Artificial Intelligence and the Future of the Web

Artificial Intelligence and the Future of the Web

Artifical Intelligence

I was watching a Ted talk by Tim Berners Lee and he was talking about the semantic web. Its not by any means new to anyone on in Tech. But as he was talking I got a revelation from it. It was like I caught his passion even though the audience did not see anything to get excited about (just like I did before).

Let me give you some detail and I hope that you also get the idea. Tim who invented the world wide web said that the idea of the World Wide Web was out of frustration. Frustration in the sense that he was exposed to hundreds of scientific materials of great value but they were in all kinds of formats and required all kinds of proprietary software to view them. This made integrating and combining information contained in the documents very difficult if not impossible. He invented the www so that documents could be in one format and so that it would be easy to ‘connect’ documents together.

Today, we have benefited immensely from this vision of an open www where documents are linked in a fashion that knowledge is not only accessible but easier to connect and now, we have another dilemma. The structure/order of data. Everything that we do on our computers is all about data. This data is in different formats and stored in different places which makes gathering and harnessing this data a real pain.

Solution: Semantic Web – In a semantic web, it would contain just raw meaningful data that can be linked to other raw meaningful data. Taking this data and making a web out of this data is going to change the world. Take a look at wikipedia. Even though its just web pages, the way the data is linked and connected produces very powerful effects. Like say I pick an article of a person. And it tells me that the person attended an event which would be a hyper link to the event and then reading about that event I get a link to its location say Germany and the I go into Germany and then I can learn about the country, its population, heritage, culture e.t.c That’s what a semantic web would look like

Now if in the midst of this chaos of documents which is the world wide web, Search engines like Google are able to quickly parse through and harness useful data as to be able to even translate text from different languages and guess what you are about to type before you even type it, imagine if devices and software had access to a web of data instead and they had clever ways of parsing through all that data…. The results would be pure Artificial Intelligence. The kind that would be astonishing. Imagine a world where as you walk past a restaurant, your phone reminds you that you have been to that restaurant before, tells you about their favorite dish and how its prepared. Imagine a world where computers could make complex reports based on a mash-up of data from from millions of sources… This… my dear friends is the future.

Advertisements

Web Design Intro

Hello There, I want to apologise for the silence over that past few days. I couldn’t eek out time to write a manuscript. I’ve just been very busy. I’m pretty sure that many of you are wondering “when do we get to see some hardcore material?”. Well, all I can say is stay tuned. :-). Ok with that being said, I personally have decided to take another approach. Instead of pre-typing a post (after careful thought of course), I’ve decided to just type the post straight away. More like freestyle on the M-I-C. Ya Feel me?

I will start to take this broad topic by breaking it into small easy-to-understand bits and then give you links to appropriate materials. This the first in a long series of posts on how to create websites. So… Let’s get started.

What is HTML?

Tim Breners Lee

To fully understand this, let’s go back to the beginning of the web. Once upon a time at an organisation called CERN (which actually stands for European Organization for Nuclear Research. weird huh), They had a challenge where lots of Physicists around the world had articles, data, information on vast numbers of topics all in different formats which required different software to view.

So it occurred to the a man named Tim Berners-Lee to come up with a way to standardize this information so that it can be easily retrieved by any computer that has the client software. So he set out to develop the engine of the world wide web. He designed everything. From transfer protocol (HTTP) to language (HTML), Web browser, Web Editor, Web Server, File Transfer Protocol (FTP).. Pretty much everything it took to get the web up and running. Ok, my geek sense just tingled. Let me break it down in a way that’s even easier to understand.

Let’s say I am in Lagos (At the moment, I am actually.. Laughing) and I wanted to send a message to my friend John in Benin. First of all, I would write a letter right? That letter (web page) would have to be written in English (HTML) in order for John to understand what I am saying right? And then I would take the letter to take the letter to a post office. Which essentially is a “protocol” or standard way to send letters right? Then I would write something on the envelope (HTTP Response Header) like “Gist of the Week” and the give it to the Post man who would send the information to John. In the case of the world-wide-web, I would be a Web-server and John would be a client/browser. Do you now get it?

So in web-design your job is simply to create Letters written in English for John (or any other sane person) to understand. But remember that people have different levels of perception. This means that the same letter may be interpreted differently by different people. However, the basic idea behind the letter will be the same.

Conclusion

So, HTML which stands for Hyper-Text Mark-up Language is simply a language in which web pages are written so that they can be understood by browsers.

Practice: Open any site of your choice, right-click anywhere on the page and click “View Source” (Actual phrase might differ from browser to browser) and then you can see the underlying HTML that generates that page.

Effective Searching

The internet is like an ocean of knowledge. With Billions of WebPages. The internet has brought about the revolution that men of old prayed to see. Back then, it took at least six months for a new book to be released but now the web is updated every 6 seconds (using old stats).

But with this vast ocean of knowledge, how can I find what I’m looking for? I can’t just be guessing URLs right? That’s where search engines come in. But the thing is that a lot of people have the wrong ideas about search engines and most of the time can’t find what they are looking for. I remember when I was in school; some of us did crazy things like typing stuff like this into search engines

“Where can I find documents on Simultaneous Equations” or “What are the similarities between simple and compound interest” and my personal favourite, “Where can I download yahoo messenger”

It never occurred to us that the search engine isn’t a person! It’s almost like we had this idea of someone sitting in a cubicle somewhere just waiting for us to type something and then quickly replies.

However in some cases, thanks to search engineers, we actually got what we were looking for. But in many cases we wouldn’t find what we wanted and then would have to scroll to the bottom and sometimes go to the next page looking for something.

So I’ve decided to give you some nice tips that will make you a good online detective (Laughing). So here we go.

  1. Keywords – Search Engines use keywords which are the words we type to know exactly where and how to search. This means that you don’t need to ‘speak English’ as long as you use keywords, you are more likely to get the desired results e.g. “Natalie Tran YouTube” or “Blog Tech Genius”
  2. Trim Redundant Words – Try as much as possible to use nouns. Don’t use words like AND, OR, THE e.t.c this only helps to ‘confuse’ the search engine and make it more strict during its search. Also, be careful before you use common terms like “Free”, “Download”, “Software” e.t.c
  3. Keyword Order – Many search engines use the order in which you type the keywords to determine the priority that it gives to the keywords. So “Visual Studio Free Download”, “Download Visual Studio for Free” and “Free Visual Studio Download” are certainly not the same.
  4. Use Phrases – Phrases are good because they tell the search engine to search documents exactly as you stated it. To use phrases, simply put the phrase in quotation marks
  5. Use few keywords – I recommend you use a maximum of 8 keywords. Anything above that and you will most likely be lost. If you can limit yourself to five cool.

And finally, Learn about your favourite search engine. Search engines are not the same and as such have different inner workings. Try to learn more about your favourite search engine. Chances are that they have specialized ways to ‘query’ the search engine. In other words uses a simplified code to tell it exactly how you want it to search. For example you might want to search a particular domain group e.g. “.co.uk”, “.com.ng” and so on. You might also want it to search but omit certain words and many other cool things as well.

Practice

Hey, why don’t you try this fun game I like to play where you search for the beginning of a sentence and then make the search engine complete it for you e.g. “John is a” or “Why is it that “. you are bound to find something new or interesting. I know.. Something must be really wrong with me. (Laughing) But just try it out

BENEFITS

I know someone will go like… “I don’t need this I’ve always gotten what I wanted right?” My answer is well… not really. Searching the way you’ve been doing it (referring to my examples above) only puts you at the mercy of the search engines ‘discretion’. This means you are less likely to stumble across what you want let alone something interesting. I can boldly say that I’ve learnt a lot by searching efficiently searching the web. I have even stumbled upon so many interesting things that changed me while searching. There’s an entire universe out there. You just need the right means of transportation.

Update: Just saw this video from Google on how search works. Its the same for other search engines.

What is RSS?

RSS Icon Ever wonder what this cute yellow icon represents? Well, It represents RSS Feeds. RSS actually stands for RDF Site Summary but it’s commonly referred to as Really Simple Syndication. Its an open standard that allows web content to be to be collated and aggregated together using XML (Xtensible Markup Language) Technology. Its not the only standard for serving feeds as there is also ATOM. There’s a lot to RSS and Feeds in general but I’ll try and break it down as much as possible

To easily understand what it is, let’s imagine this scenario: I have 24/7 internet at home and I love browsing on movies, games, tech blogs and so on. Assuming my favourite sites are:

  1. www.youtube.com
  2. www.amazon.com
  3. www.ebay.com
  4. www.cnet.com
  5. www.yahoo.com
  6. www.gametrailers.com
  7. www.gamespot.com
  8. www.imdb.com
  9. www.boxoffice.com
  10. www.techcrunch.com
  11. www.techrepublic.com

So every day to check for new content, I would have to go through the above sites one after another. Isn’t that a hassle? And maybe before I finish checking www.techrepublic.com , a new YouTube video might be uploaded. RSS was invented to tackle this problem. It’s simply a structured way to organise site content in a way that all kinds of software like websites, browsers, mobile applications, widgets (or gadgets) e.t.c can access and notify you of updates. That’s where the yellow icon comes in wherever you see it; you know it links to the feed URL. So in order to solve my problem, I would first need to get a feed aggregator. It’s a software package that can check for RSS feeds from various locations and arrange and collate them together. There are many Feed Aggregators and I would like to classify them into the following categories

  1. Browsers – If you use browsers like Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari or Opera (Chrome doesn’t have by default) then you can use its inbuilt feed aggregator. Just go ahead and click the RSS link (Usually located at the top right corner of your browser)
  2. Web Applications – So far the only web application that allows you to manage your RSS is Google Reader (reader.google.com ) There you can either search for feeds or add your own url
  3. Gadgets – Gadgets or Widgets in some platforms are small pieces of applications that are embedded into other applications e.g Google Sidebar, Opera Widgets e.t.c Most of them also come with RSS Feed Aggregators
  4. Mobile Applications: In my own opinion, this is the best way to consume RSS Feeds. Most smartphones: Android, Symbian, iOS and RIM (Blackberry) all have a form of RSS Feed Aggregator. Even if you dont have a smartphone, you should get Snaptu and install it on your java enabled phone and you can subscribe to your favorite RSS Feeds. It can also get your feeds from Google Reader.

After I have any of the above feed aggregators, I will then visit all my favorite sites and start clicking on the RSS icons of each site. I will add the URL to any of the above aggregators. When Im done, all I have to do is go to my RSS Feeds aggregator and Voila! I can now access all of my favorite websites at once.

Practice

Try Browsing your favorite sites looking out for RSS Feeds or The cute Yellow Icon above. After you find it, click it and click subscribe (if your browser supports RSS) or copy the URL in your browser

Then Goto to your preffered aggregator. If you don’t have, you can goto reader.google.com, Login or Sign and add the feed URL there

I hope you find this tutorial useful. This blog also supports RSS Feeds as well. So please subscribe and get notified about recent posts. If you are having problems, reply this post with your issue and I’ll help you out. Cheers!