timothy falconer's semantic weblog
Big Fractal Tangle


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Marketing the W3C

Today after terrific talks with Dan Brickley and Libby Miller, I read up on the W3C to see just why Immuexa should consider joining. I found their Seven Points page, which I recommend you run off and read right now.

Pretty good, yes? This is the kind of language I respond to: simple, direct, inspiring. The friendly drawings help too. I’ve been visiting the W3C site for years to read up on standards, but it wasn’t until I read this page that I really grokked their purpose. If I were them, I’d take it a step further and make something like the Creative Commons intro movie. This approach may seem out of step with the official nature of the W3C, but I think it’ll help a lot. Even people like me, who frequently read tech books from cover to cover, get a little overwhelmed by the enormity of what the W3C does. (btw, that’s not a W3C drawing, and the black parts aren’t them.)

Here’s something worth considering: Prior to last fall, I had never heard of the phrase “Semantic Web”. To those that know me, this may be surprising, as I’m always on the lookout for new technology. Combine this with my cognitive science & logical theory background, and the fact that I make web applications for a living, and it’s a real quandary. Why didn’t I come across RDF and the Semantic Web before last September? Hell, I’ve even created a 300,000 category classified ads system and website, complete with Protege-like “category editor” (with properties and inheritence and symbolic links, etc). You’d think I would have noticed what you guys were up to these last five years or so.

Is this my fault? Should I have spent more time trawling for standards? Probably, but there’s thousands of us, and we’re just too busy to take notice. We’re up to our necks in new APIs, wrestling daily with the mind-numbing idiosyncracies of our tools. Above all, we’re trying to please our clients and bosses, who for the most part don’t give a hoot and holler about validation or accessibility or any of the other noble aims of the W3C.

It’s a problem, and to me, the solution is simply more and better marketing. Ask the basic questions: What benefits does the W3C provide? How do you best position the W3C brand to create the biggest possible impact on the industry? Until today, I didn’t know. Now it’s clear: you trumpet the seven points at every opportunity, in a wide variety of contexts, each time trying to be as clear as a highway billboard. These points are noble and useful goals, but unless you draw people a picture, we won’t really understand.

I can imagine a variety of reactions to this post, such as, “We do trumpet these points over and over”, or “it’s industry’s job to spend money on marketing”, or “there’s not much of a marketing budget”, or “this all sounds a bit ‘evil empire’ for a standards body.” I could be talking out of turn.

But, there’s always room for improvement. Subtle things can be done to reach an even greater audience. Reaching more people means we’re closer to the goals in the seven points, which ultimately is better for everyone.

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