It's all spinning wheels and self-doubt until the first pot of coffee.

The Whuffie Web II

What I believe we are seeing is domain experts seeking each other out. Crossing organizational and philosophical boundaries.
...someone that's G-list globally might be A-list amongst pet owners.

A very, very good point that I'd missed at first thought about the Whuffie Web. There's a matter of scale involved here, where the relative A's through Z's are completely different given your choice of grouping. And, where choice of grouping is around topic area, the world's a bit of a smaller place and getting your questions answered is likely much easier. Especially if you've built up some Whuffie in that domain area by generating some useful answers and knowledge yourself. For newcomers to a domain of knowledge, who have lesser stockpiles of Whuffie, they'll hopefully be fortunate enough to find much of what they're looking for chronicled in the archives of blogs of those who've come before. When they don't, though, it can still be a frustrating experience.

But, semantic web tech in and of itself doesn't solve the problem where data or knowledge is missing altogether. How could it? So, although I was a bit dismissive at first thought about what Dave Winer wrote, he nonetheless has a good point. Even if the semantic web were richly populated with data and running in full swing, it would still be missing large swaths of Things People Know. And, well, the thing to use in that case is-- wait for it-- People Who Know Things. And the way you hopefully can get to them is by being nice and interesting, then blog the answers or ask the people answering your query to blog it themselves. Then, hopefully, we have blogging tools which can do the bits of pre-digestion to allow that knowledge to be accessed via semantic web machinery to fill in the gaps.

This all takes me back to when I first encountered Usenet in my Freshman year of college, and became instantly enamoured with FAQs. It seemed like there was a FAQ for everything: coffee, anime, meditation, Baha'i faith, Objectivism, and hedgehogs. It seems mighty naive to me now, but at the time, I so thought that this was the modern knowledge factory. Through the contentious and anal bickerings of discussion threads on Usenet, and the subsequent meticulous maintenance of FAQ files, every trivial bit about everything within the sphere of human concerns would be documented and verified and available for perusal by interested parties. Netiquette demanded that one pour over the FAQs before entering the conversational fray, so the same ground wouldn't be endlessly rehashed. Approval from one's peers in the group came from generating new and novel things to add to the FAQ, and all were happy.

This, of course, summarizes thoughts coming from a Freshman compsci student getting his first relatively unfettered access to the internet, gushing about everything. On the other hand, I have many of the above enthusiasms for the Semantic Web's promises. In a few years, I expect that my enthusiasm will be more even, yet at the same time, I expect there still to be some real uses and benefits to this stuff stabilizing out of it all. Hopefully, it doesn't get obliterated by spam before then, like Usenet, like email, and now (but hopefully not) in-blog discussions.