Google recently announced their new experimental site and it holds a feature to see search results grouped on dates, visualized in a time line, based on extracted dates from the source documents.
Simple entity extraction isn’t that complicated, especially not when it comes to keeping track of dates – some regular expressions can easy detect date formats and normalize them for any search engine to keep track. However, other vendors have at the most visualized them as dynamic navigators or just used it as metadata . The key lies in visualizing it and providing a user friendly interface, which I must say Google, again, has succeeded with. This announcement made me think of something two researchers from Yale wrote an article about in 1996.
Freeman and Gelmter (1996) introduce a new metaphor, “Lifestreams” – an idea for users to organize their own personal workspace. The concept is that everything a person creates or are involved with are attached to a lifestream, which simply is a visualized time line linked to a storage repository. Later the user can add filtering and alerting functions to monitor and summarize their the streams for easier overview or just narrow their streams down to suit their current information need.
For example, if a user wishes to add a meeting, there is no need to open up the calendar, just attach the meeting entry to the life stream in the future. Adding the proper alerting, one will still be reminded. Lifestreams are not only historical, the concept also expands into the future. Furthermore, the concept grows to having various substreams, one for your private, one for your professional, dynamically as you create it.
Furthermore Google also announced their new map search, where one could search for a almost anything and get a rough overview (of course on a map) where places related to the query is displayed highlighted on the map. It’s noticeable that Google hasn’t utilized all their content in these two experimental features, but I must say I’m really looking forward when they do. I would say that Google now are really starting showing off that they definitely are capable to deal with true contextual search.
So, what about the lifestreams? Well, the recent buzz around Enterprise 2.0 and moving the Web 2.0 with social networking and blogging inside the corporate firewalls could really learn from these three concepts. If some vendor would provide functionality for ordinary businessmen to build personal lifestreams, hook their documents, meetings and resources to it combined with easy controlled vocabulary tagging and visually on a map attaching it to location. Let’s add the last magic spice: search to aid building up enterprise historical lifestreams and provide easy access, entity extraction, filtering and alerting one would have the silver bullet. One could follow the lifestream of an organization as one follow the heartbeat of a human being. Enterprise Lifestreams of aggregated deparment lifestreams of aggregated individual lifestreams. Imagine visualizing an organizational lifestream and tap into the pulse of an enterprise organization. Imagine to share professional lifestreams with collegues and interestgroups.
Not to take over John Lennon’s role about imagine, but I feel this could the next killer enterprise application that would glue all enterprise 2.0 concepts together. This could be the next step in social networking and truly support processoriented organizations’s everyday work! What do you think? Are our enterprises ready for something like this?