Will Thalheimer posted about Web 3.0 and Learning where he is discussing what is being called Web 3.0. In particular he cites a recent NY Times article. But Web 3.0 has been getting lots of attention for a while now. The basic idea is to use the knowledge embedded within the web and include possible semantic web elements on top to begin to extract greater meaning so that we would be able to answer questions like:
"I'm looking for a warm place to vacation and I have a budget of $3,000. Oh, and I have an 11-year-old child."
Will (and I would agree) says that there will be big impact on learning if the web could answer these kinds of queries. However, Stephen Downes says:
OK, now, think about that. Do we ask questions like that? Well - no. First of all, we tend to forget to add the qualifiers (such as the budget and the child) when we ask. But even more importantly, we don't want to include some of this information in the question. It's an old rule - never tell the sales person what you're willing to spend. But also - I don't want to limit what I'm looking for. I'll spend more than $3000 if the trip is worth it, and I'll find a sitter for the child if I have to. What this means, then, is that whatever we're looking at, it won't be set up like a search or a query. It has to be much more subtle, much more interpretive, much more dynamic, much more immersive. The Web 3.0 people are talking about is the old Web 1.0 - we deliver content, you listen. But the next generation web will be more like Web 2.0 on steroids - the web itself will warp according my needs, my interests, my contributions.
I'm in the middle of grappling with similar questions for a particular client. They have very rich information with lots of meta-data and the question is not only what can we answer with the information, but what questions can we help to formulate. How much structure do we want to provide?
I think Stephen is onto something when he says that the web will warp itself to "my needs", "my interests" - but that's exactly the contextual stuff that he's saying that people often forget to add themselves. The web of the future will know that I'm not rich or poor (so $3000 is probably an okay number) and that I have an 11 year old. I shouldn't need to tell it again.
But there's also an aspect of the web providing suggestions that you wouldn't have thought to ask for ... and that's where I'm finding value today. Suggest potentially related results. Like more expensive vacations that are a little better. Or, if you'd only leave your child home you could go here.
I agree completely with Stephen that we are generally pretty bad about formulating questions. And I still believe this is a bigger stumbling block than formulating answers. See: finding answers and power of questions, better questions for learning professionals, and be an insanely great professional conference attendee. Because we aren't good at formulating questions, a big part of Web 3.0 has to be helping to:
find the right question to ask!