OTN Semantic Web - first look

My last post on the state of the OTN community was probably a little long on rhetoric. So I thought since the move of Oracle Blogs! to the much vaunted Semantic Web seems well underway, it would be worth taking a first look. The old site has taken a bit of stick for being, let's say, less than engaging.

The big improvement by using the Semantic Web is of course all the slicing and dicing it allows to hone in on posts of interest, with the blogger tag cloud giving instant feedback (and access) to the bloggers most active on a given subject.

I got to say though it doesn't take long before you realise this site needs a serious design and usability facelift. Urgently!

Maybe its easy to be critical with something new. Actually, no "maybe" about it...

OK, I won't nitpick too much. The biggest problem is that we've paid for all the slice & dice flexibility in the worst possible way ... all the content has been squeezed off the page!

If Oracle do nothing else, they should push all the filtering and clouds out of the way to make a nice, big section of the page available for the star of the show - the content. Use AJAX to make all the filtering available in an instant, but avoid the clutter. At that point, we have a decent replacement for the old blog site.

But for OTN to truely find its Web 2.0 mojo, I think the Semantic Web is probably laying some important foundations but its just the beginning.

My Top 10 OTN/Semantic Web Wishlist
OK, so quick brainstorm, and here's a selection of things I'd really love to see happen on OTN:

  1. Take Down This Wall ... between content types (not what Justin originally meant, I know)! The current layout of the Semantic Web page puts concrete delineation between content types (podcast, blogs, forums and other personally attributed content) at the top of the page. At first that may sound fine, but its locking us into a mindset and behaviour patterns that assume these are all distinct in terms of production and consumption. A destructive and divisive fallacy. Get rid of it, and make the content type just another filter.

  2. Long live the forums! These are places where you can actually have a conversation (instead of trying to have a conversation in blog comments). OK, so they look a bit dated, and the level of participation can be a problem. Nothing a lick'a paint can't fix, and use the Semantic Web to drive usage.

  3. Give Oracle's "celebrity" bloggers a personal forum that links neatly off their blog so that conversations can be usefully launched on the back of a blog post. What the heck, let everyone have a personal forum!

  4. Let me take an RSS feed of my forum post history. Its the kind of thing I'd put on my Jaiku page. At the moment, we can just watch via email.

  5. Let me take an RSS feed of any Semantic Web page I find/define (with all the current filtering etc).

  6. Drop the barriers to participation. The Semantic Web makes concerns of the "quality" of bloggers irrelevent. If they never post, they get buried. OTN registration should include an opt-in for an Oracle-host blog, or a link to an externally hosted blog.

  7. An OTN Community Site Badge. To promote participation, how about a logo/widget/javascripty thing that bloggers can put on their blog? It would both brand their blog as part of the OTN community, and also provide a link back to the OTN Semantic Web. It would be neat if it actually had a function (like clustermaps), but I can't think of anything useful right now.

  8. Invert the Semantic Web. OK, we're getting used to coming top down. But what if I *start* from someone's blog post? It could be a really neat thing to be able to then explore the Semantic Web from that point out ... to discover related or linked pages. Worth an experiment I think.

  9. Drop the dopomene theme. I'm in the Semantic Web, discovering fascinating information in ways that have never been possible before. This is really exciting! ... but the look and feel is blaring a very incongruous message that messes with your psyche. We need a better use of colour and graphics.

  10. ... and a dozen other insanely cool Web 2.0 things that I can't even imagine right now, and if I could I'd be well on my way to my first $1b.

Wow, I'm actually getting excited now...