[microformats-discuss] FYI: two posting about the Semantic Web, the "SynWeb", scraping and microformats

Danny Ayers danny.ayers at gmail.com
Mon Oct 24 17:24:40 PDT 2005

On 10/24/05, Dr. Ernie Prabhakar <drernie at opendarwin.org> wrote:

> Well, that's why microformats were invented, because most of us couldn't
> figure it out either. :-)

Hmm...opaques docs, clunky syntax, vague handwaving - what else could
you ask for?
Ok, maybe the Semantic Web community needs to get out more, throw a
few parties..?


> Now imagine a world full of tools like that, extracting all sorts of
> structured data directly off of human-readable web pages, allowing them to
> be stored, remixed, and re-presented in different formats.


> That's the (lowercase) semantic web, microformat-style.
> The official "Semantic Web" is pretty much the same, except populated
> entirely by machines. :-(

Nope, populated entirely by humans, augmented with machine
capabilities, networked on a global scale.

> Unfortunately, for that we first need to create a machine smart enough to
> build the entire Web by itself.  For some reason, humans hate having to work
> for machines. :-)

Going back a few sentences, you talk of "human-readable web pages" as
if that's the only source or sink of data, with no intermediation, no
computer work allowed. That's the cultural difference here. A lot of
information can be represented in a machine-friendly fashion.

Take a train timetable. Would you prefer 1000 human-readable HTML
pages detailing the journeys, or just a form with fields for start and
destination, a machine to do the searching for you?

Are documents all there is, or is there a place for databases, the
information in which might be stored, remixed, and re-presented in
different formats? The Web is a distributed data store, but much of
the data is locked in documents, needing less-than-perfect search
technologies to get at. Microformats offer an opportunity to make a
lot of that hidden data directly machine processable. Cool. Now what
do you do with that explicit data? How do you mix it? How do you
integrate stuff from a planet this big?

Semantic Web technologies offer ways of representing data and remixing
it that works across the Web. A place for *human* data, but where we
don't have to search hard, because we never hid the stuff in the first
place. Totally complementary with microformats. For the coder it means
instead of inventing a new bunch of classes/tables every time you
encounter something new, and figuring out how that ties in with the x,
y and z you've got already, you just slot it into a common data model.

In lieu of anything more compelling, this notion of the forthcoming
Web works for me. I find the technologies involved very useful, even
at a relatively local scale. I haven't see anything else that promises
anything like the same kind of capability as and when network effects
come into play. But I'd be really interested in hearing how you see
things developing over (say) the next 5-10 years.




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