Finding People and Things

Where can I find people who are also on Merlin?

Unlike open social networks such as Facebook, Merlin is a private, invitation-only system. So the easiest thing to do is ask them for their Kahuna ID, and then create a contact and invite them to share with you. You do that via some other mechanism than Merlin, such as sending them an email or calling them on the phone.

What if I can't contact someone but I want to network with them?

You can go to the Members page on our website and search for people by name or nickname. However, because such listings are completely voluntary, and because many people choose not to provide their real names (and we don't ask!), you may or may not find the person you are looking for.

If you do, you can provide an email address for them to contact you on, and ask the site to send them a secure MerlinMail. If they respond, the two of you can decide if you know each other and negotiate sharing to whatever extent you wish.

You also have the option of 'opting in' to such listings (log into your account on the website and go to settings). Note that these MerlinMail™ networking request messages do not contain free-form text and cannot be used for spam.

Please note that this feature is not available on the website during alpha and beta phases.

What is the Syndex™?

Perhaps the best way to understand what the Syndex is and why it's so important is to read this blog.  Briefty, the word Syndex is a contraction of 'synthesized index', a unified collection of all the different kinds of information in Merlin, regardless of what it is. It's a simple idea with powerful implications…

Most programs represent the information they manage differently depending on its nature. For example, files are shown in folders, but emails are organized in lists. Appointments are shown only in a calendar. Merlin does this too, but it goes beyond that by unifying everything in familiar folders so you can work from a single location.

Let's say you want to find all the emails from a particular person. In Merlin all you have to do is look in that person's contact folder. There's no need to search through lists or hunt down individual emails, or appointments or whatever; it's all assembled as each thing happens. That's the synthesized part of the name.

The Syndex also automatically cross-references every item in Merlin (such as email, chats or appointments) by the people and topics they refer to, and where and when they occurred.

For example, in most apps if you want to keep an email discussing three different topics among four different people, you're faced with the problem of where to put the email (not to mention having to do it yourself manually).

Even worse, most apps will let you file it in only one place. In Merlin, the Syndex automatically creates references to the email under each person in it and all the major topics it discusses. You can then remove it so your inbox doesn't get cluttered, but the email will still be available via any of the people or topics it referenced. You don't have to do anything, it's indexed automatically. That's the index part of Syndex.

Can I open more than one Syndex™ at a time?

Yes. You can open as many Syndex tabs as you like, and for as many Personas as you are logged into. When you log into multiple Personas simultaneously, the Syndex and Trax are bordered in the color of the Persona they represent.

How do I search for something?

Type the name or whatever else you remember about what you are looking for in the search bar below the Syndex, and Merlin will open a search results tab with everything that relates to it. That's all there is to it.

How do I see what's related to a particular item in Merlin?

Open the item (such as a person or an email) and press the 'Relationships' button. The panel will flip over to show you everything that Merlin has automatically linked to that item, including topics, people, emails, chats, files and much more. You can navigate to any linked item by tapping or double-clicking on it.

How do automatic topic links work?

Automatic topic linking uses an internal catalog of topics (words and phrases) it builds dynamically. Every item entered or arriving via Kahuna in Merlin is scanned for key phrases, and a metadata summary of it is constructed. That metadata is then compared with the metadata from all other other items to construct relationships with certainty factors (in the range of 1% to 100%). The more you use Merlin the more topics it adds and the richer the relationships it discovers.

This works in reverse as well; each time Merlin derives a new topic, it automatically scans all the existing items to see if it can improve those relationships. All this happens gradually in the background so that it does not slow down the app.  Consequently it can take a few minutes for Merlin to discover new relationships.

What is geolocation?

Broadly speaking, geolocation is information that tells you where something is, usually expressed in latitude and longitude coordinates. Many people refer to geolocation as 'GPS', which actually stands for Global Positioning System, and which also produces latitude and longitude information. Even though GPS is the name of a system, it's convenient to use the term to also refer to the locations it is used to find; thus GPS has thus become shorthand for geolocation data. For example, the geolocation of the entrance doorway to the Empire State Building in New York City is: 40° 44' 53.13" North Latitude and 73° 59' 05.63" West Longitude. This data can be fed into mapping programs to determine an address (350 5th Avenue, Manhattan, in this case). GPS data also provides altitude; in this example, the sidewalk in front of the building is 14.6 meters (about 48 feet) above sea level.

Merlin automatically detects when a file has GPS data in it (usually true of pictures) and will show a GPS indicator. Simply by pressing it you can instruct Merlin to navigate to the location using a geolocation program automatically. Try it, it's pretty cool.

What about mobile devices and GPS?

Most mobile devices and even some fixed devices have GPS capability. In many countries, it is legally mandated that mobile devices be capable of reporting their location under various circumstances, including when the user makes an emergency services call.

Moreover, many mobile carriers ('cell phone companies') have the ability to continuously track the location of all the devices in their network. That information is logged and made available to various government agencies either freely or under due process of law, depending on country.

It is thus easily possible to determine which devices – and therefore which people – are in proximity with one another. Put simply, it is easy to know which devices dine or sleep together, even if those devices never actually call or text one another. Simply turning a device off does not necessarily prevent such analysis because carriers may have the ability to remotely activate a device, query its location, and then turn it off again, with absolutely no visible indication to the user. Removing the battery defeats that.

How does Merlin handle geolocation?

Merlin routinely geolocates various bits of data (the address of a contact, for example) so that it can build proximity relationships between seemingly disconnected items. Sometimes this reveals surprising relationships between things you may not have thought about, and it's also valuable in detecting potential Persona violations.

But there's a problem… if Merlin simply asks an external mapping service such as Google Maps or Bing to locate something, it will get back an answer, but that service will log the fact that someone or something asked about a particular place. Make enough queries like that and the external service will be able to construct an 'interest map'. That's an unacceptable 'leak' of information.

To solve this, Merlin contains its own built-in database of more than 100,000 place names and coordinates. That's sufficient to resolve most geotagged files (pictures, for example) and other items to enough accuracy that meaningful relationship conclusions can be drawn without having to expose anything to an external service.

If a picture file has GPS data in it, can Merlin show me where the picture was taken?

If a file contains GPS data, Merlin will place a small globe icon at the bottom center of the thumbnail images of the file. Tap or click to open the context menu, and select 'Go to GPS location', and Merlin will automatically instruct your choice of programs (such as Google Earth) to navigate to that location and show you.

But be aware that by choosing to do this, the mapping program you are asking to display the location will know that particular latitude and longitude were queried. That's usually not a problem – lots of people use such services, some just randomly navigating for amusement and curiosity, but it does represent a potential 'leak' of information so you need to be aware of it. If Google Earth is installed, Merlin will use it by default, but you can change settings to use any of several other services.