3/28/2005

Semantic Web: Who should we tag today?

I've been doing some further reading surrounding the semantic web. I feel FeedTagger has something important to offer and I am trying to work out how and why. Read on for my thoughts on what will make the semantic web tick...

At the moment technorati allows bloggers to specify tags that relate to particular posts they make. Sure, it's a good start, but technorati are approaching the semantic web backwards. The publisher is describing the content of the particular post which is no different to meta tags that have been around for years. I'm more interested in how other people describe the content.

A tagger of the semantic web should be an external entity looking in. I can't trust the author of an article when he says it's written about 'microsoft', but I can trust google when it has established the context of the page in relation to the other 100 pages that link to it. Even better I can trust 1000 separate individuals that have all tagged the article as 'microsoft', 'longhorn'. A certain level of trust about the content of an article can be established when others tag a souce. This is not possible when relying on the author alone.

An Irish blogger made an interesting comment backing up my theory. He says:
"I think the best part of the Technorati tagging system is the harvest done of other sources such as del.icio.us, furl and Flickr. Whenever I click into I find the most useful stuff coming from the self-titled tags on Flickr and the social bookmark systems to be better than the hand-rolled tags made specifically for Technorati."

If we take 1000 people and they all attempt to quantify the semantics of a particular object or data set, a computer has a wealth of knowledge previously unavailable. Not only do we know the article is about 'microsoft' we also have 10's maybe 100's of other keywords that can help establish relationships between this article and other articles with similar keywords. Similar results can be achieved through establishing context ala google, but with tagging - nothing beats a human.

Tagging our semantic web now boils down to:- "How do we get 1000 people to all describe the same object?"

People are naturally lazy, they will only go to the effort of doing something if they see some benefit in doing so. We need to develop interactive web applications that offer incentives to users for applying semantics to information. The main incentive is ease of use in finding information they have previously sought or information they want to track regularly.

del.icio.us has done this well. flickr supports tagging, but will never have such powerful semantics as the author is the tagger. There's not enough incentive for other users to go around and tag other people's photographs. I'm moving towards applying semantics to RSS/Atom feeds. What else is out there we can apply some meaning to?

21 Comments:

Blogger CloCkWeRX said...

HAH! My babbling got to you, finally :)

Before tagging their was Annotea - semi-centralised annotation spheres, so you could have X number of people annotating Y number of resources, and when you don't trust them it's a matter of switching to another annotation server.

Now, the problem is you can't really migrate from del.icio.us to del.irio.us at the blink of an eye, so you lose all of your previous annotations - del.icio.us is merely a halfassed annotea for a once off use that's being copied too much - it definately needs a bit of rethinking to scale for widespread deployment.

Currently tagging is about quantity rather than quality, which isn't so good. What do we need? Topical trust web services. Who do I trust and who do they trust? How much should I trust someone?
PeopleRank.
Jen Golbeck has more on this kinda thing (oh, and before I forget, sign up to filmtrust and don't be lazy).

12:25 PM  
Blogger CloCkWeRX said...

I've been giving the PeopleRank idea more thought, actually, and perhaps it's something you'd want to use on feedtagger.

You add on the application layer to browse peoples friends network, typical social network application. You then select peoples tags as information filters.

If I'm looking for PHP hacks, I'm going to add your tagset as a positive filter (every common tag between us gets extra rating) and I'm going to maybe add Joe Noober as a negative tagset filter.

It's hard to articulate how this is different to trust/other concepts, it's subtle and I haven't quite nailed it down in my head...

4:12 PM  
Blogger tahpot said...

Yeah I see what you're saying. It could be useful to suggest possible people/feeds/(whatever) that I may be interested in, but at the end of the day it has to be my decision.

It could work well if it only matched similar tags that two people share, but even then a user will want to exclude things. ie: You like dance and I don't really - so anything you classified as "music", I probably still wouldn't be interested in.

I really like the thinking though, it would be good to incorporate browsing other peoples feeds in feedtagger.

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