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The Semantic Web Comes to Social Change

| Monday June 7th, 2010 | 3 Comments

Imagine if when you searched for “oil spill,” you got not only the most relevant links, but also the most relevant videos as well as ways that you can help through online action.  Now imagine that for each video you watched about the oil spill, you were served up more highly relevant media absent the junk we all wade through when searching online.  This is exactly what Link TV, in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to do, leveraging the latest in semantic web technology.

“Visual media can change how people think and act.  How we find and use stories is changing” explained Wendy Hanamura VP and General Manager at Link TV, speaking at the recent inVision 2010 conference hosted by See Change.  “But you can’t find the stories you want – the signal to noise ratio is bad.”

Hanamura is working to create a tool, Viewchange.org, which helps consumers of media find exactly the stories they want.  The Gates Foundation commissioned Viewchange.org to solve the problem of story telling around their work.   It will be focused on telling stories of social progress and challenges, but will be applicable more broadly.

So what? How is this different than a normal Google search?

  • Semantic web makes for more intuitive experience: Viewchange.org leverages a linked data model where information is connected in more intuitive ways, based on phrases and concepts, not just words.  Some say the semantic web is the next big thing, and it’s great to see the social sector leading the charge here.
  • Adjust results for higher quality content: Curators can use weightings to adjust and correct for any mistakes the  software may make.
  • Dynamically creates related actions: For every search made, Viewchange.org includes links to highly relevant organizations working on the cause where viewers can plug in and actually do something.  Minimizing the friction between interest in an issue and action on it is HUGE.  The easier it is for a viewer to move from fleeting interest to engagement in action, the better.
  • Gives lesser-known media a chance: Viewchange.org values quality content regardless of resources allocated to distribution.  It attempts to overcome the fact that poor content, distributed smartly beats out great content with poor distribution every day.  If you’ve ever made a great video and gotten <100 hits on YouTube you’ll know that virality is often a result of careful planning and hard work, rather than just great content, and many organizations don’t have those resources.  Viewchange.org aims to level the playing field with a focus on story-telling, and a broader definition of acceptable quality of media.
  • Content is highly accessible: Viewchange.org ensures all media is downloadable, embeddable, and streamable across all geographies
  • Open source: The code for Viewchange will be public and open for improvements.
  • Personalizable: Viewchange.org will allow user to curate their own news page to generate support for their causes

Pretty cool, right?  Does this sound like something you’d use? It’s in private beta right now; head to Viewchange.org to sign up for the beta or get more information.


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  • bmconry

    Good post! I like the integration of the semantic web, particularly with the explosion of social data. Also check out freebase.com for consistent data tagging.

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  • http://www.madinmelbourne.com.au/ MADinMelbourne

    allowing the content to speak for itself – like it… and big thumbs up for opening the source.

  • http://www.madinmelbourne.com.au/ MADinMelbourne

    allowing the content to speak for itself – like it… and big thumbs up for opening the source…. or should I say open source opening Gates?

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