Open ... Opener ... Openest!

It's become, I guess, a basic assumption of these columns. A sort of accepted truism that hardly merits any attempt at verification: The internet is the open tool par excellance. It allows us to freely make connections between previously unrelated ideas; it gives us access to information, and does so in a manner that can help generate lateral thinking. And of course with all that freedom, it can also be one hell of a hindrance.

I guess that this is as good a place as any to once again give a plug for the articles available (in Hebrew) on this server about open tools. There's a great deal to be learned from them. The last time I alluded to them was almost a year and a half ago, so it's only fair to call them up once again.

But quite a bit can change in a year and a half, including some of my own thinking about open tools. Far be it from me to find anything negative in them, but there seems to be another side to the coin which deserves mention. The rather popular theories of distributed intelligence (aka distributed cognition) suggest that tools are cultural artifacts that hold within them, perhaps encapsulate, the collective acquired experience of a culture. As such, the quality of "openness", the ability to adapt to numerous and unplanned uses, isn't necessarily desirable in all situations. Sometimes we want a tool which has developed in such a way that it now performs a distinct and well defined job. A well planned portal, for instance, can be much more helpful than a disorganized collection of links, even though the latter may offer us more opportunities for free flowing discovery.

Go to: Beam me out, Scotty!