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November 10, 2003
Semantic social software
The current set of discussions swirling around Clay's latest pebble
in the pond I think raises a question for social software: Where does social software fit into the Semantic Web?
Since there seems to be considerable disagreement about what the Semanatic Web (or, if you prefer, semantic web
) is, this may seem like an ambiguous question. And how ironic that would be, since the Semantic Web (at least according to most accounts) begins by people coming up with taxonomies that make clear (searchable and usable) what a set of data is about.
This works great for some fielded data...more or less by definition since the fields are the metadata. So, if you're trying to get a bus schedule that will get you to a movie theater on time for the early evening showing of The Matrix Redundant, it's easy to imagine a computing application looking up bus schedules on one site and movie times at another. But social software is, arguably, a reaction against the collaborative systems that fielded too much. Instead of filling in forms and choosing from pulldown menus, social software has us writing in wikis and blogs. What could be more ambiguous than a wiki, the very definition of a document that's never done?
Of course, there's plenty of metadata around social software: author, date, revision history, category, title, mean time between posts, etc. And all of that is value just waiting to be put to use by clever applications. But the metadata about a bus schedule leads you to unambiguous and predictable data; the metadata around social software does not; it leads you to delightful surprises.
So, what's the role of social software in the Semantic Web? Does it even show up on the Semantic Web's radar? Does the Semantic Web ignore the fruit of social software as unreliable and unpredictable and unusable data? In other words, does the Semantic Web systematically route around some of the most important and human information on the Net?
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