Wednesday, April 17, 2024

White Spaces and Unknown Unknowns

The image showcases a complex coloring book page, highlighting the interplay between filled and unfilled areas, which symbolize visible and invisible elements in perception.

I dug up some coloring books from the basement's collection of arts and crafts supplies dating from when my kids were growing up.  I needed something to occupy my hands and empty my brain.  Ironically, that tends to be when ideas show up unexpectedly.  

I was attacking my third drawing when suddenly the decision I had to make wasn't which color marker to pick, but whether or not to color the "white space".  The pre-printed lines clearly show shapes and the brain immediately interprets the area between lines as something to be colored.  This happens even with geometric shapes or lines that don't represent a recognizable object.  Of course, one could decide to leave some of those shapes uncolored, but that means they are intentionally left white.  What I was wondering about was whether or not to color the white space that corresponds to "empty space" or negative space.  

In cognitive science, this relates to selective attention.  Our brain focuses on certain stimuli while ignoring others.  We notice some things and miss others.  Refocusing my attention to the empty spaces was a way to alter my focus and consequently, my perception of the image I was coloring.  I refocused on the negative space. This is somewhat similar to or related to the concept of unknown unknowns, the things we don't know we don't know.  We're oblivious to our own blindness and ignorance.  

What am I not seeing?  What am I missing?  How could I see differently?

Friday, April 12, 2024

Explorations and Discovery: Looking for Adjacent Content

Exploration is more than just discovering what we agree with; it's about pushing boundaries and challenging our perceptions.

The words exploration and discovery go well together.  If you start on an exploration journey, you are likely to make some discoveries.  It's even a little more exciting than going on a learning journey and collecting some lessons. Words matter.

Today I discovered someone I now want to follow because what I read from that person resonated strongly.  This is part of the problem.  We tend to read and follow what resonates, what we agree with, which leads to reading more of the same people who write things that resonate with us, which only reinforces our opinion of ourselves and allows us to dismiss everything else either as crazy or just noise.  

I would like my explorations to lead me to things that are adjacent to what resonates with me, to push the boundaries a little, to expand the zone of what resonates with me to what makes me think and rethink.  

I am particularly interested in this discovery because it will expand my thinking.  I discovered Joan Westenberg's blog and other writings.  I discovered her via Harold Jarche's blog.  Harold Jarche is already on the edge of my comfort zone and someone I have followed closely for a long time around Personal Knowledge Management.  Joan Westenberg is pushing things in the same zone of discovery.

What's the point I am trying to make?

In an attempt to curate interesting, relevant information, and to support my explorations for valuable discoveries, I need to strategically pay attention beyond what immediately resonates with me and notice the adjacent content that can take my own thinking one step further. 

Thursday, April 04, 2024

2024 Explorations - Q1 Review

I started my 2024 Explorations in January. It was meant as a combination of two main objectives:

1) a learning framework or learning agenda, not so much to ensure that I would engage in continuous learning but more to ensure that my continuous learning was adequately focused on some key themes of interest;

2) using technology, and more specifically
 TiddlyMap, as a personal knowledge management tool that would allow me to experiment with (a form of) knowledge graph.

We've reached the end of the first quarter of 2024 and so far so good. I just completed a quarterly review of progress and generated a few insights.

  • Is TiddlyMap allowing me to really learn about knowledge graphs? Yes, but as expected, it has its limitations. I will eventually crash the tool. I don't think it is meant as a graph database but it works well as an exploratory tool. Ultimately I need to move my data to a real knowledge graph tool like Neo4J. That should be a goal for the second quarterly. I started learning more about Neo4J, including learning the basics of Cypher.

  • Is my learning framework working? The main themes and topics have proven very useful as guardrails and as an organization schema both for my thinking and for capturing notes. There are some issues with the taxonomy. Some topics are overlapping and I keep wanting to create more tags. So far, I have limited the number of additional tags and I have only made minor adjustments to the topic tags. Proliferation of tags would lead to inconsistencies. Until the tagging is automated, the number of tags is limited by my capacity to remember them all.

    The maps are telling me something pretty clear. I have focused perhaps 80% of my efforts on the AI and Knowledge Graph topics. The maps related to those topics are very large, which has enabled me to test filters. Like a search returning too many results, a map showing too many relationships is unreadable. For other topics, I have collected and curated resources, but I have not spent time connecting the dots. As a result, the maps are less interesting (so far).

  • Is the basic ontology working? Yes, but the value of TiddlyMap's automated functionalities has made it much more powerful to create maps based on what TiddlyMap does with relationships based on tags and links associated with Tiddlers than to manually create a specific set of relationships based on my simple ontology. I have learned most by manipulating the filters to understand how relationships are displayed. Interpreting the resulting maps for potential insights is the next stage I want to dive into. Since I am the one creating all the links and the tags, the maps are not telling me anything I didn't already notice, but they are representing the connections visually and often reminding me of connections I made weeks ago that I don't hold in immediate memory.  I posted one of the maps in the Insight Maps section

The biggest ha-ha moment was related to tagging. I was using the tagging functionality to tag too many different types of things and failing to use a major functionality of the tool. I realized after a while that I should be using the fields to document the properties of a node. For example, "author" is a field rather than a tag. This allows me to have a consistent set of node properties and to rely on tags only for topics and some of the metadata used for navigation purposes. This also really helped make the maps more meaningful.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Using a GPT to get updates in topics of interest

About a month ago, I created a GPT based on ChatGPT 4.0.  It's easy to create but requires some fine-tuning.  I used Ross Dawson's approach detailed here:  Creating custom GPTs for news and Information Scanning; and I adjusted it to suit my own purpose.  The results have been mixed but I'm reasonably happy with what I got today.