Semantic Web, With a Side of PDF

Alex Iskold’s Semantic Web Patterns article at RWW is a good answer to the question: what is the semantic web again? Or rather, it’s a good set of answers, since there are lots of pieces to the semantic web.

Therefore I had to smile when Alex pointed out that ReadWrite Richard placed it at the top of his web trends list. There are so many pieces that some of them are bound to fall into place, maybe even this year.

One of the more interesting-sounding pieces is Dapper’s Semantify, which makes sites readable by semantic search engines. I would have used Semantify on this blog, but the code it generates for inclusion in sites wouldn’t get past the WordPress.com security bots.

Alex’s article is very long for a blog post, so I printed it out to read it. Unfortunately, as often happens when printing blogs, what came out of the printer wasn’t what I was expecting. There was only one page of the article itself.

So I searched for an html to pdf converter. To be more specific, I Googled for one that is web-based and free. I ended up using a couple of them. First was ExpressPDF. You give it the URI and it emails you the PDF a little later. While I was waiting, I tried PDF-o-matic, which generates the PDF right away.

While each worked well, I’ll incline toward ExpressPDF in future. Its PDF was a more direct and compact copy of the web page than was PDF-o-matic’s.

Free Tags While Awaiting Semantic Web

MiracleTo start, we need to describe the semantic web. Definition: an evolving extension of the World Wide Web in which the meaning of information and services on the web is defined. When confronted with that, my brain flees to the comforting world of comics and to comfort from Sidney Harris. Thus calmed, it might be able to cope with video of someone far more semantically sage than I am: so I append a video of Tim Berner-Lee to this post.

For a concrete example, consider the word free. The languages and tools of Web 2.0 (or whatever number we’re up to now) are blind to the distinction between ‘zero price’ (gratis) and ‘freedom’ (libre). So the web itself cannot resolve the ambiguity.

The semantic web is the miracle that occurs between using the word free and having the web understand it. It’s the miraculous (to me) thing in some future cloud that enables me to write, without laborious distinction-drawing, one post about WordPress being free because it costs me no money to blog using it, and another about WordPress being free because I have the right to read, modify and distribute the source code.

One of the things I can do while waiting for the semantic web is to tag my posts. For example, when I’m writing about WordPress as free software (free as in freedom, free as in libre, etc.) I can use the tag opensource. Yes, I am aware of the argument that “Open Source” misses the point of Free Software. But opensource is effective because people looking for blog posts or other web content on free software may well, however grudgingly, search for the term/tag.

When it comes to the other sense of free (as in beer, as in gratis), I wish there was a tag likely to be as effective. I would welcome suggestions for a tag to indicate that I’m posting about free in this sense. And no, I’m not offering a cash prize for the best suggestion.

Now, to top off the tasty multimedia semantic sandwich, here’s Sir Tim.