The Next Web

Other — By on March 13, 2009 at 3:49 pm

20 years ago, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. He now shares with us his vision for its future. Based on my work at GodblogCon and my conversations with Christians who are web thought leaders, I’d say Mr. Berners-Lee is correct. I would be quick to add, however, that despite the ability of the masses to contribute to global knowledge, there still will arise individuals and companies that will be more trusted and authoritative than the pool of global knowledge.
What do you think?


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  • http://www.classeparty.com/ chiro

    Planning for the next generation to the web is a great thing.

  • Grupetti

    The web also presents many opportunities for mischief, such as spam/hacking attacks like the ones I just found in some old Evangelical Outpost posts:
    http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com/archives/2008/10/obama-praises-w.html
    Somebody’s been up to no good. I’ve seen comment spam before, but this is a new one. Looks like they got access to the actual posts.

  • Tim

    Sounds like a great idea, but it seems like not quite the conceptual leap that the World Wide Web was. My 2 biggest concerns: privacy and accuracy.

  • Dustin Steeve

    Grupetti,
    Thanks for pointing out the hack. We are looking at the problem and trying to fix it.
    Tim and Grupetti,
    The problem of hacking / piracy is certainly a problem. However, it is not a technological problem, it is a problem of bad people.
    One of the most powerful talks I have yet seen on the TED videos is one from Billy Graham. I won’t spoil his talk, you can watch it for free at TED.com, but the hook was this: For all the big ideas that you discuss, for all the amazing progress in science and technology that is truly remarkable, for all that everyone at TED has achieved, I noticed that nobody is talking about the problem of evil.
    Wow.
    In a world where people segregate science and technology from religion and philosophy, Rev. Graham’s talk and your comments should remind us that, ultimately, people are at the core of scientific and technological advancement. These things are tools for humanity. Humanity, is corrupt, there is evil in the world, and people will behave badly to corrupt the most noble of endeavors. People must wrestle with what it means to live rightly. The Church must point people to the Good. Ultimately, man needs a savior to deliver him from evil – and that savior is Jesus Christ. It’s a powerful message that becomes more potent in the face of scientific or technological advancement.

  • David Marcoe

    Some thoughts:
    1. Data has to be hosted, structured, monitored, and maintained, which means someone, somewhere, has to be responsible for it.
    2. “I would be quick to add, however, that despite the ability of the masses to contribute to global knowledge, there still will arise individuals and companies that will be more trusted and authoritative than the pool of global knowledge.”
    This is quite true. Traditional models of authority in knowledge-building haven’t disappeared, even as Web 2.0/social networking has changed the medium(s) of data delivery.
    The first wave were open collaborative projects like Wikipedia, but now wiki-like academic and commercial projects, like Google’s Knol, have been established to allow for more control of content accuracy. Even Wikipedia has steadily established more controls and even has a fork project called Citizendium to bring in topic experts review articles. The foundation of open, aggregated knowledge needs to be trusted sources which are closely and jealously maintained by trusted authorities.
    3. Knowledge, taking time, effort, and resources to gather, is a commodity, along with the expertise it takes to gain it. Even with the tools available, you’re only searching existing knowledge (new knowledge has to be accumulated through things like scientific research). And you still have to know what questions to ask and how to search for it.
    4. Analysis, commentary on, and presentation of knowledge is still something that requires skilled labor and creativity. Again, that’s another commodity.
    5. The importance and integrity of some data–personal information, state secrets, trade secrets, etc.–rests on its closed nature. So, some information will always have to remain restricted.
    6. I’m not sure if info will ever become entirely transparent. There will always be competing systems, competing standards, different needs, and different goals. As new forms of info or new ways emerge to store and represent it, those, in turn, will have to be integrated.
    7. Tim Berners-Lee has the wrong object in view. He’s focusing on data, but its humans, who collect, record, compile, and disseminate that data, that are the most important component and will determine the direction of future info tech.

  • David Marcoe

    To add: The stability of data over the long haul is going to be an open question, since it can be so easily altered and erased. My guess is that the importance of hard copies will be relearned in the coming years and decades.

  • Dustin Steeve

    David,
    Great points. Regarding your first point, you said: “Data has to be hosted, structured, monitored, and maintained, which means someone, somewhere, has to be responsible for it.” Regarding the structuring of data, I am curious to know the degree to which you think “tagging” solves the problem.
    The upside of tagging is that it allows users to indicate the “place” of a piece of data, ie: technology. The downside is that tags can lack structure themselves and so finding this post may be difficult if it was tagged “web” and not “technology” but I was seeking it via the “technology” tag. So the structure is ad-hoc, prone to a lack of continuity, but it is a structure non-the-less.
    Regarding your 7th point, I could not agree more. Data is about people, and people are more than the data that follows them. One area data will never be able to plumb the depths of (and make sense of) is the human soul.

  • David Marcoe

    “The upside of tagging is that it allows users to indicate the “place” of a piece of data, ie: technology. The downside is that tags can lack structure themselves and so finding this post may be difficult if it was tagged “web” and not “technology” but I was seeking it via the “technology” tag. So the structure is ad-hoc, prone to a lack of continuity, but it is a structure non-the-less.”
    I mean that data has to be physically stored. It has to reside on a server somewhere and someone has to be responsible for that server and the software it runs. It has to have a home.
    Tagging is just one more form of indexing. The old index card system at libraries is basically the same thing, except that tagging leverages search engines. But a library is still organized so that you have a reliable order through which to navigate all the books. In other words, there is still a method by which it is structured and presented.
    Tagging is most useful in conjunction with frameworks and systems that give data an overall order. In the same way that a completely decentralized web never came to be, a completely decentralized cloud of data will likely never be.