What is the Pragmatic Web?

The Pragmatic Web is still in its infancy, as are the explanations about what it is or could become. Here is one of my recent takes on the matter trying to answer some questions by Paola di Maio on the Pragmatic Web mailing list.

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Re: [PragmaticWeb] following on
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2008 10:31:54 +0100
From: Aldo de Moor <ademoor@communitysense.nl>
To: pragmaticweb@listserv.uni-hohenheim.de

Hi Paola,

paola.dimaio@gmail.com wrote, on 14-2-2008 9:33:

> – to fill such a gap, a new paradigm shift is now emerging called
> ‘pragmatic web’ designed primarily to support and automate the
> human-human web based knowlege exchange, particular emphasis is being
> place on – rule based reasoning and intelligent applications based on
> NL

To me, the PW is basically about context and purpose: making web applications more context-aware and serving purposes of (their communities of) use. In a nutshell, one could say the PW is about how to make (semantic) web technologies serve collaborating people in their messy, real-world, evolving domains of interaction. Rule-based reasoning and intelligent applications are but one of several possible “enlightened web technology” applications. Another stream that I and
several other current members of the budding PW community are particularly interested in is the marriage of web technologies and large scale, distributed argumentation support systems.

> – pragmatic web technologies are designed to function on http/ip
> protocol, and are likely to adopt owl/rdf representation if thats the
> way knowledge is going to be represented on the web, therefore cannot
> be distinguished from SW on this account.

Owl/RDF etc are the main focus of SW R&D. PW can use these representations, but is definitely not limited to them. In fact, PW research may lead to completely new forms of representation and
reasoning, much better suited to deal with the context and purpose issues mentioned above.

> – However PW research and possibly future technologies is aimed to
> study and capture the human interaction with web based technologies

Yes, it’s about putting people first. Whereas current systems development often just distinguishes “The User”, PW tries to open this box, and discover innovative ways to model human goals, communication and collaboration patterns, norms, preferences, etc. These much better understood characteristics then could and should inform the design of much more useful knowledge bases and web systems. “Intelligence” is thus not something to be captured, but an intricate interplay between human interpretation and context-aware, _augmenting_ formal knowledge systems.

Efficient Task Management

Efficient task management is an essential component of community workflow management, all the more as standardized organizational structures and procedures for coordinating activities are often lacking in collaborative communities. Before starting with group task management, first the task management for individuals (“to do lists”) needs to be taken care of. Countless task management tools, planner web sites, Personal Information Managers etc. are available. However, task management tool support is not enough. Efficient task management requires some form of task management methodology.

Having tried many approaches, I finally chose David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. It offers the right mix of comprehensive, yet flexible procedures for collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing, and using to do-items.

As to the tools that best support this methodology, I have settled down on the following two, MonkeyGTD and Remember The Milk.


MonkeyGTD is a tool specifically tailored to the GTD methodology. The second version (MonkeyGTD2.1 alpha) is much more powerful than version 1, yet robust enough to be actually used in daily practice. MonkeyGTD itself is built on top of TiddlyWiki, which is characterized as a “reusable non-linear personal web notebook”. One powerful feature of MonkeyGTD (TiddlyWiki) is that it is just a simple html-file which can be read with a Firefox browser. No other software is needed. Another, very useful characteristic is that it is based on the principle of “tiddlers” which can be very easily cross-referenced and searched. Some disadvantages are that it can only be read by Firefox, the file can become very big over time and does not allow for easy separation of data and code (cumbersome with upgrades or reorganization of data), and that it is not a server-based solution, so that file management and synchronization can become tricky.

Continue reading “Efficient Task Management”

Community Lending

An interesting development where web technologies meet real societal needs is the rapidly growing phenomenon ofcommunity lendingMicrocredit has been around for longer as a concept to empower poor people and communities by letting them help themselves by creating social systems to provide small loans. These systems help create the trust, do the administration, etc. With the web, however, new socio-technical dimensions are added to the idea. For example, small loans can become global instead of just local in scope, much more background information on debtors can be provided, risks can be reduced by automatically distributing a loan over many lenders and so on.

Some links: