(cross posting from MiramarMike.co.nz – connecting people with people via information)

Semantics?The Semantic Web has, for quite some time now, been touted as then next generation Internet and more specifically the “Web” – your email runs on the Internet but I’m not sure that’s what they’re talk—- well, maybe …

But what does ‘sematic web’ mean?
Wikipedia has a great semantic web explanation:

Humans are capable of using the Web to carry out tasks such as finding the Finnish word for “cat”, reserving a library book, and searching for a low price on a DVD. However, a computer cannot accomplish the same tasks without human direction because web pages are designed to be read by people, not machines. The semantic web is a vision of information that is understandable by computers, so that they can perform more of the tedious work involved in finding, sharing and combining information on the web.”

This ties into two things that are fundamental to the approach I take when working with clients:

  1. Openess
  2. Information is your product NOT your website/Intranet, i.e. let go of the information destination

(there are others but for now let’s focus on those)

Openess will be key to enabling the machines to get at, understand and use the information you’d like to share with the world. Openess is not just about allowing access, it is also allowing access in a recognised way to information that can be understood by other computer applications.

For instance, I have my work calendar available online, it will make sense to you and you will see that I was free at 1:30pm for an hour on Wednesday 4th June, 2008 (NZ time) and if you had been around the Wellington CBD you could’ve caught up with me. You, a human, work that with little brain use … but a computer can not as the information is not (yet) open for it to be read and used in such a useful way.

Once you let others into your information (and it’s always your choice how, when and to what level) then you very soon realise that your most common access point to that information is NOT the product from which the next step is to let go of the information destination – this is will be a relief to you as you no longer have to try and be everything to everyone using just one website.

Using my work calendar again you may think I have to use the Google Calendar web site to review and update my appointments, this is not true. The information is fed out in a common format (iCal) that allows other application that I authorise can use the information. This means in reality that the two most common ways I see my calendar is via the Ubuntu time/calendar (top-right of my desktop) or via SMS txt messages from Google letting me know when people accept/change/decline appointments and more importantly where I should be in 30 minutes time. The information is king, not the Google Calendar website.

“Open information” + “letting go of the destination” can lead to some wonderful things being created around your information that you would never have though of in a million years (“mashups” fall into this category) – check out these five wonderful creations that the originators of the information and/or systems would never have imagined [source: Mashup Awards]:

These two facets are also a driving force behind “Web 2.0” – think of Flickr (I rarely see the website but my screensaver shows me the latest cool photos I’ve taken), Delicious (can’t remember the last time I visited the website) and, of course, Twitter which I only visit to follow new people or check out the new people following me.

HOWEVER, these two facets of ‘openess’ and ‘the website is not your product’ does not seem to be as front-and-centre in “Enterprise 2.0” as it should. People within NZ organisations think/install/use a “wiki” or a “blog” or SharePoint = “Web 2.0” but don’t seem to be mature enough to think how the data/information should be opened up to other services.

Is this a ‘2-3 years behind USA/Europe’ thing happening here in New Zealand?
Your view – leave a comment

Other related postings on the ‘semantic web’ from this blog and others:

Mike Riversdale

I (Mike Riversdale, aka Miramar Mike) have worked all my professional life alongside users of information with my work with software vendors (Business Objects, Sydney), New Zealand government agencies (Department of Corrections, Ministry of Health, Christchurch City Council), charitable organisations (skylight) and private/public companies (Fronde, Etam). My focus is always on the real users and their information demands - I have been called the "people's poet"! Working for Fronde and as an independent consultant my role is to introduce the concepts, educate around the challenges and ultimately help deliver available, findable and useful information to those that need it. I am experienced in the full gamut of Enterprise 2.0 tools and, despite a leaning towards open source, I am totally vendor independent - whatever works for the client!

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