Big boom

Kurt Cagle wrote an excellent essay on semantics, Some Thoughts on Semantics.

He talks about the technologies associated with the building of the semantic web, and how each technology builds on the previous to provide greater degrees of accuracy. RDF can be used to make assertions and ontologies can be used to ensure the accuracy and validity of such assertions, and eventually other heuristics can be discerned and codified leading to greater accuracy in both search and discovery. This is the good that we all seek. However, as we writes, it is also the Sword of Damocles: the threat of being undone by the very systems we seek fervently to create:

Of course, this also raises some very disturbing questions about the ethics of using such systems, something I think as a society we are woefully inadequately prepared for. If a murder is committed and the use of an inferential engine can make a strong circumstantial case that a given person is the guilty party, is the use of such an engine admissible as evidence? If the performance of a query implicates a politician in a scandal inadvertently, can a news organization use this information to bring down that politician – can his opponents? Is it ethical to use such a tool to find not only terrorists, but those people who may become terrorists but aren’t at this point? The benefits of such systems are obvious, but just as the use of search engines is raising whole new levels of questions about the ethics of such search, so too will inference engines change the nature of how we interact with one another.

Semantics, as S.I. Hayakawa himself indicated, is a duel edged sword…it underlies the very nature of communication and what it means to be intelligent, yet when semantics is codified and computerized, it also takes meaning and turns it into a manipulatable construct that can be used for good or ill. We have taken philosophy and turned it into engineering …

It is ever so, in science and technology both, to explore such issues after the Big Boom rather than before.

Technology Weblogging

WordPress and categories

WordPress has some really serious flaws in its post management. It flips posts to private, it resets categories, it returns 404 for pages that are found. If you have a post up in one window and forget and open it into another window, the auto-saving will overwrite your changes, even after the item is published.

The most serious for me is how it handles using categories as part of the URI. I never cared for using a date, but just using the title provides no classification. A good compromise seems to me to use categories. However, lots of problems with WordPress and categories in the URI.

For instance, if you pick multiple categories, you have no way of specifying which category should be used to form the permalink. If you end up adding a category after the post is published, it’s just as likely to be assigned the permalink and you end up with multiple permalinks for the same post.

I am in the process of basically gutting WordPress’ management of permalinks and rewrite rules. What I’ve started doing is using the custom metadata fields for ‘categories’, and including these in the feeds. I need to add in ways of searching on these when people click the links so that all related posts are returned.

I’m then just using WordPress’ category feature as a way of picking a domain, or more properly, subdomain or major classification for the individual posts.

This makes sense: how you want a page organized on your site has little to do with how you want it categorized or ‘tagged’ when it comes to search and external groupings.

It’s been frustrating making these moves. I redirected several folders to ‘gone’, or 410. Google treats these are errors, rather than communication, and just keeps reporting them in the Webmaster tools as such. And it keeps showing thousands of pages as 404, yet they’re served just fine. I believe this has to do with the WordPress 404 errors.

Just as with the move to XHTML, this is a work in progress. I’m not sure I can encapsulate all the changes as plug-ins for others to use. I’ll try, but I may end having to do what one person suggested: grabbing my own copy of the source code for WP through source code control, and when a new release is made, doing compares between my modifications and the new source and adjusting accordingly.


The cardinal

The weather has been so warm, I’ve left my windows open at night.

This morning, at 3 in the morning (I checked), a cardinal sat on my window sill and let forth with glorious song for the next 53 minutes (I checked that also).

It was very disconcerting. Oh, not the noise; or being woken up out of an exhausted sleep, well aware that I must be up no later than 6 in order to meet this day’s tasks.

No it was the strange feeling I experienced, made up of equal parts charmed delight and murderous rage.