web 3.0an introduction + notes for PR practitioners
Creative CommonsAttribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
by Philip Sheldrake, Euler Partners
kindly sponsored by Brandwatch
for Social Data Week
16-20 September 2013
17th September 2013
aka the Semantic Web
Web 3.0, the semantic web, marks the transition to a
web that understands the content that we put there.
As public relations is about working towards mutual
understanding between stakeholders, practitioners
must understand this understanding and begin to
work with Web 3.0 technologies.
The next 3 slides situate Web 3.0 in terms of public
relations. Then the key concepts are discussed over
21 slides. It does get a bit techie, but no more than
perhaps this Web 2.0 thing looked a decade ago.
I hope you find it illuminating. Personally, I think the
semantic web is nothing less than awesome.
Public Relations Whether or not you subscribe to the definition of
public relations in my Share This Too chapter (29 –
The Six Influence Flows), you’ll appreciate that
mutual understanding is attempted and reputations
are formed in part via the digestion of data and
information over time.
Traditionally, PR practitioners focused on
communication with human intermediaries (eg,
journalists, analysts). More recently, social media has
brought fresh imperative to establishing and
maintaining relationships with publics directly too.
And now, as those publics begin to adopt Web 3.0
type capabilities to investigate and learn about a field
of mutual concern, PR practitioners must ensure that
corresponding data and information is available in an
open, accessible and standard format.
The following short example provides some context.
the planned and sustained effort to
influence opinion and behaviour, and to
be influenced similarly, in order to build
mutual understanding and goodwill
An Example Jo’s organization is a leading exponent in this
relatively new method of releasing natural gas for
extraction called fracking. Her company recognises
the controversy surrounding the technique and
decides to commission and publish research
addressing the concerns. She issues a press
release announcing the publication of the
corresponding report and website, and engages
stakeholders directly via social media.
Jo is familiar with the categorisation of paid, owned
and earned media, but she is also aware of the rise
of machined media – content that is automatically
discovered, presented and published by machines
As environment and energy sector journalists and
analysts lean more and more on semantic web
services, she knows her company’s data and
information should be discoverable in a way its
competitors have yet to appreciate, giving her
company competitive advantage.
An Example So whereas she might once have been satisfied with
these Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 tactics, she knows she
would be negligent these days to ignore Web 3.0.
She publishes the source research data and the
report semantically so that others, and software
acting on behalf of others, may machine the data
and test the validity of the report’s conclusions for
themselves. Moreover, those that analyse the data
reciprocate so that Jo’s company can get to grips
with the issues others raise quickly and efficiently.
Jo will have improved mutual understanding, helping
the company strive for consensus.
Will your organization and stakeholders, or clients
and their stakeholders, secure similar advantage?
Read on to find out what Web 3.0 is and how it
This is just an example. It should not be interpreted as my having a position on fracking.
Berlin What do you think of Berlin?
You have no problem with that question. Your
amazing mind has already placed it in a context that
works for you. You may not therefore appreciate how
much your mind has done on autopilot, or indeed
how complex the question is devoid of context.
So what is your context?
If you’re into great 20th Century songwriting, you
may be thinking about the works of Irving Berlin.
Perhaps you’re a New Wave fan and you’re
contemplating theAmerican synth pop band most
famous for “Take My BreathAway”. Maybe your
appetite for popular culture reached its zenith in the
70s, in which case Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy is front of
mind, or Lou Reed’s Berlin album, either because it
was regarded by Rolling Stone magazine as “a
disaster”, or because it still made Rolling Stone’s Top
500 albums of all time. Go figure.
Berlin Perhaps you’re thinking in terms of place not music,
in which case it’s obvious right?
Well, the capital of Germany goes by the name of
course, but so do around twenty places in the US
and one in SouthAfrica.
So if you were to express an opinion or publish
anything about Berlin in a digital format, a format that
can be read and machined by, well, machines, then
the utility of that machining would be greatly
enhanced if it could determine which entity called
Berlin you’re actually talking about.
This is the domain of Web 3.0.
Semantic Web Retrospectively, we call the initial manifestation of the
web, a web of interlinked documents, Web 1.0. The
social web, Web 2.0, is a web of people – or at least
a web of documents representing people.
Web 3.0 is about the Web itself understanding the
meaning of the content and social participation. In the
words of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World
Wide Web, the Web becomes a universal medium
for the exchange of data, information and knowledge.
Web 3.0 is more accurately called the Semantic
Web, although the phrase Web of Data is
increasingly popular. The Semantic Web is a
collaborative movement led by the international
standards body, the World Wide Web Consortium
a universal medium for
the exchange of data,
Disambiguation So, I want to be really clear about what I mean when
I write “I love Berlin”. We’ve already seen how that
simple phrase is ambiguous without additional
As we’ll see, the Semantic Web allows data to be
described with reference to universally available
common vocabularies. I need to reference one of
those universal vocabularies to declare which Berlin
I’m talking about. In the jargon, I’m disambiguating.
I’m talking about the capital of Germany, and the
particular vocabulary I need in this instance is the
one for geographic names called GeoNames
Avocabulary is structured with Unique Resource
Identifiers, or URIs for short.AURL, Unique
Resource Locator, is a type of URI.
Disambiguation Now here’s a subtle but important distinction.A
webpage about Berlin is not Berlin. Obviously. So
there are two URIs relating to Berlin here:
This URI stands for Berlin. We use this URI when we
want to refer to the city of Berlin, Germany.
This URI is the document with the information
GeoNames has about Berlin, Germany.
There is an expectation however that a web browser
should be able to resolve the first URI – in other
words, show you some information about Berlin
rather than show you round Berlin itself! So for this
reason, GeoNames redirects any web browser
calling for the first URI to the content available at the
Disambiguation The webpage describing the ‘resource’ called Berlin
is a street map or satellite image of the area featuring:
• the latitude, longitude and altitude
• the population
• a link that calls up a list of alternate names and
name variants (Berliini in Finnish, Berlijn in Dutch)
• a link to a ‘geotree’ listing the geographies that
make up the place in question and the wider
geography in which it’s located
• And the hyperlinked text “.rdf”.
RDF RDF stands for resource description framework, a
metadata data model. In plainer English, RDF is a
family of standard ways to present data about
entities – Berlin in our example. The RDF link for
On the next couple of pages I’ve included an excerpt
of what you get if you follow that link at the time of
writing.As this is likely the first time you’ll see RDF in
the raw, I have added some explanatory notes.
It’s not as fearsome as it might first appear, but you
can see why this stuff is usually the preserve of
machines rather than humans. You might also like to
know that marketing and PR practitioners won’t
really need to see the raw stuff again, so feel free to
skip over it!
The RDF doc starts here
The identifying number
The URI for the RDF doc
The name of the entity
Alternative names for the entity, typically in other languages
The country code
The description of the entity Berlin, the capital of Germany
<rdfs:isDefinedBy rdf:resource="http://sws.geonames.org/2950159/about.rdf" />
RDF for Berlin, capital of Germany
The entity’s geographic parent, a URI for 4th order administrative area Berlin, Stadt
The URI for the country, the Federal Republic of Germany
The URI for the first order area in which the entity is found, Land Berlin
AURI for a list of URIs of entities nearby to Berlin
AURI to the entity’s location map
Alist of URIs to Wikipedia articles in various languages
The RDF doc ends here
The description of the entity Berlin, the capital of Germany
RDF for Berlin, capital of Germany, cont.
RDF Now, I’m sure you’ll agree, there’s no confusing the
object of my affection. This obviously isn’t the Town
of Berlin, Worcester County, Massachusetts. You’ll
Or the ghost town in Nevada:
And I’m obviously not referring to Irving, as much as I
might like “Puttin’ on the Ritz”. You can find a RDF
document for him here:
Linked Data The Semantic Web includes a vision known as
Linked Data. In simple terms it builds on HTML, RDF
and URIs to interlink published structured data to
make it more useful, more valuable.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee has outlined four principles of
the Linked Data approach, effectively:
1. Use URIs to identify things
2. Use HTTP URIs so that these things can be
referred to and looked up ("dereferenced") by
people or software acting on someone’s behalf
3. Provide useful information about the thing when its
URI is dereferenced, using standard formats such
4. Include links to other, related URIs in the exposed
data to improve discovery of other related
information on the Web.
Bottom-Up This bottom-up approach demands diligent markup
of web content, and for this reason many consider it
to be laborious, long-term work. Nevertheless, the
BBC is a leading exponent (its brilliant London 2012
Olympics website was semantically powered), the
UK government leads the world with the data.gov.uk
facility, and a project called dbpedia (links to which
we’ve seen twice already, if you’ve been watching
carefully) endeavours to semantically markup the
entire Wikipedia corpus.
NewsML-G2, a news multi-media exchange
standard developed by the International Press
Telecommunications Council (IPTC), has semantic
I should add that while publishing semantically
marked up content requires a bit more effort, you
don’t need to create RDF directly.Appropriately
capable content management systems should look
after that for you.
This diagram portrays a cloud of datasets that have been
published openly in Linked Data format as of September 2011.
(Visit http://lod-cloud.net for ad hoc updates.)
Figure: Linking Open Data cloud diagram, by Richard Cyganiak andAnja Jentzsch. License –Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0.
Knowledge Graph Commercial imperative drives innovations to link
things together sooner than a bottom-up only way
might otherwise achieve, and perhaps it’s no
surprise that Google leads the way here. Here’s
what the Google blog had to say about the May
2012 launch of its Knowledge Graph*:
“Search is a lot about discovery – the basic human need to learn
and broaden your horizons. But searching still requires a lot of
hard work by you, the user … Take a query like [taj mahal]. For
more than four decades, search has essentially been about
matching keywords to queries. To a search engine the words
[taj mahal] have been just that – two words.
“But we all know that [taj mahal] has a much richer meaning.
You might think of one of the world’s most beautiful
monuments, or a GrammyAward-winning musician, or possibly
even a casino inAtlantic City, NJ. Or, depending on when you
last ate, the nearest Indian restaurant. It’s why we’ve been
working on an intelligent model – in geek-speak, a ‘graph’ – that
understands real-world entities and their relationships to one
another: things, not strings.”
*Introducing Knowledge Graph, Things Not Strings, Google’s blog,
Top-Down How does Google attempt this? Well first and
foremost it taps into the bottom-up work achieved so
far with those public Linked Data datasets, and
they’re augmenting this with some smart software
designed to determine the precise entity described in
web content even when it isn’t semantically marked
up – what you might call a top-down approach.
According to a December 2012 post to Google’s
Search Blog, the Knowledge Graph covered 580
million objects (entities) and 18 billion facts and
connections at that time*.
Fundamentally, Google is intent on “building the next
generation of search, which taps into the collective
intelligence of the web and understands the world a
bit more like people do”, which sounds very similar to
the intent we saw earlier for Web 3.0.
*Get SmarterAnswers from Knowledge Graph from …, Google’s Search Blog,
Knowledge Graph If you use Google search then you will have seen
some immediate manifestations of this work.
As of mid-2012, typing a famous person’s name into
Google search for example usually brings up a
collection of images and information to the right of
the main search results about that individual.
Enter “Berlin” and you’ll see things like a map of the
German capital, a description of the city, the
population, the weather, the local time, etc. That is if
Google’s algorithms determine you’re looking for
information about the German capital of course
rather than another entity of the same name.
As of mid-2013, Google also introduced the
Knowledge Graph powered image carousel above
the main search results.
Knowledge Graph Absent disambiguation, the Knowledge Graph
craves context. Take a search for “Soho” for
example.As a London resident writing this in London
and employing my default browser Firefox, Google
Search presents me with Knowledge Graph
information about Soho in London.
However, if I boot up a different browser and tell
Google to ignore my location (by going to
www.google.com/ncr), I get information about Soho
in New York.
Interestingly, if I tell Google to ignore my location in
my default browser, I get a map for Sokcho-si,
Gangwon-do, South Korea. What does this tell us? It
tells us that delivering the Knowledge Graph vision is
a considerable challenge!
Link it together Now, if you specify a date you’re going to be in
Berlin, and it happens to coincide with my next stay
in Berlin, we can rest assured it’s the same place
and we can get together for a Berliner Weisse.
In fact, if we describe our friendship semantically, and
if we describe our predilection for German beer
semantically, then our respective semantic calendar
services might auto-suggest our getting together at a
specific time and place without our having to labour
And perhaps a mutual friend has expressed their love
of a suitable venue via a service making it
But that’s a fairly trivial example.
Link it together At the other end of the spectrum, imagine that all the
data harvested by cancer research scientists around
the world is published semantically. This allows a
semantic data scientist to study the studies, merging
datasets and finding patterns and reaching
conclusions that would otherwise have proved very
difficult or impossible.
Imagine a ‘semantic data Member of Parliament’, a
‘semantic data town planner’, a ‘semantic data
To really begin to imagine this, I need you to go
Relfinder dbpedia has made great progress semantically
marking up music and movie data so I’m going to
point you to a simple semantic web browser
demonstration, called Relfinder, to explore the
U2’s most successful album to date, The Joshua Tree
of 1987, and their 2009 album No Line On The Horizon
The films Letters from Iwo Jima and Million Dollar
Baby – http://eulr.co/12VICOk
(These links work at the time of writing, but Relfinder is a
demonstration browser and may have been taken down or
hosted elsewhere since. In which case, search for “Relfinder”
and see if you can find it and have a play. Click the “Examples”
tab to get going quickly.)
More Info About the Semantic Web
Web 3.0, a 14 min video
About rich snippets and structured data
Google’s structured data testing tool
About Semantic Web technologies and PR
Why you need to use GoogleAuthor Rank and social
search, a blog post by Stephen Waddington, 25th Oct 2012
The Semantic Web and PR, a blog post by David Phillips,
13th May 2013
The Web this decade and what it means for your
organisation, a blog post by Philip Sheldrake, 25th May 2011
The most exciting development in PR since the
Cluetrain, a blog post by Philip Sheldrake, 22ndApril 2010
If you like my presentation of Web 3.0
here, you might like my latest ebook,
Attenzi – a social business story, in
association with Social Media Today.
It’s a free ebook with forewords byAdam
Pisoni, Microsoft Yammer co-founder and
CTO, and Robin Carey, founder and CEO
of Social Media Today.
Find out more now at www.attenzi.com.
Thanks for taking the time, Philip.
in association with
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This report was sponsored by Brandwatch.
Philip is Managing Partner, Euler Partners. He’s the
author of The Business of Influence: Reframing Marketing
and PR for the DigitalAge (Wiley, 2011) and Attenzi – a
social business story (2013).
He contributed the digital marketing chapter of The
Marketing Century, a book celebrating the centenary of the
Chartered Institute of Marketing, two chapters of the best-
selling Share This from the Chartered Institute of Public
Relations (CIPR), and a chapter in the follow-up Share
He is a Chartered Engineer, ran Europe’s first email
money service and Europe’s first Google Maps mashup.
He helped ‘liberate’ UK government flood data in 2007, co-
founded the CIPR social media panel and delivered his
first presentation on PR and Web 3.0 in 2010, kindly
hosted by Stephen Waddington. He’s a director of Tech
UK (formerly Intellect).
firstname.lastname@example.org / @sheldrake
Euler Partners advises organizations on how to meet the
continually shifting expectations and behaviours of
customers, employees, partners and shareholders by
embracing social business and new ways of influencing
and being influenced.