Memo to the Semantic Web

Everyone on the panel was agreed in stressing the importance of building applications that solve real problems for real users. Neither users nor investors are particularly interested in being pitched with ‘the Semantic Web’ or ‘RDF’ or ‘triples’; they want applications and solutions.

[From Commercialising the Semantic Web | The Semantic Web | ZDNet.com]

Dear Semantic Web:

Most of the time I have no fucking idea what you are talking about when you explain why I should care about semantic web technologies. I really want to get excited about you but after several “year of the semantic web” declarations and very little evidence of end user benefit, well I just gloss over your pronouncements now.

I’m quite confident that in your abundant wisdom you have created something transformative and meaningful but I would implore you to move beyond “something” to “a thing”. In this user driven world I don’t even care about the semantic web pieces… I don’t know how a microprocessor works either but I know it’s a critical component.

While the efforts to define semantic web technologies are theoretically proscribed in an open standards process it has the imagery of a politburo directing the proletariat. It may well be that these core technologies reside on a level of the geek stratosphere that is well beyond the vast majority of us regular folks, but we don’t need to be reminded of it.

Lastly, solving big hairy problems is likely the destiny of semantic web technologies but as Fred Wilson recently pointed out, you eat an elephant one bite at a time.

Yours Truly,

Someone Who Loves You

Reuters Opens Calais Web Service

I am surprised this didn’t get broader attention, it sounds pretty cool. Basically, as I understand it what this does is enable the creation of semantic data within web pages, blogs posts, or any other kind of content by tagging it as you write it. In much the same way that hyperlinks establish a “relevancy relationship,” this will enable better search relevancy by tagging key words, such as people names.

Something else struck me about this initiative. Reuters has made a significant investment in what we would generally call semantic technologies over the years. Calais is kind of like Amazon Web Services, minus monetization, in that it opens up to external developers the same technologies that Reuters itself is using.

The Calais Web service enables publishers, bloggers and sites of all kinds to automatically metatag the people, places, facts and events in their content to increase its search relevance and accessibility on the Web. It also lets content consumers, such as search engines, news portals, bookmarking services and RSS readers, submit content for automatic semantic metatagging that is performed in well under a second.

[From Reuters Releases Open API for New Calais Web Service: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance]