User:Catpad/Odzilla

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Odzilla - is a name of the collaboratively created structured information storage.

Please note: the following description of the Odzilla project is not immediately applicable to Wikiversity because it was developed as an independent project. Then, as I found the Wikiversity project, I decided that my information structure ideas can be useful (in some way) to this project.


The building blocks of Odzilla[edit | edit source]

The main feature of Odzilla content-management system is that it is component-based. This term is borrowed from the software and defines a system that can be constructed from independent blocks – pieces of software with autonomous behaviour. Equally, we define the most important concept of Odzilla – Piece of Knowledge (POK) as an independent piece of information (of whatever nature) that can be used as a building block to create larger POKs.

There are two main features of POK:

  • It can be nested.
  • It is evolving with time and keeps track of all the changes made to it.

(more about the features of POK in a moment)

POK can be text, picture, footnote, diagram, dictionary entry, exam question etc. 
as well as it can be a lesson or a whole course.

Why HTML documents are bad ?

Documents are scattered throughout the Web, they are constantly changing, moving and get lost. They are unreliable, unsorted, uncategorized and do not belong to anybody. The documents cannot keep the history of their own changes, they cannot be commented and, once translated, they cannot keep the various translations together. Thus, the notion of the Document – the central concept of the Information Age – is bad.

Why Information Components – Pieces of Knowledge (POK) are good ?

Piece of Knowledge is a multilayered, multidimensional, self-contained document. POK keeps its own history with it forever. It keeps all the translations that have been made to it, all the remarks, notes and comments made by its readers. It contains the copyright information and the categorization information within global classification directory. However, since the Web is a decentralized place and no central control and the unified directory is possible (and ever will be possible), the classification of the POK is just a system of facets and titles within facets that give hints of where in the global possible directory the POK can be found. These hints (facets and titles) are constantly connecting to form the semantic maps – the network of the categories – that can help to find for every POK its unique place within the Directory. This network itself is the Directory.

Here are the basic features of a POK:

  • A POK grows both in space and in time and keeps track of its history forever (just like a Wiki page).
  • A POK is multilayered; each layer represents an adjustment of its contents to another audience (I call it flavors; it will be explained later).
  • A POK is a nested structure: it can consist of other POKs and, in turn, can be a part of some other, larger, POK.
  • A textual POK is representation-independent. It is marked up to give the rendering system the commands (or hints) of how to represent the text.


Now, more about POKs.

POK can be anything from the following list and more:

1. Program (consisting of courses)

2. Course (consisting of lessons and exams)

3. Lesson (consisting of everything that follows)

4. Text (paragraph, chapter, etc.)

5. Article

6. Picture

7. Diagram, chart

8. Side note, side bar

9. Footnote

10. Example (code example, text example, etc.)

11. Quotation

12. Table

13. Dictionary entry

14. Reference

15. Timeline

16. Multimedia (sound clip, video clip)

17. Interactivity (Java applet, Flash, etc.)

18. Exam or test question

19. Template


Template is a special category. It is a POK that can be used to create other POKs. Thus, for example, there can be a Course Template with lessons, tests and exams but without real content in any of them.

The following figure shows the buidling blocks of a POK.


The structure of the POK


There are several things here:

1. History: this is the different versions of the POK that allow to compare and see the changes made to it. This is what keeps POK from getting messed up or accidentally deleted.

2. Categorization: the line to Categorization is bold since it is the must-have for any POK. Categorization determines the coordinates of the POK in the semantic field. The categorization system is yet to be developed, but apparently it should be the faceted classification mentioned above: for exmaple, facet type or category with the title (or header) mathematics, facet subtype with the title calculus, facet complexity with the title higher mathematics, facet time frame with the title XVIII century, etc.

3. Translations: if a POK is a textual one, it can exist in several languages, so a student can easily switch between either language.

4. Discussion: every POK can become a subject for a discussion. Any student or teacher can start a discussion by saying, for example: “I think this is wrong. I have different information”. Anybody else can reply to this comment, say, by presenting a proof against it. The discussion can be short or long but, anyway, it becomes a part of this POK’s lifecycle.

5. Annotations: this is close to discussion but slightly different. Usually, discussion has to say something about the whole topic and expects an answer. On the contrary, annotation can refer to a single word or phrase and exist as a note or memo made by somebody who doesn’t really expect any answer on it.

6. Flavors: they can be useful together with POKs that are templates. For example, I can prepare a POK – template for the generic programming language course, say, OOP language. Then this POK can be changed to teach the concrete language: C++ flavor (using appropriate examples), Java flavor, Smalltalk flavor, etc. The same mechanism can be probably used for the similar natural language courses (e.g. Slavic languages or Roman languages). Another useful feature of flavors is to vary the same POK for different audiences. We will see this usage later.

7. References: there references to and from the POK. References to are other POKs that use or point the current POK (e.g. a lesson that use this test question (current POK) as a component). References from can include hyperlinks to external sites, books in online shops, dictionary entries, other POKs, etc.

8. Presentations: they are not exactly the part of a POK (that’s why the dashed line is used). The text POK can exist in many different visual forms (e.g., using various CSSs). These CSSs can be stored as a part of the POK.

Obviously, not every POK can have all mentioned components. Picture POK, for example, cannot have translations, flavors and presentations but can have discussion, annotations, history and references.


Knowledge Pool[edit | edit source]

Knowledge Pool is the main repository of POKs (Pieces of Knowledge) where creators of courses (Teachers) can draw their components from. Anyone can create a POK (using the Wiki technology) whether it is a small text that can be used as a part of a lesson or an article, exam question, picture, dictionary entry or a lesson. The POK is strongly categorized (using faceted classification), placed in the Knowledge Pool and begins its own life. POK creators (and other users) can always review their POKs, rewrite and recreate them. Knowledge Pool should be searchable using categorization of POKs.

Examples[edit | edit source]

To see how POKs are hierarchically organized within Odzilla let's look at an example.

COURSE: America in Depression and War

	LESSON 1: Introduction: From Breadlines to Atom Bombs
COURSE PART 1: The Great Depression
	LESSON 2: The End of Prosperity
	LESSON 3: The Unemployed
COURSE PART 2: New Deal
	LESSON 4: Roosevelt’s 100 Days
	LESSON 5: Strikes and Struggles
	LESSON 6: New Deal Order
	LESSON 7: Paper One Due
COURSE PART 3: World War II at Home
	LESSON 8: From Isolationism to Pearl Harbor
	LESSON 9: Mobilizing for Victory
	LESSON 10: Gender and Race in Wartime
COURSE PART 4: World War II Abroad
	LESSON 11: D-Day
	LESSON 12: Paper Two Due
	LESSON 13: Hiroshima
	LESSON 14: Conclusion: Legacies for Postwar America
Final EXAM

Here the categories of POKs are all in capital letters (LESSON, COURSE, COURSE PART, EXAM). To have a better idea about the hierarchy, look at the following figure:


The Lesson broken down into POKs


The more the number of POKs in the Odzilla Knowledge Pool (i.e. in the set of all POKs) and the finer they are tuned, the easier it is for other users to find them and to use them in their own courses or texts. For example, the image POK on the next figure can be used in various courses related to the history of America, the general history, photography courses, etc.

The Image POK

Constructing a larger POK (a course) from smaller POKs[edit | edit source]

Having a searchable Knowledge Pool at hand one can easily construct a course by using the existing material - POKs - and writing new ones. Let's take as an example a schematic lesson on programming language LISP as in the figure:


The schematic course on LISP programming language


This lesson can be constructed from several building blocks (POKs):

  • TEXT POK with the introductory text;
  • TEXT POK with the history text;
  • CODE EXAMPLE POK with an example of the function written in Lisp;
  • FOOTNOTE POK with an external link in it;
  • SIDENOTE POK with the short biography;

This breakdown is shown in the following figure. Note that the lesson itself is also a POK of type LESSON.


The Image POK


Now, it's clear that these POKs can also be used in other courses and lessons. For instance, the CODE EXAMPLE POK can be used in a course about functional programming, or in a lesson about recursion in various programming languages, or in a general computer science course for beginners.


Let's take the first TEXT POK of this example to understand the nature of flavors. In the next figure there are two variants (flavors) of the same text. The first one is an introductory text for the very beginners, the second one is an equally introductory text but for the more advanced auditory. Thus, in the second case, the Lisp is called a family of languages (i.e. dialects) of the original version – the fact that can be of no interest for the novice students. It uses such terms as abstract notation for recursive functions – the words that should not be used for the courses where the notion of recursive function is not studied yet. Note, that these two flavors are still the same POK. The flavor feature allows the fine tuning of the existing POK for different kinds of audience.

The Image POK


Besides, it can be very useful and even entertaining to be able to see various flavors of the same POK while learning your subject of interest.


Roles and responsibilities[edit | edit source]

The following roles can be distributed between the participants of the Odzilla project:

  • Teachers: the people who create courses and lessons. They are not necessarily following the breakdown rules, that is they can leave their texts as they are, without dividing them into POKs. The Teachers are the experts in their subjects.
  • POK creators: these people are the experts who don’t want to prepare complete courses or even lessons, but just want to contribute to the Knowledge Pool by adding useful pieces of information. Another type of POK creators are the experts who add various flavors for the existing POKs in such a way that these POKs will become useful in other courses.
  • POK managers: these people are not necessarily experts in the various subjects. They are looking for POKs that can be divided into smaller pieces and can be used in other courses in this smaller form. They are responsible for categorization of these newely created POKs.
  • Template makers: the people who make generic templates (skeletons) of courses, programs and lessons without going into the material. They can also prepare the templates for the specific subject without filling in the materials (course outlines like in an example in Figure 3). These people should understand the methodology and the patterns of education; in the second case they should be the experts as well.
  • Presentation designers: they are working on various (pleasant, convenient, user friendly) presentations of the material: layouts of the lessons, colors, fonts, text alignments, etc.
  • Editors: These are the super-experts in various fields who can monitor the POKs being created, edit the information in them or delete useless POKs at all.
  • Translators: translate text POKs into different languages.
  • Students: they are playing an equally important role in Odzilla as Teachers are. Students create the second part of Odzilla – commentaries, notes, personal diaries, annotations, homeworks; they participate in discussions and communicate with one another and with their teachers.

The (possible) process of creating the Wikiversity[edit | edit source]

So, how one can start to create such a mega-structure as Wikiversity without just putting together lots of old-fashioned scanned dull textbooks ? The answer is: by creating the larger, more complex structures such as courses, lessons and exercises from smaller parts: concepts, sidebars, footnotes, images, examples, etc. - the POKs. The creation of a concept is relatively simple - it's just like creating an article in Wikipedia. This is an exellent example (http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikiversity:Forms:Circle) of a basic concept ("Circle") made of many various flavors. Imagine, that we have tons of concepts defined like this in such a way that we can turn off and on some of their flavors. We can combine them into lessons putting an appropriate stress on those flavors that serve our purposes best. For example, having a mathematical lesson for young children we can leave such characteristics of "Circle" as Mathematical definition and Similar Forms. Writing an article about the history of mathematics we can use History and Qualitative description, for example. Then, we turn on the same flavors for all the concepts we use in the lesson and now that's easy - we can construct many interdisciplinary texts from the same basic set of concepts. These lessons can in turn be combined into courses, books, etc.

So, the Wikiversity can use the bottom-up approach: create the basic concepts bearing many flavors (characteristics) and combine them into larger structures using those flavors that are mostly appropriate for the current purpose.

The conclusion[edit | edit source]

The difference between the semantic net (web) and Odzilla is that Odzilla is supposed to be self-organized organism – a living swamp, where individual genes (POKs) evolve, interconnet and gather into hierarchical structures. We are witnessing that the Wikipedia project is working. It is self-organizing, self-adjusting and growing very fast. That proves the idea.

Odzilla adds to the idea of Wikipedia three new elements:

  • component-based organization of knowledge with evolving components (which should lead to the creation of the semantic net);
  • hierarchical organization of information (which allows to make it the University and not just the Encyclopedia);
  • extensive review, commentary, discussion and annotation possibilities by the recipients of information (students) who can share their thoughts and opinions, so, that their teachers can refine the information and their fellow students can rely on the experience of their predecessors.

HTML documents proved ineffective in terms of search, versioning, classification, annotation and copyright. The time has come for the component-based, structured information storage.



About the name – "Odzilla"[edit | edit source]

Odzihozo in the native American Abenaki mythology is "The Man Who Made Himself". The story goes like this:

Before he had legs, Odzihozo dragged himself around, gouging valleys in the land's surface 
and piling up dirt with his hands to build mountains. Finally, he made Lake Champlain and,
satisfied with his work decided to stay there forever.

Anyway, the name Odzilla (after Odzihozo) has two meanings:

  • The Man Who Can Make Himself – the one who can teach yourself everything he wants and wait until he’ll be smart enough to have his legs growing;
  • The Compendium of Knowledge That Makes Itself – the collaborative, "intercreative" (the term coined by Tim Berners-Lee) project that is constantly evolves and expands – "creating valleys, river beds and mountains" along the way.

It is also impossible to escape the resemblance between the sound of the name "Odzilla" and Godzilla. Well, as encyclopedia has it, Godzilla (or Gojira, ゴジラ in Japanese) is a daikaiju (strange beast or giant monster) in a series of films made in Japan in 1954. Okay, Odzilla is intended to be a daikaiju after all.

--Catpad 06:04, 24 Mar 2005 (UTC)