Re: A bit of bomb throwing....

From: Zack Rosen <>
Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2006 11:30:09 -0800

On Jan 18, 2006, at 5:45 AM, CoC Mail wrote:

> Some good points, but as someone studying usability and HCI (so of
> course it's my hammer for this nail :) ) it seems to me that a good
> chunk of the problem is also that we haven't quite managed to
> demonstrate what interaction sequences for a system that uses
> 'semantic web' concepts look like. In other words, we just don't
> know how to design user interfaces for software that incorporates
> re-usability of data - even in highly structured domains like
> calendaring/PIM, we hardly have any mature applications, and the
> people who're trying to figure that out are having a hard time of
> it: take a gander at the 325 Project ( http://
>, the PlatypusWiki (http://
> and the much awaited Chandler mail
> client to get an idea of the complexities involved. For all sorts
> of reasons - lack of good cognitive models, assumptions about the
> structure and nature of information, the lack of sufficiently
> intuitive yet expressive formalisms, a lack of rigourous
> understanding of the social use of information - the only way an
> average user can tell the computer to "take this bit of data from
> here, mash it up in this (completely predictable) way, and throw it
> there" is to write lots of messy code and hack tools together (even
> the tools are themselves most excellent, like the SIMILE stuff).
> And I'm not even going to talk about intelligent agent-based
> architectures.
> Real-world uses? We all keep talking about them, and we claim we
> know they exist, but the only concrete real world uses I have heard
> of are from computing systems designers and architects who want to
> make their life -- when manipulating data -- easier. Enthusiastic
> hobbyists may also be very well meaning, but as the
> folksonomy crowd shows, a deep look reveals that they often don't
> really know what they are talking about... and that no one else
> does, for that matter. Give me a 'real world use' and I will
> probably be able to show you why the average google user won't be
> able to do a thing with it.

I strongly agree with your points. Web applications for simple use
cases handling structured data (calendaring, collaboration, etc.) are
still in their infancy. The web is still a wild west. This dynamic
evolving environment makes it very tricky for an academic institution
such as MIT to nail down the pieces and players it needs to take
semantic web concepts and make them real. My argument is that
currently this community is relying on ineffective partners
(enterprise) while ignoring their allies (Drupal, Wordpress,

> At the end of the day, however, I'm glad I was (and am continuing
> to be) able to use the SIMILE tools to do parts of my Masters'
> thesis (ironically on something as semanticweb-laden as social
> bookmarking systems). It did take some work, and messing around
> with code and endless hours of fiddling with the data I was
> generating/capturing. But I know it enabled me to do certain things
> I could otherwise not have done, and at this stage, I'd much rather
> have a tool I can adapt than be handed someone else's idea of how I
> should be manipulating my data. This way, I'll at least get some
> insight into how I can - in ways specific to my life - interact
> with, create, and otherwise manipulate 'semantic web' data, and
> perhaps contribute to the pool of ideas.

Got a link to your research project?

Received on Wed Jan 18 2006 - 19:29:46 EST

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