Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Web 3.0 how to help users stop reading the web and get on with their work - Geoffrey Bilder, Cross Ref

Geoffrey Bilder started by saying that he absolutly hated the term web 2.0 and web 3.0 but it is using it regardless!

Geoffrey recalled his UKSG talk from 2004 when he talked about mashups, syndication etc. At the time these changes were already occuring and the ways people were using the web was changing significantly. We are beginning to see this again now - people are beginning to go beyond Web 2.0.

It's important to recall the history of the modern internet which is comparable only to the invention of the printing press: this was a huge change and a huge explosion of content. But what we take for granted in books and printing took centuries to develop. It took the steam press to get industrial printing on a grand scale, journals came a long time to come into beinig. Compare this timeline to a timeline of the web and hypertext. If you compare the two timelines (as Geoffrey has on his slide) you can see we still haven't reached out "Martin Luther moment" just yet. For those that say the internet moves faster it's important to know that a format, the incronabula (partly hand illuminated to look more friendly) , that came out to help people deal with the fact that material produced on the printing press was not user friendly and people didn't like to read it. We are uploading print style documents to the web at the moment. Still. These are the modern incronabula.

We are surprised now that people skip around and don't read things through but there is so much information to read and we do not have the skills to sift through that all. Researchers want to publish as much as possible but this makes their own reading life difficult as there is so much available. They want to do research not just be reading.

Geoffrey defines the original web as read only (on the whole). Web 2.0 is read and write (easily) - trails of bookmarks, blogs etc. Web 2.0 can also be defined as helping researchers help each other to work through what else is out there. Blogs aren't all useful but some blogs can really help the academic community. There is now a community trying to create consistent metadata and graphics etc. to help you find scholarly communications. Wikis are a tool for collaborative working and information sharing. Social bookmarking and categorization tools are great and very powerful: they are easy to use and they are centrally held so people can be pointed to those bookmarks (and you can access them all over the place). [see Geoffrey's bookmarks here: http://del.icio.us/gbilder/]

Compare that to, say, emailing out information: what do you say or include? Deciding who to send things to is frought with danger - you'll miss people, you'll offend people. Sites like citeulike are really easy for sharing information in a high bandwidth way. Video and image sharing can also be scholarly.

This means that webservices encourage linking through social software creating a virtuous circle of information. And these services effectively allow you to "subscribe to their brain". Lets build tools that help each other to find information and share information using social network tools.

Web 3.0 is, to summarise, to read, write, compute and identity. Identity on the web is a growing issue. I won't focus on identity today.

Compute means that the web will help you automatically define what will be useful for you. What printed matter does is make you read all the data and then use (human) search and retrieve systems and then you go back to the data again. This is perverse. You don't have to do this in web 3.0. You don't have to include all the data. Just using consistent metadata online is hugely useful. Data mining through computer digestible form of standardised data could be enormously useful although publishers don't love this.

But we can do more...
Semantically enrich your data and treat the web as a database. To do this we use RDF which I will try and explain as Lee Dobbs just taught his 6 year old son lately so it must be possible!

RDF helps treat the web as a database. In a database you have rows - name/describe the thing - and then columns that define the thing. In RDF this might be: this thing on amazon has an author, this thing on wikipedia. You can then query this structure like a database. Web version of SQL is SPARQL and you can use this to pull out data just as you'd use SQL on a database. This makes the web more readable and much more automatically readable. You therefore take lots of linked pages and treat them as lots of linked databases.

When the book was formed a lot of things that when we look at a book now we take for granted (table of contents, running headers etc) was invented and developed. Our challenge now is to develop the new apparatus in ways that will help researchers find stuff more easily.

Q&A

Q: Looking at your example for social bookmarking does the technology exist to switch from journal or author focus to article focus for use on citeulike, nature etc.
A: Short answer to that is yes. One of the reasons I didn't address was identity. Finding which person user name matched to a specific name is a problem and there are privacy issues with that too. Hopefully we can move to something where we start from identity and move on.

Q: Many of the social bookmarking tools have poor uptake, few tags per person
A: Only "proppellerheads" are using it not other folks, that's part of the answer. But things like RSS has only really become useable in the last year or two as browsers have supported it (despite RSS being around for years). In order to use these tools effectively you want to subscribe to stuff not go out and look at it elsewhere. A classic growth pattern is to have stuff sent out to you.

Q (comeback): Many scientists can't see how this will save them any time: they see it as an additional media and extra work.
A: what I can say is try it. What is our most high bandwidth way of transferring information? Face to face meetings and events. But you then follow up with resources. The reason I think this technology is useful is because social networks replicate this high bandwidth communication on the web. If you can show the value of this technology and how it's productive people will use it.

3 Comments:

Blogger Charlie Byrne said...

Hi Nicola,

Thanks for the good information.

I just published an article on Web 3.0 that includes some very simple introductory info on microformats and rdf - and also a tutorial anyone can use to create a web3 page today. You might find it interesting. - Charlie.

http://www.earlytorise.com/2008/04/08/etrs-7-minute-guide-to-web-30-the-coming-information-revolution.html

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