The Memetic Web

What if Tim Berners-Lee had pitched his idea for the World Wide Web to me back in 1989? That was the strange question dancing through my head after a magical evening with Holly and Bob Doyle.

After a long day teaching IA1, the prospect of dinner with two certified geniuses (both have doctorates in astrophysics from Harvard) was a bit intimidating.

But they turned out to be friendly, down-to-earth folks, and I found Bob's enthusiasm for his latest idea, the memetic web, to be inspiring and contagious.

The proposition, as explained on, is simple. Create a globally unique string or meme ID. Paste this string into relevant web pages. Wait for search engines to crawl the pages. Then use the meme ID to search with 100% precision and recall. And you can even create an aboutness page to define your meme, so others can use it properly.

Of course, the real challenges are far from simple. What about the known problems of inter- and intra-indexer inconsistency? What about meme ID spamming? And isn't this too complex to achieve widespread adoption?

On the other hand, free tagging has created an unquenchable thirst for specificity. Intentional misspellings like indicatr and statistically improbable phrases like ambientfindability will only take us so far.

So, I'm not totally on board, but I do think Bob's onto something, sorta like TBL back in 1989. What do you think?

Peter -

Those of us with unique names (as far as I know) have been doing this with searches for quite a while. I don't know if you need a central registry for memeids or whether ad hoc distributed sprinkling of strings throughout the net will do the trick.

There are some community indicators that pop up when people start to use the same language to describe things. I wonder whether unique strings will have the properties of language?

The phrase that popped up in yesterday's bi bim bop lunch was a portmantaeu of meme + epidemiology - "epimemeology" perhaps?

Of course, almost every semantic mashup has already been used. I was dismayed earlier this year to learn that *sociosemantic* was nothing new.

And it looks like *epimemeology* has been around for a while. Here's an interesting post from 2001:

You better buy your meme IDs now, while there are still a few available.

I guess the proof is in the pudding. If a memeID is supposed to be about aboutness, what do these search results have to do with Cambridge, MA?,GGLD:2004-12,GGLD:en&q=MEMOZIP-02138

It's a search test from for the memeID representing Cambridge, MA.

Findamemeticious. There, I said it.

It will be defined, by next year, as: "Findamemeticious (adj.) - Having or possessing the dual qualities of being both easy to find and easy to characterize. Used in a sentence: We need to hire a SEO expert to help give our content more findamemeticiousness."

Extremely dubious. Besides the fact that is totally awkward and abuses an already useless term (meme - like gene, used by some philosphers to describe cultural evolution), it provides no advantage to determining relevance over what is already used. It actually makes it more trivial, subject to manipulation and user intention ( businesses intend on making their products relevant to everything in everybody's lives ).
The idea threatens the findaxmemeticious of the web.

"Then use the meme ID to search with 100% precision and recall"

Except it's not 100% recall if you define relevant documents according the *meaning* of the "meme" and not just the meme-string itself. In other words, a relevant document has to do better than simply contain the string you're searching for. As it stands, the test only shows that Google a) crawls pages regularly and b) indexes odd-looking almost-unique strings.

You're right. I made that same point to Bob myself. Any claim of 100% precision and recall should be met with skepticism. But it does provoke us to think.