Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An interesting diversion into the Death of the Semantic Web

Saturday, Monday and Tuesday's posts all got a lot of readership this week, to the point that I've hit a new high, more than 1000 pages views in a day, and am currently on track to beat the record of last month and the month before.  As I have been maintaining, promoting and enhancing this blog, and being more engaged in Social Media, I think I've discovered a few ideas about social media worth persuing more deeply.

Idea Number 1:  The semantic web is dead.  OWL and RDF and ontology may be great for computers to manage semantic relationships, but the web and its users are such that these technologies have never really become mainstream.  Instead, what has happened is that the users of the web have developed new ways to ensure that high quality, relevant content comes to them, and is readily accessible through search of semi-controlled vocabularies.

The replacement for the semantic web is the social web.  I get a daily feed of content tailored to my needs by virtue of the social networks that I participate in, and it has high relevance to my work and play.  I can search for relevant content using Hash Tags.  These are the new ontology; the semi-controlled, user defined vocabulary which is associated with this content and the links and conversations that go along with it.

I predict that we will see new information retrieval tools that build on hash tags being more broadly deployed.  Today, the tag cloud associated with this blog is directly related to the hash tags that "I" tweet when the post is done.  I expect shortly to be able to write a blog post, and have available to me a tool that identifies the relevant hash tags for me based on my social networks, and similar content.  There will be collators of hash tags who will evaluate and define them, or just record how they are used (like dictionary editors).  This will perhaps occur automatically, turning what is presently a semi-controlled user defined vocabulary into something that has just a bit more structure on it.

Aggregators will turn to automation to associate information such as what is contained in this blog into even more accessible content.  It will get tagged with hash tags that will initially be defined as they are used, and will later become more controlled as experience is gained with them.  I expect at some point that Twitter will start showing me "trending topics" and hash tags in my social networks, possibly at different degrees of removal (what are the trending topics and tags among my friend's freinds).

I expect someday to pull up a visualization of my "tag cloud" that shows the relationships and interconnections between them, including connections made by my friends and possibly even their friends.  By so doing, I expect to be able to learn about new tags that may be of interest to me.

Idea Number 2:  The relationshop between Social Networks and identity will fragment and reform.  Like many others, I am members of several different social networks, some associated with my role as a healthcare standards geek, others with personal relationships developed through my college years, others related to family, and others that are just simply groups of friends with a common interest.  I am already able to join and unjoin semi-permanent social networks to alter the way I percieve the web, or it percieves me.  These semi-permanent social networks are groups that I belong to through linked-in, google groups, mailing lists, interest groups in different social networking sites, et cetera.  But I will also be able to assume a temporary identity to view the world as others view it.  I can do this to some extent on some social networking sites by viewing my friend's friends page, and expect that trend to continue. 

You can already see some of what I see through my eyes on twitter using paper.li, and build newspapers for other twitter users too.  What you don't see today are the links that I clicked on, or the tweets that really grabbed my attention, but with Twitter and Google taking back control of the URLs they show to end users, that data could eventually be available.

Both of these ideas will eventually have a profound impact on the web as we see it, and vertical markets like healthcare once they figure out how to make use of these technologies.  I have to start thinking about how these technologies will change healthcare, and won't even pretent I know where it is going.  The ride has already been pretty interesting.

The semantic web is dead.  Long live the social web.


  1. Keith,
    I, too, have been thinking about the social web and how it seems to be overtaking the semantic web as a vehicle to deliver relevant info. I want to refine my thoughts in a longer post, but my quick reaction: the social web is very good at delivering news, but not for archival search/research.

    Still, social networks provide implicit information about people in each group (e.g., they share some interests)and use of hashtags, lists, etc. provide even more detail.

    The real power comes when social networks are directly or indirecly connected to resume sites like LinkedIn or Facebook. There's an awful lot of datamining and networked tag cloud representations that can be carried out when social connections, search/linking history, and well-defined data fields are combined.

    I look forward to continuing the conversation.

  2. Janice,

    I would agree that it's not there for archival search yet. However, the use of tag clouds on blog posts, and the relationship between those tag clouds and the social web, are already starting to build up a body of archival tags that are useful for site-specific searches. I expect to see some standardization of use of tag marking content arrive which will make it easier for Google and Bing and other search engines to take advantage of that classification.

    By the way, this blog, my twitter account, and my Linked-in account are all publicly linked, so I should be a rich source of experimental data.


    P.S. Look forward to continuing the thread here.