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Adrian Dale - Creatifica Associates
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Google edges towards a more structured universe

Google is taking its next steps towards recognising and using the structure of well coded web resources (Google rich snippets).   Reading this announcement would leave the average information scientist/architecture alternately bursting with excitment or fuming with frustration.  Here are some quotes:

A lot of previous work on structured data has focused on debates around encoding. Even within Google, we have advocates for microformat encoding, advocates for various RDF encodings, and advocates for our own encodings. But after working on this Rich Snippets project for a while, we realized that structured data on the web can and should accommodate multiple encodings: we hope to emphasize this by accepting both microformat encoding and RDFa encoding. Each encoding has its pluses and minuses, and the debate is a fine intellectual exercise, but it detracts from the real issues.

We do believe that it is important to have a common vocabulary: the language of object types, object properties, and property types that enable structured data to be understood by different applications. We debated how to address this vocabulary problem, and concluded that we needed to make an investment. Google will, working together with others, host a vocabulary that various Google services and other websites can use. We are starting with a small list, which we hope to extend over time.

How many years have we fought the battle for adding structure against the tide of “Google doesn’t need/use it”?  And now straight from the horses mouth at Google is recognition of the value of metadata and structured vocabulary!

This is of course excellent news but there has been some negative comment from Ian Davis (Google’s RDFa a damp squib) who questions why Google hasn’t just adopted existing standards.

Google has also announced Google Squared and Google  New Search Options probably an attempt to respond to the WolframAlpha launch. Again both exciting developments that have opened up a new front for the information professional.  This whole debate will be a major theme at Online 2009.

What a turn around for Google! Two years ago at Online 2007 a Google salesman announced the death of metadata – “Google pays no attention to the structure of web pages and doesn’t need web masters to do any tagging.”   This met with some derision from delegates but many were resigned to Google’s muscle wiping out their love of structure.

However, this salesman wasn’t being strictly accurate.  Anyone who has studied the structure of Google results pages will know that contents the <title> tag is displayed from html pages as is the contents of <meta  name=”description” content=”abcd” />. 

For MS Office and PDF documents, Google can and usually does (but not always!) display the contents of the title properties if they appear meaningful.  This has caught out many a government department in UK as many authors and web masters don’t check the contents of the title field.

So structure is finally returning to the information world – and not before time!

JIS 35(3) Published

The June 2009 issue of the Journal of Information Science has been published.   I confess I had never heard of Peircean semiotics until this article from Huang was submitted: “Social tagging, online communication, and Peircean semiotics: a conceptual framework

Online 2009 – Call for speakers

The annual call for speakers has just gone live for Online Information 2009 – which I’ll be chairing in December. We are looking for cases which demonstrate innovative approaches to the use of the information tools bursting onto the market – Twitter, open-linked data, the semantic web.

The true power of open-linked data

Tony Hirst has just posted an excellent article demonstrating how open-linked data and mash-up tools can transform the presentation and hence the value of information “Visualising MPs’ Expenses Using Scatter Plots, Charts and Maps”. MP’s expenses are a hot topic in the UK at the moment and a spreadsheet of them was posted by the Guardian. Tony Hirst shows the challenges and successes of using open-source tools to present this data in ways that make it much more usable. When I think of how much the first Executive Information Systems cost in the 1990s! The would make an excellent case for Online Information 2009 – and we will be tapping Tony on the shoulder!

Tim Berners-Lee on Open Linked Data

RAW-DATA-NOW – This was the plea from Tim Berners-Lee at the TED conference as he exhorted the audience to push for the publication of linked data from every field of life.  For anyone who wonders what the point of the semantic web is, this is worth a look and the comments are worth a read – view video. It is clear from our planning for the Online 2009 conference that the semantic web has now come of age, albeit in the form of the Open Linked Data movement. We will be putting out a call for speakers shortly looking for the best examples of innovative information management using these principles.