Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Blogosphere Revolution is a Semantic Web Revolution

I'm sure I'm not saying anything new but I wanted to get this down.

I've been separating out the concept of content syndication from the semantic web, but that is a mistake. Weblog content syndication, which is the technological force that has powered the current wave of online Progressive activism, is the original semantic web application. An RSS file is a collection of metadata that points to people's posts. That metadata is combined with tools allowing people to easily discover and distribute information.

While the "blogs" get all the credit for what's been going on, it wouldn't be anything without the semantic web as the conceptual distribution mechanism. Take away the semantic web and all you'd be left with is bulletin boards, which we've had for a long time.

The semantic web as a concept has taken a lot of hits for being unworkable. What's already been done online with political activism is proof positive that it isn't.

In the end the real difficulty is with making the RDF specification something that can easily interact with content in various formats. The solution by makers of blog software has been to not use RDF and create specs that focus entirely on the 1 dimensional streams that are blogs.

The future has got to be with breaking away from this 1-D prison.


b l u e m o s a i c said...

My ignorance is REALLY going to show through here. Conceptually, I understand RSS feeds, but how does it work? What are the nuts and bolts? I also see the term "mashup" used in reference to RSS feeeds. What does all this mean?

Chris Baker said...

An RSS feed is a representation of the content of a blog formatted in such a way so that it can be reused by outside tools. Blogger, the platform that this blog is on, uses the Atom specification instead of RSS, although most tools work with either. You can see the feed here. Few source to see the raw version of it.

Mashup is a term coined by IBM to represent web applications that weave these various 1-dimensional strings of content into more complex applications. Good primitive examples of this are the Google personalized front page and My Yahoo which let you add content widgets onto your page. Advanced examples would be ones that do more complex munging of the data streams.

b l u e m o s a i c said...

I guess what I am asking is even more basic. Who specifically uses RSS feeds? Would an individual like me use such a tool to get articles of interest sent to me? Or is this something that is used only by online publishers who want to populate their pages with articles(e.g. Google News).

I told you my ignorance would show through! :-)

Chris Baker said...

Check out the Wikipedia article on aggregator. I use a tool called SharpReader to get all of my feeds. Both Firefox and IE7 support RSS. There are many different ways that RSS can be used. A political example is the site Lefty Blogs where you can see a collection of blog posts arranged by states.

b l u e m o s a i c said...

I have mastered it! I installed SharpReader and loaded it with my favorite blogs and newsites. I can see how that can be convenient.

Thanks, Chris!