Semantic Web for Toddlers

    December 15, 2004

You may have noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything to my blog. Well, I’ve been in firefighter mode at work and honestly haven’t had time to give much insight on the current events affecting the search / marketing industry.

I think you’d agree that posting for the sake of posting isn’t something anybody wants. I’d much rather go for a few days without posting than put up crap that lacks quality and doesn’t reflect the passion I have for technology and marketing.

Now that I have that out of the way I want to bend your mind a bit for the sake of, well, just getting you to think. Last week I was in Raleigh, North Carolina at Websourced headquarters. Usually when I’m in Raleigh I like to spend time after work with my coworkers. It makes me feel like I’m part of the team even though I’m based in Florida and headquarters are in NC. Usually the first person I go out to dinner with is Garrett. He encourages my “outside the box” thinking when we’re together and I always walk away thinking, which is my favorite pasttime.

Well one night last week he invited me to go rock climbing. Honestly, rock climbing isn’t my gig since I’ve broken each wrist 3 times and my carpal tunnel doesn’t do so well when I put all my body weight on my fingers.

Well, on the way to rock climbing Shannon called me. As we talked she told me about how insane the house was and the new words Piper had picked up since I had left. She told me about how Piper now says “okay” and calls every color “green” and constantly says “color”. The word color has multiple meanings for Piper.

Here’s the rundown of the multiple meanings of the word “color” as defined by my 22 month old daughter Piper.

* verb: The act of actually coloring (usually a Wiggles coloring book)

* verb: The act of drawing

* verb: The act of writing on any object including the floor, table and anything she can find.

* verb: The act of asking Shannon and I to give her a box of crayons or markers

* verb: When used repeatedly, the act of telling us we’re not giving her the right markers or crayons she’s wants

* noun: A Crayola marker

* noun: A crayon

* noun: A coloring book

* noun: Construction paper

I think you get the picture, the word color means something that’s a lot different to a 22 month old than it does for the rest of the adult world. When I realized that I started thinking about the semantec web. In a nutshell, the semantec web is the concept of determining the meaning of words and how those meanings are connected to other words and meanings and then categorizing information based on the information’s real meaning.

Semantic principles are beginning to emerge in the search engine industry as well. So when you type a keyword search into Google or any other engine, Google could determine what it thinks you mean by the search and rank results based on the sites that match your meaning the best rather than which sites have the most backlinks with your particular phrase in them. It’s a great concept but it’s incredibly hard to implement. Which brings me back to my 22 month old daughter Piper and her meaning of the word color.

Piper knows what she means by the word color and Shannon and I figure out what she means after asking questions and being met with a positive or negative response from Piper. Piper has created a relationship between many objects using a single word and has a much different meaning for the word color than most adults. That’s when it hit me.

Semantic search will only be successful if the search engine can determine the perspective of the user of the search engine. A 2 year old has a different perspective than a 65 year old retired NASA worker. Thus, semantics of search must be able to accurately identify more information on the user of a particular search engine before it can provide results that are more relevant to the user than current search engines provide.

I’ll provide more info on this later but I wanted to get this thought out there and get your minds going. I know my mind needed a jolt and I think this did the trick.

Jason Dowdell is a technology entrepreneur and operates the Marketing Shift blog.