Wikipedia, The Semantic Web and That Damned Peter Norvig

It appears that anyone that wants to build a ‘Semantic Web’ needs to get past Peter Norvig’s 2006 assertion;

What I get a lot is: ‘Why are you against the Semantic Web?’ I am not against the Semantic Web. But from Google’s point of view, there are a few things you need to overcome, incompetence being the first,” Norvig said. Norvig clarified that it was not Berners-Lee or his group that he was referring to as incompetent, but the general user.

“We deal with millions of Web masters who can’t configure a server, can’t write HTML. It’s hard for them to go to the next step

In the very next breath, he admits that those incompetent users’ are gaming the search engines;

The third problem is one of deception. We deal every day with people who try to rank higher in the results and then try to sell someone Viagra when that’s not what they are looking for.

The incompetence he’s talking about is really just the difficulty in classifying information or shold be as even the experts can’t seem to come to terms with it. For example, Apple and apple or defining ‘beast’ or ‘animal’

Jump ahead to 2007, and a lecture at which Michael Strube is asked by one of the attendees,

…how this proposed information retrieval based on wikipedia could be improved by considering a ‘Semantic Wikipedia’, as e.g., the Semantic MediaWiki (given that those semantic wikipedias would contain sufficient data).

Rather than answer, Strube simply quotes Norvig’s argument from 2006.

Yes, there are difficulties, and folksonomies aren’t perfect, but Norvig’s assertion seems to have given safe haven to all those that would simply give up because the task is challenging.


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