In the spirit of the New Year, we kick start 2012 with the news of new bonds and investments, sharing and connecting, and with the knowledge that all things digital can have a human touch.
As Google acquire an IBM patent to further their semantic expansion, Klout has raised a reported $30m in a C Round of generous investment lead by Kleiner Perkins. Meanwhile, Holly Finn assesses the human side of digital matter in an interview with Jonathan Harris, a computer scientist and artist, who wants to change the heartening-superficial ratio evoked by the digital sphere. In addition, library-based bioinformaticist Kristi Holmes talks of her eagerness to share the opportunities that the Semantic Web presents, not only in connecting people, but also for building a rich open web of information that can be used by everyone.
To understand the patent, you have to think of a “social network” not in terms of a site or a service or a company, like Google+ or Facebook, but rather as a mathematical construct that’s on the same order of a “semantic network.” It’s through semantic networks that Google assesses the context to which search terms belong. An article may appear to relate to the search criteria because it contains multiple instances of the search terms. But a semantic network analyzes the common context of terms in the criteria and the documents being searched, to see if there’s a more solid bond of relationship than mere pattern matching. The “social network” that IBM engineers were working toward is also a mathematical construct – specifically, an arrangement of related people whose posts to social networks include concepts that may belong to the same semantic network. The flowcharts excerpted here from the IBM patent (now Google’s) present a rough order of events in which social links are established between users whose semantic networks have assessed similarities.
Using measurements of behaviour, complex ranking algorithms and semantic analysis of content, San Francisco-based Klout measures the influence of individuals and the prevalence of topics around the web. Since its launch in 2008, the firm has gathered more than 4,000 API partners – companies such as TweetUp, CoTweet, Live Intent, Hootsuite, BzzAgent, Trendrr and Viralheat – and indexed over 100 million public profiles.
You have to start somewhere, and it’s encouraging to see online innovations informed by actual, not virtual, experience. Mr. Harris just got back from two hermetic years, spent in the Oregon woods, Santa Fe, Iceland and a cut-off beach community in California. He has lived with pure isolation and heightened connectivity, and he understands both.
I serve as the National Outreach Coordinator for an open source Semantic Web-based research discovery platform called VIVO. Across institutions, VIVO provides a uniform semantic structure to enable a new class of tools that use this data to advance science. There is an increasing recognition by a variety of stakeholders of the value of semantic web standards and technologies to facilitate research discovery. I’m eager to share the opportunities that the Semantic Web presents for not only connecting people, but also for building a rich open web of information that can be used for a variety of purposes for everyone – researchers, journalists, patients, librarians, and physicians, alike. I’m also very excited about some of the recent efforts related to scholarly output and impact, such as microattribution, nanopublications, and various alternative metric efforts by a number of groups.