough, and if it "goes viral" to push a new term into usage. Coining a new phrase is another way to do it, such as "web 2.0", etc. The single word has a much better chance though, as it is far less likely to hit any noise. In fact, it's quite useful to check for the prospective new term to see how much likelihood of collision there is, prior to embarking on a campaign to popularize it.

I'm currently in a push to popularize cabsec, which is a system of computer security which I believe has languished in obscurity for too long. The current reference material when searching for "capability based security" all appears to be far to academic, and spans decades of slow deliberate academic research. What's necessary to get things into the mainstream is to provide a new base of discussion, with context that is far more pragmatic and practical and relevant to the contemporary needs of Internet users. This neologism provides a method for doing that which is compatible with Google, and provides less cognitive friction.

An alternative to the neologism, is to simply use your name, provided it isn't Smith or Jones, to hang on a new concept, such as "The Warot Method" of synthetic aperture virtual focus photography. It's a bit egocentric, but it also works, if you balance it with some humility and are open about your sources.

Thank you for your time and attention.

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