Grasp Theory

Learn what you know


To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.
-- Confucius

The Grasp Theory project started over five years ago with one goal, to pursue ways to create positive feedback loops for those seeking to improve their own personal knowledge.

In essence, we are trying to encourage users to "feel" what it is like to gain knowledge.

The team working on Grasp Theory is diverse, curious, and passionate. There is a small core of developers who are directed by input from a variety of business advisors, academics, and content contributors.

We hope to maintain our abstract goal while pursuing modern implementations for public use. Bits and pieces are starting to emerge and the first fully functional prototype should be ready by the end of 2017.

Some high level (evolving) principles followed by the project are:

  • A person should be able to reflect on their current level of focus, creativity, and learning.
  • Hebian learning is fundamental. Associations between related content is essential and this means "context is king". Context gives our brains "state" and at least the illusion of a "stateful" application to help leverage the statefulness of the brain and outsource some cognitive load is desireable.
  • Leveraging the brains spacial encoding and reasoning and utilizing the large visual bandwidth of the brain should be a high priority.
  • Organizing information in a hierarchical fashion is a way to exploit our brains structures and functions. Taking advantage of hierarchical patterns helps us to organize, associate, and recall.


I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.
-- Louisa May Alcott

The project goal does not force investments into software alone. Our current focus on personal knowledge acquisition and recall does have a heavy software component to it.

The architecture conists of a single central system to manage accounts and globally unique "published" content.

Additionally, there is an architecture for a single tenant isolated environment for each user. This model gives users a personalized experience while providing the ability to integrate globally collated content.

Goals of the Central System

  1. Provide central repository for secure storage and download of "published" content
  2. Provide flexibility for small and simple payments for paid content
  3. Collate public content for searchability and relatability

Goals of Single Tenant Grasp Theory Environment

  1. Provide users with positive feedback loops for improving their knowledge
    • Adjust software and services to support knowledge acquisition and recall for "personal" information
    • Adjust software and services to support knowledge acquisition and recall for "published" information

Backend Technology Implementation Details

We have started to share some of our implementation details. The backend indexing and search functionality is a high priority. This is what we are currntly using:

  • Docker
  • Neo4j
  • MongoDB
  • Mazerunner
  • Elasticsearch
  • NodeJS
  • Maui & custom summary and semantic analysis tools

Front End Technology Implementation Details

The UI is the HIGHEST priority we have right now. We are using:

  • "Ambience" our proprietary spacial UX managment framework
  • Less.js
  • Node.js
  • Angular 1.5.x
  • Underscore.js
  • D3.v2.js


The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.
-- Ralph W. Sockman

Grasp Theory Reveals a Part of its Search Engine

September 20th 2016

Neo4J published an article that shows one aspect of the Grasp Theory search engine. It was their most popular post in September! Read the article here.

Grasp Theory Talks About Large Monitors

May 31st 2016

Our lead UX developer explains why large monitors could be ideal for knowledge acquisistion. Read the article here.


Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
-- Albert Einstein

Is Grasp Theory "open source"

The software aspects of the project are currently not open source as it is still in major flux. The long term goal, however, is to open source the code once the direction solidfies. We are communicating information to many people and appreciate the feedback from the community that further drives this project.

Does Grasp Theory require a large monitor?

NO (maybe you read this article). The UI is responsive to the size of a small laptop. Mobile UI is in the backlog. The UI was however built for ultra wide monitors in mind (imagine Minority Report). Hebian learning REQUIRES the brain to associate multiple stimuli. We have found that having screen realestate to quickly transition between three stimuli is incredibly valuable. This means that a mobile phone is NOT the proper medium for relating information.

We like to refer to the scenario where students who are trying to learn deeply by having multiple books and notes spread across a large desk. They have the ability to rearrange and focus on one or more stimuli at a time. This cannot be done on small screens.

Is it similar to 'tiddlywiki'?

SORTA. Assuming you are using tiddlywiki with it's mapping plugins, you would be creating and linking documents. This is 'similar' to the goal of Grasp Theory but the implementation is considerably different and the granualiarity is not as flexible as it is in Grasp Theory.

Tiddlywiki is unbelieavably portable because it stores all your content in a format that just moves around without the need for ingesting or exporting data. Grasp Theory works off webservices so will require and import and export step.

The UI is quite different. The differences will become apparent when we get our first demo out. It is hard to explain, but the "Ambience" framework that Grasp Theory has developed encourages context via strong spacial and state based cues.

Are you building the "MEMEX"?

YES!!! We are ashamed to not have heard of "MEMEX" as proposed by Vannevar Bush. The MEMEX was brought to our attention by Tim Strehle.

Vannevar Bush headed the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development and published an article in 1945 that described his desire for a system to manage knowledge. It gives us chills to realize he envisioned exactly what we are working on (to a large degree) 65 years before we got our momentum.

Many articles that site the 'MEMEX' say his visions were realized as modern 'hypertext' or the internet itself. If you re-read his article you will see he has a large emphasis on the visual/spacial apsects of knowledge. Grasp Theory uses a LOT more than micro films but maintains the emphasis on exploiting the brains high visual and spacial bandwidth/reasoning.

If only Vannevar Bush had access to WEBGL, SVG, D3, NEO4J, and a multitude of other technolgies. We hope we do him proud! He envisioued our proudcut 65 years ago before computers even existed! His protoge was Claude Shannon, the father of Information Thoery. We have big shoes to fill and are humbled to pursue and enhance his vision.

Is there a demo available?

We hope to power our own blog using the Grasp Theory system by the end of the Spring of 2017. This will give interested folks a chance to see what the system is cabable of and help communicate the true vision for the project.


....when it comes to finding out about new jobs - or, for that matter, new information, or new ideas - "weak ties" are always more important than strong ties.
-- Mark Granovetter

Network Theory indicates that "weak ties" are important so reach out to us.