More findable comments.

June 16, 2006 at 1:31 pm Leave a comment

And yet More notes from Ambient Findability by Peter Morville.

p 121 The Scientific American article, "The Semantic Web," by Berners-Lee.  It's real interesting trying the find this article in an "Anarchist in the Library" sort of way.  If you search from the home page you are allowed to read the abstract and then pay $8to read the article.  If you use Google to find it, you end up deep-linking to the same article on the same site for free.  Or, just read about it from the w3 site  There's a link to the article on that page too.  Another site I just came across, "Together toward a web of knowledge."  Hmm.  And a quote from Berners-Lee's very interesting book, "Weaving the Web:" "If HTML and the Web made all the online documents look like one huge book, RDF, schema, and inference languages will make all the data in the world look like one huge database."  What I remember about the book – it was a fascinating story about the imagination, excitement, ingenuity, frustration, pain, and hard work that went into the birth of the web as we know it.  Berners-Lee stayed fairly objective, yet you could certainly sense his frustration, and now his I-told-you-so attitude, when people would look at what he was doing and say, Um that's great but so what?

p 123 Responses to the semantic web concept, from David Weinberger, "The Semantic Argument Web" and Clay Shirky, "The Semantic Web, Syllogism, and Worldview."

Mr. Weinberger says "normalization of metadata works real well in confined applications where the payoff is high, control is centralized and discipline can be enforced. In other words: not the Web. "  In other words, if we can't agree on the particular tag to use, e.g. FirstName, First_name, name_first, then it just won't work.  Yet in his article he suggests that some metadata is better than nothing.

Mr. Shirky's argument, to me, boils down to the following conclusion: you can't do math using words, because words and language are incredibly ambiguous and context dependant.

Responses to Mr. Shirky's article by Paul Ford, "A response to…" and Peter Van Dijck's "Themes and Metaphors in the Semantic Web Discussion."

p 125 Metadata – descriptive information used to index, arrange, file, and improves access to a library's or museum's resources.  Meta = with, among, after, behind. When we assign names to individuals, places, and possessions, we are tagging those objects with metadata.  …we employ a word or phrase to describe the subject of a document for the purposes of retrieval.  We try to…encapsulate…aboutness now, to support findability later.

p 127 The organization of ideas and objects into categories and subcategories is fundamental to human experience.  We classify to understand.  In taxonomy, see lumpers and splitters on wikipedia.  Polyhierarchy allows cross-listing of objects in multiple categories.  Faceted Classification defined by S.R. Rangananthan in the 1930s, where objects can exist simultaneously in many locations, e.g. by date, by subject, by color.

I remember the discussion of the human need to organize in Questioning the Millennium, by Stephen Jay Gould.  In the chapter, Our Need For Meaning, he quotes Robert Louis Stevenson: "The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings."  But sheer variety can also be overwhelming and frightening.  In taking arms against this sea of troubles no tool can be more powerful, or more distinctly human, than the brain's imposition of meaning upon the world's confusion.  This need for meaning becomes especially acute when we suspect we humans may inhabit this planet for no special reason and with no goal ordained by nature.  And: Among the devices that we use to impose order upon a complicated (but by no means unstructured) world, classification – or the division of items into categories based on perceived similarities – must rank as the most general and most pervasive of all. 

I grabbed these quotes just now off Amazon search-inside (and my pet brain) While I could find these comments by full-text searching, which is really cool, it is amazingly cumbersome to read the book this way.  The text is displayed as pages in a book and leafing back and forth between pages is really a pain – based on bandwith I suppose.  So I want the ease of use of a book plus the functionality of full-text search and hyperlinking.

p 128 mentioned an interesting sounding book, Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things by Lakoff.

p 129 Controlled vocabularies to manage ambiguity of language, preferred terms, equivalence relationships, 'see also' links.  All subject taxonomies are inherently political  – advancing a particular worldview.  Reminded of Doctorow's Metacrap comments, and the real-life conclusions: people lie, people are lazy, and people are stupid.


Entry filed under: Ambient Findability.

Addition to the Information Literacy list Finding ambience

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