What Value Can Librarians Bring to the Semantic Web?

I have a question, as you can see above. I ask it, not because I don't have opinions of my own - I most certainly do, being both a degreed librarian and an advocate of semantic technologies!

I ask because I am biased. :)

This Wednesday evening I will be speaking at San Jose State University to members of the San Andreas chapter of the Special Libraries Association. As I have just accepted the role of Professional Development Chair of SLA's new Taxonomy Division, I'll be doing my best to encourage them to learn about the new roles available to them. The slides are written, but I'd love to share some first hand comments from the people who WANT to work with them.

I would also like to encourage positive relationships among information professionals such as these folks, information technologists and business analysts. So, if you're a techie, a project manager, a strategist, visionary or just someone who truly appreciates the value that a trained information scientist can bring to a project, let us know by adding your comments to this post.

Thanks everyone - I look forward to reading your comments and sharing them with a group of folks who will end this week believing they have a great future ahead of them based on longstanding tradition, cutting edge technologies and dynamic professionals looking to collaborate.

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Exploring Linked Data: Flowers

A former colleague and friend, Bonnie Jarvie, got me hooked on the short-and-sweet daily blog post from Toxel.com. Toxel highlights new and interesting designs for everyday and luxury things. Some are silly, some are creepy, but most all are thought-provoking. Bringing me this morning to think, "Why don't I explore the semantic web the same way? One concept at a time." And so today I will begin.

As this is my first attempt, I was casting about for inspiration - with billions of triples available, where should I start? The default search at Creative Commons came to mind: flowers. Wanting to avoid analysis paralysis, I went with it, bringing up Sindice as my starting place.

"Flowers" returns 16.8 thousand results from Sindice's index. I have to admit I was a bit surprised! RDF, RDFa, microformats ~ HCard, licenses all were returned. Vegetation, people, places, events, albums, films, books - all kinds of things use this concept of a flower.

For one person (at least!) it is his surname: Ron Flowers, an English pro footballer in the 1960's. Tad Williams, the famous sci-fi/fantasy writer, titled one of his novels The War of the Flowers, which I easily find I can check out from the Free Library of Philadelphia. Now, it would have been interesting to link that to the recent piece of legislation that kept the library from closing, but that's a tangent I don't need to follow today!

I did find some of my pre-conceived expectations - pictures of flowers. I learned that Blue Roses do not exist in nature, and are the result of genetic modification.

In 1989 Brazilian filmaker Jorge Furtado released a short documentary on the lifestream of a tomato, from garden to dump, in a piece entitled Isle of Flowers. Frankly, this is not what first came to mind when I entered the search term - how about you? A tomato begins with a flower, but is not itself a flower; Brazil is neither an island nor a flower; a film is not a flower but could visualize and describe one. The "Isle of Flowers" is a name for a landfill in Porto Alegre, and the film is a commentary on materialism and priorities. It's actually quite a well-known and highly respected film, having won many awards.

Sometimes it's good to think about the bigger picture - I went looking for a rose, found roses and thorns, and now feel inspired to do good work. Not a bad way to start. There is much work to be done on the problems of focus and precision in linked data - when all this wondrous variety of data is linked, how do we drill down to what we're really looking for? How do we not get distracted by really fascinating stuff? We have marvelous tools being developed to address these concerns. But are they useful for the average person? I think I have some thoughts on user-requirements to go and jot down.

So, what will you discover today? Happy exploring!

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