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Isn't our memory just a number of alternative 'paths' between synapses - often random, and seemingly unconnected things can trigger the same memories? Your proposition seem to me to have merit - and I certainly don't detect much organisation, categorisation and hierarchy in MY brain (but maybe that's a problem, and not proof of your hypothesis).

Sounds like you've been having those beers with Hugh ...


Sig, man, everything you're laying down on this blog is totally hitting home for me. Keep fighting the good fight, you're on to big things.


Tags:Laying out our brain or memorie(s)on different maps. Will creativity take over?
I like the idea, especially on sundays.

Barry Kelly

The argument by analogy you've just set up is completely bogus.

Power hierarchies form because there is usually an exact ordering: from most powerful to least powerful. This naturally leads to a small number of people with much power, and many people with little power, giving rise to a pyramidal shape (however flat the pyramid, there's always a pyramid: it's related to the 80:20 rule).

When you talk about tags associating with one another freely, that's something *completely* different. There isn't a relevant ordering on such tags, nor on the concepts to which they relate. All you've proven is that there isn't a hierarchical classification for words or ideas. That's a well-known principle already.


Barry, strong words :)

Let me suggest there is a chicken and egg situation present:

A hierarchy as any tree structure requires "navigation", as in choice between "right" and "left" at each fork.

And that what "navigates" a hierarchy is a "process". And in lack of a better system that requires "nodes", with "power" as you put it.

In short, what I suggest is that the "hiererachy" came to life due to "data sorting needs" then it required "power nodes" to work. Not the other way round...

Thus no managers required if no tree structure to order the resources and if the process relied on alternative methods.

Now you can go "bogus!" or "silly" or something ;)

Barry Kelly

I'd view most hierarchies as directed acyclic graphs, and the choice is not left or right but rather up or down.

With tags, there is no direction, just association.

My point was that you weren't comparing like with like, but arguing by analogy. All I meant to point out is: just because ideas, books, music, words etc. can't be classified in a Linnean system doesn't mean that societies can abandon hierarchies.

It's something completely different.


Sig... it isn't that we're hardwired to be moronic, soul-less or whatever else.

We're hardwired to simplify. We're hardwired to abstract things. We're hardwired to learn things and stick to them. In sum: We're hardwired to seek efficient solutions.

That's all you need to know about why organizations are the way they are.


I agree with the non-hierarchy approach. And there's a bunch of cognitive psychological and usability studies that show voluminous issues.

Those of us who have worked with computers and written software for *far* too long are well-trained at developing, navigating, and using hierarchies. It leads us to develop tools for "regular" folk that use hierarchies too.

However, folks without our training have trouble navigating even two levels in a hierarchy, in general.

And even those of us who use them day in and day out have trouble using *someone else's* hierarchy (and even our own if you observe us in use; we just don't notice our own errors). Your hierarchy is not my hierarchy.

I used to have a design motto: queries not trees. Metadata, not structure.

But damn if the algorithms aren't harder to discover and write!


Jim, exactly - and creating algorithms and logic that shall model illogic and freefloating thoughts... that would be the paradox of the year :D

Rockster, agree completely - "hardwired to simplify" - and that we do, and being limited to two dimensions on paper we use the best possible for that media, tree structures!

Which leads to Barry - I see I was not completely clear on one thing I am sugggesting: As you rightly points out, Hierarchy has two traits - organising data and directing flows - while tags has only one trait, organising data.

Why not split the tasks? That makes the task easier and the discussion simpler.

One method to organise data, another to direct the flow - perhaps better than having a combined method like hierarchy that does neither task to perfection... :)

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