Unsurprisingly, I find this “Semantic Web” business very irritating. I have said for years (literally) that if you want a new concept or idea to gain widespread acceptance, you must make it easy for people to understand both the concept and the benefits thereof. As far as I can tell, no one promoting the “Semantic Web” has even tried to do that.
Generally, there are three reasons why concepts remain shrouded in mystery and jargon. The first is that the concept can’t be explained because it isn’t real. There’s a reason why I don’t have a Snipe mounted on my wall, notwithstanding all the late night hunts I have been the victim or proprietor of. The second reason is because no one wants to actually execute on the concept. The insiders merely toss jabberwocky back and forth in navel gazing ecstasy. This tendency was one of the major contributors to the death of the citizen journalism movement. The third reason, of course, is because it is a secret. Like the Masons or Elvis Presley’s whereabouts. Since teens of bloggers are all trying, in vain, but trying, to spread the word about the “Semantic Web,” I have to assume this is not the reason.
So today I come across a list of the Top 10 Semantic Web Products for 2008. I’m into lists, so I go looking for enlightenment. Surely by reading the list I can figure out what “Semantic Web” means.
So I try Wikipedia. Just like a song, you can tell a lot about a topic from the first line: “The Semantic Web is an evolving extension of the World Wide Web in which the semantics of information and services on the web is defined, making it possible for the web to understand and satisfy the requests of people and machines to use the web content.” Say what?
Later, there’s this sentence, which I actually understand: “Some elements of the semantic web are expressed as prospective future possibilities that are yet to be implemented or realized.” No shit Sherlock. The linked definition of semantic publishing is only slightly less indecipherable, with this helpful discussion appearing just before an academically stunning reference to “killer applications”: “In order to make the semantic web work and realize its potentials, information must be presented (i.e. published) in semantic format on the web. Thus, as the semantic web is further developed and adopted, semantic publishing will become a main form of web publishing.” Uh, OK.
When all else fails, I turn to the dictionary (I know what the web is, so I’ll skip that word): It looks like the second definition of semantic is the applicable one: “Of, relating to, or according to the science of semantics.” On to semantics: “The study or science of meaning in language.”
My head is spinning.
I’m a naturally curious guy, but if a half hour of research leads to more questions than answers, I’m out. Too busy for that.
Here’s the thing. If this guy can explain black holes as clearly as he does, then, why can’t someone explain what in the heck the “Semantic Web” is?
Is it that they can’t or won’t. Does it matter?