I listened to Dragon Gasevic's talk with interest and then I tried to follow George, Dave and Jon's conversation as they discussed it on Friday.
And then I tried really hard to get through some of the course readings and videos on the idea.
One of the examples was Fido. Using the semantic web, you would code "Fido" as a dog and then a dog as a type of animal, which would eventually help computers sort out the difference between references to "Fido the dog" from "Fido the phone" (if they are even still out there).
So here are the things I just don't get:
1. Who puts all of that information in there?
Me? If I write the sentence "Fido barked." I know I'm talking about a dog (and hopefully so will anyone reading it.) Will I really take the time to add the info to code for the semantic web? I'm time challenged already, and if I'm mostly writing for myself and people who know me, why would I spend my time to tag it?
My computer? If my computer can guess for me, then it is often going to get it wrong and what's the point?
2. What if I want to write something with multiple meanings? If I'm complaining about my cell phone that would stop ringing and, "I wish Fido would just quit barking." Again I know I'm comparing my phone to a dog (hopefully the people I'm writing for will to), but my computer? not so sure it'll "get" the reference without a lot of effort and work. And again, why bother?
Whenever we start talking about "teaching computers," I start to get confused. I love the way computers enable us to connect with one another, they are excellent tools. In terms of analytics, Computers do some things very well: gather data, remember stuff, calculate and crunch data - Syntax-related stuff.
People tend to do other things well: thinking, analyzing, sorting and determining - sematics-related stuff.
I may simply be out in left field, but it seems to me that people spending a whole lot of time and effort developing a syntax that enables people to code semantics in a simple enough way for a computer to understand really has both the people and the machines playing to their weaknesses - in my experience not usually a recipe for a successful outcome.
I'd love to hear from people who diagree... Maybe that'll help me "get it"!
But could adding semantic tagging be simplified? Clicking a "like" button defines a relationship in a very simple way. The Delicious browser plugins are another way to create relationships and add tags. If things like that were standardized and made open and interoperable, then that would be a step on the way to the semantic web, would it not? If things like that were easy and intuitive and offered obvious value to people then the whole process of semantic tagging could be crowdsourced.
The computer has to do its part too. Doesn't Google track users' search histories? If they keep track of what I type in, and what I click on, then they can start to understand something about the way I use language, and map that to the labels and relationships that are already out there online.
I agree with your point. I can understand Tim Berners-Lee's pleading to make the web more structured, but I can't see why people would bother entering their data in a predetermined ontology-based format, unless search results deteriorate to such a degree that semantic-based systems outperform traditional ones, or that people/ institutions/ companies publishing their data in the semantic web get more hits and more visitors.
Maybe there is an analogy with the early days of HTML, and will browsers evolve to code data automatically into semantic web-format?
I quoted your argument on my blog (stefedu.blogspot.com), hope that's ok for you.