Want some meta with that?
Correlate and Enfish both try to help you build a unified perspective by tapping into a lot of different data and content sources and aggregating them into a single view. But they require discipline to be worth the effort. It might be too much to ask. Who’s even using the simple Properties within MS Office documents? They seem useful only to know whom the file was copied from (or to do some remote intellectual bonding, as in "File | Properties | wow, the guy did fill in the keywords!")
So long as these tools require a conscious and structured effort, my take is they won’t cross the chasm beyond early adopters (those do it for the sake of it.) Even if that sounds like blatant over-generalization, I think many people are lazy and unruly enough that they’re not really interested in working more effectively. The challenge for collaborative meta tools is to be so pervasive that they add value even if users are passive. Google works because it doesn’t require anything more from its users than any other search engine. Along the same lines, MS Office might propose something similar to Amazon.com recommendations: "the people that read this spreadsheet also looked at these PPT presentations and Word memos."
I’d like to see less passiveness and more sound thinking (by myself included), but it’s an uphill battle to change how people behave. Usually coercing doesn’t work very well ("use the Properties, damn it!") so we need an easy way in, and immediate rewards if we want our cool tools to succeed in the mainstream. The hard part is not to recognize this, it’s to build tools that behave in such a clever "behind the scene" way and actually give meaningful results. The tools should learn from you, rather than you having to teach them (long, boring, with an unpredictable and delayed return.) As much as I like the idea of everyone becoming a programmer, that doesn’t fit with the TV addiction I see all around me.
Of course no tool will fix flawed human thinking anytime soon. A good thing if you ask me. The effort to think and communicate in a clear, logical way lies (warning: unproven, undocumented affirmation) in a moral search for the Truth (within the standard error due to our limited sample size.) Computers cannot put morality where we didn’t.
07/06/01 update: being a libertarian of course doesn’t preclude me from appreciating these principles of discussion.
01/11/02 update: Startup OpenCola Readies New P2P Search Engine.
02/02/02 update: Creo’s Six Degrees.
02/16/02 update: Nelson Email Organizer.
Want some meta with that?