PARC Meshin's smart search unclutters collaboration

Van Jacobson (PARC)

Do you talk to several different people during a typical business day? Do you talk to them via several different media, such as email, phone, SMS, IM, Twitter or Facebook? Of course you do; perhaps Meshin is for you. It's developed in the same Xerox (NYSE:XRX) PARC lab as its Content-Centric Networking research effort. Let's take a look, in The Long View...

Meshin aims to bring together the siloed communications media we all use, and present it as one, coherent, searchable whole. Meshin isn't the first technology to attempt this, but previous attempts haven't managed to live up to their promises. Enter PARC -- the Xerox subsidiary that, while developing the Alto desktop computer, invented many of the computer user interface ideas that typify Windows, MacOS, Gnome, etc.

The best way I can describe Meshin is as a contextually-aware search engine. It's a whatnow? Read on...

In its current form, Meshin assimilates the unstructured and quasi-structured information streams that we accumulate in email, Facebook, IM chat logs, etc. and it infers connections between the items in those streams. It works out where the "entities" are in those data -- the individuals, the organizations, the products, etc. -- and, well, meshes them together. So if I want to see all the recent conversations I've had with, say, employees of the Example Corporation, I could -- according to PARC -- type Example into Meshin, and from the context of the communications streams it's previously digested, it would...

  • recognize that word as describing an organization;
  • know which people are members of that organization;
  • uinderstand how to integrate the different users of the media types it's scanning -- for example, it knows that the email address john.doe@example.com, the Twitter account jdoeExample, and the AIM handle ILikePeas are all the same person.

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