On cataloging, the semantic web and hairstyles

Cathy Marshall spoke at OCLC the other day. Her topic was the long term fate of our personal digital belongings, digital belongings that are increasingly important to us as traces of a life. She spoke about the pleasures of ‘re-encounter’, the pleasure of remembering experience as recorded in photographs, letters and other traces. If we want to enjoy these experiences in the future, we need to take steps to ensure that our digital belongings travel with us into the future. Think of where your digital photgraphs are!
While looking at some of Cathy’s work on her website, I came across this very nice discussion of the semantic web, hairstyles and cataloging:

Sometimes I wonder about the stands I take. I was recently on a panel at the World Wide Web Conference that posed the provocative question: “Will the Semantic Web Scale?” I agreed to assume the contrarian position. “No, of course not.” It was roughly comparable to being an atheist in a Southern Baptist tent revival. Members of the audience were popping up and down as if the hotel chairs were designed by William Castle (who, as you recall, installed electrified theater seats for his 1959 classic, The Tingler); you could hear the frantic key-tapping of wireless IM-ing; some W3C people were smirking; Tim Berners-Lee was frowning. The consensus was: “That chick just doesn’t get it.” [Taking a Stand on the Semantic Web]

It goes on to compare the semantic web vision with existing library cataloging practices, and is funny.

2 thoughts on “On cataloging, the semantic web and hairstyles”

  1. Thanks for that. (I’ll read it in print form, of course; too long for the screen.)

    The only time I ever met Sir Tim (we were both speaking at the same event), I mentioned casually that I couldn’t see the Semantic Web really working that well…but had the good sense not to continue the discussion very far.

    I was less interested in scaling than in the basics: “Syntax is easy, semantics is hard.”

    (Or, realistically: If the most interesting parts of net media come from the people, then the key objection is that most of us have no interest in taking the extra time for structured tagging, much less what you’d need for the Semantic Web. But the Semantic Web could offer a great way to get even more advertising from even more sources…)

  2. I’ve been calling RDF “dead on arrival” since, well, it arrived. That would be lo these many years ago now, and I have yet to be required to eat those words. Meanwhile, even someone such as Tim Bray, who has the domain rdf.net registered, is clearly not happy with RDF.

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