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Unfold Research: the origin

July 5, 2021

The idea came to me on July 10, 2020. The main inspiration that kicked off the thought process in my head was this tweet (and my reply within that thread), coupled with me learning about 30secondsofcode.org. There were also other things that I read about recently enough that they were still floating in my head:

What did I learn from all of these things?

First, bite-sized summaries of the content, extracted by the experts, are really popular. They are easy to consume and you can read a bunch of them, each helping you learn some new concept in a very short amount of time, and that's very powerful and useful. Actually, there are two main ways that you can contribute - create completely original content or spread content. Brief summaries are both actually and their value is immense.

And second, there's a problem that pieces of information are totally disconnected from one another. These kind of useful Twitter threads will get burried and lost. In academia, the severity of losing such content is even greater and repeating the process of rediscovery might be extremely costly.

So, an idea formed in my head - what if there was a way to link together the pieces of content, so that you can always get to the useful information such as these Twitter thread, or more generally speaking, any content - summaries, datasets, opinions, reviews, project implementations... This way you could access the original material, but also everything else that's been written about and done with it.

This is not the first time that I was thinking along these lines. More than three years earlier (and much before I started officially working on the idea), I thought that this kind of problem could be solved with graphs. And that's why I started building Nodebook. It seemed reasonable to assume that individuals could connect (this time literally - visually) nodes of content and slowly build knowledge networks that could be used by themselves, or others. Such networks would naturally grow and start to overlap, thus flourishing into globally connected knowledge graphs.

The potential of this idea become very obvious me after a very short time, so it was the time to sketch things.

Sketching

Naming

Naming products is one of the more important things for a founder, in my opinion. The number of times that the founder will repeat that same product/company name over and over again is just huge. It needs to sound well, not to be too complicated to understand or to spell, easy to remember and recall, and needs to be semantically meaningful and easily associated with product/company's purpose. It also needs to have a free domain name and free Twitter handle so you don't lose engagement on social networks because people can't find you easily. There's a lot of requirements.

Considering all the similar or semi-similar projects that I knew about, this was the list of words that I considered using:

  • 30sec
  • 2min
  • "easy learn", "quick" etc.
  • knowledge
  • science
  • projects
  • research
  • names of deities

First few options just didn't sound serious enough for me to really consider them, and they were to specific - I didn't want to "promise" that you would spend only 30 seconds on reading article's summary.

"Projects" sounded too technical and unspecified. I didn't like any of the names of deities, or they were taken already and there would be a lot of clashing. "Science" sounded too alienating and elitistic, I was afraid that people would be scared away thinking that the content is too scientific and hard, out of realm of possibility for them to understand it and enjoy it. I tried to avoid that kind of sentiment really hard - I wanted this to have a good overlap between ScholComm (from scholars for scholars) and SciComm (from scholars to general public) and be accessible as much as possible.

"Research" seemed good. Within it, it told a story about one person's curiosity and will to discover new things, to be surprised and delighted. It felt least threatening and most accurate.

"Unfold" part came from my fascination with that word and its usage in quantum physics, especially in the work of David Bohm, and there, everything is always folding and unfolding. To me it was simply a beautiful notion, and one that fit well with what science is doing - it's revealing truth, it shines a light secrets and unravels processes, and finds new conclusions. That analogy also fit really well with what the product was actually doing.

And so, the "Unfold Research" was born!