Towards Web 3.0

Added on by Bill.

Ten years ago my wife, children and I visited China. Above is my daughter in Tiananmen Square. Behind her is a fellow clearing the snow with a broom. At that time, I saw soldiers clearing snow from local highways with brooms. Human capital. China has lots of it.
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It is hard to find a search term for which Google won't come back with at least ten thousand results; most come back in the millions. How many results will a person look through before they find what they need?

With thousands of results, the investigator is then left to wade through this vast amount of information which is presented in incomparable form and structure. He must assimilate, organize, assess, and then come to some conclusion as to what it all means and what action to take.

If I look back ten years, a search was a very manual effort with books, libraries, etc. There was no Google. I think it's fair to say that the progress that has been made is in the area of access to information. Access has increased to a point where I can find records of my grandfather's arrival in North American in 1913 or read all the latest news from hundreds of newspapers around the world. I can gather the opinions of a wide number of readers on products through various fora. This has come about as a result of what some might call "the digitization of everything." And that process continues.

All this information is presented to me in a human-readable form. But not in a computer-processable form. To be processed by a computer in an efficient and effective manner requires the abstraction or distillation of the semantics from the mead and those meanings need to be presented in a consistent and comparable form.

Computers are not able to take a word and infer its semantics. People aren't either. What does anschrift mean? People and computers need to be taught. So how do you teach a computer? A very popular approach these days is to tag things. A tag generally imparts one meaning; many tags impart several meanings.

Everything is being tagged: photographs (flickr); news (CBC, BBC); music (iTunes); stuff (digg, technorati) etc. So let that process proceed and some day everything will be tagged. Then we will have transferred the problem from hits returning millions of documents to hits returning millions of tags. Yet, it will signal another step forward because a tag is easier to compare and process for a machine, a computer, and so part of the process can be automated. Pushing work to machines is always a good thing.

But machines like consistency, even more than us. So when you tag something it would be nice to tag everything in the same way. For example, do you use the tag Person, People, Human, Party of Interest, Man, Woman, Child, Homo sapien, etc. So all we need to do is to consolidate towards a standard set of tags and life is even easier. Simply said, harder to do. Anyone who has ever lead a project to define tags for say office documents knows how hard it is. It seems like such a simple idea, yet it is so hard to achieve. First, there is the challenge of coming up with the tags themselves, then they have to be defined so they can be assigned consistently and then they have to be used; documents or things have to be tagged. Three points of failure. A fourth, if you include maintenance (i.e., adding new tags, etc.)

Picking the right tag involves some level of subjectivity and thus is prone to error and or inconsistency. Yet, on the scale of the web, where there are millions of users, a consensus on which tags to use seems to emerge. In del.icio.us for example, I can tag my stuff with what ever terms I feel like; what ever makes sense to me. Or, I can use tags they suggest that others have used to tag the same or similar content. It is through this latter means that we are offered a path towards common tags. It is by having millions of people tagging the same content that we come to some agreement on what is an appropriate set of tags to use. We arrive at that "bell curve" of tags that provide the meaning.


I came across an article entitled "22 ways to overclock your brain..." I posted it to del.icio.us and tagged it under retirement. I noted that it had be posted by 2,106 other people and usually tagged under brain and health.
If you look at the tags more closely they can be categorized into different groups. I arbitrarily categorized the terms into seven groups: message style; format; subject; [emotional] reaction; context; action and domain. These seemed to cover the tags used in this instance. I'm sure a more detailed study of tags across many millions of documents might come up with a common set of categories.

This sample categorization of tags suggests first: that people draw different meanings from things and second it offers some perspective on what those different dimension might be. Some see the material in terms of the format is it available (an article); many see it in terms of the subject (i.e., the brain); some interpret it in a broader context (health, fitness, etc.).

Yet it all remains pretty subjective, Darwinian at best. It could be the subject matter itself that makes tagging difficult; the more abstract a thing the wider the range of interpretations?

If we look at something closer to the tangible end of the spectrum, products for example, they are [usually] physical things and have some straightforward characteristics. Amazon has recently announced Amapedia. "Articles about products are tagged with a term that describes what the product is ("is-a tags") as well as their most important features ("facts"). [1]."

Two reasonably straightforward, obvious and understandable categories of tags, in my opinion.

"A fact in Amapedia is a piece of information about the subject of an article. Every article can have many facts; each fact consists of a name and optionally a list of values. [2]"

As well Amazon has provided the community to develop and tag the articles and the tools for them to do that: Amapedia. Amazon describes Amapedia this way:

 

Amapedia is a community for sharing information about the products you like the most.

Amapedia introduces an exciting new way of organizing products we call "collaborative structured tagging". In a nutshell, it makes it easy for you to tag products with what they are and with their most important facts, and for others to search, discover, filter, and compare products by those tags.

Amapedia is the next generation of Amazon.com’s ProductWiki feature; all of your previous ProductWiki contributions were preserved and now live here.

 

I added an entry [3]

 

So, if Web 3.0 is the next step in the evolution of the Web and if that next step includes doing something useful with all the information the html web (web 1.0) has created and the collaborative web (web 2.0) has tagged, then Amapedia is a step. Amapedia is a little different than the other tagging fora, such as digg, del.icio.us, etc. in that it is more structured and focused. As a result it should provide a better quality of tagging. A better quality tag will enable web 3.0 tools to provide the next step: doing something meaningful and useful with the search results. In this case, although narrowly focused, it should help us in our purchasing decisions. A big part of every one's life.
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So fellow minions, like the Chinese army of ten years ago, we are the human capital tagging the digital content being published across the world. It will be through our votes of tags that the world's content will be interpreted and then processed in the Web 3.0 world.

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Lost Positives

Added on by Bill.

Many years ago, I bumped into the lost positive.

Definition:

[Lost Positives] are English coinages made by cutting off the negative prefixes of familiar words. Some of these clipped coinages may indeed once have existed but now may be obsolete; nevertheless, James Thurber’s gruntled, words such as sheveled and kempt, and dozens of other such coinages continue to amuse, often as nonce words.[1]
I was reminded of these prefixless words when coming across the article which I have included below. Lost positives seem to have a presents on the web, including lostpositives.com and an article from Time Magazine published in 1953.

How I met my wife
by Jack Winter
Published 25 July 1994 - The New Yorker

It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate.

I was furling my wieldy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way.

I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I'd have to make bones about it since I was travelling cognito. Beknownst to me, the hostess, whom I could see both hide and hair of, was very proper, so it would be skin off my nose if anything bad happened. And even though I had only swerving loyalty to her, my manners couldn't be peccable. Only toward and heard-of behavior would do.

Fortunately, the embarrassment that my maculate appearance might cause was evitable. There were two ways about it, but the chances that someone as flappable as I would be ept enough to become persona grata or a sung hero were slim. I was, after all, something to sneeze at, someone you could easily hold a candle to, someone who usually aroused bridled passion.

So I decided not to risk it. But then, all at once, for some apparent reason, she looked in my direction and smiled in a way that I could make heads and tails of.

I was plussed. It was concerting to see that she was communicado, and it nerved me that she was interested in a pareil like me, sight seen. Normally, I had a domitable spirit, but, being corrigible, I felt capacitated -- as if this were something I was great shakes at -- and forgot that I had succeeded in situations like this only a told number of times. So, after a terminable delay, I acted with mitigated gall and made my way through the ruly crowd with strong givings.

Nevertheless, since this was all new hat to me and I had no time to prepare a promptu speech, I was petuous. Wanting to make only called-for remarks, I started talking about the hors d'oeuvres, trying to abuse her of the notion that I was sipid, and perhaps even bunk a few myths about myself.

She responded well, and I was mayed that she considered me a savory character who was up to some good. She told me who she was. "What a perfect nomer," I said, advertently. The conversation become more and more choate, and we spoke at length to much avail. But I was defatigable, so I had to leave at a godly hour. I asked if she wanted to come with me. To my delight, she was committal. We left the party together and have been together ever since. I have given her my love, and she has requited it.


Gizmos and gadgets

Added on by Bill.

Scientific American.com recently posted on the 20 hottest gadgets from the consumer electronics show:

  • the 369-pound, 22-inch Woofer [1].
    I need one of these for my iPod. OK, I don't have an iPod. But if I had one, I would definitely get one of these.

  • the umbrella that pings Accuweather and flashes if it's going to rain [2].
    The problem is a data quality one as their weather information source is Accuweather. I had once assumed that the accu in Accuweather was intended to imply accurate, however, in my experience their reports rarely are, especially when it comes to predicting rain. I come to this conclusion based on the emprical data drawn as a golfer who spends many of his non-winter-months monitoring weather reports for golf days.

    If Accuweather was accurate then having such an umbrella would be quite the conversation piece; an ego boost. A proudly held accessory! But, unfortunately one is more likely to find it flashing at odd and of course inconvenient times. Thus one can expect to be faced with the conversation that will go something like this:
    "why is you umbrella flashing?"
    "it's going to rain."
    "Oh" [pause] "but it's sunny out."
    "Yes, well the weather forecast says..." [and then the blithering starts; the long explanation of how the umbrella made the determination and that in fact it is not the umbrella it is in fact the data source, and through various anthropomorphic steps you have mentally associated the success or failure of this umbrella to your own personal success or failure and therefore it is absolutely imperative that you defend the integrity of the umbrella so that no issues or short comings be linked to it and thus yourself]
    "When is it going to rain? "
    "I don't know."
    "Oh." [and silence follows]. The death knell oh.

With honourable mention to:
  • PC Gamers bike [3]
    Just because it encourages exercise while playing silly games [editorial comment]. Unless you have a Wii. I'm going to get a Wii be cause my dear friend (an unnamed senior official at Microsoft, in the Jim Allchin e-mail "I'd buy a Mac" sense) recommended one.
  • Car MD [4]
    Just because it could be something really neat to put on the dashboard of a car that would present a lot of useless information but nevertheless look really high-tech. I hope it has pie charts.

When confusion reigns

Added on by Bill.

Harvey Balls; speak to anyone involved in developing strategic plans and they will know what you mean. Those familiar little circles, filled to some level of completion representing the degree of completeness. So simple; so meaningful; so useful; a highly consumable form of communication.
Yet, they were not invented by Harvey Ball. Harvey Ball, retired Brigadier General, invented the ubiquitous smiley face. Rather, Harvey Balls were created by either Harvey Golub or Harvey Poppel.

Architect Wanted

Added on by Bill.

I was recently asked "what does an Enterprise Architect do and how do you become one?"

The first thing to know is that this type of architecture relates to information technology, not buildings. So while we might create "blueprints" they would lay out a system's plan rather than one for a house or skyscraper.

Within the realm of information technology architecture there are several different kinds of architect, generally classified by the area of focus. For example, there are Data Architects who focus on data and how it should be structured for quality and efficient/effective usage, Network Architecture who focus on how communications networks should be structured and Solution Architects who focus on applications. Enterprise Architects tend to focus on broader "enterprise level" issues. In my case, I assess emerging technologies and then determine whether they could be useful for the company I work for, and if so, prepare a strategy on how we should go about adopting and then deploying them. Over the last few years I have spent a lot of time on Web services and Services Oriented Architectures.

The field of IT architecture has evolved over the past number of years. Standard processes and methods have been developed, and in particular TOGAF, which is the one we use. This has had the effect of putting a better structure and organization around the work we do.

In terms of the skills and how to become an architect, historically they were drawn from the development areas, and usually the senior technical people. This generally reflected the state of architecture which was to answer the question of how do I best use technology over the long term. But the role of architecture is broadening and is being extended to answer the question how do I best use technology to meet the business needs over the long term. This means having a better understanding of he business needs and goals so technology can be most effectively used.

Now, there are a couple of different perspectives on how to achieve this mix of business and technical skills. Do you look for people who have both skills or do you build a team of technology people and business people? I have seen more of the latter. So if the latter prevails we can expect to see the continuance of senior technical people being drafted from development with the addition of business people being brought into the mix.

However, education and experience are only two of the three key elements. The third is what some have recently labelled perspective. Perspective is the ability to find balance or common ground, remove the noise from the discussion and quickly identify the issues. But as well, solid communications skills are necessary to be able to communicate concepts and lastly patience to get through the discussion.

A friend of mine, Ian Page, penned the article below many years ago, yet it remains true today:


Architect Wanted
  1. Should be well-informed about some vendors and products, but identified with none
  2. Should have been an expert at something, but have acquired an understanding of the limits of expertise
  3. Should be eager to improve things for the company's customers, but be resigned to never getting near a customer
  4. Should be undeterred by complexity, but seek to explain it to an intelligent 8 year old
  5. Should have the academic’s facility for abstraction, but the politician’s feel for the possible
  6. Should be at home in large organizations, but preserve the ownership perspective of the self-employed
  7. Should be effective in groups and teams, but willing to stand with an unpopular position
  8. Should have been an entrepreneur at one time, but have failed as well as succeeded
  9. Should be skeptical, but enthusiastic
  10. Should be industrious as a matter of practice, but lazy as a matter of principle
  11. Should sketch poetically, and write graphically
  12. Should be able to see forests, or trees, but never at the same time
  13. Should be willing to make a personal investment in an idea, but write it off if necessary
  14. Should be willing to express a reasoned opinion on anything, but even more willing to hear a better one
  15. Should be able to take outrageous ideas seriously, and treat serious issues outrageously
  16. Should be willing to see an ugly job through on principle, but should also be willing to resign on principle
  17. Should have an urge to teach, but a stronger urge to learn
  18. Should be able to spot the déjà vu in the avant garde
  19. Should be able to find quick rewards in small tasks to compensate for the slowness of rewards in the large ones
  20. Should have a philosophy degree from a technical institute, or an engineering degree from a seminary