May 29, 2007
One of the things I heard a lot of people buzzing about at the Semantic Technology Conference last week was whether or not the Semantic Web would be more accessible to people (as a concept) if it were called something else. Apparently people don’t like the word “semantic.” I sometimes forget that, and then I read something like this (admittedly fairly old) article about Tim Berners-Lee in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The framing metaphor – Berners-Lee as Tolkien – is nonsensical. You could swap out any author who invented a culture with its own language and the metaphor would work just as well (or just as poorly). And, it’s ridiculous to imply that the significant factor of the WWW is that it’s based on an invented language; computer programming languages and markup languages have a long history that predates the WWW. In the end, this metaphor does nothing to illuminate the social, economic, and cultural impact of the Web. (It does have a handy subtext, though – apparently people who are interested in the underlying workings of the Web are nerds, just like people who are passionate about Lord of the Rings.)
With frequent references to “futuristc” and “magic” and “special codes,” the Chronicle article starts out by oversimplifying the concepts of Semantic Web and quickly shifts to steeping them in acronyms and dense technical jargon. If this really is the view of the Semantic Web that’s out there, then perhaps it does need a more consumer-friendly name.
May 29, 2007
My colleague Seth Earley wrote an interesting post on a topic I’ve been thinking about lately, the relative merits of Folksonomy versus Taxonomy. I agree with the points he’s making, though I think there’s room to go a little deeper into the appropriate uses of each. I’ve seen some great applications of user-generated tagging, and I’ve also seen some poor applications that were clearly designed to save time and resources, with no real thought as to why people would be motivated to contribute meaningful information (I’m looking at you, Amazon.com!).
May 24, 2007
The Semantic Technology Conference isn’t even over yet, and I’m already planning the next jaunt. In just over three weeks I’m heading to London for Hack Day.
May 23, 2007
I’m not going to try to liveblog the rest of the Semantic Technology Conference. There’s a lot here to absorb and report on, and I’ll be adding more details once I’ve had some time to process a bit and sort through the materials. I’ve seen a lot of interesting tools and communities, which I’ll be writing about later and adding to the Resources page.
For now I’ll just say that I made it through my own presentation and I’m very pleased with how it went. More about that later, as well.
May 22, 2007
In the morning I went to a tutorial on Semantic Wikis. It was great, despite some technical difficulties that kind of messed up the flow of the presentation for the first hour or so. The speaker was Conor Shankey, the founder of Visual Knowledge. They created a wiki platform, built on a semantic framework. It’s a collaborative tool, like any wiki, but the semantic aspect means there’s a structure that gives the system more knowledge about the content that people contribute. For example, if you have a record about a person, you indicate that it’s a person, and then there will automatically be certain assumptions made, and certain properties available to be filled out. You suddenly have fields where you can say the person’s birthday, surname, projects, etc.
May 22, 2007
I’ve been at the Semantic Technology Conference for a day and a half. The first half day was an introductory talk by Dave McComb. I was hoping this presentation would arm me with some good information and inspiration to become an evangelist for semantic technologies in my organization. I think it did the trick.
At the beginning of his talk, McComb was saying that the Semantic Web has hit the mainstream, and he knows this because more and more people are calling and asking to interview him about it. One of his recent interviews was with Business 2.0, and he admitted that some of the things he said in that interview were better than the things he had in his presentation, and it made him rethink the things he was going to say today. Then Barbara, my friend who works at Time Inc Interactive, leaned over to me and whispered that she told the editor of Business 2.0 to call Dave McComb!
May 17, 2007
My friend and colleague, Tobi Jo Langmo, interviewed me about content stratgy for her usability blog, Design. Usability. Strategy. The idea was to introduce people to the concept and methods of content strategy. I was a little frazzled that morning, and not very well prepared, but Tobi made it all quite easy and I think it came together really well. Nicely done, Tobi!
May 16, 2007
When I was a graduate student at University of New Mexico, I went to a talk on “Art and the Environment.” One of the most interesting speakers was a guy who seemed a little out of place. Amidst all the artists who liked to use dirt and feathers in their artwork, there was a scientist who talked about the challenges of designing markers for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
WIPP is a program whereby nuclear waste will be buried deep in the ground. Designing structures and containers to enclose this waste is one thing. Warning people to stay away from it for 10,000 years is an entirely different challenge. They needed to put up signs that would stick around and let people know not to dig or drill there. Let me emphasize: this message has to be conveyed for 10,000 years.
May 14, 2007
Next week I’ll be speaking at the Semantic Technology Conference, for the second year in a row. The subject of my talk is Representing Taxonomies: What am I looking at here?
The conference is in San Jose, from May 20th through May 24th. It’s not too late to register!
May 14, 2007
What better way to start this blog than with a link to an article I recently wrote for Boxes and Arrows? The article is called Content Strategy: The Philosophy of Data. I’ve gotten a lot of response from this article, which leads me to believe that there’s a growing interest in this field and the professional roles associated with it.