Thursday, July 09, 2009

Content - the nature of thought on the web

Cory Doctorow is a blogger, activist, journalist, sci-fi writer and a father of a daughter.

His book "Content" is a selection of several articles and talks Cory wrote or delivered over last couple of years. It is hard to tell, what is this book about, because it is about everything important for us - nerds of Internet, citizens of cyberspace!

Subtitle: "Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright and the Future of the Future" needs some explanation when it comes to "The Future of the Future". The part of Cory's book that is about Future of the Future, explores some Sci-Fi born ideas. Particularly, he explores the idea of singularity - the idea quite important from philosophical point of view - even though it has an aura of total fantasy today...

In other parts it is about the very concept of information, intellectual ownership and copyright in digital era. It contains my favorite text Cory ever wrote "Metacrap: Putting the Torch to Seven Straw-Men of the Meta-Utopia" (the original is here). The text is short but profound. By debunking the metadata hype (in essence - "explicit" metadata), he almost obliges all proponents of Semantic Web to rethink of thier basic tenants....

But it also covers the issues of eBooks and social platforms (with very profound critics of Facebook). He is also very critical of DRM, and his reasoning on this topic is just great and brave.
See for example what he dared to say to Microsoft guys....

There is also a citation of famous "A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace" the seminal text by John Perry Barlow, one of creators of Electronic Frontier Foundation.

All in All - the book is a must for all of us who care about what web means to us....

Needless to say, the book is free to download and free to listen to. Enjoy !


  1. This is good! I like the way this guy thinks, at least based on the "Metacrap" article, which is spot-on with my experience with metadata. How do you reconcile this with the Semantic Web vision?
    I'll take a look at "Content", too.

  2. Well, good question. I still think of Cory's MetaCrap as the litmus test of deep (versus only superficial) plan for semantic web.

    Superficiality is when SW tools, RDF and ontologies (RDFS,OWL) are only used as super metadata tools. In same sense - they are (even on literal level - we have Resource Description Framework). In this sense they form very explicit metadata. You name the thing - this name is the metadata for the thing !!!

    But if you look deeper into the potential use of RDF, as data format, something that is a successor of today’s databases; something that has the power to express data itself with all logical links and relations between different concepts that are and describe the data - suddenly you have a lot of implicit metadata there - that one cannot easily abuse (without ruining the whole construction).

    Even Doctorow says that his Metacrap is the refutation of explicit metadata - he has no objection to implicit.

    This role of SW as the powerful means to express data itself was just beautifully described by TBL. See:

    Tell me – does this explanation has sense?

  3. Yes - thank you. I am rather far from the technical side of this - so the language itself becomes an issue. Practical examples help. For me, genomic sequence and related biological databases are familiar, and have achieved membership in the cloud of linked there I see the need and the motivation to develop a way to express the data in all of its complexity, beyond metadata...