Thursday, April 30, 2009

Need for a Casual Semantic Web

Current Semantic Web technologies are difficult to utilize, even by highly-skilled professionals. Unlike basic HTML where interesting Web pages and blogs can be assembled and hyperlinked with very little effort and grow at a "viral" rate, the growth of the Semantic Web is proceeding at a snail's pace. A high level of sophistication is needed to develop even basic Semantic Web content. It should not be that way. What is needed is a Casual Semantic Web where even naive consumers and low-skilled workers can rapidly put together interesting Semantic Web content.

Existing Semantic Web technologies are extremely flexible and enable very complex information structures, but consumers and low-skilled workers do not need all or even any of that complexity. They need simple constructs.

They need little more than "elements" for concepts such as:

  • Names
  • Places
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • IM ids
  • Social networking ids
  • Dates
  • Ages
  • Activities
  • Interests
  • Preferences
  • Opinions
  • Polls
  • Rankings
  • Ratings
  • Friends
  • Colleagues
  • Businesses
  • Governmental agencies
  • Non-profit institutions
  • Hospitals
  • Doctors
  • Employers
  • Employees
  • Teams
  • Team members
  • Groups
  • Associations
  • Membership
  • Travel plans
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Relatives
  • Roles
  • Lists

Of course they need convenient methods to publish their personal Semantic Web.

They need convenient Semantic Web browsing tools, although that capability may simply fold right into the traditional Web browser.

Traditional search engine and blog "crawling" technology would be sufficient to aggregate data to enable queries to correlate between users, groups, organizations, interests, etc. There would also be plenty of opportunity for specialized aggregators or mirroring or caching services to evolve, but none would have a monopoly or be able to act as gatekeepers to innovation since the underlying data would always be freely available to all.

Client apps (including for the iPhone and other mobile devices) could provide the kind of user-friendly access UI that people have come to expect from current social networks, but the "open" nature of the "networks" would provide greater flexibility and opportunity for innovation.

Users also need access control for privacy.

They also need a mechanism to manage their identity.

Elsewhere I have suggested the utility of a Data Union for storage of personal data.

The Casual Semantic Web would in fact be a step in the direction of open garden social networking in which the users are in control rather than being under the thumb of the "keepers" of current walled-garden social networks.

Users would be capable of introducing innovative social networks rather than dependent on others to provide (and control) them.

Overall, the main starting point is an extremely user-friendly vocabulary that does not require a computer science degree or advanced training just to publish relatively basic information.

-- Jack Krupansky


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