[wiki-research] Loaded questions about Semantic Wikis
Alain.Desilets at nrc-cnrc.gc.ca
Wed Jul 12 17:27:36 CEST 2006
I noticed there are a few semantic wiki researchers on this list, so I will take the opportunity to ask somewhat loaded questions about this very hot topic.
1) Are there concrete examples of a successful deployment of a Semantic Wiki concept?
2) If so, how do they get around the issue of making it easy and worth it for end-users to provide the metadata that Semantic Wikis are based on?
3) Also, what *used* features (i.e. features that people have used for real in a real operational situation) does the metadata enable that could not be provided otherwise?
Before I continue, I should make something clear, lest a lot of people get angry at me ;-). I write this as a skeptic wanting to be convinced. I understand the dream behind Semantic Wiki and can see why delivering on that concept could be of extremely high value. I just have trouble seeing how it would work in practice. But given that there are so many smart people looking at this problem, I'm thinking that it's probably just me who isn't seeing it. So please help me see it.
The main reason why I'm skeptical is that I don't see how the metadata that Semantic Wiki needs could be generated. I understand the machine level mechanics of it, but as Clay Shirky points out, that's the easy part of the problem:
The hard part (and which, as CS points out seems to be mostly ignored), is how to get people to write metadata that will actually lend itself to automatic inference by a machine.
How do you convince people to write this metadata, given that it will require a significant amount of work beyond just authoring the content? People are generally lazy and won't do anything unless they get some fairly immediate reward out of it (btw: knowing that what you have done serves the community does count as a reward... But you have to feel that it truly DOES serve the community).
Even if people are able to agree on such a scheme, it will usually be very large, even within a limited domain. So how do you make sure that authors use this metadata scheme correctly and consistently (remember... They are lazy and won't spend much time trying to understand the metadata scheme).
Again, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that these things are not possible. I am just actively looking for someone who can convince me that they are.
Alain Désilets, MASc
Agent de recherches/Research Officer
Institut de technologie de l'information du CNRC /
NRC Institute for Information Technology
alain.desilets at nrc-cnrc.gc.ca
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