I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned yet that my Amazon wish list is up. Feel free to peruse, especially if you’re feeling charitable this holiday season toward, say, people whose software you use. As you can see, I have a definite scarcity of books about web design and open source.
Archive for December, 2008
Do you like reading about semantic wikis, but really wish you could hear me talking on the phone about them? Well, you’re in luck, because I’ll be speaking in the 3rd session of the semantic wiki “mini-series” of conference calls, on Thursday. The last two sessions, which happened over the last two months, covered the broader world of semantic wikis; this one focuses specifically on Semantic MediaWiki. Markus Krötzsch, the lead developer of SMW, will talk about the core of the technology, and I’ll talk about “Semantic Forms, Semantic Drilldown, Semantic Result Formats, Semantic Google Maps, Semantic Compound Queries and Data Transfer” (evidently, I get bored easily). There will also be people from the Ontoprise corporation presenting their contributions, and some other presenters. Each presentation will also have a real-time slide show on the web. You can see the presentation time and phone number here (it depends on where you live), plus other details, and a place to RSVP (you don’t need to RSVP to watch/listen, but it’s strongly recommended).
SharePoint is really closer to something like a set of public Excel spreadsheets with macros for entering data, or sites like Dabble DB, than to Semantic MediaWiki; with the caveat that SharePoint allows for uploading external files in a manner similar to MediaWiki. There are a few key differences that I can see. First the strengths of SharePoint:
- SharePoint allows for data permissions. You can set who can read and edit and who can’t for nearly each piece of data. At this point, that’s possible only through hacks with MediaWiki, and not at all with Semantic MediaWiki - basically, if someone can read any page on a wiki, they can pretty much read all of it. Is that a big advantage for SharePoint? I’m sure there are a lot of companies that see it that way.
- SharePoint’s interface is very easy to understand. If you want to create a new type of page, there’s a nice wizard that guides you through it in a few easy steps. Pages are “pages”, views are “views”, and that’s all there is to it - there’s no need to understand templates, properties, parser functions or anything else, and the word “semantic” is blissfully out of sight. Contrast that, sadly, with Semantic MediaWiki, where even if you know how wikis work, you still have to spend, I would guess, at least an hour or two reading documentation before you can do a thing.
And the weaknesses:
- SharePoint has no versioning. It is not a wiki. You can’t tell who made which changes to which data and when, and I believe that once a piece of data has been changed its old value is lost forever, except maybe in database archives. As the number of people who can modify a set of information grows, the value of complete versioning grows as well, until you reach the point when you literally can’t function without a record of every single change that was made. That, I think, is a big part of why permissions are so important in applications like SharePoint: you always have to keep the number of people who can change any piece of data to a manageable size; say a few dozen or a few hundred at the very most. Of course, companies can manage this way (they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years), but it’s not ideal.
- In SharePoint, you can’t link data. Every field in a page is a standalone field. If you have a page representing a project, and there’s a field representing the project manager, and that field reads “Bob Hoover”, it’s just a string of letters. It won’t link to a page representing Bob, and there will be no way to connect that information about Bob to anything else we know about him. Yes, you can create a view to find out all the projects that are managed by Bob Hoover, but you can’t go to a page about him and see which projects he manages, plus which other projects he’s a part of, plus his phone number, plus which days he’s willing to carpool. In Semantic MediaWiki, that’s all easy to do.
Note that I’m just comparing the interfaces here - there are obviously huge differences in price, support, etc. etc., but I wanted to give my sense about the applications themselves.1f94
Jennifer Zaino at SemanticWeb.com was kind enough to interview me for an article about Referata and Semantic MediaWiki, and here it is: “Get Your MediaWiki Hosting Here”. I think it’s well-written and gives a nice overview of the site.
Wikimedia Foundation gets $890,000 grant to try to make editing of Wikipedia more user-friendly. Hm, I wonder if anyone’s come up with a way to make the editing of, say, templates easier? Worth some money, apparently.
Petitedov believes she’s found the Winter 2008 song. You heard it here first! Or second.
Owen Thomas of Valleywag says goodbye to the Web 2.0 “bubble that never inflated”. Well, the Facebook and YouTube guys did pretty well, though I don’t know how much they’ve actually been able to cash out yet.