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  • Joe 22:18 on March 24, 2007 Permalink
    Tags: , car sales, Conrad Black, correct tools, , Dennis Furr, , , Japan;, limit services, MySpace, proper semantic web technolgy, , Rupert Murdoch, , semantic web initiatives, semweb technology, Stephen Downes, , United States;, Web people, Web Will Fail,   

    Why the Semantic Web will NOT Fail 

    W3C Semantic Web stack taken from W3C’s web siteOn Linkedin Answers, Krzysztof Pająk asks the question “Why the Semantic Web will Fail?
    Update: the person at LinkedIn apparently ripped his question literally off a blog post by Stephen Downes: Why the Semantic Web Will Fail– which I just found out about.

    I posted the following clarification to LinkedIn answers:

    I hereby leave my answer as general insight for this thread, but I have no respect for the way you’re apparently doing business. This smells a lot like plagiarism.

    The original blog post is much more about trust and control, while the Linkedin thread seems to focus more about business models and cost. Just be sure to read Spehens blog.

    Quoted, from Stephen Downes:

    I was thinking about the edgy things of Web 2.0, and where they’re working, and more importantly, where they’re beginning to show some cracks. 

A few of key things today: 

- Yahoo is forcing people to give up their Flickr identities and to join the mother ship, and 

- MySpace is blocking all the widgets that aren’t supported by some sort of business deal with MySpace 

- the rumour that Google is turning off the search API 

And that’s when I realized: 

The Semantic Web will never work because it depends on businesses working together, on them cooperating. 

We are talking about the most conservative bunch of people in the world, people who believe in greed and cut-throat business ethics. People who would steal one another’s property if it weren’t nailed down. People like, well, Conrad Black and Rupert Murdoch. 

And they’re all going to play nice and create one seamless Semantic Web that will work between companies – competing entities choreographing their responses so they can work together to grant you a seamless experience?

    Then, Dennis Furr answered:

    Another way to look at this is from the perspective of the SME. Let the big players cause restrictions and limit services and their clients will abandon them. This will create new opportunities for new and existing SMEs to demonstrate their worth. 

-Yahoo doesn’t force anyone to do anything. We make choices. 

-If MySpace doesn’t provide the correct tools to satisfy their customers than the customers will vote with their feet. 

-If Google (foolishly) turned off the search API then someone else would provide a replacement service. 

Consumers aren’t loyal to brands, they are loyal to what these brands deliver. Look at the US automobile industry in the 1970’s. US auto manufacturers were building large cars that didn’t get very good fuel economy. Japanese car sales flourished. After much pain and agony US auto manufacturers developed relationships with their Japanese competitors and started manufacturing cars that were more attactive in terms of fuel economy. They even built cars with engines manufactured in Japan that were also used in Japanese cars. 

My point is that if large players in an industry choose not to “play nice“ then this will likely create a place in the market for the SME. By developing seamless working relationships, collectively, the SME may develop enough momentum to displace larger traditional providers.

    But there’s more.

    Why the Semantic Web will NOT fail

    First, Dennis gives a most execellent answer to the question about greed and conservatism.

    Then, about the technology, things may evolve slghtly different than foreseen back in 2000 when the term “the semantic web“ emerged.

    Back then, the perspective came mostly from the AI folks and Librarians, where the interpretation and categorization of data was thought of in a very top-down way. Basically, we needed massive centralized ontologies, which cost tons of money to define and maintain.

    The cost of such a system could easily be prohibitive according to the scenario of Kryzsztof Pająk Stephen Downes.

    But then came round the developments which were tagged “web 2.0“. The key factor in my opinion, is the third point of Tim O’Reilly’s What is Web 2.0 article: data is the next “Intel Inside”. In my words, this means that users have to gain by sharing their data (the sum adds more value to the individual items) and smart companies can benefit from exploiting this data in a sensible/smart way.

    We have seen this in the form of tagging on sites as Flickr and del.icio.us. Individual users get the benefit of putting their data in context of the rest, the service gets the benefits of being able to do all kinds of data mining and exploitation (e.g. advertising). The key point here is: users add their own meta data, for their own benefit.

    Right now these so called folksonomies are becoming more and more mainstream. The center of this bottom up movement is the microformats initiative.
    This doesn’t go unnoticed by the Semantic Web people and the first initiative to build the bridge between folksonomies, like microformats, and proper semantic web technolgy (rdf and ontologies) is being finalized right now: the W3C GRDDL recommendation. So we could finally get the benefits of both massive amounts of metadata, all entered by normal users, and carefully mapped ontologies, created by professionals for some specific benefit.

    I would not be surprised if 2007 will be the year of the first successful, mainstream semantic web initiatives. Interesting fact: the new Video on demand service Joost.com is heavily supported by semweb technology at the back end.

    Here is the linkedin thread in case you’re interested…

  • Joe 21:41 on February 2, 2007 Permalink
    Tags: , semantic web context, Tim Berners-Lee, United States;, web service,   

    Making sense of tagging 

    By now almost everyone and their dog are familiar with the Web 2.0 meme and it’s common attributes. One of the more prominent features is tagging, assigning free text keywords to your photos, bookmarks and everything else.
    This has many benefits, as you can generate nice tag clouds or find interesting bookmarks by tag subject.

    But there are problems as well,most prominently the fact that my tag word may mean something rather different, depending on context.

    Over the past years I have been struggling with this problem, especially for tagging my photos. At first I cooked my own solution, based on a modified version of the Exif parser jhead (with added XML output) and a sticky ball of XSL transformation scripts (never published).
    Then I switched to iPhoto. Adding tags itself is a real pain with iPhoto, but this problem is solved by the excellent Keyword Assistant. The problem, however, is still in making sense of those keywords. I mean, there must at least be an option to export this metadata together with the image files, for archival (I’m rather sure that iPhoto 6 format will be forgotten about in a mere 15 to 20 years from now).

    There appear to be a couple of half finished projects to export iPhoto metadata to RDF. This looks like a promising route, but for some reason these didn’t gain traction and seem to have been abandoned.

    Of course, exporting just tags does not give the definitive answer to what exactly these tags mean, especially a couple of years from now. Context matters very much, if I tag a photo with a certain keyword, this may well mean something different than the same keyword for, let’s say, a song.

    So I conceived a very nice contextual tagging system, all in my head. Working title: TagLib. This would be a service-like application, always sitting in the background (or maybe running remotely as a web service) and waiting for tagging activity. Then, whenever a tag needs to be entered, all kinds of context would be considered. For instance, the kind of subject. When tagging a photo, the tag could be associated with the media type (photo) and time. The time could be compared with events in iCalendar and – if a matching event was found – the photo and event could be coupled. RDF would the natural choice for the data format, which then naturally extended to related data, e.g. FOAF for people’s names and Dublin Core for lots of other metadata.

    I still think that such a tagging service would make a lot of sense. Especially when it would be open and available for the general public to extend, you would get a kick start assigning meaningful keywords to whatever you want to tag.

    The working would be something along these lines:

    • start tagging operation (e.g. right click, context menu)
    • tagging interface invoked with context (object type, time, previous tagging)
    • suggested tags appear with auto-completion, based on context
    • user action: inspect context of suggested tag
    • when satisfied, apply tag
    • otherwise, create a personal “fork” for your context, e.g. by referring to name in Foaf file etc.

    Example: the first time you enter the tag bush, you wold be suggested the choice between the president of the USA or a wilderness scene. Or maybe you know someone else by the name bush, and you point the tool to the bush in your address book (facilitated through Foaf or some other mechanism).

    This all is a rough concept, stuck at the thought model level. I would have kept this all to myself, if I had not come across an article by Tim Berners-Lee: Using labels to give semantics to tags. In short: applying well defined (semantic) labels to liberally tagged objects, in order to give them presence in the semantic web context. In Tim BL’s words: “The concept of a label as a preset set of data which is applied to things and classes of things provides an intuitive user interface for a operation which should be simple for untrained users.

    Excellent, there’s still way to go!

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