Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Negative Results Part II: Owning your misconceptions

I had a nice long chat with my partner in crime on the KnowWiki, where we looked at the answers to the Ten Questions, and dissected what's happened since then.

One thing you might have noticed right off is that we didn't answer "what problem are you trying to solve".  Part of the reason was that I was only working with ten questions at the time. I didn't add the "plus one" until later.

The other part was that to us, it was obvious. The really cool stuff we were putting online wasn't being used or even found by people looking for it.  That was a bug in the software we were using at the time.  I wrote about our Evil Plans before: I wanted online collections to live, and Joy wanted the collections to be a part of the Semantic Web.

What I found out over time was that if someone didn't care if their material was accessible online, it wouldn't matter if it was or not. If they did care, they weren't going to tell us about it.  They'd share it with their own monkey-sphere and leave it at that.  Not everybody wants to be a wiki editor - or any kind of system editor, for that matter.

What Joy found was that the Semantic Web was happening in an unanticipated way, like most things do.  With the normalization of hashtags as the world's informal folksonomy, material we had available was becoming part of a semantic web-like thing, independent of any metadata that we'd entered.

We'd both fallen for the hasty generalization or unrepresentative generalization: if we thought it was cool for these specific reasons, so would others. And, it followed that of course other people would do what we thought they'd do.

That turned out not to be the case.  But if nothing else, doing something was better than doing nothing.

So we did something, and it turned out pretty cool, if not in the ways we expected.

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