Tag Archives: SLA

Using Scenario Analysis to Predict the Future of the Semantic Web

Next week I will have the privilege of speaking to the Special Libraries Association (SLA) once again. The SLA audience is always interested and engaging, and I always have a lot of fun. I’m really excited to get another chance to talk two topics I really enjoy: the semantic web and scenario analysis.

The “semantic web” is a nebulous and imprecise term. It is generally intended to apply to a collection of technologies that unify digital content with meaningful meta-data. The semantic web makes it possible for computers to process textual or spoken information the way computers have traditionally processed numerical data. Semantic technologies make it possible for computers to “understand” the concepts that are embedded in written and spoken language.

The semantic web is a truly disruptive technology. It will make new products and services possible, many of which are futuristic or unimaginable today. Apple’s Siri, IBM’s Watson and the Wolfram Alpha search engine are contemporary examples of semantic technologies. Readers may be aware of the quirks and limitations of these tools. Disruptive technologies improve on logarithmic or exponential scale. Most critics assume that these technologies will improve on the same linear scale that defines most incumbent technologies.

The role of the information professional changed with the introduction of quality search engines, e.g. Google. Search engines made it easier for non-experts to find information. For librarians the search engine was a disruptive technology. The semantic web will make it possible for computers and search engines can understand the meaning of digital content. This will make sophisticated search, retrieval and processing of information possible for non-experts.

Scenario analysis is one of my favorite competitive intelligence and strategy tools. It’s a very advanced method for developing a vision about the future and enriching strategic dialog. Scenario analysis cuts through cognitive biases that hobble many organizations when they try to plan for long-term futures. When it is used well a scenario analysis can inform a robust set of early warning activities.

Is the semantic web a threat or an opportunity for information professionals? Anyone who wants to dig in their heels and protest the technology is likely to lose that battle. So how information professionals align their skills with the change the semantic web will bring? These are the questions my audience and I will explore. We’ll apply the tools of scenario analysis to create a view on four possible futures for the semantic web.

I hope to see you at SLA 2012 in Chicago.

If you are unable to see the SlideShare embed please feel free to download the PDF.

Screencasts of RSS Workflows

In preparation for my presentation on RSS at the SLA 2009 conference I created a set of screencasts of simple RSS workflows.  These workflows are very simple and straightforward.

This is the most simple workflow for finding RSS feeds for standard sources such as on-line publications and blogs:

Next I demonstrate the simplicity of creating a custom RSS feed using search.  In this case I want to ride the coattails of Twitter and demonstrate the potential for custom RSS feeds based on Twitter searches to give you near real-time tracking of company reputation or tracking of developing events.

One of the reasons I am such a big fan of Google Reader is the ease with which users can share the items that they find interesting (witness the ever-changing list of my latest shared items from Google Reader that graces the right side of this very blog).  For the information professional this ease has real potential to facilitate team collaboration on research projects or create information products such as corporate news portals.

I’m not entirely thrilled with the video quality of the screencasts as they made their way from Quicktime files on my Mac to flash-based videos on YouTube.  Your viewing experience will be improved if you expand the video to full screen.

My RSS Presentation for the SLA Conference

A week from this coming Monday I will be reprising my presentation on how competitive intelligence professionals can best use RSS as a low-cost method to cast a wide research network.  I’ve tried to update the material to discuss the potential of Twitter to track sentiment, issues and breaking events in near real-time.

I’ve also updated the material to highlight one of my favorite features of Google Reader: the ease with which users can share news items of interest, and how the RSS feed of a user’s shared items can simplify collaboration and publishing of relevant news items.  Anybody who is tracking my shared Google Reader items will quickly see that I am a promiscuous sharer of items related to telecom, competitive intelligence, technology, politics, economics and other topics.  Between this and Twitter this blog has really become more of an aggregation point for me (and I suppose my Facebook page functions in a similar way) than a site for which I write frequently (and never as frequently as I would like).

As much as I think Google Reader is a great tool and the best RSS aggregator around, there is one feature that is sorely missing.  The SmartList feature in NetNewsWire (a Macintosh RSS reader) is a sophisticated way to filter all of the news items in your RSS aggregator based on the occurrence of key words that the user defines, including with some Boolean functionality.

Feel free to take a look at my slides and let me know what you think.  I would actually appreciate feedback in the next few days that might help me deliver an even better presentation to the SLA audience.