December 6, 2003
angela talk, day two
(continued imaginary conversation between Angela Tesoro, billionaire founder of a fictious women’s health club franchise, and Timothy Falconer, advocate for the Semantic Web)
Angela: Okay, now that we’ve ordered lunch, tell me about the Semantic Web. What is it? Why should I invest in it?
Timothy: Let’s start with some definitions. There’s basically two pieces to the Semantic Web puzzle: 1) annotating content with metadata, and 2) doing stuff with that metadata.
Angela: I’m already lost. You sound like those guys from yesterday.
Timothy: (smiling) I’ll explain. By “content”, I mean anything you can make with a computer or put into a computer: Word documents, emails, digital photos, spreadsheets, and so on. “Annotating” is a ten dollar word that means adding descriptive information, like a teacher who marks up a term paper. “Metadata” is simply the markups, the red scribblings on the term paper. You start with content (the term paper), then you annotate it (scribble on it), which gives you metadata (scribblings).
Angela: A little clearer. So why is this good?
Timothy: Well, first understand that there’s nothing new about annotation or metadata. You do it every day when you send an email. You write your message (content), then you add the subject and the recipient (metadata). This extra stuff isn’t really part of the message. It’s about your message, data about data, hence metadata.
Angela: I see. (laughs) Why can’t you people talk like normal people?
Timothy: That’d be too easy. Besides, it’s how we keep getting the big bucks, like lawyers.
Angela: Ain’t that the truth. So I’m guessing your gonna tell me the world needs more metadata.
Timothy: Yes. We need lots and lots of it. See, the Web’s this big scattered mess of content, and we need better ways to find what we’re looking for, like the Dewey Decimal System does for libraries. We need metadata to help us figure out what it all means.
Angela: So you’re saying the Semantic Web is sorta like the current Web, except everybody’s added subject lines to all the web pages.
Timothy: Kinda. (Food arrives) Let’s eat, and talk more later.