Monday, August 29, 2011

"Loose Links" versus "Tight Links"

In a loose analogy to the distinction between hard and soft links that is sometimes made when referring to file links, one may perhaps distinguish between loose and tight links in a knowledge base. The contrast may perhaps also be characterized as one between "indirect" links and "direct" links. Any application that relies on keywords, tags or categories to connect different entries in its database, may be said to rely on indirect or loose links. An application that relies mainly on actual references of one item to another, like a Wiki (or other hyper-textual applications) may be said to rely on direct or tight links.

I have argued before that just relying on indirect links is ineffective (and have criticized a previous incarnation of Luedecke's Zettelkasten for doing this, since it claims to have been conceived after Luhmann's system which relied almost exclusively on direct or hard links).

There is obviously no reason why a wiki application that relies mainly on direct links cannot also utilize the loose links that tags or categories provide. In fact, the two methods are not contradictory but complementary. They offer different views of the same data, possibly opening up new perspectives.

Both types of links or connections depend largely on deliberate input by the maintainer or user of the knowledge base. She has to make the link or assign the category (or keyword) explicitly.

There is an even "looser" connection opened up by an algorithm that computes which topics are "like" the topic under consideration.[1] This kind of connection does not need special deliberation by the user. It adds another view or perspective (and one that will perhaps increase "serendipity").

1. See ConnectedText 5.


gregor said...

Is there a distinction between a separate wiki tagging facility and using a wiki's back links feature for tags in the form of wiki badges?

Wiki pages can be content or navigation Pages that are navigational include the wiki badges but could also include road maps or menuing style navigation.

Although I like how a page can be content or meta content or navigation or all of them, doing this does make maintaining the wiki more difficult.

MK said...

If I understand you correctly, you mean by "badge" what I mean by "tag" or "category." A wiki tag or category links to a category page that references all the pages that have a particular category link.

I don't quite understand the third paragraph. A page can have content and also have navigational features at the same time. But how does that make maintaining a wiki more difficult?

Perhaps you are thinking of a public wiki, while I am thinking of a private wiki or personal wiki that only I have access to.

F. Martinez said...

Hi MK,

I was wondering if I could contact you directly anyhow to ask you for a copy of your translation of "Lesen Reden" of Luhmann. If it's no problem to you, maybe you could write me to francisco.martinez.toro at

Thank you very much!