The words 'semantic web' fill some library folk with dread; mostly because the vague term seems to be lacking any real meaning for most people. Here are some examples of the semantic web in action.
Dorthy.com is a semantic search engine for dreams (RRW article). The idea is that you can enter your dream, ambition, aspiration and dorthy will find you articles, video, photos, tweets and more on your chosen dream. The more you share about your interests and background the more the search can personalise your results. For example, you might want to 'walk Mount Kilimanjaro' and Dorthy will help you get there. Dorthy is in private Alpha at the moment so there are some bugs and anyone outside the USA might find there is no way of limiting your results to content from your own country. Hopefully this will be improved as it moves out of Alpha. At this stage it is an interesting example of the direction search is headed and it's only a matter of time before the big search engines follow suit.
Hunch helps you make decisions so well, that you'll never have to decide anything for yourself again (RRW article). This is a fun search engine that asks you questions to build your profile and compare to others with similar traits. For example, I asked hunch 'where should I go on vacation' and it asked me a series of questions before suggesting 'Maldives' - who wouldn't want to go there? But in addition to this suggestion I get alternative options and pros and cons about the place from fellow hunch users. You can give your results a thumbs up or down and add to faves so you can keep a record of your searches and provide further information for refining your results. Beware, if you are addicted to quizzes - hunch could suck you in and never let go.
Pandia reviews what they consider the top 5 of the growing number of semantic search engines. However, after playing with some of these you'll see that they all act in different ways. If we are to customise library search we need to understand the possibilities of the semantic web and investigate ways it can be introduced to libraries in a sustainable and manageable way. Surely it should be possible for clients to login and enter their preferences, answer a few short questions and viola! The traditional catalogue is reborn as a semantic search engine of stunning proportions! We'll have to wait and see.