Speed hosted a workshop last night by Influence Crowd’s Phil Sheldrake during which the assembled group of academics, PR and measurement professionals discussed PR and the semantic web. Follow #prontology for the Twitter conversation.
Web 1.0 was an interlinked documentation system. Web 2.0 is the social web. Web 3.0, known as the semantic web, will add context to data on the web so that the web itself, or at least the machines connected to it, can understand what it all means.
It’s a complex topic. But here are a couple of examples.
Wikipedia has already started a Web 3.0 project called dbpedia that strives to make all the Wikipedia content understandable by machines and therefore able to be manipulated.
Right now, applications designed for users searching for information about London for example could mine Wikipedia for data on almost any aspect of the city intelligently rather than simply link to a relatively static London page.
An application would know which London you mean (not the one in Canada or the handful in the US) and know the difference between providing information about the Duke of Wellington pub and the historical figure.
Amazon and Tesco are marking-up product information semantically so that other applications can quiz their databases and understand the context and meaning of what they find.
And increasingly search engines love semantic data. Evidence suggests that adding recognised semantic mark-up to a web page improves its Google Page Rank and results in increased traffic. BestBuy reported a jump in traffic of 30 per cent after marking-up its web site.
Yet to be convinced? Check out this presentation by the inventor of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, at TED last year. He believes that when data is connected together on the web using linked data we’ll be able to make incredible connections and discoveries.
Back to Sheldrake’s presentation last night. To lend meaning to data and information on the web that other applications can understand you first need some relevant ontologies. That’s a set of rules that sets out how you see things within your domain of interest and the relationships and properties of those things.
Numerous ontologies already exist, but where they do not, you have to build and publish one yourself.
Ontologies are being created all the time to describe different topics and markets from ecommerce to wine, and from genetics to digital cameras. But there aren’t any related to the PR profession’s domain as far as Sheldrake is concerned.
He wants to change that and called for support last night to build ‘The Ontology For Feelings About Things’, which will enable all social media participants to take part in Web 3.0 as well as Web 2.0, and another to convey the meaning of common PR processes, ‘The PR Ontology’.
Last night’s group, which included several members of the newly formed CIPR social media panel, concluded that it would be nigh impossible to persuade the PR industry to adopt ontologies en masse. But by building tools such as blog plug-ins, smart phone apps and web 3.0 press release formats that allow non-technical people to build the meaning into the content they are publishing it should be possible to bring about change from the bottom up.
So that’s the plan. Define the ontologies for the PR industry and then build the tools to
bring them to life. The project started last night. Sheldrake has blogged about it here and Wolfstar MD Stuart Bruce has blogged about it here. Give Sheldrake a shout if you want to get involved.
Speed is onboard.