Finding Meaningful Relationships


While visiting Mena Trott’s weblog yesterday, I stumbled across a picture that showed a Six Apart office scene of people sitting around a table, chatting it up, while behind them, on a wall, was what looked like an assortment of randomly printed pages all grouped together beside one another on the wall. Of course, while these pages may have looked random, they obviously related in some way, which is why there were grouped together. In fact, what this image made me realize is that we are constantly trying to find meaningful relationships in everything we do every day.

You see after seeing that picture above, I immediately thought of FilmLoop which is soon to be released software that will allow you to not only loop (or group) a series of images (possibly into a story) but you can also get other loops from other people using the system as well. Therefore, I could get loops from my various family members and they would be constantly updated over time showing an ongoing story of what is happening with them. Again what is being done here is a loop (or stream) of different images grouped together to show a meaningful relationship and/or story.

Finally I realized where this was all going and the meaning of these seemingly random thoughts that I was trying to put together myself into some sort of meaningful relationship. What I’ve just described above relates to tagging. More specifically, it relates to why tagging just never seemed to work for me and why I couldn’t ever figure this out until today. The reason being is that while tagging does categorize and group related information, a lot of the time I find that the information isn’t meaningful and is therefore often useless to me. Sure I can look at all of my tagged "Web 2.0", "Technology", or "Culture" posts, yet when I look at them all, even though they all related, they still look like a series of random posts that don’t connect meaningfully with one another.

You see I want information, that when grouped together, shows a "meaningful" relationship in some way that is like reading a story of my ongoing journey of discovery. I don’t know how to do describe it any better than this, other than to say that when I look at items that have a meaningful relationship with one another, it almost seems as though that grouped information is alive with life, whereas when I look at generically tagged information, it seems sterile, dead, and useless to me.

Just to give you a small example of what I’m talking about here, I went to see a couple of movies at the Hollywood Theatre last night with my wife. They were March of the Penguins and Mad Hot Ballroom which were both excellent movies (and probably the best movies my wife has seen in a long time she said). March of the Penguins was more than just an enjoyable movie for me though because the story told within it connected and had a meaningful relationship with what I’m talking about here on this site about culture and connectedness. So for someone else viewing the movie, it was just an enjoyable movie that they would have tagged with "movie" on their website. For me though, it answered some thoughts I had and raised a bunch of new questions in my pursuit for understanding people, their culture, their communities, and their relationships in interacting with one another. Again, while someone may tag that as "people", "culture", "communities", "relationships", everything I’m talking about here relates to how people can utilize the Web, with possibly existing and newer technologies such as Web 2.0, to collaborate and communicate with one another on common world goals. Therefore, you could also add on tags such as "Web", "collaboration", "communication", "technology", "Web 2.0", "World" and maybe even more that I’m not seeing.

Now if you add up all of those tags to define what I’m talking about in a single post, do you see the absurdity and uselessness of having them all? The more tags you have to add to specifically define what you are talking about, the less useful those tags become. It is like the Zen master telling you the absurdity of trying to describe a beautiful setting sun. You can’t because the more you try to describe it the less justice you do to it. The beauty is in observing it in it’s entirety. Therefore, to relay that beauty and feeling you would need to do it in such a way that it is communicated as quickly and with as few words as possible. This reminds me of another great movie Contact when Jodie Foster’s character glimpses for the first time the amazing and beautiful sights of stellar constellations up close and says, "They should have sent a poet." Indeed, for only a poet could describe something so amazing and all encompassing in so few words.

So how do I describe or tag a collection of meaningful and related posts in as few words as possible? Instead of giving it a generic tag, do I give it a story title instead? I mean we’re not talking about just generically categorizing a group of thoughts but threading them together in an ongoing story of exploration and discovery. I’ll definitely have to think about this some more but one more interesting thing to note though. Is it just a coincidence that when you talk about something meaningful to you, it is more often than not something that is very emotional for you as well? Again, this relates to my statement before of wanting to "feel" connected to the world. More importantly though, maybe we just want to "feel" more connected to those even around us in our daily lives (i.e. friends, family, and lovers).

Hehe, wait a minute. I just noticed something both funny and interesting. Go back up and look at that Six Apart office picture once again. Noticed how I’ve highlighted the sheets of paper on the wall and dimmed out everything else in the room? Well reverse it now so that the people in the room become highlighted and are the focal point. What do you see? I see a group of seemingly random and diverse people all grouped together in a meaningful relationship working on something of emotional importance to them.

2 thoughts on “Finding Meaningful Relationships

  1. Thanks Michael! I also just noticed another product called imeem ( that allows you to create your own public and private networks for sharing photos, documents, whatever. Only problem though is that it is only a Windows application. Actually more than anything I’d like to see these products as online Web 2.0 applications so that they are open and flexible. For example, I’m surprised that slide doesn’t have a web component for putting it on your website (like how they have it on their product site).

Comments are closed.