Acts of Volition

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nathan -

Interesting ideas, however if your proposed editor hides the semantic "code", then the user will see formatting instead of semantics. If they think they are formatting then they will likely expect WYSIWYG and not be happy with non-WYSIWYG results. Is it possible to have a semantic editor without exposing the user to some form of identifiers representing the semantics?

Steven Garrity -

You’re absolutely right Nathan. I’m not sure how to best deal with that. I few thoughts I’ve had would be to show the output in a variety of different stylesheets (simultaneously, or sequentially, maybe) or to use a common base set of standards (everyone knows about underlined blue links – we could expand conventions like that). The idea of actually showing the some kind of identifiers might be the only realistic way to do it.

Steven Garrity -

After thinking about Nathan's comment a bit more - I think he's really hit the nail on the head. As Nathan put it:
<blockquote class="smalltext">Is it possible to have a semantic editor without exposing the user to some form of identifiers representing the semantics?</blockquote>

This is the key question. I'm not sure.

TuringTest -

I think actually it's quite easy. It is the Lyx editor's approach. People is accostumed to have an automatically generated Table Of Contents from their Chapter and Section headers, or have "book" or "article" formats from a "Document template".

The key factor (which Lyx uses perhaps too radically) to migrate them to semantic web would be to hide formatting tools and force them to compose the document in a semantic way, and then give them a good post-processing tool to transform the semantic document to a final version. This way they would easily get used to think of formatting as a separate step.

Steven Garrity -

I wasn't familiar with Lyx - but for those interested, I found a collection of screenshots from Lyx.

Matt Round -

18 months ago I developed an XHTML editor that's pretty much what's been described for my day job employers. We looked at various editors for our CMS systems but they all seemed happy to allow users to inflict green Comic Sans on the world if they saw fit. Like many editors it simply uses Win IE's contentEditable feature, but with only basic semantic markup available and filtering for rubbish inserted by IE or pasted in.

The next version is likely to feature subtle box outlines/fills to help make structure clearer (e.g. to show that 5 lists each with 1 item is different from 1 list with 5 items). I reckon most aspects of a simple XHTML document can be conveyed OK, it's only if you want to cover nested divs, complex tables and forms that it gets difficult. Most users require some level of help/training initially, as it's unusual for them to be forced to think in terms of structure when writing, but only a minority seem to fail to grasp the basic concepts at all.

Seth Russell -

I agree with this trin of though. Pershap the HTML textarea should fire a browser plugin allowing the user to use whatever local text editing and semantic markup facility he has configured. This is immanently extensible at the client end, even to the point of looking up phrases in the text in a database that associated them to a URL.

abhi -

i don't agree with "the web is a crappy medium for writing". once u have ur layout planned u can be semantic. its those little things that coung. don't put up text w/o para n stuff.

mini-d -

And don't forget semantic is not about [cite][/cite] tags only... it's about more than that... including lang="...", q, and a lot of markupt who people doesn't care about...

I write semantically, including urls, adding hreflang="..." and xml:lang="" for every element i like....

Making a WYSIWYG web-editor for posting and semantically loaded it should be really hard. really. more if you can't see the tags your's using...

lot more....

Nick Burka -

This thread proves Steve's point about the web being "a crappy medium for writing".

mini-d: "semantically loaded it should be really hard. really. more if you can't see the tags your's using". What? I'm not sure having a better editor would help this statement, but it would at least pick up the blatant problems like <i>your's</i>.

Seth: "I agree with this <b>trin</b> of <b>though</b>".

Don't be confused and think that Steve means that it's a crappy medium for displaying writing. Steve says himself "it's good for publishing what you write". There are some decent web-based editors out there, but they are really hacks of java-script and dhtml or plug-ins or Java applets.

dPhilc -

I'm tempted to give this a try

TuringTest -

To mini-d (from a Diego to a Diego): most tags should be automatically added by the editor from templates and default configuration values, and formatting should be done in a separate tool (for example a visual CSS editor).

As I envision it, when the next release Mozilla 1.# came with a content aggregator and semantic agents, and Composer has semantic publishing tags, a few bloggers will start the snowball by semantically decorating their posts. The rest of readers will notice these additional feature and will want to copy it.

Or so I hope it'll happen... 8)

Houssein Ben-Ameur -

I'm not sure that the [blockquote] kind of tags have anything to do with semantics.

Semantics is about meanings, and meaning requires dictionaries, or what the AI community calls <i><a href="http://www-ksl.stanford.edu/kst/what-is-an-ontology.html" target="_blank">ontologies</a></i>. The [blockquote] tag doesn't refer to a concept, it is just a <b>syntaxic annotation of text</b>.
Another kind of syntaxic annotation of text is the XML based separation between data and presentation. XML annotation is not semantic annotation, because it needs a human brain to understand the meaning of the tags... A dumb computer program will not make any relation between a [blockquote] tag and the <i>quote</i> concept. Your tag may have been [bq] or [b_quote] or [whatever], thats makes no difference.

The semantic web is about the idea of defining concepts and building relations between them (ontologies), then annotating web pages with those concepts. Then, our computer program (while still dumb) will be able to "understand" that the tag [name] is related to [person] whish is related to [human] whish is related to [animal] whish is related to [living_creature] ... When we add some rules (eg. <a href="http://www.dfki.uni-kl.de/ruleml/" target="_blank">RuleML</a>) like :<br />
<i>if a person's name is john then he is a man</i><br />
the computer program (let's call it an agent, since it is beginning to be less dumb) may be able to associate the person's name with his sex.

This is whats it is all about.

The semantic web technology is still in the labs, some effort is done to create standards, demos and software.

Ontology standards : <a href="http://www.w3.org/RDF/" target="_blank">RDF</a>, <a href="http://www.w3.org/TR/daml+oil-walkthru/" target="_blank">DAML+OIL</a>, <a href="http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/WebOnt/" target="_blank">W3C OWL</a>

Semantic annotation tools : <a href="http://annotation.semanticweb.org/tools" target="_blank">http://annotation.semanticweb.org/tools</a>

Another area of interest is the <a href="http://www.w3.org/2001/11/11-semweb-webservices" target="_blank">semantic web services</a> ... but this is another story.