Facebook Blogging

Edward Hugh has a lively and enjoyable Facebook community where he publishes frequent breaking news economics links and short updates. If you would like to receive these updates on a regular basis and join the debate please invite Edward as a friend by clicking the Facebook link at the top of the right sidebar.

Monday, December 15, 2003

The Semantic Web

Maybe it would be interesting to start this piece off with a little quote from Dave Winer:

The important thing is winning in a way that sets up the conditions that make it possible for the president to ask the American people to accept sacrifice, collaborate and share, and innovate and create in order to make a better world.

On a day that is full of what is to me fairly incomprehensible euphoria (although of course, I like everybody else, am glad that Hussein has been finally captured: I just don't see that it changes that much, and in fact I can see things which may now become more difficult in the short term, but this is for another post) on such a day, I think this piece from Dave is really to the point: sacrifice, collaborate and share, innovate and create. This is a pretty good working agenda.

Now on the collaborate and share end, and following on from the original Warehouses of Brains piece, Marcello wrote me this last weekend:

Besides the intrinsic facilities of the medium, blogs tap into the underused networked brainpool [Edward, if Bonobo doesn't work out of a virtual "Warehouse of Brains", I don't know what does :-)]. Supply+Hipereficient channels of distribution=Prices go down like stones. Software, business processes, call handling, manufactures... and information. Stuff like RSS only makes it easier to bypass the distributors and go to the sources, perhaps one of the drivers of the well-known log-distribution pattern of links in blogs.

So, in a world where anybody can begin a blog in 15 minutes, why am I exited about the "Living in XXX" blogs? In short: because we're aggregating brains, not feeds [ok, we aggregate RSS feeds too, but I wanted to make it sound catchy :-)]. Blogs are, to put it somehow, interfaces to brains. The, in my humble opinion, brilliant thing about group blogs is that you're interfacing to a whole warehouse of brains, but from the point of view of the reader there is only one --- *a really* bright one, awake 24hs a day and reading pretty much everything at the same time.

Isn't that a mind you'd pay attention to?

And once you've mastered the art of adding people to a warehouse and make it keep working [only now a tad better], you can extend to new geographic zones, topics, modalities, whatever. Witness the "Living in" sites growing up like mushrooms.

OK, this was a bit hurried, breathless and buzzword-happy, the now dreaded mark of bubble-speak. If anybody thinks it useful, I might write it in a more coherent, less 3AMish style. Although I don't think I've said anything new, specially for this group

Now reading through this I found it sounded remarkably similar to something Nova Spivack has been saying:

Metaweb postings can be hosted like Web pages in particular places and/or they can be shipped around the Net using RSS in a publish-subscribe manner. Webloggers for example create microcontent every time they post to their blogs. Each blog posting is a piece of microcontent. End-users can subscribe to get particular pieces of microcontent they are interested in by signing up to track "RSS channels" using "RSS Readers" that poll those channels periodically for new pieces of microcontent..........

RSS is poised to become The Next Big Thing. There are many reasons for this -- for one thing, e-mail is no longer useful as a content distribution, alerting and marketing medium. E-Mail's rapidly eroding signal-to-noise ratio is leading content providers and end-users to seek alternative, more mutually-effective avenues for interacting with one another. Another force that is driving RSS adoption is the rise of Weblogging.

But RSS is just the first step in the evolution of the Metaweb. The next step will be the Semantic Web. RSS begins the process of getting end-users and content providers to use metadata. The next step is to make that metadata more interoperable, more understandable, more useful. This takes place using ontologies and emerging tools for working with "semantic metadata" -- metadata for which formally defined semantics exists. Just providing metadata is not enough -- the meaning of that metadata has to be defined somewhere in a formal, rigorous, manner that computers can understand automatically. The Semantic Web transforms data and metadata from "dumb data" to "smart data." When I say "smart data" I mean data that carries increased amounts of information about its own meaning, structure, purpose, context, policies, etc. The data is "smart" because the knowledge about the data moves with the data, instead of being locked in an application. So the Semantic Web is a web of "smart data" -- a Web of semantically defined metadata. The Semantic Web is already evolving naturally from the emerging confluence of Blogs, Wikis, RSS feeds, RDF tools, ontology languages such as OWL, rich ontologies, inferencing engines, triplestores, and a growing range of new tools and services for working with metadata. But the key is that we don't have to wait for the Semantic Web for metadata to be useful. The Metaweb is already happening. RSS is already useful and it's happening now.


What we have here is the actual collective consciousness of humanity thinking collective thoughts in real-time, and we get to watch and participate! We are the "neurons" in the collective minds of our organizations, communities, marketplaces. Our postings comprise the memes, the thoughts, in these collective thought processes. Already the Metaweb is thinking thoughts that no individual can comprehend -- they are too big, too distributed, too complex. As the interactions of millions of people, groups and memes evolve we will see increasing layers of intelligence taking place in the Metaweb.

No comments: