Sunday, 8 June 2008

It is supposed to be a conversation (part1)

A chain of thoughts that started a little while ago and ended up in me resolving some personal thoughts about what a semantic web actually means (to me at least). Bear with me because in part 1 the semantic bit is not really obvious.

It all started when I came across a forum that had a "correct this grammar" link next to each post. I am not sure if this is the stupidest thing I have ever seen or just a very, very clever way to divert the time and energy of pedants whilst quietly direct all their corrective output to /dev/null/ (a place where the sun don't shine). If it was a diversion it was very authentic looking as it even had instructions telling you to retain the original meaning, your corrections were supposed to be approved by a moderator.

I came across this whilst I still had the "well intentioned??" efforts of some grammar/spelling actionists fresh in my mind. They hadn't been directed at me but they easily could have been and we had crossed swords. Often the grammar pedant will start with something like "I hate to be a pedant but it irks me when..." so we have to assume that in this case irk > hate.

There are places where writing as correctly as possible is important, however consider that people do not speak grammatically, when having conversations they do not use correct grammar (amazingly some people haven't even realized this). I view comments, some types of blog posts etc. etc. as conversations and the word conversation is often used to describe many interactions on the web. We are pulling in more and more information, and engaging in more and more online conversations, usually testing/refining ideas, for many people now this is not a place to worry too much about the technicalities of language so long as the meanings and concepts are exercised. I consider many of these conversations are supposed to be quick and snappy, and people adapt to this environment. We don't have same pressure to use l8r for later as we would when texting but there is a pressure there

English is often not the first language of the conversationalists but is the default language of many places where they have to interact (not so smart or sensitive to pick holes in what they have written). This was the case when I lost my rag a little and had to intervene (it irked me to intervene but I hated what was going on).

By all means strive for correct grammar and spelling in a CV or presentation or highbrow blog etc. but apart from that I think those that are upset by non-perfect English should deal with the irksomeness out of the public eye.

How do I think this relates to the semantic web, well that is coming soon.

Languages are made by ordinary human beings not by God or the pundits who stand in for him.
Anthony Burgess loved language and was a linguist. He enjoyed the play of words and the technicalities of grammar and pronounciation. However in his books on language he was consistent in objecting against those that were overly sensitive to its usage, ending on one occasion with
When we think we are making such a judgment we are often merely making a statement about our prejudices.

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