Archive for Mai 2010

Some reflections of others

Mai 30, 2010

Here are some reflections of other people (who did great work – I’m amazed, I think we’re on to something really outstanding):

Here Jon Radoff, who did a history of social games – he displayed it in a very cool graph (that shows the advantage and a few of the problems at one glance):

Here a teacher applied Sid Meiers Civ for his history teaching and another taking it into university . He describes how they talked about it in class and came up with new ideas like matrices (which is an interesting idea for an underlying modell) and techspheres –  WOW. I can really imagine the large sphere having technologies on it, which are interconnected and ideas evolving (through morphing software) into one another.

Scientific historians could use the tool to detect links missing and interpolate the gestalt of these missing links!

And at last – the post who seemes to be the root of that tree 🙂 Trevor Owens Blog about games, online learning and digital history, with his post: Science grows on trees (what a nice picture – even if (strictly speakin) civilizations tech tree is no tree but a directed graph).

I’m still ambivalent about the technology, the choices are:

  • JavaFX
  • Javascript

(I despise flash – it is so closed and stylish-designish; after all I’m a serious informatician)

What do you think?


Missing Links

Mai 28, 2010

Today I did some research on the connectedness and topology of knowledge. It seems to me, that there is nothing like that.

This is completely out of our cultural focus. It is really as I stated in one of my previous posts – the connections and the topology of knowledge are completely obscure and burried in heaps and tons of linear material. Hyperlinks were some sort of outstanding breakthrough in such an unlinked intellectual environment.

And of course the Mindmaps (which I don’t consider Buzan as their inventor, as I’ve seen Mindmaps made by Charles Darwin). But they are so rigid. Petri-Nets are completely unconnected with the use of showing knowledge and AI-nets are used to try to imitate brains.

I really wonder what our world-culture has done the last few thousand years. They seem to have invented the book press and then leaned back and said: OK, now we try to improve it until it’s digital. But whatever we do, we don’t change the paradigm.

Hmmmm….  sounds familiar. They did the same with schools: rennovate, don’t innovate.

The links are missing completely. They are burried in the text and you have to find out by reading.

Math is not linear

Mai 21, 2010

After all the hard work we’ve deserved a little break 🙂

So here is a good visualization about delinearizing math:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about „Math is not linear„, posted with vodpod

The author pretty recognized the problem pretty well. And as well some of the causes.

But then he skips back to the old „foreshading“, „mystifying“ and voodoo-stuff that I joyfully reject. No sacred priest and cleric cast any more! The connections have to be made visible to everyone!

Though his move is very revealing: he can do nothing else. The connections (which he displays very well on the intro picture) are nowhere backupped in the culture. He stands there, being a lonely prophet – no delinearized books exist, only a few mindmaps and he cannot tie the books to one another and you can certainly not tie the teachers to one another. Nor can he step out of his curriculum, because he has to test it. And he has a multitude of pupils facing him, that would probably all follow different links and paths.

He would need something to backup all his ideas. At least a software. And here we go!

How would we formulate data without links?

Mai 19, 2010

As I’ve been wondering here about „where education should*, must and will go“, I want to dig deeper in this and further articles on the realization „how to get there“.

First Question: How to represent the data?

The question is a bit ill formulated because there are always links between data. Else we would have chaos, but I’m stepping over the obvious and getting back to it, as soon as it makes problems. So if I try in XML I get quite a hierarchy of facts (even without the connections). If you are not into technology, just ignore all the ‚<‚ and ‚>‘ doesn’t make any difference.

So here I go with a quite famous sociologist (Emile Durkheim) and his works on Division of Labour and Suicide:


<name>Durkheim Emile</name>


<link type=“video“> youtube link</link>

<link type=“lecture notes“> yale lecture notes </link>

<link type=“quiz questions“>berkeley quiz questions </link>





<work>The social division of labour </work>


<translation lang=de>19XX </translation>








This looks good. If I add another author I get large amounts of repetition. I won’t do any additional linking (to avoid this repetition). Because different people shall be able to contribute. Repetition can be smashed in refined internal representations.

Second Question: Why XML and not a super Artificial-Intelligence-Geek-Language?

So why XML (and not Prolog):

-From a technical point of view: You can transform XML to Prolog database facts 🙂

-From a users point of view: You can generate xml with a thousand tools, but who knows prolog(or other KI languages) ?

Third Questions: You’ve got authors, but what about eclipses and earthquakes?

Now comes another question, which I personally find hard to answer: There are things that don’t come from authors. How do they fit in (e.g. Earthquakes, The Battle of Hastings, and so on)

Simplest Solution: Author=God/Krishna/Hawking/… ( 🙂 )

My answer, which I find quite satisfying is: If there is no author, how do we know. Erruption of the Vesuvus – Plinius the Elder was not the author but the „sensor“ for mankind. And we are talking about knowledge. Knowledge is „justified true believes“. So there is always a human (intelligible) part in it, that we can attach events to.

I think I’ve to dig deeper into Knowledge Management and KI, but currently this seems all sound to me.

Example from another domain: Biology

I try a biology example:

<author>Henry Gray</author>

…<work>Gray’s Anatomy</work>



<author>Charles Darwin</author>

<work>I think



<work>On the origin of species<work>


So this works too. Some books have more than one author. But I don’t think this as a bad problem. We can introduce a tag named co-authors, illustrators (and even lectors 🙂 ).

I’m quite happy with my little brainstorming. What do you think? Please leave comments.

How to display knowledge in a topological way

Mai 17, 2010

First Question: Can one „Study Off-University“/“Learn Online“ only?

Over the last few weeks/months I’ve been examining the solutions to study and learn with online content.

The point about it is that a lot of universities have much of their content online, but for a complete study of the matter you still need to be „there“. The stuff on the internet is mostly introductory courses only.

But there are as well additional ressources where professors upload their content on their own behalf (e.g. a complete lecture on „Das Kapital„) – and which, if collected – could make a real complete graduation (at least the knowledge, and that’s what I’m talking about).

There are some startups that try to do this like AcademicEarth and NalandaU

But there is missing the „curriculum“ aspect:

„When can I be really sure to have studied this subject thoroughly?“

So I took the curriculum for sociology (my current topic) and started to transfer it.

I tried this in several ways:

1.) As a mindmap

2.) and as a TV-Channel on yubby

3.) As a collection on Evernote (kind of a note taking/bookmark service)

4.) The annotated curriculum itself.

This all is somehow overwhelming if you want to study a subject.

The Mindmap gives no real ordering and TV-Channels provide ordering, but too strict and allow no additional ressources. Evernote gives ordering as well, but there is no real overview and you don’t get the big picture.

Second Question: How can we make it appealing and comprehensive?

I found the best overview in a game! There the knowledge is linked to preconditions and postconditions. E.g you need Pottery, The Sail and The Wheel to discover Trade. Every discovered knowledge yields some inventions – e.g. Mathematics yield the Catapult (amongst other things).

The connections are the important things. They represent how knowledge is made out of other knowledge. How one thought makes possible and evolves into another. I will call this connectedness of knowledge its topology.

If you have a given topology of knowledge, then you can

  • start learning from the „beginning“ and work to the „end“ – which would be what you get in nowadays universities (but the connections are shut away from you and part of the secret knowledge of the wise)
  • start learning from the end towards the beginning. That’s how private tutoring works, where you start with what you’ve got problems and then follow along the lines of the not-understood preconditions. (The connections aren’t revealed to you again).

And now the breakthrough can happen, you describe not only the content, but the connections as well. So that the learner can be a better self-directed teacher.

Here is the first online tutoring system, that realizes this concept – and models the connections:

In the VirtualNerd-Software you can go back and acquire the different preconditions. With these modeled connections they could easily display the topology of this knowledge.

Question 3: Why are the connections hidden, and how can we make them visible?

Today you *know* the connections as soon as you have studied the subject to the end. Then you are one of the wise and savant. But until then the connections reveal only through studying, exploring and discovering them for yourself.

Connections are nowhere modeled. Knowledge may be categorized and tagged (like this part belongs to algebra), but no explicit connections.

I think this has many reasons:

  • Our intellectual culture is linear, because our texts are linear.
  • Connections are ambivalent. This means, that one thing can connected differently under different views. It makes a difference wether I want to connect authors by their research field or by the date of their works.

But we now have the possibility to formulate this, and formulate different transformations into different views – resulting in different views of the same knowledge. Depending on our focus.

If we wouldn’t model it into data separated from the views, then we would quickly realize that our models are incomplete. So if we order it by author, we wouldn’t have the temporal aspect, or the geographical, or we would miss the conversation of the ideas as they emerged during the centuries, or the concepts they contributed.

So modelling *all* relations into one view we would end up with a messy and incomplete view.

I think this is the reason why all tries have failed so far, and are doomed to fail in the future. So that the connections stay unformulated, unexpressed and obscure. Only the knowing have access to form small models and they know the connections.

If we change this, we could switch from stoneage learning (transmitting the facts and letting the learner figure out the connections) to post-stoneage learning. I think this could have a deep impact. The question would shift from: „What knowledge *is* there“, to „How does knowledge interact?“. Leaving the static perspective and transcending into a dynamic one.