In a Linked Data State of Mind

 

When we think of a text within the boundaries of a page (be that a print or a web page) we reinforce an understanding that belongs to the realm of a print age: a text follows a linear form, in the familiar page frame. Just like Gutenberg prints initially tried to replicate manuscripts.

Such a “page understanding”, in a Web context, confines us (and our thinking of any given text) to limits that don’t exist anymore.

The way out is leaving the print, and even the Web page framing and realia and bringing ourselves into the curious and fruit-bearing Linked Data State of mind.

Now take your page metaphor shoes off, and let’s enter that state now.

What Is Linked Data and What Is It To Bе in a Linked Data State of Mind?

Understanding is always contextual and it needs relations to other (preferably) familiar things to fully unfold its potential. The same goes for a text – a text is always a part of a bigger picture. And Linked Data is that powerful technology with which a text and the things it talks about can be embedded into the systems that serve us creating, finding and consuming content – search engines, apps, personal assistants, bots.

Kingsley Idehen describes Linked Data in an easy to grasp way:

#LinkedData is easy, once you realize it is just another slant on what you already know i.e., using hyperlinks as words to create sentences.

Linked Data might be difficult to wrap your head around but the confusion dissipates when we approach the concept from the perspective of links.

Think linked texts. Then think the things these texts talk about – people, ideas, concepts, events, relationships, cats…Just like we link texts, or other media, different parts of these texts can have links. For example, this text is linked to the description of Linked Data on W3C. And this is a text-to-text link. This same “Linked Data” entry can also be linked to a machine-readable definition, that is to a string of characters that identify this term and also connect it to a wider context via semantic relationships and thus enable machines to process this information. Such linking allows both users and creators of content to explore any topic in an interconnected way with the help of machines.

Here are some examples of turning texts and other media into Linked Data and vice-versa:

For me as a content writer, Linked Data is all about connected data that enables new writing environments. And to be in a Linked Data state of mind for web writing on one hand means thinking and writing content well aware of how connected data forges new environments and media for texts, together with fresh perspectives and newly pushed limits of texts and their reception. On the other hand, it is about connecting to a poetic way of seeing content on the web, that is to seeing its creation as building beautiful interconnected structures, one word at a time.

One Word at a Time

Seeing words as data pieces is hard and many times discouraging a task for a wordsmith. Fortunately, thinking about data doesn’t necessarily involve understanding the technological side of the “knowledge soup” we are all in. [wink-wink, dive deeper here: The Challenge of Knowledge Soup by J. Sowa]

When writing for the web, it helps seeing words as nodes, tiny but mighty particles that flow into the great interconnected picture of human knowledge and experience exchange.  And if nodes sounds too “data-ish” think warps and wefts: texts as fabrics of shared understanding.

Operating from this point of view, it is then easy to look at those nodes from a technical perspective. Think the simplicity of “connecting the dots”.

Here’s an example:

This is a Linked Data  map created with LOD view by Andrea Volpini for the article Weaving Linked Data into Texts with WordLift. It describes (using Linked data!) the main things and thoughts that keep me up at night when thinking about the Web and where writing fits into its bigger picture.

But even if you don’t have the tools, or are not ready to use them yet, you can do that by creating a conceptual skeleton of what you want to say.

Something like a mind map. If I am to make a conceptual architecture of my thoughts, writing this article and the messages I want to communicate and build my story around, it would go something like this:

Created with mindmeister: https://mm.tt/991683618?t=2WhdO9qv0k

Apart from the inner clarity that such a structure allows you to operate from it also lends a supportive conceptual hand to your internal and external linking (and thinking) activities. It also brings you a perspective of the text that sees it as a constellation of content chunks. That done, a text will not only be a text, but to also serve you as an architecture for other future content pieces – not necessarily written. But when the words are there, and the so called topical modelling is done, everything falls in place and becomes more exciting.

Knowing how Google uses context and semantically related phrases can improve the content you create and how well you optimize pages for particular queries

Speaking of topic modelling, again as a content writer, I like to fear not this term and just approach it with the benefits to both ranking and audience building it brings. You can do that too. Check Bill Slawki’s awesome slides (the quote above is from his presentation).

Again, even topic modelling is about a Linked Data State of Mind in which we open up our texts for more resources, more connections, more links and more relationships.

How do Get Yourself in a Linked Data State of Mind

To get into a Linked Data state of mind, close your SEO, digital marketing, web writer, SERP buster eyes for a moment and look at the Web as a giant enriching textual corpus, making for a better world, more knowledge spreading, more exchange (business included).

That done, go ahead and feed your mind and your explorer’s spirit with some magnificent resources from around the web.

First, Read this post on data.world –  a social network for sharing datasets, isn’t that beautiful? – The (near) future of data is linked

Next, dive in Crafting Texts in the Age of Fragmented Reader Experience and consider conceiving of your text as a fragmented entity which will live not only on this page but in the minds and devices of many?

Three, dive even deeper: Google, Linked Data and The Needle In The Haystack

Last, but not least, listen to Mike Atherton here:  Domain and Content Modelling at the BBC where Mike explains how the BBC uses domain-driven design to create richly-linked content-centric products.

And, as a reward for all you have done, here’s what Mike recently shared in a recent Dialogue:  Swimming into the Depths of User Experience:

To get to the point where we’re comfortable designing products from Linked Data we must first get comfortable with designing content-first.

With that, I believe,  you are now ready to get in an interconnected flow of words, thoughts and data pieces. Be brave and keep connecting the dots. In a Linked Data state of mind.

In a Linked Data State of Mind

by Teodora Petkova time to read: 5 min
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