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I'm sorry, but was I asleep when we developed the tool for measuring the size of memes?

This actually looks like an interesting article, but I always worry when the buzzword bingo alarm goes off during the first sentence. Or not. I do not know the author however I usually read his site and have developed a fondness for his bent and opinions. But this piece would leave someone not already intimately familiar with the nightmarish technical conversations, in-jokes and bickering that plague the weblogging world of late scracthing their heads. There is a mountain of assumed knowledge and history that is glossed over, often with little more than a snarky comment. And even for someone who 'gets' the cues, this article contains a dizzy-ing array of techno-utopian blather like :

The XML content created by our new client will leverage existing standards like XLink to effectively make every piece of content be crossposted to every relevant group, without any duplication of content or wasted space. In seeing the Semantic Web as the New Usenet, we have to consider that every topic, every organization, every author is a newsgroup, too.

Hello, did I also time-travel during my sleep? Because it sure sounds like someone is partying as if it's 1999. Let me clear about something : I still like most of what's being talked about but how can you possibly expect anyone, with half a clue about how these things are actually built, to take you seriously when you say stuff like that? It's like reading sales brochures from the Bubble, all over again. That kind of thing is, not to be too blunt about it, really fucking hard. It's not because people haven't been trying that we haven't arrived and the Semantic Web is no more a magic bullet than XML is. And then there's this :

While you type, instead of autocomplete fixing your sentences, an agent creates ad-hoc categories and uses a Google service to add relevant links for your perusal or review when the topic is revisited. The results would be as appropriate and on-topic as today's grammar-checkers, probably. Which is to say, frustrating, but still useful at times, and constantly improving. Being able to track all of this information all the time, though, should be one of the most liberating implications of the virtually unlimited storage that we've got in our machines.

A few points. First, the only thing more annoying than an automated spell-checker is an automated grammar-checker so the author's pretty much already lost me with this analogy. Secondly, I am all for tools that map the "shape" of things but this just sounds like the information equivalent of getting stoned on bad hash and spending hours watching the cool visualizations that your mp3 player creates. That, ten or twenty years in to the information revolution, there is nary a mention of the kind of information overload this wunder-app will create is troubling. When I read about this kind of thing I am less and less convinced that the Semantic Web will save us from the threat of homogeneity and monoculture; it just sounds too much like I can have my car in any colour I want so long as it's black. And the bit about small applications, loosely connected: it's already been done and people hate it. Just ask anyone who's trying to install Perl modules (hi, Bill ;-)

refers to


Meanwhile, still in the "While I Slept" department ←  → Jo Walsh :