The Info Network

an entry in Second ArsDigita Prize

Entry Information

Entry Date 2000-05-13
Submitted by Aaron Swartz
Web service titleThe Info Network

As we like to say, the Info Network is an Internet not-for-profit startup focused on getting real information to real people so they can do real things. We are focused on content -- real information for you to use. We don't believe in ads, sponsorships or junk, so you won't find any here. Just good old information.

We maintain the InfoBase, a vast repository of human knowledge. Through the amazing power of the Internet, users can contribute and learn from the InfoBase to help themselves and others.

Technologies used

The Info Network runs under AOLserver on Red Hat Linux. It uses AOLserver Dynamic Pages (ADPs) written in the Tool Command Language (TCL). The website interfaces with a PostgreSQL database to store the information.

For more information, read our technical details.

CollaboratorsThe site was designed by myself with the input of Josh Kindler. It was tested by Ben Swartz, Susan Swartz and Robert Swartz. Josh Kindler is currently working on personalization systems and RSS-based news feeds that will soon be added to the site.
Describe your contributionOver a year ago, I came up with the idea of creating an encyclopedia online. Anyone could contribute to it, in the style of the popular GNU/Linux operating system. That summer, I spent my days typing away at the keyboard, bringing my ideas into action. I read books on the subject, including Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing, the Edward Tufte trilogy, and Tim Berners-Lee's Weaving the Web. I programmed the entire site, borrowing portions from the ACS for things like user tracking. Since then it has gone through several major revisions and I hope that it expands into something much bigger.
Usage LevelGrowing!


sort by date

Average: 6.82

Sajith Jayaisnghe (10)

Keep up the good work.

Josh Kindler (10)

latenite latenite (10)

Ann Shne (10)

Quite an accomplishment for a 13 y/o

Susan Swartz (10)

A very sophisticated idea, well programmed with a clean look and ease of use. Sure hope more people add entries--how often does the ordinary person have the chance to contribute to an encyclopedia?

Jill Meyer (10)

If AAron can do this at 13, imagine what the future holds for him.....and us. Wonderful idea, and a great accomplishment for anyone of any age!

Annette Hilger (10)

Deborah Koch (10)

Very impressive . . . my 17-year-old would benefit from this site for homework help, especially as the content is beefed up. Extremely grateful for lack of ads and graphics, BTW!

Kim Miles (10)

Great idea. The internet needs more of this kind of vision. I can't wait to see how this site progresses. I know it will. Keep up the good work Aaron! You rock!

lindsey dedow (10)

Andrea Zucker (10)

To me, your site offers what the internet can be at its best... the sharing of useful information, the quest for a "global brain" Thank you.

Lynn Barnett Westfall (10)

Ditto T. Fortieth.Ugly-sschmugli--you guys are jealous or you don't have three art degrees like me. Haven't you heard of minimilism in art? He makes up for it in maxing out with brains and design skills. How many adults do you know that could accomplish what this l3 year old has? We haven't heard the last of this young man. Critics Beware! I read it all and it all was excellent!

Susan Telljohn (10)

Imagine a store of all human knowledge - great idea! Also a bit like a time capsule. High marks for clarity as well.

Bertram Wolf (10)

Unbelievable undertaking for such a young person, must be one of the smartest kids around, shows GREAT potential. and will follow his career with interest.His site fits within the guidelines of the contest more than any of the other entries.

Ed Giecek (10)

Marian Jasper (10)

I'd like to see a little more graphics and the info database needs to be plumped up - which I am sure will happen with time - but the concept is wonderful. It will be nice to see it grow.

Linda Bernstein (10)

What a great idea! Keep up the good work!!!

Thomas Forteith (10)

The idea is right on target, boldly questioning the nature of ownership and/of information in a post-modern context. Pretty sophisticated stuff ... timely. The issue of more graphics and more users is a non-issue; more entries will come over time. That is simply the nature of this project. Fluidity of information is the goal, not quantity (or even quality). Bravo!

Aidan Biggins (10)

Kick-ass site, guys! Keep up the work!

James Mitchell (10)

Great concept and execution!!!

Leslie Jacobs (10)

It is wonderful to see young Adults spending their time to help others rather than getting involved in the wrong things.....

Dianne Cots (10)

Your concept of random information is very interesting. Keep up the good work and stay with your goal to dispense information. I have no doubt that you will become a great success in life and in the world.

Susan Wolf (10)

What a fantastic concept--an encyclopedia of the people! This could really bring people all over the internet together and foster learning and understanding. It sure could use more entries but I love the tone of what's there--the entries so far all have a personal flavor to them. It seems much more personalized, less cut-and dried, than an ordinary encyclopedia. This is a concept that deserves to grow...and a website that deserves support!

Gary Janko (10)

Great web site.

Susan Dow (10)

Great Site. Great Concept

Colleen Patke (10)

the concept for this site is awesome...and i like that there are a ton of graphics. it makes it easy to read without getting really distracted. as the information grows, i think the number of users will, too...i know i'll be back! good luck, and keep up the great work!

Heather Hackman (10)

Very interesting... enjoyed the site and the concept very much.

Melissa Perry (10)

Great idea! I know it's new but before long you'll have more entries than you ever imagined possible!

Joan Tomczak (10)

Well written-has a nice optimistic tone! This is a great project from a great young mind! Hope it is very successful. I've bookmarked it>

Nada Amin (9)

The idea behind the site is wonderful and the implemetation is very good.

Bert Johnson (9)

Excellent coding and fine design, but not too original a concept. I find that Everything2.Com does the job better (way more entries, better search implementation). Overall, a great site with huge growth potential.

Shirley Reed-Boardman (9)

very interesting. Very ambitious undertaking. need to entice more people into giving information. Keep at it.

jo ellem (9)

An excellent site, a grand effort

M. E. Adams (9)

Excellent start of an information database. Needs a few bugs worked out.

Leslie Videki (9)

I love the concept, and once more people start submitting info this will be an excellent site! Amazing job on the set up, I am extremely impressed!

Melanie Sage (9)

Sharing knowledge is the greatest thing about the web; to have picked up on that idea and taken it somewhere shows insight. Keep at it and someday you WILL have Bill Gates' money. :) Melanie

Lee Lewalski (9)

wonderful idea!

Randy Wilson (9)

very interesting.

Elaine Russell (9)

Laurie Smith (9)

Great Job! Quite an ambitious idea with very workable solutions. I am envious. This is someone with an idea AND the ability to implement it. Go, Aaron!!

Carol Kaplan (9)

I can't wait to see what this kid can do when he grows up. Great job. The use of information is getting exciting.

Linda Johnson (9)

What a great undertaking for a person of Aaron's age!!! I can't wait to watch it grown.

Petru Paler (9)

Nice concept (though done before see Everything) and also nice, clean implementation.

I also toyed once with such a thing and got to some interesting conclusions and improvements. If you are interested (they don't seem to appear on the todo list) e-mail me so we don't bother the audience :)

Kathy Weaver (9)

Great work. Keep it up.

Susan Blehart (9)

Amazing! Its a great concept and will certainly continue to expand. I'm impressed.

Sunny Christensen (9)

Very impressive and ambitious. Your future looks very bright. You are just beginining, so as the site matures, I think it will be a wonderful tool. I have bookmarked it. Thanks!

Kaytee Sumida (9)

Great idea

Kathy Yu (9)

I am very impressed! This is a 13 year-old work?! Keep going!

Kathy Weinberg (9)

I'm impressed. A lot of work went into this. Good job...I wouldn't even know where to begin!

Maxine Prange (9)

The potential is unlimited. An impressive undertaking.

Louise Uriu (9)

A good idea! I read the article on gold leafing & it was very informative. You need a way to entice more folks to add info like that. Pictures would be helpful. My favorite part is when you leave the search field empty. Very humorous!

Ben Swartz (9)

Excellent idea--very ambitious Good job of programming Needs more participation from viewers

Kyle Nicholls (9)

very good concept and implemetation, great way for people to collaborate interactivley. the different views on the content are very useful. has a lot of promise.

jenny ratcliffe (9)

I am very impressed with this idea. Watching this grow will be interesting... Good opportunity for people to share learned knowledge instead of only book knowledge... First hand information... Great job and great idea...

Micah McConnell (9)

I think Aaron has taken on quite an ambitious project. He's definitely on the right track. Good job! Here's wishing you continued growth and success!

carol deshane (9)

Tremendous undertaking for someone of your age. Needs more entries, but am sure those will come. Will check this site out again.

Stephanie Hall (9)

This idea has great potential. I like the idea of creating a participatory encyclopedia. The entries should be reviewed for accuracy in some way, and more entries are needed, of course. But what is really interesting about this project so far is the idea, and the creation of software to realize that idea. Good luck with your project!

Linda Berman (9)

Aaron has done a commendable job! His project is a valid endeavor providing a sound backbone that can be built upon. I have made suggestions to Aaron and he's made improvements. Way to go Aaron!

robyn kuntzmann (9)

Excellent Idea! Very impressive undertaking!

steve settle (9)

Looks like you have really put alot of effort into this site! Keep up the excellent work. A certain amount of editing would be an improvement. The Albert Einstein was a let down. If you can weed out the junk, you will have a more informative site. I look forward to seeing the database grow!

Casey Teppo (9)

Very well done, easy to navigate and comfortable writing style. A little more explanation on the Gates Dollars site would be good...

Michele Collishaw (9)

An enlightening concept for a 13-year-old's mind! Very refreshing. Little to no graphics makes this site a pleasure to navigate. Keep up the great work Aaron! I look forward to checking back often.

Cathy Finegan (9)

I think you have a grand idea here! I is nice to visit a location that hasn't had to sell out to advertising! Have fun with this, and keep it growing! That's how Bill Gates started!

Michelle Casino (9)

Very good idea. The "no graphics" is actually nice, makes everything a bit faster.

rene nickel (9)

Great concept, usable set-up. Go Aaron go.

Amit Barman (8)

it's clean

Jonathan Roes (8)

Wow, I like this better than my own submission! And, you're the same age as me! Keep up the good work.

Jodi Sorensen (8)

Very impressed with this young man's site. Please keep up the good work and help to others!

mary gayou (8)

quite an undertaking for a young man of 13. keep up the good work

elaine alhadeff (8)

Wow! Quite an impressive piece of work for a 13 year old. Amazing ambition, skill and vision. I will be watching as this sight grows!

Wendi Willock (8)

I love to see family members with so much ambition and creativity -- you go Aaron! Wendi

Linda Schneider (8)

An inspired and ambitious idea!

Mary Goshen (8)

This site is a great idea. It's nice to have the personal input. This will be a wonderful resource when ot has grown a bit.

Jane Arnal (8)

8 wonderfully clear and the concept is great

Vincent Vrotny (8)

Anita Lee (8)

I am really impressed by this undertaking.If this can be done by a 13 year old, where will he be when he is 25? I gave it an eight because there is always room for improvement, a 10 would mean he had accomplished what he had set out to do and could stop. This is surely a work in progress.

Roger Meiners (8)

I actually LIKE that there are no graphics on your website. I like moving quickly from page to page.

Tamila Darling (8)

Lots of potential here. Amazing for the works of a 13 year old! Good Luck and keep up the good work!

prudence mapstone (8)

Great concept with heaps of potential. I look forward to checking it out again as you get more information entered.

Lora Tobias (8)

Quite an undertaking for such a young man, but it has much potential to be a mine of information for lots of people!

Jennifer Kuhns (8)

Very easy to navigate. Innovative concept. I'll come back!

Joyce Roberts (8)

I think it's a little heavy on all the registration boxes required to fill out and of course, light on graphic interfaces which I am sure you will change eventually. I think that suggestions of hot topics might get someone started who can't really tell what kind of info you have to share. Pretty big undertaking even from IBM so I applaud your vision.

Matt Garner (7)

Good site! Nice idea, but not exactly novel ( beat you to it), but your text navigation interface is quite effective! Good job!

Kevin O'Neill (7)

Good interactive idea. Probably should have built a larger database of entries before going live. I'd suggest a small prize for the poster who submits the most entries each week or month to encourage activity. Good job.

Eric Sit (7)

Very impressive accomplishment for a thirteen year old! The site still needs to be combed though for bugs though, since a lot of it is broken. Plus, what exactly are you trying to accomplish with this web site? Reimplement the Internet with a library of random documents? Rethinking the purpose of the web site and trying to refocus I believe will help greatly.

Chris Chan (7)

This reminds me of my primary school days when I didn't have to check the authenticity of my sources. But good concept, get some more recipes and anecdotes and locations to get exotic items and I'll be a definite fan!

Jorel Thomson (7)

Has a lot of potential, if people find out about it and input information. Great idea and seems well-executed.

Helen Samuels (6)

Very promising concept, and a large potential for growth. Keep at it!

mark Winiarz (6)

krap that is all i have to say

Mark Ciccarello (6)

Not a bad implementation for a 13-year-old. However, the author should rethink the purpose of his site. How is an unedited collection of information contributed by random people useful in any way Yahoo isn't? The author seems to be attempting to redesign the whole Internet and place it on his server. He might start a little less ambitiously. There's a place for online encyclopedias like, of course. If you're looking for information that's been fact-checked and edited to certain standards they're invaluable, but that's not the case with this site.

Richard Comacho (6)

i dotn know it is pretty good

Eric Paul (6)

Once you get some more stuff added, I'm sure this will be a nice site. I also am a little confused as to your choice of technologies. Overall a good attempt, but lacking in content.

Ben Bauman (5)

10 for the site idea in theory. 0 for implementation--not much content after a few months of being online! I give it a 5 for an ambitious, functional site designed by a youngin'. Average the three numbers and you get my vote: a 5. Hope your set gets off its feet!

Michael Goode (5)

Good design, but very few entries--I got very little on eight different basic searches, and what I did get was very short and not helpful. I think the whole idea of having all the content provided for by users is flawed, at least without a large base of knowledge to begin with. Why would I go here when I can go to encyclopeadia brittanica on the web or a search engine that can search the whole web for different topics?

Dariusz Winiarz (5)

Little more work would be good but i find it a bit appealing

Danny Purchase (5)

why to give this a 10 will be a sin

Andrew M. (5)

Nice idea, but like other comments, design is too plain and not enough content. I also found some broken links, but keep trying!

Brandon Carlos (5)

great but doesnt amaze me

Adrian Varanini (5)

This is a site that is really simple, and unappealing by first glance. I couldn't even get excited about looking through the different links, and when I did, there wasn't much else there. However, I think it has a good base from which to build off of. With a little more work, and some added graphic design. It could make it much more presentable, and *fun* to browse through.

Tunkey Micket (5)

Great design for a search engine. Just the raw needs. Once you get that bad baby functional with about 1 million or so entries, I'll use it reguraly. I searched for the following words: a cheese monkey web design internet web info And only the last three returned results, however of those 3, 1 had something pertaining to the search entry (90% or more in my views). Great job! And if you need any help, just ask!

Martha Bryce (5)

This is an enormous undertaking. I like the idea and the tone. I am impressed by the scope of your vision and talent. Keep learning and growing!

Jeremy Anderson (4)

Good idea, but there don't seem to be very many entries, and the ones there are seem to be irrelevant. I do, however, love the idea.

Zack Cohen (4)

Okay, the site is clean, and I like that. Not too many moving parts, which is nice. Loads quick, I like that. But... Not enough cool graphics. Kinda plain. Sorry

Persilla P. (4)

Not toooooo bad.

Crystal Proud (4)

hey i dont like the lay out it is confuzing to use

Ara Mahdessian (3)

not much of a design and not much content... good idea and maybe it'll grow into something big later on

Aaron M (3)

I think this site has a lot of potential. I think the site design could use an improvement, the color scheme didn't really good. From the homepage I wasn't really sure where to go. But good job, a little more work and this page could be really really good.

Jaron Christianson (3)

Clean site. Great idea. Very plain. Not too much info. yet. Keep up the work, though - I think you may be on to something.

Toni Serio (2)

nice idea, but i wasn't very impressed by it.

Jason Found (2)

Shane M (2)

A sore sight to look at and very little content. And quite frankly, who cares if he's 13?

David Chan (1)

Bad design.

Confusing topics.

a lots of 404 errors, limited content

kristy kumerson (1)

um needs work..

Jessica Williams (1)

Not very pretty

John Visconti (1)

Not very pretty at all. Too Plain.

Andy Abramson (1)

Ugly and Unorigional

Sara Rac (1)

I found the website boring and uninteresting and when I tried to look up information and error message came up making the site utterly useless to me.

Grege Normore (1)

wow this is great i love adds

Devin Moura (1)

i aggree with every one that has given this site a 1

Jack Dec (1)

not verry nice

Amanda B. (1)

I don't like this site at all.

Jason Thomson (1)

Good idea, but the design could improve. That would attract more users to the site.

Susan Howard (1)

Rich Kerwin (1)

Minimalism: a word often substituted for boring. This site does nothing to reach out and grab the users attention. A nice concept, but work on the hook.

Angelica Lopez (1)

You rule Will!

Will Downey (1)

I personally think this website is ugly! If you have an ugly website, you can't go anywhere with it! When I saw this site I said to myself "This website is as ugly as the people that made it, HAHA"...nice try guys, better luck next year!

Sharon Switz (1)

Very little content
Ugly design
Not very interactive
Broken links (new categories)

Lindya Yakimondie (1)

...Oh no....

Felica McRae (1)

Andy is correct.

Chris Winiarz (1)

Too plain no graphics but conent wise not too bad

kj c (1)

Rachel Luv` (1)

Maria Green (1)

Ugh, if I could give you lower than a one i'd do it.

Marshall Bjerke (1)

Not much info, I used a couple of keywords in the search engine which did nothing. Basically a collaboration of other people's work onto one site