Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Industrial Web

"Web 2.0 is social: many hands make light work. In stark contrast, Web 3.0 is industrial."

In the Journal of Social Computing, Peter Sweeney argues that whatever we call Web 3.0, it is going to be a
the automation of tasks which displaces human work. Our information economy is ultimately in the midst of an Industrial Revolution. He makes another excellent point:

Billions are being spent worldwide on semantic technologies to create the factories and specialized machinery for manufacturing content. Railways of linked data and standards are being laid to allow these factories to trade and co-operate. And the most productive information services in the world are those that leverage Web 3.0 industrial processes and technologies. Web 3.0 is a controversial term, as it confuses those who are just only beginning to feel comfortable with the concept Web 2.0 and those who are embracing the Semantic Web. Web 3.0 disrupts these traditional, safe thoughts. It not only blurs the terminology, it also offers business advocates an opportunity to cash in.

But I see Sweeney's arguments as a multidimensional argument that transcends nickels and dimes. He makes an excellent point when he argues that many dismiss Web 3.0 as a fad; however, when we think of the Web as a manufacturing process, that is a disruptive technology -- very much like the Industrial Revolution -- then we can begin to understand what Web 3.0 represents.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Kumos to you MSN

I'm going to hold off on adding to the Wolfram Alpha debate as I've yet to digest it all in the last week or so. But hold on. We might need to pen new articles -- all of us. Microsoft has added its two cents with an upcoming new search engine called Bing (but codenamed Kumo) .

Bing is a combination of Microsoft's Live Search search engine and semantic Web technology (which Microsoft had quietly acquired in Powerset last July, 2008). It is said that Kumo is designed as a "Google killer" in mind. However, not without a cost.

It's been reported that the amount of resources Microsoft had spent on Kumo has caused deep divisions within the vendor's management. Many within the hierarchical monolith are arguing for staying put with the companie's money-making ways rather than spreading it elsewhere on fruitless desire for the holy search grail.

This is important new developments for information professionals - especially librarians - to take note. While the Semantic Web adds structure to Web searches in the backend technology, what users will see in the front end is increased structure such as the search results in the center of the page and a hierarchical organization of concepts or attributes in the left (or right)-hand column. This could be what Bing ultimately looks like.

What this implies is that with so much of the spotlight currently on "practical" social media and Web 2.0 applications, much is happening underneath the surface among the information giants. Google itself is quietly conducting much research into the SemWeb. Who will be the first to achieve Web sainthood? Until last week, we thought it was these guys.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Web 3.0 Hoopla

Web 3.0-ites beware. As information professionals, it's our jobs (and hobbies to a certain extent) to pick out discrepancies and the latest trends on the web. A web 3.0 conference took place in New York City, May 19-20. The conference featured speakers such as Christine Connors, and a fairly large list of technology evangelists and business experts. The conference packages Web 3.0 as a a group of technologies that make the organization of information radically more fluid and allow for new types of analysis based on things like text semantics, machine learning, and what we call serendipity — the stumbling upon insights based on just having better organized and connected information. Its website presents the following:
In turbulent economic times, it is critically important to understand what opportunities exist to make our businesses run better. The emergence of a new era of technologies, collectively known as Web 3.0, provides this kind of strategically significant opportunity.

The core idea behind web 3.0 is to extract much more meaningful, actionable insight from information. At the conference, we will explore how companies are using these technologies today, and should be using them tomorrow, for significant bottom line impact in areas like marketing, corporate information management, customer service, and personal productivity.

I would be hesitant to accept this definition of Web 3.0, particularly when the words "in turbulent economic times." It's awfully reminiscent of how Web 2.0 had started: the burst of the dot-c0m economy in 2001, which lead to programmers convening at the first Web 2.0 conference. For better or worse, Web 2.0 was born; but it was never endorsed by academia. The creators of the internet never envisioned for Web 2.0 technologies; the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) never had Web 2.0 standards. Rather, the Semantic Web has its roots from the very beginning.

Unfortunately, I fear the same is happening with Web 3.0. Much is being slapped by corporate and technology interests and labelled "Web 3.0." Because of the downturn in the economy, information professionals beware.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Swine Flu and the World Wide Web Scour

As I was flipping through the pages of the morning paper, the Public Health Agency of Canada Intelligence Network certainly made my personal headlines. The power of the software is so that two powerful news aggregators - Al Bawaba and Factiva- are used by the Canadian system in order to retrieve relevant articles every 15 minutes, day and night.

The Public Health Agency of Canada group, whose Web-scouring programs also found the earliest portent of the arrival of SARS, though it took months for Chinese authorities to confirm the presence of that virus.

In fact, more than half of the 578 outbreaks identified by the World Health Organization between 1998 and 2001 were first picked up by the Canadian system. What this really reveals is that the Web is an ecological organism, a metaphor for reality, if you. It's amazingly disconcerting when we realize just how primitive our search mechanisms are like, when vital health information slips through our radars. Just how much difference do such surveillance systems really make in combatting emerging disease? Well, let's look at it this way -- the new swine flu strain was discovered - in the United States - a week after the La Gloria story surfaced, and it was another 10 days before a Canadian lab determined the same virus was making people ill in Mexico. In fact, the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN) first detected reports of an unusual outbreak of respiratory disease in China's Guangdong province months, months before the SARS spread around the world. This is the power of the Web, this is the power of search when maximized to its potential.