It is a question that I have been asked on more than one occasion. It is also a question that is easy to answer. However, to answer it fully, I have to give you a bit of background information.
Several years ago I built an application that helped me to store and retrieve the essential bits of knowledge that I deemed necessary to do my job well. Like a lot of people, I changed my role several times within the company that I worked for. First I was a developer, then I became lead developer followed by becoming the head of software development and finally, I became the company’s IT manager. With absolute confidence I can say that a major factor, other than my colleagues, that contributed to my success in each of these roles was my ability to effectively manage the required job-related knowledge. And, as you have likely already guessed, it was my application that made this task of knowledge management easier.
So, when I was offered an exciting software development-related job at another company, it was only natural for me to resort to my application to help me to keep on top of the demands of the new job. This time around, however, although the application did what it did very well, it was also beginning to show its age. In poetic terms, the application was definitely a child of its time. That is, when I originally implemented the application in 2006 it wasn’t that easy to access high-quality semantic web services in a structured manner. Today, doing exactly that is, relatively speaking, a straight-forward exercise. The number of available public-facing high-quality APIs and web services has skyrocketed. Mainly for that reason, I decided to re-implement my application with the vision of maintaining the versatility and expressive power of topic maps in combination with great semantic web services to automatically supplement your own documented knowledge. And I think I have come along way in accomplishing that vision. PerfectLearn, without any user intervention, automatically displays related Wikipedia articles, Flickr images, YouTube videos, and news stories from various sources all seamlessly complementing your own documented knowledge.
Moreover, the semantic nature of PerfectLearn is not limited to external web services returning related information; due to PerfectLearn’s underlying data structure, topic maps, you can define semantically meaningful relations between your own topics making it possible to expand your documented knowledge without the risk of your knowledge becoming disjointed. In addition, these semantic relationships (associations, in topic map terminology) provide you with a very precise context for any given topic while at the same time making it easy to navigate your documented knowledge in an exploratory fashion.
I have already got to a stage within the application’s development that it can actually be used and I am pleased with the result. Lots of potential features are still missing but the application is useable and this time around, I built the application not just for me but for other people as well. Why? If the application is useful to me it will be useful to other people as well. I’m convinced of that.
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