Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Some thoughts on the Google/Verizon deal

August 5th, 2010

As a long-time Web technologist, one of the many creators of the Semantic Web technology recently being put into use by Google, and a government expert on the Internet and Web, I find myself worried about the reported deal emerging between Google and Verizon. If, as reported, this would truly allow the differential handling of packets based on pay, then it would clearly be a threat to the net as we know it, and a potential disaster for the small smart-ups and freelance Web developers that are so important to our technology’s eco-system.

It is certainly within Google’s right to make money, and to use the Web technologies that were freely donated to the world by people like myself or, significantly more importantly Tim Berners-Lee (a strong proponent of net neutrality). However, allowing preferential packet routing provides a means for the control and exploitation of these technologies that goes beyond the original intent.

The social affects are also quite worrying. I don’t see how a deal like this can avoid  increasing the width of the digital divide between those who can afford enhanced service and those who can.  It also seems like it will have different impacts in some societies than others, making Web behaviors even less predictable, and more susceptible to government control, than they are today.

Within the US, practice has maintained net neutrality where legislators have been remiss and where the courts have rightly been unwilling to impose policy in in the absence of legislation.  The Google-Verizon deal has been reported by some Google fans as Google reaching a compromise with Verizon that might otherwise allow the latter to impose its own models, and by some others as Google clearly violating their own “do no evil” motto.  Either way, it is a worrisome deal that is likely to set the precedent for many others, and to scare legislators from doing what they should: As a candidate, President Obama’s commitment was  to net neutrality, stating that he would be second to no one as a proponent of a free and open Internet.  The Democratic Congress has not rallied to the President’s side on this, nor have the Republicans rallied to their stated goal of providing a fair playing field for startup industry. The action taken by large companies to set their own rules is likely to cause these gun shy legislators to take an opposing action in a year where so many are fighting for re-election.

So I find myself joining those who are calling on Google minimally for more transparency into what is happening and preferably to continue their own opposition to preferential charging.  In 2006 Google urged Americans to “take action to preserve Internet freedom.”  Today their policy blog is surprisingly silent on the reported negotiations.   My motivation to call on Google for at least a response comes from their own call – it is an action I take to preserve Internet freedom.

As a corporation dependent on the Internet for communication, on the start-ups for continued innovation, and on academic researchers to keep a flow of new Web technologies transitioning into practice, I hope Google will heed their own call to action and will do the right thing.

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I will pay delicious $100 for hierarchical tagging

June 19th, 2009

Just saw Jim’s post on What is the Semantic Web really all about?

I have been wondering about this problem too. What is Semantic Web? Yesterday I have asked a question “Why few (or none?) Web 2.0 sites provide hierarchical tagging?” on LinkedIn and get some pretty good answers:

For your convenience, I attached my LinkedIn post at the end of this blog.

There are two things in the answers that draw my attention:
* Many do _not_ believe tags, or even hierarchical tags, are semantic; “semantics” means RDF or triples at least to them;
* Some believe that even implementing a hierarchical tagging system is not easy in engineering or social aspects.

I think these two beliefs, among many other reasons, may explain in part why the “Semantic Web” is still far from a reality. The first is about the overestimation of what is “semantics”: triple is one way to express semantics, but it is a question that whether it is _the_ way. The second is about the underestimation of “Web”-scale: realizing a knowledge system, even if is conceptually “simple”,  on the Web can lead to serious scalability problems, both for machine (can you make <1s response for all queries?) and for people (on changing their way of thinking).

Here is what I believe about “semantic web” (note no-capitalization). First, it is not necessarily “the Semantic Web” (just like there is no “the Mobile Web”), as defined by W3C standards or the layered cake model. Semantics is a way of organizing things, RDF and OWL are some ways to express it, but other ways should be encouraged too and sometime work better. Second, tools and services should be “web-ish”, something like a semanticized version of youtube or gmail; after all, “web users” are rarely a bioinformatician or can master a Java-based ontology editor.  Third, start deployment with very very basic semantics like trees (yeah, I know some will protest) and sameAs, but do it in a very very efficient way – if we can’t even come up with a Web-efficient tree reasoner, then how realistic we can come up with a Web-efficient RDF or OWL reasoner?

Now I’m prepared to dodge tomatoes :D

by Jie Bao


My original post on LinkedIn (reorganized a bit)

Why few (or none?) Web 2.0 sites provide hierarchical tagging?

Gmail label and delicious tagging are flat, which is troublesome all the time for me. I have to add (unnecessarily) many tags even if they can be easily inferred. I didn’t find an alternative that allows me to organize my tags in a tree or network. Is there any technical or marketing reason?

People have been talking about semantic web a for a while and are looking for a killer app. It’s apparent that hierarchical tagging is semantic, is in high demand, and is relatively easy to do. Why there is none in popular sites?

PS 1: Let me clarify some situations when hierarchical tagging will save me a lot of time: recently I’m reading a book of Qian Mu, a historian, and tagging my notes on delicious with tags “qianmu“; I also want all those notes be tagged with “history“, but I have to always add both “qianmu” and “history”.

Sometimes I want more than one tags to be inferred. For example, when I add “wuxu” (the year of 1898), I want tags “qing“, “china” and “reform” to be added. You will find how trouble it is to add all 4 tags together when you have about 10 notes on “wuxu”.

In another example, I want to share my tags in both Chinese and English. If I can define two subclass relations between two tags, each in a different language, I will not have to always add the both tags.

Now I have about 1000 tags on delicious. I’m really really in despair need for a hierarchy. I’m willing to pay delicious $100 for such a service.

PS 2: Further clarification: I don’t believe I will need a tagging system that always requires me to pick up terms from a tree, DAG, or a network. I can still freely add tags. But I need some way to clean up my tags from time to time, and organize them. It is just like how i clean up my “download” folder: put them into different folders, and if a folder is too big make some subfolders.

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