2011-12-27

A Web of unfinished weavings

The Web is full of enthusiastic beginnings. Regular and steady follow-up, such as Astronomy Picture of The Day, of which daily archives are available since 1995, are harder to find. The statistics of this blog, and many more of the same, provide typical examples, but unfinished weaving is unfortunately not limited to personal looms, it's also undermining greater collective endeavors. I was looking today at the state of some Wikipedia articles I'd been seriously contributing to, five years ago, such as the one about  SKOS, and figured they need to be seriously updated. But if it's a lot of fun starting a new article, it's quite a boring task to go through it five years after, cleaning and updating it. And since it's a collaborative task, someone else could care after all. Many interpretations have been given to the fact that many people have given up editing Wikipedia, such as growing complexity, bureaucracy, edit wars etc. But people can cope with all this, as long as there is fun, and as long as there is something new every day. Wikipedia is now more than ten years old. It started in the previous century. At Web time scale, it's a very old-fashioned thing.
I see a similar trend undermining the Semantic Web. One could think that vocabularies used by linked data, since more and more people and application rely upon them, would be maintained and curated like precious assets. Actually after a year or so of exploration of this ecosystem, trying to federate the community around its crucial importance, I'm surprised that many of those vocabularies just sit there on a Web shelf, letting to everyone's guess if they're here to stay, if they have been or will be updated, if their publishers have any roadmap for their future evolution, or even if they still remember them.
Weaving the Web? If the weavers seem to be attracted every day by the next trendy loom, and forget to finish what's up on the old ones, the tapestry will always look like an unfinished patchwork. Is this the knowledge we want to build?