Interview With Steve Spalding

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I had a chance to interview Steve Spalding, author behind the blog How To Split An Atom but more specifically, the author of the article entitled Web 3.0 Defined. Web 3.0 Defined goes into specific details as to what the concepts of Web 3.0 will be, how it will be used, and the sites and services that are already making headway towards Web 3.0, a term that is synonymous with the semantic web. This post sparked my interest and Steve was kind enough to answer 7 questions I had regarding the article. Enjoy.

1. Jeff – Why did you decide to use the term Web 3.0? Let’s be honest here, the Internet doesn’t have any version numbers associated with it, why continue the trend?

Steve – The nice thing about a phrase as cliche as Web 3.0 is that everyone in the digerati immediately has an idea of where you are going with the article that mentions it. I could have used a title like, “Future Trends In The World Wide Wide,” but with a title like that, there were just too many ways to interpret the direction of the article. We live in a popcorn and soda kind of world — I wanted something that would get an immediate, visceral reaction out of people.

Does the web have version numbers? I certainly hope not. We just need better language to describe the major milestones in its progression.

2. Jeff – Do you think services such as people search will promote better online behavior considering their past time and reputation will be searchable via the public?

Steve – No. I think that normal people will know absolutely nothing about People Search until it shows up at their front door. I recently read an article in a semi-local newspaper about parents who are being fired, demoted and otherwise harassed because of things that their children are writing about them on social networks. The point is that almost everyone’s kids have been at this for years and it’s only in the last week that anyone has cared enough to point out the dangers.

As for the Web crowd, I think we are so used to our information being out there for all to see that a few new algorithms won’t be enough to raise eyebrows. It might stop a few part time Trolls with full time jobs who aren’t clever enough to find a way around it, but don’t expect a revolution in social mores.

3. Jeff – In this article, you define web 3.0 but, how would you define web 2.0? Bill Snyder believes Web 2.0 is a series of concepts that are different depending on who you ask. Do you agree?

Steve – Web 2.0 is the microcosm that people like us live in. It’s a lot more than just “Social Media” or Facebook. It’s the culture surrounding it. It’s the weekend blogosphere dust ups. It’s Mark Zuckerberg, the $5 Billion Kid. It’s all the inside jokes, memes and investor hubris that fuels our little sub-culture.

No movement has ever been about the technology, and I don’t see Web 2.0 as any different. Just like you can’t describe Post Modernism by looking only at Art or Architecture, you can’t understand “Web 2.0” without seeing all the little cultural nuances surrounding it.

4. Jeff – Most of what you describe in your article relies on an algorithm. Will these algorithms ever fully replace a human being?

Steve – Algorithms never live in a vacuum. In my day job, a lot of what I deal with is machine intelligence. If there is anything that this has taught me it is that it will be quite a while before any algorithm is able to replace a human being in anything more than niche applications.

Will we have better search agents and expert systems? Yea, certainly. A system doesn’t need a terribly large amount of “real” intelligence to do that sort of thing. If you are looking for “general purpose” intelligence, I say give it a few more years.

5. Jeff – Do you believe that web 3.0 will be the death of editorial blogging? That is, long written articles. If so, will it be because people will seemingly have no time to read an in depth post due to the massive amount of other information streaming into them?

Steve – I think that even though attention spans are decreasing, people will always want the news.

Journalists and citizen journalists alike will just need to learn how to present it in such a way that it caters to our Mocha Latte culture.

6. Jeff – It has taken some time to reach web 2.0 status. Where are we now in regards to web 2.0 and how far away are we from seeing Web 3.0 turning into a reality?

Steve – Where are we? I can’t really tell you. That’s up to O’Reilly to decide, isn’t it? Seriously though, when Web 3.0 or whatever you want to call it hits, it will be about half a year before the punditry realizes it.

What I can say is that it won’t be for now. Almost all the innovations these days are along the same vectors. Everyone is just adding features. There isn’t any real, paradigm shifting innovation. More than that — all the important, meaty computer science problems are being left on the table and being replaced by Smarty templates and AJAX libraries.

I know Powerset is doing some things with search, and I am sure Google has a few widgets hidden in a lab somewhere but until we seeing some innovative, commercially viable applications start hitting the market, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

7. Jeff – Last question Steve. Because of RSS and essentially everything containing an RSS stream, how do you think people will cope with managing such a large stream of data? Quite a few people already suffer from information overload. Will this be a barrier worth considering or will a new or existing market emerge which focuses on information organization?

Steve – I think everything these days is about organizing data.

Web .5 was about communication. All that terminal stuff we did before the web got pictures.

Web 1.0 was static information, content that was manageable not because it was arranged in a coherent data model but because there wasn’t a lot of it to deal with.

Web 2.0 is about communication again. This time we added AJAX, created a bunch of buzz words and injected a few billion dollars worth of investor capital. The more important thing is that we are now trying to add some structure to all that information we collected back in 1.0

Web 3.0 will be about data as a commodity, data as a utility. It will be a web where everyone has easy, personalized access to a store of information orders of magnitude larger than what we use today. Things like RSS will give way to personalized information streams that are managed in part by software. It will be about using technology to make massive data-sets palatable again.

If you need anything else, drop me a line. Thanks for the opportunity!

No Steve, THANK YOU! If you haven’t already, add Steve’s blog to your feedreader. Like his Web 3.0 Defined article, the rest of the content featured on his site really makes you think.

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