User Experience (UX)

Burying complexity for the sake of good user experience

buried cable warning“There’s our SPARQL endpoint.” Or “Just view the page in Tabulator.” I have lost count of the number of times that either of these have been the only response to an innocent request to see what some new piece of semantic wizardry can do. For a developer seeking to integrate one semantics-rich data set with another, SPARQL may very well be the tool for the job. And for someone (probably a developer, again) who wants to track the way that data is pulled together to build a page, Tabulator has a lot going for it. But as a shop window for the power of semantics? As a demonstration of what’s possible? Seriously, is it possible to pick worse ways to show off to the world?

In January’s episode of the Semantic Link, we were joined by serial entrepreneur Nova Spivack (perhaps best known to readers as the Founder and CEO of Twine) for a discussion about the importance of delivering a good user experience. In the time available, we only scratched the surface, and I’m sure it’s a topic to which we’ll return. Read more

Nova Spivack joins the Semantic Link to discuss the user’s experience of semantic technologies

…and we want to hear from you.

Photos of our regular panelists.

After December’s episode of the Semantic Link, we asked for your thoughts on both the topics we should cover, and the ways in which you would like to interact with the podcast. You spoke, very clearly asking for an opportunity to pose questions for the team to answer during recordings. This is that opportunity.

Photo of Nova SpivackJanuary’s episode of the show will be recorded this Friday, 13 January, and we’re joined by a guest with much to contribute. I’m sure he needs no introduction for most of you. Nova Spivack was behind semantic technology startup Twine, and has subsequently turned his hand to supporting a range of semantically relevant offerings such as Bottlenose (our coverage) and StreamGlider (our coverage).

Drawing upon some of Nova’s experiences, and digging further into questions that we have touched upon before, we’re going to take a look at the following topic this month:

Is it important to hide semantic smarts behind a simple user experience/interface? If not, why not? If so, how are we beginning to see that manifested?

Siri‘s obviously one example that we’ve discussed before, but there have been other examples recently that also attempt to hide significant power behind UI simplicity. Read more

Liner Notes for YouTube – Seevl Plugin

Seevl.netSeevl, the music discovery service built on Semantic Technology that I wrote about a few months ago, has released a significant update to their plugin for YouTube. The plugin is still only available for the Google Chrome browser, but other browser plugins are in the works. You can grab the Chrome plugin here.

Once the plugin is installed, the user has new options available when visiting YouTube. First, there’s a new search option next to the standard YouTube search bar.

Image of Seevl search Link on YouTube site

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Index and Search Your Personal Cloud with Topicmarks


“Our mission is to make long form content as easy and relevant as social media.”
–Topicmarks website

With the increasing popularity of cloud-based services for personal workflows, there is a parallel need for ways to organize that information. As part of my everyday workflow and information management routine, I use Evernote, Google Reader, Google Docs, DropBox, and a good number of locally stored files. I email files and links to myself frequently.  Each of these services is great in its own right, and I use them for different purposes and on different devices.  I use them for both personal and work-related information.

By the very nature of this workflow, I have created several silos I need to go to when I am ready to access information, and honestly, it’s not always easy to remember which silo something resides in. I have topics that span content in those different eco-systems, and it would be incredibly useful to have a centralized view into “everything I have saved or tagged on the topic of RDFa,” for example.

Enter Topicmarks.

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Just because we can…

Semantic technologies of various flavours have the potential to discover connections and enable insights that are powerful, valuable, intriguing, insightful, and surprising. However, as with so many technologies, there’s a flip side. As tools grow more capable and data sets continue to blossom, it becomes ever more likely that the segmented lives of web users — whether public and private, law-abiding and nefarious, or respectable and risqué — will be joined up without our explicit consent. As developers who see the best in people build ever-richer tools, technology companies that cannot — or will not — understand the value of the ageing legal system’s checks and balances continue to use them in pushing the boundaries of what society considers to be acceptable. There are already scare stories, and as the reality becomes more capable, those scare stories will undoubtedly become increasingly terrifying. Some of them may even turn out to be true. But it’s not necessary to believe the full Orwellian horror of a Mountain View search engine (or a Menlo Park social network) that knows everything about you, and acts upon that knowledge. Even in the smaller every-day injections of semantic smarts into business processes, there are things that should perhaps make us sit up and take note. Just because semantic technologies can discover patterns in customer behaviour, doesn’t mean we should necessarily act upon them too soon.

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