Semantic Web, Kinetic vs Potential Energy, and a Discussion with Bex Huff

stair_potential.gif If you don't read Bex Huff's blog, you need to. He is one of the most thoughtful critics of web hype out there. He also knows a thing or two about Enterprise Content Management. I don't always agree but I always digest his points, you should too.

Lately we've been exchanging thoughts on the impact of Wolfram|Alpha, new search, and links to the still-being-defined-and-emerging Semantic Web.

I agree with Bex that the spin up about things like "Google killers" etc is hyperbole and probably used much the same way purposefully inflammatory blog posts are used: to spark a reaction.I agree that there are a bazillion ways to describe and represent relationships and that there is no single magic bullet when it comes to search, assembly, compositing and relevancy. That's why I'm such a fan of the mashup and channel distribution methods (tailor info / info structure to the channel through which it is being distributed).

Where Bex and I disagree is on the scope of *potential* for things like linked data, RDF and RDFa, ontologies and the nascent semantic web. To put it in potential energy terms, I think SemWeb tooling and technology is poised near the summit of a great steep mountain. I get the impression that Bex sees it as atop the hill in my back yard.

When the ability to get at data imprisoned in documents, pages and information objects *in an organic and hands-free* way AND when the ability to describe concepts and relationships is generally available/accessible then this whole SemWeb thing starts to unleash its potential energy.

Things like RSS haven't begun to see their true killer apps / utility because, today RSS basically gives us another way to consume the same thing (kind of like corecontentonly=1 in UCM).
sisyphus.jpg But when RSS can syndicate and associate pieces of content and combine them according to ontologies and link them automatically in ways we had not conceived of - that is the vision that keeps we believers pushing that SemWeb boulder up the hill - always increasing its potential energy. (Sisyphean jibes can go here I guess)

Comments:

One of the key things (this year at least) may turn out to be Google's Rich Snippets - if it can be shown that web content marked up by RDFa (or equivalent) leads to better Google performance then people will do it. And maybe that will happen faster than pure RDF creation, although the ability to create RDF from RDFa will assist the backend issues too. So maybe Google is the Semantic Web's killer app after all? Wasn't expecting that, but I'll happily take it if it gives me more linked data.

Posted by Duncan McRae-Spencer on May 18, 2009 at 02:46 AM CDT #

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