The title of this post is taken from Donald Norman‘s book “Things that Make Us Smart.” Donald Norman is a guru for all designers since his definition of human centered design, which explained how design can make people happier. Here is the link to one of his short presentations from TED in 2003.
Norman is also known to the public for books and manuals such as “The Design of Everyday Things,” which was perfectly summarized by a funny occurrence in Rome in a bus of the city transportation system. Talking about “Things that make us smart“, Norman classifies humans in 3 categories:
Those who build artifacts;
Those who use them;
Those who observe: the sky surrounding the earth, the events, human behaviours etc.
It’s a flow that has shaped the funnel of human evolution: BUILD – USE – OBSERVE and vice-versa; these three attitudes follow each other in a recurrent, never ending process: for example, from the observation of how something is made or used, new ideas/products arise. WordLift allows you to reproduce the virtuous funnel BUILD – USE – OBSERVE when creating content for your website. WordLift is a semantic web organizer, a new product for all bloggers that publish content on the web through the CMSWordPress. The software semi-automatically associates a group of metadata that translates all kind of content into a language read by machines, with the aim to increase the visibility of the information given to users and to make it easier to find it. WordLift allows you to BUILD the metadata of your content, USE them to increase its value, and OBSERVE the results to find new angles and new directions for your website and editorial plan. WordLift is the result of over 10 years of “research and development”, applied to two EU funded research projects (IKS and MICO) by a team that since 1998 has:
BUILT platforms and web systems for users;
USED the web to satisfy curiosity and professional demands;
OBSERVED technology and the evolution of the web since its birth.
WordLift is a technology that allows you to classify information: a knowledge organizer. The design approach that has informed its production stages is a derivative of Ergonomics, the discipline that studies the interaction between a system and its users. WordLift classifies information to build and run dataset open (compatible with the LoD cloud), just the same way genes that make up the DNA give instructions to build and run our organism.
Classifications help us finding the things we are looking for. Classification systems are useful to organize knowledge as well. Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan, an Indian mathematician, introduced the fundamental categories of classification back in the first half of ‘900, identifying the ones valid for all disciplines:
Space and time, on which everyone agrees;
Energy, referring to activity or dynamism which in the field of semantics is the “agent that takes an action”;
Matter, typical of a material or its properties;
Personas to point out the main object of the context even in the cases when no human beings are involved.
They are almost identical, to the 5 Ws used in marketing or the 4Ws typical of content organization categories: Who, Where, When, What. These categories have been considered abstract until the emergence of new sciences such as Neurobiology, that introduced the models and patterns used by our brain to build up our memories and everything else we keep in our minds. Once installed, WordLift connects directly to Schema.org, a vocabulary of concepts, widely used all over the web and made up of more than 1200 items collected in 9 essential categories: Action, Creative Work, Event, Intangible, Medical Entity, Organization, Person, Place, Product. Those categories are grouped by the plugin to the 4Ws as followed:
Who – Person, Organization, Local Business
Where – Place
When – Event
What – Creative Work, Thing
A component of the software reads the content and automatically extracts concepts (Person, Organization, Local Business, Place, Event, Creative Work, Thing) attributable to the 4W from the text. The user has the option to add more concepts to those suggested by the application and to create its own internal vocabulary building his/her own sector’s wikipedia. To check out how the plugin works you can watch the tutorial videos.
If all content on the web was published with this kind of technology, even the most unobtainable and beautiful objects would be part of one catalogue (or dataset), therefore findable, like a universal version or the “Catalogue of Unobtainable Objects” by Jacques Carelman, mentioned in the magazine Cosebelle. The editors of Cosebelle magazine using WordLift would have the possibility to build their own vocabulary and open dataset across all the things and themes they deal with. A dataset of beautiful things, of course, accessible, visible and understandable both by users and machines without stressing too much with search optimisation tasks.
Increasing both ranking and visibility of online content, while retaining the ownership of the data produced, is by no means a secondary goals for any web content creator: these are the goals pursued during all the stages of WordLift construction. If you have been following Annamaria Testa’s blog from the very beginning, you already know it all about the theories and best practices of everyday-creativity.
Over time the blog has constantly increased its audience. Surely by virtue of the quality of its content which, if I had to define in just one word, I would say: exhaustive. It takes quality and experience to satisfy expectations year after year. It takes good writing, great titles, depth of content. Everything in the right place. If their posts were also published with the semantic web organizer WordLift, their vast content would be organized as in a digital library: becoming more accessible, and further increasing its value.
In this blog-post we will discuss how the semantic web has changed our experience on the internet, both as users and editors, and why building a vocabulary of concepts for your website can be essential for your business and very easy to do, with one single WordPress plug-in: WordLift.
Semantic What? What’s In It For Me
The semantic web can be defined as a web of data. It originates from the transformation of the Web into an environment in which published documents carry a “hidden side”, an inner layer of data commonly known as metadata: It was 2009 when the inventor of the web, Tim-Berners Lee asked everyone to introduce the semantic information needed to help machine understand information being published.
The context around each set of metadata is what reveals to search engines the intent of the users. The same word can mean different things to different people or at different times: for example, typing french fries at 8am on a laptop can load different results than if searched at 8 pm from a smartphone. The context gives the hint of a clear intent: in the morning you might just be curious about the word itself, why it is called french etc. whereas in the evening you might want to look for the place that serves the best french fries in your town or order them online. The metadata structure behind both pages allows search engines to match the contextualized users’ intent with the most useful results.
The semantic web significantly increased the possibilities offered by the online world, making it easier for software to organize and classify content. Search engines are a perfect example as they leverage metadata to provide results from the most relevant onwards: relevance is now chosen according to the metadata that each page embodies, so you must structure your page correctly if you want to rank on Google, with the right information and the perfect connection to other pages’ themes.
In 2001 Tim-Berners Lee expected the web to become semantic soon; 15 years later we are testifying the change that semantic web is imposing and enjoying the benefits. The content of your website must follow this new concept of an organized web as well; properly organized content provides a better navigation experience, higher search engine rankings and readers’ engagement. But how to do it and how can it be useful to a website’s target audience?
Here is where WordLift comes at hand. WordLift is a plug-in for WordPress that helps you create, organize and beautify the content of your websites, blogs and any digital editorial products. The plug-in takes you by the hand during the whole process of creating, writing and publishing your content, and the metadata attached to it.
While you are writing, WordLift analyses the terms used and identifies the most meaningful ones based on the context of the post; these key-words are suggested in the form of entities, concepts you should focus on that are crucial for your target audience. For each entity you select, a specific page with text and images is created, so that readers can deepen the matter; the plug-in draws this material from the universal encyclopedia that is the web, more precisely from the wealth of open data available, and structures it in the form of web pages enriched with Schema.org markups, the classification system used by Google and all other search engines in the world. WordLift adds the schema.org markup to the page to make it SEO-friendly and readable by computers.
The sum of all the entity pages you create, forms the vocabulary of your website, already linked to open data vocabularies in the web.
The aim of the vocabulary is to organize content for a referring audience which is composed of personas; to connect each content to the other depending on the context; to optimize it for search engines in order to rank to interested readers, or more precisely, to the target audience of the page.
How to Create a Vocabulary
A good vocabulary should contain 70-80 entities to start with, but where to extract it from? Which entities or keywords should be part of the vocabulary?
Think about your audience first – performing a good old basic keyword research can help you understand your readers; analyzing patterns and identifying the intents of searches on Google, can help you identify not only your targets, but the 10 or 100 or 1000 readers a month you need to make a difference in your business (find out more on this subject in this article from our consultancy blog and the work we did in the travel industry for the Salzburg State Board of Tourism.) Once the right audience is targeted, it is easy to build a set of recurring concepts that should eventually become entities in your vocabulary.
The devil is in the details – Look closely at your business model and at what really makes a difference. A real estate agent working in a fancy neighborhood must know not only the properties’ value or the crime rate in the area but also the mood of the little café down the street or the teachers’ skills in the local high school – these details help potential clients understanding your offer; turning these details into entity pages create context and context builds trust.
The vocabulary is your content hub – Think of each entity as a hub around which should revolve a set of content on your site – if you have enough material on a specific concept or if you plan to add this content to your editorial plan – then start with an entity that describes it. These pages can become search magnets and in some cases they can also be designed as clear answers to specific questions and enter the realm of Rank #0.
You are what you share – Entities are a great mean to explain a complex topic to your audience – when doing so you are also creating great content to promote your business on social networks.
Moreover when creating a vocabulary remember that:
We are all in the relationship business – Each entity should be connected to blog-posts and to other entities in the same knowledge domain – we always recommend our users to link each entity at least to another one. These relationships amongst entities translate into specific links in your graph and can be used to discover more content on your website. When linking data, be careful and follow a strategy, with the most value for your users in mind.
The real value is the “hidden side” – Curating the metadata box behind each entity is good for humans as well as machines –
Example: the entity of Rudolph Schindler (an Austrian modernist architect) should be linked to Frank Lloyd Wright’s, who in 1918 asked him to work on a project in L.A. together; this can be done by filling up the schema-org:knows property in the metadata box of Schindler’s entity page, providing new ways to discover content you might have on both Schindler and Frank Lloyd Wright.
Be the Wikipedia of your niche – Always curate your entities and customize their content to fit your offers and your targets. If you decide to create an entity just to add the schema.org markup to your page, you should add a no-index on the entity page to avoid any SEO issue with content duplication.
Keep it super simple – Use your properly structured vocabulary to affect the architecture of your website, to make sure that your reader have quick access to the information they need. Entities can be grouped in your navigation by types (i.e. all schema-org:places) or using custom WordPress taxonomies to fit your needs.
Why Should You Care?
Organizing and enriching content is becoming more and more of a necessity in what has been called the birth of Web 3.0. Users are no longer searching for queries on the web but finding answers. At this point only the linked will survive! Connect your website to the rest of the web, within itself and with your target audience. It is very easy to do it, and you only need one single plug-in: WordLift.
What if I already have pillar articles that could become entities?
Yes, you can now convert your existing articles or pages into entities with a simple click. This helps you reuse your pillar content to reorganize your website and improve the search rankings of these pages.
Few weeks ago I did a very basic experiment to create, for one of our test websites, a bot on Telegram and to feed it with data coming from their WordPress website.
Camminando Con is a trekking organization, offering hiking tours in a small valley one hour from Rome and the content structure of their website reflects their simple business model. They use WordLift to structure this content in a way that allows them to exploit it in several ways.
WordLift helps digital editors organizing and structuring the content of a website. WordLift creates open datasets of all the things that matter and publishes them as open data.
Presenting their excursions – structured by WordLift as events using the schema.org vocabulary – they describe all the sites they visit on their tours – represented as places in schema.org – so that anyone, by reading their site, can get a good understanding of the upcoming events and the territory they will explore.
This structured data is then connected through WordLift’s interactive map and discovery widgets that allow their users to explore related content.
Once the content work is done, they promote it via their website and an active Facebook page. I thought I could add a new interaction channel to their communication plan, leveraging the knowledge graph they create event after event.
Let’s build the Bot
Telegram is a messaging platform similar to WhatsApp, WeChat or Facebook Messenger that lets users communicate in groups or one-to-one. I’ve chosen Telegram because chat-bots can be easily created: you simply chat with another Bot called the ‘BothFather’ (just look for it and add it to your contact list) and your automata will be ready to go in a second. Here are the steps you need to follow:
BotFather supports several commands; to create a new Bot open a chat with him and send the /newbot command.
Take note of the API key (token) and remember that a bot always uses a user name ending in bot (i.e. WordLiftBot).
Now create a new public (or private)channel and add the bot as administrator of the channel (the bot does’t appear in the list of friend so you will need to remember its name and type it – WordLiftBot in our case).
Your Bot is now the admin of the chat channel. Not bad in just few minutes, right? What’s next?
Next we need to get an update every time a new event is published on the CamminandoCon website. In the CamminandoCon website, as seen earlier, events are constantly updated to promote the upcoming hiking tours and every event focuses on 3 or 4 locations at the time (villages or point of interests that will be seen while walking).
To recall their events we are going to use an HTTP end-point that WordLift adds to every website: http://<yourwebsite>/wl_entity_type/event; through this end-point we can get an ordered list of all the events published on the site; adding /feed/ to this URL (http://<yourwebsite>/wl_entity_type/event/feed) the list is automatically converted by WordPress into an RSS feed that we can use with our Bot.
To glue our Telegram Bot with the RSS feed coming from WordLift – without writing a single line of code – I used IFTTT. Get a login there (if you don’t have one already) and create a new recipe IF > Feed adding the RSS feed generated by WordLift.
The THEN part is a Maker (a simple app that lets you send web requests to publicly available APIs) and here is how to configure it:
Last, you have to use the API key received by the Bot Father and add it before the /sendMessage as shown above (https://api.telegram.org/<your-api-key>/sendMessage). The method is set to POST and the Content Type is application/x-www-form-urlencoded. The Body contains the actual message that the Bot shall send. Here we can see we’re asking to send the update in the @CamminandoCon channel and the text is a combination of elements derived from the RSS feed such as the Title, the URL and the Image.
Here is the result as seen on the Telegram desktop client.