Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

You can subscribe to this site via RSS (the humanity!) or .

Quick Thought on Hierarchies

[Editor’s Note: The following thoughts are inspired by On Intelligence.]

I’ve been thinking about where hierarchies fit in a lot lately and I just had a thought about it that needed to be written down.

Maybe the problem is that hierarchies don’t work well as a primary information organization model, however, they could be a great secondary organizer. In other words, there might be a place for hierarchies withing a network architecture. I haven’t completely fleshed this out, but check this quote from On Intelligence:

Computer memory does not normally store sequences of patterns. It can be made to do so using various software tricks (such as when you store a song on your computer), but computer memory does not do this automatically. In contrast, the cortex does store sequences automatically. Doing so is an inherent aspect of the necortical memory system.

So what if we could use a network to store patterns (inherently hierarchical)? What kind of patterns would we store? Why would it be useful?

I’m not quite sure I know the answers to those questions quite yet, but it seems important to bring hierarchies back into the equation. The fact is, I never really thought about them as anything but top dog, however, they could definitely find a place somewhere in a network.

There are at least lessons we can take from hierarchical organizing. Look at tabs, for example, although they now seem to sit at the top of every application, tabs scream folders, which in turn, scream hierarchies.



Seriously, I’m not sure . . . let me know.

March 26, 2005