Literally almost a verbatim from a middle-aged gentleman at PodcampAZ, an event Project Fidelity attended this past weekend. The man was attempting to articulate how fantastic it would be if machines could gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of the words it was using. I tried to explain the concept of the semantic web to him, but I don’t think it came through clearly enough for him to grasp what semantic technologies are capable of and what they aren’t.
PodcampAZ brands itself as a "relevent media unconference"
At the Podcamp, Paul Kenjora – CTO for Arkayne – spoke about the powers of cloud computing. This technique involves breaking down enormous tasks into slices and assigning huge numbers of computers to small parts of the overall task. Performed simultaneously, this can dramatically reduce the amount of time needed to finish any given task.
Paul Kenjora, CTO of Arkayne
Cloud computing, Kenjora said, can help us solve problems previously beyond the realm of possibility. With the cost of cloud computing continuing to fall, the feasibility of accomplishing overwhelmingly complex objectives requiring massive amounts of processing power is within reach. Kenjora explained it is all a matter of scale.
“When you have 100 million points which need to be computed, why not take 1000 computers and give each of them 100,000 points?” Kenjora said. “What can be done on one machine can be split up and done on many.”
Paul believes there is no computation problem too large, but we must figure out what problems are worth solving. Cloud computing can figure out every word, in every Tweet, ever. But why would we do that? Maybe researchers, social scientists and pollsters could gain insight into the pulse and sentiment of our country in a level previously unimaginable. Maybe some connection we don’t even know between the stock market and Twitter. Who knows? The point is, as Kenjora points out, is to find applications people are willing to fund. Problems people want and need solving.
Explaining the value of a semantic web has been a challenge for Project Fidelity. For those who are baffled by the abstract nature of problems bigger than our heads can hold – such as explaining the relationships between words, content and value online – perhaps it is best to start small. Often, however, Project Fidelity explains things to people, such as the gentleman I alluded to earlier, in a far too technical manner.
This Quick Intro to RDF explains how the semantic web works on a simple, but technical level. This approach makes sense to us, but it is perhaps akin to explaining how a to drive a manual transmission car by describing how it works rather than how to operate it. The W3 consortium provides its own introduction to web 3.0. While slightly less technical, it is still difficult to glean the express value of realizing the untapped potential of linked data for someone not immersed in the subject. One of the paramount challenges Project Fidelity – and the semantic tech field as a whole – faces is communicating why the semantic web is a more valuable one. Especially to media companies.
Hopefully, we can get to know Paul and Arkayne a little better and give some more insight into another exciting start-up, located right here in the Phoenix valley. Because if we can’t convince people the semantic web is a problem worth solving, it will never happen.