Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thinking Space 2007 in 12 months

This post is the highlight of what was on Thinking Space in 2007 month-by-month. I am grateful to all the readers of Thinking Space and wish you merry Christmas and happy new year!

January 28, 2007, Web 2.0 panel on World Economic Forum

How would Web 2.0 and the emerging social networks affect world business? The annual World Economic Forum at Davos organized a panel with five outstanding Web business leaders addressing this issue at the beginning of 2007. The talks, however, showed that the executives from traditional big companies such as Microsoft and NIKE were less alerted to the new technologies than the executives from new-age companies such as YouTube and Flickr. In short, both Bill and Mark were talking in languages other than Web 2.0. By their viewpoints, the Web-2.0 phenomenon was certainly less important than their own imaginary vision towards the future. What web evolution really impacts world business was severely underestimated.

At the end, the speech by Viviane is worth of re-emphasizing. When the Web evolves to be more and more mature, who are going to govern the virtual world? This question may gradually become a severe issue when web evolution goes further. Will there be conflicts between the virtual world governments and the real world governments? I do not think that in 2008 we will immediately see this type of conflicts. But the traditional means of national boards do have started to diminish while the new means of digital boards are forming; these changes are slowly but inevitably.

February 18, 2007, The Two-Year Birthday of AJAX

Few technologies have affected the Web so much as AJAX has done. AJAX is more than a technology; it is a philosophy. What AJAX really does is to decompose Web content into smaller portable pieces that are feasible to be uploaded and updated independently. AJAX prompts the dynamic recomposition of pieces of Web content from varied resources. Hence it significantly improves the reuse of information on the Web.

The prevalence of AJAX causes the fragmentation of the Web. The reverse side of this phenomenon is, however, how we may defragment the small pieces of information and reorganize them from end-users' perspectives. This defragmentation issue is the next critical challenge for Web information management. Twine is an example that has started to address this issue. I expect to see more proposals to solve this defragmentation issue in 2008.

March 23, 2007, Will the Semantic Web fail? Or not?

Whether the Semantic Web is going to succeed is always debatable. There are many supporters of Semantic Web, and there are nearly as many as the opponents as well. Will Semantic Web become true? The answer partially depends on whether the Semantic Web researchers can humbly learn from the success of Web 2.0. The normal public might not welcome Semantic Web if its research is still kept inside the ivory tower. Practices such as Microformat are good examples that the Semantic Web research approaches normal web users. But there are still too few of this type of examples. For instance, will the new W3C RDFa proposal be too complicated again? We don't know yet. Hopefully this time W3C would focus more on simple solutions that are feasible to normal users rather than on sound and complete solutions that the academic researchers favor. In comparison, if our real human society is far less than being perfect in reasoning and inference, why must we have theoretically perfect plans to build a virtual world?

April 18, 2007, New web battle is announced

Google is expanding rapidly. Google had replaced Yahoo being the leading Web search engine. Google has already been the largest site that produces Web-2.0 products. Google is competing against Microsoft to be the leading online document editor. Google is fighting against Facebook to be the leading social network through the OpenSocial initiative. More recently, Google starts another battle against Wikipedia to be the leading online knowledge aggregator by the announcement of Google Knol. Can Google succeed simultaneously in all of these fields? Are Google's plans too ambitious to be successful?

The age of Google is about to pass; this is my prediction after watching all these ambitious plans issued by Google. Google has started losing its momentum on originality. By contrast, Google is now repeating a "successful" path of many traditional big companies, i.e., dominating the market by defeating the opponents not by new achievements on technologies but by its superior money resources. This strategy has been proved successfully in many fields. However, it is not a winning strategy on web industry. The reason is that World Wide Web itself is evolving. When the Web evolves, Web technologies evolves. Any company that stops evolving would be thrown away. The history once happened to Yahoo may happen to Google again in the future. The age of Google will be passed with the over of Web 2.0.

May 8, 2007, Web Search, is Google the ultimate monster?

Google is beatable, but Google is not going to be defeated by another Google-style solution. When I predict that the age of Google is about to pass, I mean new revolution on Web technologies. Google is thinking of itself as the God of World Wide Web; and indeed many Web users accept this interpretation (because we have no other better choices at present). But history has already told us that this type of fake gods like Google could not stay forever. In history, we humans abandoned most of the fake gods as soon as the public education system was prevailed. In similar, this history will repeat itself in the virtual world of the Web. The fake God of the virtual world (Google) will step down when the education on Web machine agents prevails. Hakia would not threaten Google if it continues following the Google strategy by addressing itself to be a more powerful fake God on the Web.

In addition to this short summary, I have a preliminary funding request. I will graduate next year and currently I am looking for an assistant professor position. If I'd get an offer, I would start a new research project on next-generation Web search that is beyond the current Google-style search strategy. In fact, I have already done the project proposal. For any reader, if you are responsible on looking for and funding new research projects that are full of potential in the future, I am far more than happy to discuss my project with you. I can be contacted through The philosophy underneath my new web search strategy can be read at here.

June 29, 2007, Epistemological extension to ontologies: a key of realizing Semantic Web?

The application of epistemology into Semantic Web is less explored than it should have been. We need ontologies to enhance the collaboration and agreements. We also need epistemologies to emphasize the individuality and privacy. I expect more research on this topic in 2008.

July 31, 2007, What does tagging contribute to the web evolution? | An introduction of web thread

There are many ways to describe web evolution. One unique expression is the transformation from the node-driven web to the tread-driven web. Web thread is a new term proposed by myself. In short, a web thread is a connection that links multiple web nodes to a fixed inbound. I observed that the Web was not only syntactically connected by human-specified links, but also semantically connected by latent threads each of which expresses a fixed meaning. A straightforward evidence of the existence of web threads is Web-2.0 tags. On Web 2.0, resources are automatically mutual-connected when they are specified the same tag by individual human users. When weaving these tags together, we obtain an interconnected network of all web pages.

The existence of web threads is an interesting phenomenon that lacks of insightful research at present. From one side, web threads are part of the implicit web because they are generally latent at this moment. On the other side, by proactively revealing web threads and explicitly weaving them, we might produce more comprehensive social graphs for individual web users. This new concept thus may contribute significantly to the vision of Giant Global Graph. I will publish more research on this concept in 2008. By the way, a broader discussion of web links and web threads can be found at here.

August 24, 2007, Mapping between Web Evolution and Human Growth, A View of Web Evolution, series No. 4

World Wide Web is evolving. But why does the Web evolve and how does it evolve? Few answers have been given. The view of web evolution is the first systematic study in the world that directly addresses the answer to these questions based on a theoretic exploration.

This view of web evolution stands upon the analogical comparison between web evolution and human growth. I argue that the two progresses are not only similar to each other by their common evolutionary patterns, but also literally simulate each other from all the major aspects. At present, the simulation mainly happens in the uni-direction from the real world to the virtual world. In the future, however, we are going to see more evidences of simulation on the reversed direction, i.e. from the virtual world to the real world.

The virtual world represented by the Web is nothing but a reflection of our human society. Due to the limit of web technologies, however, we are not able to completely simulate our society from every aspect into this virtual world. In particular, we are not able to well simulate all the activities of individual humans on the Web. By contrast, we can simulate individuals at a certain level within any specific evolutionary stage. This continuous upgrade of simulation of individuals on the Web represents the main stream of web evolution.

This theory of web evolution has published for half a year and I have received many requests on discussing this vision. I hope this study would bring more attention to the fascinating web evolution research.

September 16, 2007, A Simple Picture of Web Evolution

The simple picture of web evolution expresses a straightforward timeline of web evolution. The Web is evolving from a read-or-write web to a read/write web, and eventually it may become a read/write/request web. The implementation of the "Request" operation would be a fundamental next-step towards the next generation Web.

October 7, 2007, What is Web 2.0? | The Path towards Next Generation, Series No.1

What is the next generation Web? This is a grand question to all Web researchers at this moment. We might see critical breakthrough on answering this question in 2008.

At present, the advance of Web 2.0 has already slowed down. The progress of web evolution has reached another stable quantitative expansion period after the exciting qualitative transition from 1.0 to 2.0. The seed of next transition is growing underground now.

In order to figure out the path towards the next generation Web, we need to know the present and where the present was coming from. In the first post of this series "towards the next generation", I summarized the various definitions of Web 2.0. In the following installments at this series, I will continue discussing my vision of the path towards Web 3.0. I feel sorry about the slow progress of this series. I will try to post this series more frequently in the coming year.

November 23, 2007, Multi-layer Abstractions: World Wide Web or Giant Global Graph or Others

Giant Global Graph is a new concept. Although Tim Berners-Lee proposed this concept intuitively for freely deploying personal social networks onto the Web, my view of the intent of this concept is beyond this intuition. In general, I believe that the proposal of this concept is the first sign of a great transition---the organization of web information is transforming from the publisher-oriented point of view to the viewer-oriented point of view.

The impact of this transformation could be greater than we may imagine. Most importantly, this transformation will show that the Web may automatically re-organize its information system without a human-controlled organization such as W3C or Google. World Wide Web is a self-organizing system. This observation is essential to the understanding of web evolution.

December 3, 2007, Collectivism on the Web

The implementation of collectivism has been the landmark of Web 2.0. But do we know how many types of collectivism we may implement onto the Web? This last selected article at December 2007 summarized a few typical implementations of collectivism on the Web. Some of them (such as collective intelligence) have been well known, while others (such as collective responsibility and collective identity) are less known by the public. I expect to watch more creative implementations of collectivism in 2008.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Evolution of Web Business

This is my newest article in Semantic Report. In this article I present my thoughts of web evolution in the business realm. A truth is that when the Web evolves, most of the businesses on the Web must evolve simultaneously to simply survive. Maybe it is a little bit surprising, but Web business is indeed one of the most risky business categories in the world because of web evolution. New businesses always have plenty of chances, while old businesses often struggle on catching up with the step of web evolution.

In this article, I describe that the success of a hard-core web business (i.e. a company cannot survive without the Web) depends on the implementation of three things: bring its customers the chances of making money, bring its customers the entertainments, or help its customers be recognized and remembered. A successful implementation of any of the three philosophies can lead to a successful company. But a great company always engages at least two of the thoughts. If a company successfully implements all the three issues, it becomes unbeatable.

On the other hand, the progress of web evolution provides richer and richer ways for people to implement these three philosophical thoughts. If a company does not frequently upgrade its implementation according to the progress of web evolution, the company may easily be swapped out of the market by its new competitors that directly adopt the newest implementation methods in web evolution. This is thus the exciting but also the cruel side of the web business evolution.

You may check out the full article at the December 2007 edition of the Semantic Report.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Collectivism on the Web

Collectivism emphasizes on human interdependence and the importance of collective. As probably the greatest collective project of mankind in history, World Wide Web engages enormous practices of collectivism. In this article, we take a brief look at several typical examples of these engagements.

Collective Intelligence

Collective intelligence is the most well-known engagement of collectivism on World Wide Web. In particular, Web 2.0 advocates have declared "harnessing collective intelligence" to be the touchstone of the Web 2.0 revolution. By definition, collective intelligence is a form of intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals. If someone feels a little bit puzzled of this definition, here is an alternative explanation that is imprecise but much easier to be understood. Informally, collective intelligence on the Web is the collections of user generated "intelligence".

A keen reader may immediately find an interesting comparison: are there any differences between user generated "intelligence" and user generated "content" (or user generated "data")? On Web 2.0, we have almost mentioned users generation content (UGC) as many times as collective intelligence. In many people's mind, UGC almost equals to the collective intelligence. But the actual meanings between "intelligence" and "content" or "data" are very much different. The intent of "intelligence" is much richer than "content/data". Tim O'Reilly also had briefly mentioned this distinction in one of his earlier post about harnessing collective intelligence.

Content/data is a type of intelligence but at the low end. Jean Piaget, a Swiss philosopher and pioneer of the constructivist epistemology, had a compact description about intelligence: "Intelligence is what you use when you don't know what to do." Content/data provides shallow and unrefined information for people to use. Content/data is often too crude to be efficiently used. Keeping the user generation intelligence at the level of content/data is not enough. This is a problem.

I foresee that the degree of complexity (as well as the degree of efficient usage) of the collective intelligence on the Web is going to evolve with the Web. For example, by tagging content with formal labels that are defined by ontologies, the user generated content/data would evolve to be the user generated knowledge. This is exactly what the vision of Semantic Web wants to bring to us. Moreover, by augmenting formally labeled content with external logic routines, the user generated knowledge would evolve to be the user generated wisdom. By encoding the mechanism of proactiveness into machine computation, the user generated wisdom might evolve to be the user generated creativity. By engaging user generated content/data, knowledge, wisdom, creativity together, we might eventually get the user generated personality, through which the human evolution reaches a new stage of being artificially immortal. Is this path a long way? Yes, there is a long way to go. Is this path an impossible dream? No, it is not. The practice of collective intelligence is converting our society into a virtual world simultaneously from the level of individuals and the level of collective groups.

Collective Behavior

Collective intelligence is not the only practice of collectivism on the Web. Another key practice of collectivism on the Web is the implementation of collective behavior.

Collective behavior is very much difference from collective intelligence. All types of collective intelligences are static and thus they can be easily presented in an explicit way. In comparison, collective behaviors are dynamic and it is difficult to present them in an explicit way. As the result, collective behaviors are much harder to be used than collective intelligences on the Web though in fact at the same time the amount of collective behaviors is much greater than the amount of collective intelligences. The reason of this amount difference is indeed trivial. Every piece of collective intelligence on the Web must be related to at least one human behavior (i.e. the one action that post this piece of information online). The majority of the time, any piece of collective intelligence must be associated with many human behaviors such as reading and writing. With such a large pool of collective behaviors, it is surprising to see that so few actions have been made so far to manage and utilize this large pool.

Fortunately, Web researchers have started to pay their attention to the collective behaviors. The recent proposal of the implicit web is a typical example. The implicit web is a network that defragments every piece of implicitness on the explicit web. The majority of the implicitness on the Web actually belongs to the collective behaviors.

Collective Responsibility

The collective intelligence is a popular concept. The discussion of collective behavior is also not rare. But the rest of practices of collectivism on the Web I am going to discuss are indeed uncommonly. Many readers may not even hear of them before. But all these practices are unexceptionally important and valuable for the evolution of World Wide Web. The first one I introduce is the collective responsibility.

Collective responsibility is a concept, or doctrine, according to which individuals are to be held responsible for other people's actions by tolerating, ignoring, or harboring them, without actively collaborating in these actions. This concept is particularly important to the study of Internet security.

On the age of Web 2.0 and afterwards, security is no longer a solo issue with the deeper and wider implementation of collectivism. As a result, being innocent may no longer be simply taken as an individual issue. We must start to consider collective responsibility, i.e., some people may have to be punished not due to their own guilty but because they have not actively prohibited the guilty happened regularly in their participated societies. This issue is going to be very much debatable and exciting.

Collective Identity

A collective identity refers to individuals' sense of belonging to a group.

Identity is a tough issue on the Web. Normally, a web user may have varied identities on different sites. These varied identities, however, cause serious problems when people try to organize their information of interest across the boundaries of web sites. To address this problem, web researchers have issued the project OpenID that allows users to use a single ID over the entire Web.

But OpenID, even if it would be a standard over the Web, is not the end of the Web identity issue. Similar to that individual persons have their particular roles in real life, individual identities on the Web must gain their particular social roles in virtual life. The identification of these roles is particularly important when we would start to manipulate human generated information on the Web, i.e. collective intelligence, collective behaviors, etc. Only until humans or machines may identify the social roles of the information producers or owners, these humans or machines may be able to properly manipulate the information. The research of collective identity will focus on the identification of social roles of individual identities.

The collective identities are identities of identities. The study of this issue is another exciting and unexplored field that may cause much attention in the future.

Collective Consciousness

Collective consciousness refers to the shared beliefs and moral attitudes which operate as a unifying force within society. In the other words, the collective consciousness is about machine morality because human consciousness on the Web is handled by machines. The machine morality is not a sci-fi term; this issue is indeed real. Machine morality is the reflection of human morality onto the virtual world.

The implementation of collective consciousness is very much related to all the previously mentioned collective factors. Human consciousnesses are materialized on the Web as static intelligence and dynamic behaviors. Moreover, the collective identities assign social roles for the materialized consciousnesses. The integrity of these materialized consciousnesses is closely related to the level of collective responsibility that is maintained at the meantime. The combination of all these issues compose the intent of the machine morality.

Collective Effervescence

Collective effervescence is a perceived energy formed by a gathering of people as might be experienced at a sporting event, a carnival, a rave, or a riot. This energy can cause people to act differently than in their everyday life.

Collective effervescence is the emotion web site owners want to bring. Collective effervescence represents one word---hype! Collective effervescence is the ultimate goal of implementing collectivism on the Web. At the same time, how much an implementation of collectivism successfully brings collective effervescence into a web site is the fundamental standard that we can measure the quality of the implementations of collectivism. This concept encloses the entire set of collective factors and upgrades the evaluation of collectivism into the computational realm.


We have discussed several examples of how we may engage practices of collectivism onto the Web. Certainly there could be many other possible practices that are beyond this article. But one thing is certain. Collectivism is a crucial phenomenon on the evolving Web. The study of collectivism on the Web is going to be a critical issue of the Web Science.