A vision

For a few moments of your time, I would like to invite you to share a vision with me.

Imagine, if you will, that you are standing in a very dark room. Stretching away from you in every direction are hundreds of glowing lines, crisscrossing and connecting with each other in millions of ways. Below your feet is a small intersection where many lines meet. Lines go out horizontally, vertically, and diagonally away from you. On an impulse, you walk down a line that extends away from you horizontally.

Soon, you come to another intersection. Your best friend is standing there, ready to shake your hand. His closest friends are just a line away, and their friends, and their friends' friends. Six intersections away, Kevin Bacon stands there, grinning.

Looking up and down, you can see thousands of more intersections, but instead of holding people, they hold words, concepts. Words blink like neon signs, each advertising a concept or category. On one intersection, the word Cats blinks slowly, the S curling and uncurling, twitching like a tail. Thousands of lines stretch away from the Cats intersection, each holding a particular type of cat, with more intersections stretching away into the distance, growing ever more specific the farther away you look. Nearby, the Dogs intersection whines and scratches itself, while the 'Antique Wooden Boats' intersection putts away thoughtfully.

Looking around, you can see a veritable crowd of people, each standing on their own little intersection. The crowd fades into the distance in all directions, but you can see that each person is staring intently down a line that extends away from them. Some are staring horizontally, some vertically, some diagonally, and some keep switching their interest from line to line.

After a while, you begin to notice patterns in the directions in which people choose to look. Some people tend to look horizontally, toward their close friends and circle of acquaintances. Some people tend to look exclusively vertically, searching for words and concepts that interest them. Some are switching back and forth between two or three concepts, looking bewildered when the same lines keep giving them the same results. Some people are actually trying to look in three or four directions at once, while chattering away with the nearest people along horizontal lines. Some people stare longingly down a line or two but refuse to reach out and make the connection. And some people just sit there looking confused, staring mostly at their little intersection, plucking the lines nearest them aimlessly.

Welcome to the Internet, 2007. Millions of users, each with their own little intersection, have now become networked with each other. Some people make strong horizontal connections, relying solely on their friends and acquaintances to show them which lines to travel along. Some people are keyword junkies, roaming the search engines and indices, looking for what interests them. Some people keep playing the same tune, over and over again, hoping to find something new among their tired list of keywords and concepts. Some people can't seem to make their minds up exactly what they are looking for and end up bouncing from concept to concept with all the consistency of spring weather. Some people would love to find content and concepts that interest them, but are afraid to look because they might run across a video of David Hasselhoff singing the national anthem. And some people are overwhelmed by the entire thing and mostly spend their time analyzing their navel lint.