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Snippets: An Experiment in Global Information Management


Snippets are a standard way to share small fragments of information through the world wide web. I created my Snippets because of a long standing interest in "personal information management" and because of my admiration for the ideas and ideals of information pioneers like Vannevar Bush, Tim Berners-Lee, and Ted Nelson.

Snippets differ from most web based information sharing by their structure, narrow scope, and reliance on web-based indexing engines. Snippets are small fragments of information -- typically information acquired through personal experience (perhaps painful personal experience). Snippets are more structured than typical web pages; they specify the domain covered, language used, confidence in the information, and other parameters (see Structure of a Snippet, below). Snippets use standard HTML and logical markup, and are designed to be easily interpreted by Lynx browsers and screen readers. Snippets avoid tables and images unless necessary. Since snippets are intended to be "terminal" sources of limited information, they do not usually contain links to other information.

Unlike most web pages, Snippets are not organized by topic. I do provide a snippets "table of contents", but Snippets are intended to be located through a search engine, such as Alta Vista, HotBot, or InfoSeek. (These are the three I register my Snippets directory with.)

I see Snippets as a shortcut to "everyday wisdom". How did I get my dog's teeth clean? What's an IRA rollover, and how should one use it? What's an easy way to dollar cost average a pension investment? Where can one RollerBlade in winter in the twin cities? What sorts of things did I learn when installing a new roof on our house?

Anyone can produce Snippets. You can use the same structure I use, or make up your own. The table below shows the fields I use. If you view source for a Snippet you will see how this looks in HTML.


Structure of a Snippet
Field Name Values, type
Title Title of Snippet with (snippet) at end.
Description Short description. Will be used by indexing engines.
Content Actual content of Snippet
Author Name of author of snippet.
Language Language snippet is written in. english
Keywords Terms to guide indexing engines. teeth, dog, canine
Topic A major topic area for snippet. commerce, computer, education, etc.
Subtopic A sublevel below topic. index, Macintosh, organization, etc
Domain What is domain where snippet is relevant? .us, .world, etc
Confidence How confident is author about information? 1-3, 1 is moderately sure, 3 is very sure.
Creation Date  
Last Revised Date  
Expiration Date Date after which information is not relevant.

Since Snippets are so structured, I produce and store mine in a flat file database. I use FileMaker Pro for my snippets.fp3 database. If you use FileMaker, feel free to download a zipped copy of my database. Click here to start downloading (30K, StuffitExpander/Mac will unzip files on the Mac.)

Please let me know what you think of Snippets, and send me ideas and suggestions. Thanks!

Author: John G. Faughnan.  The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author. Pages are updated on an irregular schedule; suggestions/fixes are welcome but they may take weeks to months to be incorporated. I reserve copyright except where noted, if you want to repost or quote a page just ask. Anyone may freely link to anything on this site and print any page; no permission is needed for linking,  printing, or distributing printed copies.