Where the semantic web breaks down

We’re using semantic web technologies for a lot of cool stuff in Logos Bible Software, and I’m coming to appreciate the tools and structures, especially when you control  both the data creation and consumption. It’s also cool to see more semantic data showing up in web pages, microformats, etc.

Hearing Clay Shirky speak this week sent me back to his site to re-read articles, including The Semantic Web, Syllogism, and Worldview in which he points out “In the real world, we are usually operating with partial, inconclusive or context-sensitive information.”

That point was made especially clear for me when I noticed in my teen daughter’s Facebook stream that she recently acquired a sister: a girl I’d previously known as her second-cousin. Also, according to Facebook, my young daughter is married, to her best friend.

OpenGraph and the semantic web are opening up a whole new world of semantic data. But without context – knowing my daughter, for example – it can be just as messy and inaccurate as the raw data that preceded it.

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