SXSW Panels

The SXSW panel picker is live, and I proposed two panels. If you’re going, or you might go, or you just like voting for things, please have a look and consider voting for my proposals. You’ll have to create an account to vote, but it should be pretty painless. Here are the descriptions of the panels I proposed:

When the Semantic Web Meets User Generated Metadata

The Semantic Web promises to make the internet smarter, in part by adding structure and definition around the content on the web. Sounds great, but who’s going to do all the work? As User Generated Content gives rise to User Generated Metadata, turns out it’s going to be… YOU! (Click here to vote for it)

Content Content Revolution: The Rise of Content Strategy

What’s Content Strategy, you ask? Navigation, publishing guidelines, taxonomy, syndication, style guides, UGC strategy, the semantic web? All this and more! Come hear some of the leading content strategy professionals discuss where this emerging discipline came from, why it matters, and where it’s going. (Click here to vote for it)

On another note, I didn’t get a chance to post my fourth (and last) post about The Last HOPE before I went out of town for the weekend, and I forgot to bring my notes. So that will have to wait until I get back next week.

New Word of the Day: Metaphrast

In a meeting today with my fellow Content Strategists, I was talking about the phenomenon where content is adapted from one format to another – for example, a TV show that’s made into a movie. My colleague Bob Maynard said “metaphrast” to identify this kind of occurrence, and I don’t remember every hearing that word before. A quick online search reveals that the commonly accepted definition is:

One who renders a text into a different form, as by recasting prose in verse.*

This is worded slightly differently from one site to another, but “prose into verse” seems to be the favorite illustration of the concept. Perhaps that’s what the ancient Greeks had in mind, but this is the 21st century. It’s the media age, so why limit ourselves? The only explanation I can come up with is that the word itself is not currently in fashion, so no one has bothered to update the examples in their definition.

Let’s see if we can reclaim this word in the service of modern content formats.

*A popular alternative definition I’ve seen several times is “A literal translator.” This strikes me as one of those definitions that’s deceptively simple – the more you think about it, the less sure you are what it means.

Is relevance enough?

I’ve been thinking a lot about semantic search and what makes something relevant. I realized that, in addition to something “having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand” (M-W), there are at least two other factors that affect how useful an item of content is.

The first is: Quality. Something can be very pertinent to a topic, but if it’s unclear, incomplete, inaccurate, or just plain bad then it probably isn’t going to do you much good. A blurry image of someone doesn’t really let you know what they look like.

The second is Timeliness. This one is tricky – it has to do with the lifecycle of a content item. The most common offenders on the web are usually really old content (often with no date stamp, so you can only guess how old and out-of-date it is). But premature content can be just as worthless. How many times have you seen something of interest, months before you had reason to act on it, then when the appropriate time rolls around you’ve forgotten about it? Or maybe you read something at a time when you really didn’t understand the significance, then later you couldn’t remember where you saw it, or how to get back to it?

So, if semantics are a better way of expressing relevance, and perhaps social media sharing can help us navigate to high quality content, what’s going to help us determine the timeliness of content?

Taxonomy Tools

For the Semantic Technology Conference 2008, I’ll be evaluating several tools that can be used for building taxonomies. My assessment will be based more on usability and usefulness than for technical considerations. After I give the presentation (May 21st), I’ll start posting individual tool evaluations here on the blog.

Come back and check it out later. Or better yet, come out to the conference and see me present!

Essentials of Metadata and Taxonomy

About a month ago (was it really that long? tsk, tsk!) I went to London to speak at a one-day conference held by Henry Stewart Events. The event was organized by Madi Welend Solomon, who I met a couple years ago at the Semantic Technology Conference. There were some excellent people speaking, and I was really happy to be in their company.

It was really amazing to participate in a complete day of discussion about metadata and taxonomy. Each speaker took a different angle and addressed a different aspect of the issues and the work. The individual presentations complemented each other and came together to tell a whole story.

Here’s what some of the other participants had to say about it:

My Father, My Contextual Text Ad

I used to work for the website of a national entertainment publication. Although my primary job was related to content management, metadata strategy, and site development, I occasionally wrote articles and reviews for both the site and the magazine. I was talking to someone today and wanted to show them one of the articles I had written, so I went to the site and typed my name into the site search.

 Search Results

The new design of the site includes a contextual text ad right at the top of the results. I was amused to discover that the ad that’s most closely related to a search for articles written by me is a link to Amazon for a book by my dad. I know that this is just a result of the fact that there are no entertainment products containing my name, plus the fact that “Lovinger” is a statistically improbable last name, but I still thought it was a wonderfully serendipitous example of related search results.

Creative Commons is not “carte blanche”

recent Pew report states that 47% of Americans have looked themselves up on Google or some other search engine. I like to practice a more specific form of vanity search – I use a couple of blog search sites to see where my flickr photos have been used. All my photos are posted under a “by-nc” Creative Commons license which states that they can be reused for non-commercial purposes, provided that I’m giving credit for the image.

I’d like to point out that I’m not doing this vanity search to check up on people, I just really enjoy seeing how my photos are used. It’s fun to see my images of celebrities, New York landmarks, comedians, or even something as mundane as cherry blossoms adorning someone’s blog post. Generally the authors attribute the photos to my screenname and link back to the originals on my flickr account. Some people even get in touch with me and ask for permission beforehand, though that’s not required with the CC license. I don’t really even pay much attention if the site has Google ads, even though, strictly speaking, that qualifies it as “commercial” usage.

There’s still the occasional shock, though, and the latest one is so deeply ironic I can’t really even comprehend it. I discovered a photo I took of the IAC building that was used, without any attribution at all, on a website called Despite the “.org” in the name, this is clearly a commercial website. On the page that contains my photo, I counted 16 ad spots, 3 sponsored channels, and 3 calls to action to “ADVERTISE ON PAIDCONTENT.” On top of that, the article is about a Pre-Conference Reception being held by at the IAC building, and it features a prominent button inviting readers to buy tickets to the conference (plus 8 additional links to sponsors of the conference). So, not only is my photo being displayed on a commercial site, but it’s directly being used to promote the sale of tickets to an event (well, it was – the event is now in the past).

The most troubling part about this is that these are not people who can claim ignorance. This issue falls right in their area of expertise, which according to their site is “global coverage of the business of digital content.” Plus, their own website is published under a “by-nc-sa” CC license, which means it has the same restrictions as my photo, but also that if you reuse the content, you can only do so under the same license (in other words you can’t put their content into your own work and then copyright it).

Although, maybe they don’t understand Creative Commons as well as I would expect them to, because right under the message that says “This work is licensed under a CreativeCommons License.” there’s another message that says “Copyright ContentNext Media Inc. 2002—2007.”

Being, as I am, a Content Strategist and a consultant, seems like it would be exactly the type of organization that would appeal to me. But this experience makes me question how they could possibly claim to be experts in the field of digital content.

Enterprise Solutions Summit 2007

Last week my office arranged a summit on Enterprise Solutions. The first day was employees only, so we could discuss the current and future practice of Enterprise Solutions at Avenue A | Razorfish. It was a day full of animated discussion.

Having a strong interest in Content Strategy, the semantic web, and knowledge management, I’ve thought a lot about how these elements could be put to use within an organization, to help support the goals and needs of an enterprise. But I hadn’t had a chance to discuss it with a lot of people that I work with. The summit was attended by people from all different disciplines – technology, strategy, client relations – and I got to see a wide range of perspectives on the issues.

Jimmy Wales

The second day included clients, and we had a range of speakers and use case presentations. Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia) gave a keynote, though in some ways it was more interesting talking to him at the cocktail party the night before. Kind of a mysterious character. He must have people talking to him all the time about their favorite topic, and they’re stunned when he doesn’t have the entire body of knowledge represented by Wikipedia at his immediate disposal.

I say this because I saw him, a couple times, respond to people with what can only be described as pride about his ignorance of some topic or other. I can only imagine that he’s developed this technique as a defensive measure against people who would otherwise say, “But how can you not know about [insert nerdy topic of interest here]??”

I’m as guilty as the next nerd, in this respect. One of my colleagues enthusiastically mentioned that I’m interested in the Semantic Web and Wales responded that he doesn’t get it, and he doses off every time he tries to read the article. I prodded him a little bit, and asked what he thinks of people using Wikipedia to extract concepts and generate ontologies. He said he thinks it’s pretty cool, since, after all, it’s the biggest collection of human knowledge ever.

I had a feeling that was about as far as it was going to go, so I told him that if the movie The Fifth Element were made today, Leeloo would have learned about human life by speed-reading Wikipedia (instead of absorbing encyclopedic video feeds). He seemed to like that idea.

You can read a more thorough account of the highlights of the Enterprise Solution Summit over on Shiv Singh’s Workplace Blog. He also gives a good account of Jimmy Wales’ keynote and the very lively panel that closed out the day.

Earn it, social websites!

Recently a couple of my friends joined Shelfari and I received email from them, inviting me to join. The messages were friendly, but generic. The only variation was the user name and email address of each friend. This seemed particularly weird because the folks at Shelfari clearly wrote the email very carefully to sound casual and personal, but really, what are the chances that both of these friends would say:

I just joined Shelfari to connect with other book lovers. Come see the books I love and see if we have any in common. Then pick my next book so I can keep on reading.

Click below to join my group of friends on Shelfari!

Next came the part that really bugged me…

Continue reading “Earn it, social websites!”