Victus Spiritus


Semantic Services and Interacting Data

19 Oct 2010

This is a brief response to a post shared by Robert Scoble this morning on advances in semantic applications.

I envision the open web as one large database, with various search and services acting as queries against it.

Semantic approaches are pretty nifty. They can connect people, places, or things together with verbs, i.e. "Mark Eats Pancakes". We can do searches against this type of structured data like "who eats pancakes". Low and behold I should be on that list. One of the issues with semantic tech is it's lack of ability to deal with ambiguity. Entities require universal references and it's challenging to connect many facets of conceptual knowledge through strict relationships. Beyond ambiguities, even mapping or connecting just two semantic databases can result in many conflicts, i.e. which association is correct? We can communicate common understanding and meaning through effort, but assumptions about ivory towers of truth (absolute) fade away as we get to the heart of problems and very particular environments.

Then along comes personalized relevance measures. The right answer for my search on "who like pancakes" may be different than your identical looking query. Over time user controlled and owned (this is important) agents can learn about our interests, tastes, and social connections. Our social network being not just friends, but who we listen to, and who tunes in to us.

Why is it so important for us to own our personal relevance data?

Software as a service companies would love to own all this data, and to access them you'll be required to click on a license agreement which makes this the case. But clients require control of their own personal search agents, as it will be closely tied to our identity in the future. I don't see how in the long term any company can best serve my relevance needs better than me, and I'll be damned if they have the right to sell that information to whoever they wish without my knowledge or approval. Without full control over access to our extended memory and taste graph, we slip towards becoming a society who's brokered information is controlled by corporate interests.