We are coming very fast to the end of January, and it means there's only one more build to share with you this month, and this build is available to you starting today.
Unlike the previous build which had only a change in the search syntax (albeit an important one!), in this build you'll have a unique chance to take a look at the behind-the-scenes of your projects information space - the ontology.
- If you haven't signed up for the Zet Universe Insider Program, start here.
- If you are already have Zet Universe, the build is available now. If your build is older than 5786.2836, grab the full installer. Otherwise, you can go to Settings --> Update, and click on "Check Now" button to get it now.
- Total download might range from a few hundred kilobytes up to 11MB, depending on the number of updates you've applied already to your copy of the Zet Universe Insider Preview.
- Once the build is downloaded, Zet Universe will begin the installation. Once it will finish, it will ask you to restart the app.
ONTOLOGY AND KINDS
Imagine having a need to analyze your potential competitors in a particular market; then, in Zet Universe you can collect various things you've discovered during your research: links to the useful webpages, PDF files, PowerPoint presentations, pictures, and other things. No matter what kind of data you have, you can see it all in one place, and you can organize it visually, no matter of its origin.
Some of the items here are captured web pages, others are PDF files, others are videos and images. You can also see several Sticky Notes that capture key thoughts of the user on the subject, placed near the items of interest. User can quickly find any of the items here by using her visual memory, but also by using a full-text search as Zet Universe indexes everything that is added into it.
In order for Zet Universe to understand all of these different items, it has to understand what makes them different from each other. One of the ways to categorize them is to use file formats (e.g., jpg, png, bmp - images, mp4, avi - videos, mp3, wma - audios, etc.), but sometimes file formats are irrelevant, and sometimes we want to have more specific items, like "people", and "organizations". This means we need to build some sort of a data model that brings a categorization of data into "kinds" as we call them, that brings also a structure (e.g., "photo" is kind of "media", and "media" is kind of "kind"), and brings other important things such as properties (e.g., each "kind" has "title"), and relationships (e.g., a "document" kind can have an "author"). In general, such data models are called ontologies.
Ontology, by a definition, is a formal naming and definitions of the types, properties, and interrelations of the entities that really or fundamentally exist for a particular domain of discourse.
There are many applications of ontologies in the information science; for instance, ontologies are one of the foundational elements of the Semantic Web, and ontologies are also an amazing way to capture and formalize our knowledge of the particular problem space or domain. In many ways, ontology could be also called a vocabulary of sorts, and, indeed, a well-designed ontology resembles an encyclopedia.
Speaking of the encyclopedia, I recall the fictitious Chinese taxonomy of animals described by the writer Jorge Luis Borges in his 1942 essay "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins".
Wilkins, a 17th-century philosopher, had proposed a universal language based on a classification system that would encode a description of the thing a word describes into the word itself -- for example, Zi identifies the genus beasts; Zit denotes the "difference" rapacious beasts of the dog kind; and finally Zita specifies dog.
The list divides all animals into one of 14 categories:
- Those that belong to the emperor
- Embalmed ones
- Those that are trained
- Suckling pigs
- Mermaids (or Sirens)
- Fabulous ones
- Stray dogs
- Those that are included in this classification
- Those that tremble as if they were mad
- Innumerable ones
- Those drawn with a very fine camel hair brush
- Et cetera
- Those that have just broken the flower vase
- Those that, at a distance, resemble flies
However, having a well-defined vocabulary is a fundamental step in solving our goal of enabling Zet Universe to combine data from the different data sources, and it's a great opportunity for us to explain our approaching to building such a vocabulary in Zet Universe.
ZET UNIVERSE'S DYNAMIC ONTOLOGY
We live surrounded with things. These things can be physical ones coming from our environment, or they can be products of our imagination, or, finally, be digital objects created as elements of virtual world built by computer applications, websites and games. Things we deal with, starting from documents and other files in our folders, to users in Facebook and emails in our inbox, seem to be natural to us. We constantly make different interactions with these things, switching from physical world to a virtual one back-n-force, referencing to them in our endless collaboration with friends and work colleagues. The patterns of interacting with digital objects were brought from the physical world by Internet and computer pioneers, and now these patterns are highly interconnected as we constantly transfer our experiences between our real and digital lives.
Instead of a computer strict understanding of classes and instances, Kinds in Zet Universe are more familiar to the users; and as in the Metro Design Language, kinds are content.
THE RATIONALE BEHIND THE KINDS
By bringing the kinds into Zet Universe, we explain it how to deal with different kinds of things; a kind definition explains Zet Universe how to show it (visually) in the Zoomable space; it explains how to name this kind (e.g., a "Photo"); it explains how to open items of this kind; it explains how this kind is related to the others.
KINDS IN ALPHA AND IN INSIDER PREVIEW
- Web Pages.
In the Insider Preview timeframe (which is running right now), we have a significantly expanded list of kinds, including but not limited to:
- Agent (Organization | Person | People Group | User)
- Calendar Entry (Appointment | Meeting)
- Communication (Call | Email | Instant Message)
- File Folder
- Generic File
- Media (Document | Music | Picture | Video | Web Page)
- Visual Cluster
These are the built-in kinds of our vocabulary. They are, in many ways, a continuation of our thinking circa the Alpha Timeframe (Topic is now a Visual Cluster, File is either a Generic File or a Media, etc.), and they were influenced by the kinds defined by Windows operating system (and mapped to the same file extensions as in Windows). This means that if you got used to search for "kind:photo" in Windows Explorer to look for pictures, the same query in Zet Universe will yield the same results.
However, although we've been inspired by the Windows Shell ontology, our ontology is not a try to explain and define everything, and it's not carved in stone.
To make it possible to reflect different people's ways of thinking about the information, we decided to make a compromise: although there is a default vocabulary of Kinds, both developers and users will be able to define and re-define the ontology on the fly.
Part of this functionality is already available in the product. For instance, if you use a Dropbox app within Zet Universe, your ontology will have a "Dropbox Folder" kind which is a child of a "File Folder" kind, and if you use Sticky Notes, your ontology will have a "Sticky Note" kind as a child of a "Media" kind, and so on. Both our own and third-party developers will be able to extend the default ontology with the new kinds.
Third-party Kinds have the same role of the building blocks of Zet Universe as the built-in ones. For example, Dropbox and alike folders can participate in the project space as external data sources, while Sticky Notes are items created within the project spaces, and so on.
In the future builds, you will be able to define your own ontologies so that Zet Universe could be better suited to your specific needs.
- Items, and
By using the Items tab, you can not only the hierarchy of the default Zet Universe's ontology, but you can also see actual items that represent the selected kind:
SOME OF THE KNOWN BUGS
- Initial Office document upload to the OneDrive folder won't be picked up while Zet Universe is running. Zet Universe will pick up Office files uploaded to OneDrive after restart. This bug is being investigated, but there's no ETA at this point. We are sorry for this bug.
Thank you so much for being with us, for your continued support and participation!
As always please continue to give us feedback, suggestions, and problem reports via the UserVoice forum, use the Zet Universe Insiders Group on Facebook to connect with other Insiders for help and tips on problems you hit.
Daniel and the team