I first wrote about the Dropping Knowledge two years ago (almost to date), before they had their big pow-wow in Berlin – the Table of Free Voices. I honestly thought interest in the grandiose idea peter out. However, I was surprised to note that the site still exists and is at the time of writing taking a crack at defining terrorism based on the responses to questions asked at the Table of Free Voices.
My concerns with pre-fabricated “wisdom” as I noted in my first post on Dropping Knowledge remain. Two years on, the fact that the site and its information is still locked into a domain and associated formats that can’t easily be accessed via mobiles is quite appalling (the assumption being that everyone accesses and can access the web through broadband and PC is already egregiously incorrect). Yet, there is a significant corpus of thought here that’s worth perusing, though the huge variance in intelligence of the people who participated makes the entire initiative uneven (unlike Wikipedia, information generated by the initiative is not moderated / controlled / overseen by the commons).
BTW, should mention that there was one Sri Lankan at the “Table of Free Voices” – Neela Marikkar. Her response to the question, “We are in the knowledge age. How can the increase in access to technology (Internet and computer) among low- income communities help to promote social and economic development?” is here. Pico Iyer also mentions Sri Lanka in response to this question, though it’s for a very different reason!
Three problems with the site. One, the fact that it is not accessible by mobiles really limits the appeal and usefulness of this site to those who don’t have a PC and broadband access. Today it’s easy enough to create a simple iPhone, mobile Flash, mobile Java or even just a plain text site with all the transcripts for access via mobiles. The possibilities here are quite exciting.
Two, the sheer scope and depth of the content on the site is hard to access. There’s no interlinkages between topics, no semantic navigation, just a search functionality. Contrary to the site’s avowed aim to create and spread wisdom, all you have are basic tools that offer basic search functionality of information. the UI of the site overwhelms. It’s not immediately evident how to get access to information – clutter and just bad information design with an over-reliance on Flash graphics (no low bandwidth version at all).
Three and importantly, where’s the Living Library? No one’s called Dropping Knowledge on this and the site now conveniently has no mention of it either.
See my original post for the Living Library’s feature set as it was proposed two years ago. The “conceptual topography of 25,000 interconnected issues” and a library “offering 3D graphic navigation” is nowhere to be found. In taking a Google like approach to access information you lose a tremendous degree of value in semantic connections between the participants, the questions and the answers.
I wonder if they ran out of funding, programmers, interest or all three. I wish this was more like the Encyclopedia of Life.