Web 2.0 Culture and the Curse of the Turing Machine

Back at the beginning of 1995 I created a website named “Romantic Gestures”. The purpose was to draw people into a virtual community who wanted to share experiences and ideas with others about all things romantic. In that time I noticed that people are more open about giving personal details on the internet than they were in real life.

People who were only five years old around that time are now 18, and the internet isn’t the primarily-academic-coddle-baby it was back then. It stemmed beyond being a tool into being a full-blown culture. The Web 2.0 craze that took off about four years ago and introduced a level of creativity, open structure and more importantly, virtualized community-style culture. It’s this culture that changed the upcoming generation into something almost unnatural. People began to do everything online. It lacked physical, personal interaction.

Babies require a good deal of coddling. That touch builds a naturally emotional bond to others and forms as a sort of grafting into the world. Without touch, a baby’s will to live wanes and (s)he becomes failure to thrive.

Although online communities and groups are amazing and wonderful, I think they’ve become the backwash of their physical counterparts. People need physical interaction as much as the emotional and intellectual stimulus provided by the internet’s vast array of discussion groups and communities.

The future is in merging the two. Use Flickr to identify people in your area to meet with. Use Blogger to locate others nearby that you can karaoke with. There’s already a somewhat successful meetup.com model that allows people to interact with one another – but their interface and navigation feels stale and cumbersome.

At least the frequent emails from meetup keep me abreast that there is a world out there where people meet – they have faces and feelings and can do amazing things without the internet. There is a sort of sick comfort in doing things alone, though. It’s selfish in a way. But having a spouse and children provides a life-giving feedback that my life is bigger than me and even bigger than the internet.

Semantic Web Is Coming to Town

Web 2.0: an Open Door to the Future

In 1987 MCC (a team that later spun off into Cycorp) presented a futuristic concept in a private AI focus group gathering that is common practice today. Large network systems would be taught how to make sense of data through semantics taught by linguists, professors, psychologists, artists and anthropologists instead of mathematicians and programmers.

The result of this process is that you could query a system for “strong and daring person” and the system would return a picture of a man climbing a mountain cliff. It recognized the photo through tags that were cross-referenced with logical meanings through a language called CycL.

This concept is becoming more of a focus at Google. In the past two years several of the original members of this project began to work for or partner with Google.

Enter 2006, the year of Web 2.0. The technology has been implemented throughout the web and is known by the more common name “social networks”. It’s about how people socialize with each other through interactive systems that collect various forms of data. Companies such as flickr, youTube, blogger and mySpace have capitalized on the technology and understood it. Data can be networked through a series of tags, text, ratings, discussions and cross-links to determine their similarities and relationships with each other. As people are seemingly interacting with other people they are placing markers that allow for data to relate with other data.

A controversial service at Google named “personalized google” or “personalized search” tracks every search you perform while logged into your account and cross references search results with links you have clicked on in the past.

Professor Michael Wesch, an anthropologist at Kansas State University who is currently launching the Digital Ethnography working group just posted up the second draft of an incredible video outlining the history and purpose of Web 2.0.

It’s a great video not only for the content, but the project it represents. You can interact with the video and add to it at Mojiti. Moderated comments will be incorporated to the final video.

The Web Transition

Web 2.0 has been all about making it easier for people to locate content regardless of its form and making it easier for people to add and interact with data to various web systems. This is the entry point to the upcoming Semantic Web. Where the Web 2.0 has been focused on gathering information and building ties through a mixture of expert systems and non-expert users, the Semantic Web is focused on automating the collection of information and mashing up the data in an easy to understand humanized format, then presenting the information without being asked to do so.

The year 2006 will be remembered as the year of Web 2.0 and entry point to the semantic web where mashups, such as flickr’s geotag maps, and highly specialized semantic based processing, sometimes confused with AI because of its strongly linked ties with Turing machine concepts, along with creative people of all talents will make sense of the decade of data collected by the world wide web as well as information in the future.

The Future: Business Analysis Servers

Imagine a system that knows what information you’ll need for your Monday board meeting. Not because you programmed it to, but because it learned and logically deduced it.

It discovered through your outlook calendar when the meeting was and who would be attending. It matches process in your workflow and recently requested reports with the context of the meeting by a logical process involving keywords in your meeting request. It scans an attendee’s blog to find out that one of your business partners at the meeting has an affinity for blueberry bagels so it sends you an email suggesting you order some for your meeting. It also knows the recent concerns and buzzwords through IMs sent back and forth between you and your attendees and can detect whether the tone towards the topic is friendly or hostile, by which you are alerted on the presupposed tone of the meeting before it even begins. On top of all that, it prepares the charts and documents you are most likely going to want for that tone and sends it to you in a document through email.

Welcome to the semantic web.