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Browsing the Web, Intelligently (Semantic)

July 10, 2009

A coworker recently shared the following article in VMW:  Grid Browser Finds the Meaning of Life

Ok, not really.  Certainly we know that’s a fair bit of hyperbole.  But read the article, and you’ll see researchers combining basic browser technologies with ontologies – the result being a web browser which, potentially, can ‘understand’ what you’re looking for.  I’ll let the coordinator of the project describe:

“We have the web on the one hand and then we have Grid computing, with its many services, on the other”, he stated. A semantic Grid browser seamlessly integrates them. “It tries to understand what it finds on web pages, interprets this content and then links it, on the fly, to services that might be useful to the user.”

It links the content through established ontologies.  Sound familiar?  It should – it’s not dissimilar from what Marti Hearst’s group is doing with the Biotext search engine at Berkeley.  Both groups are harnessing the taxonomic benefits of word ontologies to give greater meaning and power to finding information.  The only difference here is that Marti (and I’m sure others) are doing it through search and these Dresden researchers are doing it with a browser.  Add in a more full adoption of the Semantic Web, and you have something that, in the near future, can help users find things much, much more easily than now.

A knee-jerk question to the above statement might be – if that’s the case, then in the future, what is the role of the researcher, of the librarian, of the searcher?  Just my opinion, but if you take the trends above and combine it with the exponential growth of information, combined with what we know about the ‘invisible web’ (fee for quality information, which isn’t going away) – it puts us as corporate information professionals in a similar position to where we should be today, being close to the client, close to the executives, providing insight and knowledge – the added value of relevance and meaning to information.  It puts us in doing work like CI, where we aggregate disparate information and stitch it together into actionable insights.  It puts us in the arena of being the ‘information experts’ – the place where people go to make sure they don’t miss anything (such as in a regulatory or FDA-quality search).  It puts us in Knowledge Management, where we’re taking the horde of data and making it customized, relevant, and easily accessible to the organization.  Our core value-add is still the same, it’s just that the practical application changes.

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