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Remembering Futures Past, Tony Kent and the Lost Vision of a Boolean Universe

I am an old school content analyst and faceted 'schematiser' who has been working for 30+ years trying to turn raw information into useful intelligence. During the late 80s and most of the 90s I worked closely with Dr Tony Kent on the full text database <<STRIX>> (user defined fielded structure and word-by-word search including thesaurus and authority files) for PCs and Unix.

Over 10+ years of close collaboration, we combined our disparate information worlds -- his being the pioneering of the brave new post-coordinate world of Boolean free text search, and mine being the classical old world of human pre-coordination using faceted taxonomies. What we were aiming for was a system of information working which combined collaborative pre-coordinate classification with post-coordinate word-by-word search and resulting SETS (including SETS of SETS) provided by <<STRIX>> to yield an information universe where users could find what they want and/or need with as little searching as possible. We applied the rigorous scientific method of the content analyst with the new, what seemed to me at the time, 'magic' tools enable by Tony's full text database.

After discussing how we combined thinking and practice, I shall go on to talk about our experience working together as shareholders in each other's companies - Microbel and Trend Monitor, and our late night plans for what was then called "the new Information Age".

These days, most of the current discussion on information and knowledge management leaves out the concept of databases (pre-coordinated collections with a purpose) in favour of information retrieval and semantic search which puts the onus on the user to deal with the chaotic vastness of the Internet (with the help of black box AI tools which only their programmers can understand). As it turned out, the current practice of outsourcing responsibility for knowledge collection and organisation to a non human intelligence turned out to be the opposite of Boolean Universe controlled and managed by intelligent users which we envisaged.

I shall conclude with a quick outline of the latest iteration of this vision, using what my colleague, Simon Eaton, calls Visual Boolean databases, combined with the latest generation of my taxonomies and their resulting collections relating to the Economy and the Environment, to meet today's unmet knowledge needs.

At the event, I will be demonstrating some key and possibly unique <<STRIX>> database functions, as well as making <<STRIX 5.4>> C++ source code open source for a project to make a Windows version (<<STRIX 6.x>>) available in the Cloud giving people the capability to store and control their data in a professional standard, full function text database free, forever.


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