Mon 29 Sep 2014
Mon 29 Sep 2014
Tue 10 Jul 2012
Talis Group, long at the forefront of Semantic Web and Linked Data efforts, announced that it has decided to pull the plug on Talis Systems, with its Consulting and Linked Data platform Kasabi – and will focus just on their education arm. Their own words echo those of many others in the space, when they noted they have “invested an incredible amount of time and effort in playing its part to help foster the vision of a web of data.”
As a result of such efforts “… many more organisations are now seeing the benefits of applying semantic web technologies to help publish, share, and create value from data.” Their release goes on to say “… there is a limit to how much one small organisation can achieve…” and that “… the commercial realities for Linked Data technologies and skills whilst growing is still doing so at a very slow rate, too slow for us to sustain our current levels of investment.
Many are quick to assume that this is an indicator that Linked Data and Semantic Web are being relegated to the same pastures as AI, or are making other sweeping comments. Instead, I would argue that this is more an indicator of two other things.
First, it is a commentary on the success of their evangelization — with their being somewhat a victim of their own success. As a result of all the noodling, sharing, teaching, pushing of Talis and others who took the early risks and made early investment, the “big guys” (while saying they weren’t interested) were observing and the evolution of the space. As such, they have made acquisitions (think Powerset, Metaweb and Siri, among others) and have openly embraced what Talis, for one, has been promoting (think schema.org). In so doing, they have moved the game to another level. In that regard, it is not an abandonment of the capabilities, but a business decision as to the way forward for them – as a product versus service.
Secondly, it points to the difficult and ongoing question as to where motivation lies for businesses to expose their data. In a business context, controlling one’s data is (like it or not) power. And APIs have been a means of opening up bits that a company deems in its interest to make available. In the same way that Web2.0 essentially facilitated the masses having their own voice, in their own control, RDFa, GoodRelations, and schema.org are examples of that happening for businesses and their data as well (think Best Buy). Mind you, the rendering of the Knowledge Graph on any particular subject/search demonstrates just how simple it is now (everything is relative!) to structure what you want to expose, for the consumption by others. This begs the question: Do we need another platform?
The Semantic Web and Linked Data are not going away. It is all just getting more usable (though there’s quite a ways to go), and the the concept of linkages does not stop at the firewall – but rather at whatever limit is set by those deciding to expose. (Note, this can also be phrased as “the limits chosen by those who control the particular data in question” – but that introduces another discussion topic entirely, which is whose data is it anyway).
Thu 16 Feb 2012
You say “Semoogle”, I say “Goomantics”. Two made up words; one meaning. Map the terms to one another, and associations to one can be related to the other. Do that within the house that Google built, and you can really traverse the knowledge graph (that was MetaWeb’s Freebase).
Keyword matching is just part of what happens inside the Google machine – and more and more, sense is discerned from context – in aligning content (search results or ads) with the searcher’s intent (their meaning, in terms of identifiable entities and relationships).
Read more, from a Mashable interview with Google’s Amit Singhal 
Wed 18 Jan 2012
Our latest Semantic-Link discussion was interesting in that it touched on some distinct but deep topics that tend to recur in our discussions, namely: usability, privacy and the old standby – the definition of semantics itself.
I won’t spend any more time on the definition of semantics beyond that the consensus (for purposes of this discussion) was that it means “meaning”, with contexts including: linguistic/NLP related word-meaning semantics; and the other being compliance with W3C standards – or architectural Semantics. In essence, the latter is what enables a machine version of the former.
The focus was actually a conversation with guest Nova Spivack, and his more current efforts, including Bottlenose and StreamGlider. (Next time we’ll have to let Nova do more of the talking, as we only really had time to dig into the first of those.) Bottlenose is intended to help people manage and interconnect their interaction across the multiple electronic realms in which they operate. While Nova mentions that the system doesn’t currently make use of W3C standard architectural Semantics, it does use ontologies to relate topics and navigate meaning. This is particularly visible in Bottlenose’s Sonar – which renders a visualization of the active topics, hash-tags, and people around you, with adjustable time-horizon. If you’d like to try it out during the private beta, visit Bottlenose.com and you can Sign Up using the Invite Code: semanticlink.
Listen to podcast here: Semantic Link Podcast – January 2012
As mentioned above, two key items arose from the discussion – the matters of privacy, and the question of transparency. In the case of privacy, would it become an issue, from a business intelligence standpoint, that others could more easily see the topics that someone is discussing or investigating – especially if such a tool could cross multiple networks/platforms in finding patterns.
As is often the case in these Semantic-Link discussions, the question of “how much should be exposed about the use of semantics” arose. There is of course a balance between active vs viral evangelizing of semantics, and the cost of exposure is simplicity and usability, while the benefit is flexibility and control, for those who can handle it.
The answer itself is complicated. On the one hand, technologies need to evolve in terms of leveraging semantics in order for people to really benefit from the underlying semantic capabilities. At the same time, those same people we’re talking about getting the benefit shouldn’t have to understand the semantics that enable the experience. Paul Miller, host of the podcast, also wrote about this issue. I’ll add that Investors do to like to hear that their company is using unique and valuable techniques. So too, though, is it the case that any company making use of semantics likely feels it is a competitive advantage to them – a disincentive to sharing details of the secret sauce. .
As mentioned during the podcast, this is a matter of which audience is being addressed – the developers or the masses. And in terms of the masses, even that audience is split (as is the case with almost all other software users). There are the casual users, and there are those who are hardcore – and when we’re talking about masses, there are many many more people would fall into the casual camp. So from a design standpoint, this is where usability really matters, and that means simplicity.
So in the case of Bottlenose, for the time being they’ve chosen to hide the details of the semantics, and simplify the user experience – which will hopefully facilitate broader adoption. There may too be room for a power-user mode, to exposes the inner workings of the black-box algorithms that find and weigh associations between people, places, things… and let users tweak those settings beyond the time-frame and focus adjustments that are currently provided.
Mentioned by Nova was the LockerProject in which personal data could potentially be maintained outside any one particular network or platform. This of course helps on the privacy side, but adds a layer of complexity (until someone else comes along and facilitates easy integration – which will no doubt chip some of the privacy value).
Personally, I’d love to see the ability to combine slices of personal activity from one or multiple platforms, with tools such as Bottlenose, so that I could analyze activity around slivers or Circles (in the case of Google+ usage) from various networks, in any analytical platform I choose.
Thu 12 Jan 2012
In the same vein as Word Lens, which I wrote about here just over a year ago, Aurasma too looks through your lens and “augments reality”. What does that mean though? And why is it interesting? At the most basic end of augmented reality, think of those times in touristy areas where you’ve had someone take a picture of you sticking your face through a board, on the front side of which – surrounding the hole you’re looking through – is painted some well-built body that surely isn’t mistakable as yours.
Add some basic technology, and you have photo doctoring capability that puts a border (or mustache) on your photo, or converts it to a sepia or negative view. Geo-code and/or date-stamp the image file, and integrate with information on buildings, locations, people and/or events that occurred there, and you can display that information along with the image when the coordinates correspond, a la Wikitude. Load up that app, turn it on, and walk around pointing your phone at things, and see what it says about your surroundings. (MagicPlan is an iPhone App, from Sensopia, that is a practical application of related technology, enabling CAD for making floorplans!)
Aurasma adds to this, by integrating image recognition (think: word recognition, but visually, picking up defined items) and rendering associated audio, video, animation, what have you – much like scanning a QR code would launch an associated action – but in this case, like WordLens, will do it in place on the image. Take a look:
The reality is that behind the scenes, with text, image or voice recognition, any action could be defined to be launched upon encountering triggers. Going further, imagine using multiple criteria or triggers to launched actions – tweaking the criteria for different scenarios. For example, a coffee company logo could spawn a video themed “start your morning with a cup” if the logo is seen early in the day, a “get a mid-day boost” if it is in the afternoon, or “keep your mind sharp tonight” if it is in the evening (adding “to get your studying done” if the geocode also indicates that the location is on a college campus. The mantra of late has been “context is king”. That’s context.
Here’s another hands-on example of use:
Wed 4 Jan 2012
The December episode of the Semantic-Link podcast was a review of the past year, and a look forward. The framework for the discussion was:
Notable attention grabbers were: schema.org and its impact on who pays attention (i.e. SEO space); linked data (and open data); increase in policy maker awareness of the need to pay attention to interoperability issues; commercial integration of technology (ontologies plus nlp capabilities) to leverage unstructured content; and of course Siri (a key example of such integration…).
In terms of where we are in the progression of the semantic technology realm, the general sentiment was that Siri represents the beginning of inserting UI in the process of leveraging semantics, by making the back end effort invisible to the user. And looking forward, the feeling seems to be that we’ll see even more improved UI, stronger abilities in analysis and use of unstructured content, greater integration and interoperability, and data-driven user navigation, and Siri clones.
Give a listen, and be sure to express your opinion about a) topics that should be covered in the future, and b) the ways you would like to interact or participate in the discussion (see dark survey boxes).
Mon 12 Dec 2011
During the recording of the December podcast of the Semantic-Link (as of this writing, soon to be posted), I emphasized the general need for enablement of the general public to begin contributing and consuming linked data – without having to have much, if any, technical wherewithal. The real explosion of the Web itself came as a result of wysiwyg authoring and facilitation of posting content and comments by just about anyone with a web connection. Similarly, de-tech-ification of where the web is going from here is what will pave the way to getting there.
There are standards and tools now for the related underlying componentry, and what is needed is user-interface development that will usher in the explosion of linked-content generation and consumption (as web2.0 did before).
Toward this end, Andreas Blumauer writes about a new version of PoolParty’s WordPress plugin that extends an in-page Apture-like approach, to use and contribute to the LD ecosystem. This (coupled with other elements such as SKOSsy) is an example of the type of UI gateway that is needed in order to enable the general public to participate – with systems that generate and digest the linked-data-age information currency.
Thu 7 Jul 2011
While I’m still actually waiting to get “in”, I have a couple of comments regarding Google+, from outside the Circle.
From descriptions of this Google Social Networking effort (following Orkut, Wave and Buzz), key elements as of now are: Circles (think of them as groups of people within your network); Sparks (which are topics or areas of interest); Hangouts (video chat rooms); Huddles (group chat); and Instant Upload (automatic mobile photo syncing).
Considering potential for integrating capability across product areas has always been most intriguing to me. In serving them up “together”, G+ makes it that much more likely for capabilities to be used together.
The second area of note is the way that Sparks re-frames the idea of Alerts in a way that subtly shifts the nature of the material that results from them from being one-off emails or links — that you might dig into or forward on — to material that relate to particular areas of interest, which presumably parallel or align with groupings of people you associate with around those topics. Twine had used the approach of integrating topic areas and social groupings for alerts – but these were groups that potential recipients would have to join. In G+, the “proximity” to the Circles aspect, and the fact that those Circles are unique to the individual, and don’t require reciprocation, make for a compelling scenario for the “push” side of the equation. (At the same time, I see some potential issues in terms of “pull” and management by those on the receiving end).
Hangouts and Huddles are by nature “social” already, for which you’ll presumably be able to seamlessly leverage Circles. As with topical material, Instant Upload brings your photo content automatically one step closer to where you are sharing. Success of all this as a social platform depends significantly on integration between the parts for seamless use by a user across capabilities – for example, adding someone who is participating on a video call or chat right into one or more of the Circles touched or represented by the other participants on that call or chat.
Leveraging other capabilities such as linguistic processing of AdSense (and G+ may already have this in the works) it would not be a stretch for the content in your interactions to generate suggestions for Sparks which you could simply validate — places or people in photos, words in chats, terms that show up in content within Spark items. From there, it wouldn’t be far to being able to interact with your life through what I might call a “SparkMap” — reflecting relationships between terms within your areas of interest.
UPDATE: I’m now in, as of Friday afternoon, July 8. So now I’ll be playing, with more ideas to come…
Fri 17 Dec 2010
Image via Wikipedia
If this isn’t one of the coolest things you’ve ever seen…
You probably thought it was Jetson’s material that someone could speak one language into a phone, and you could hear it in a different language on the other end. Pretty great stuff, translation on the fly. Think about looking at something that is written in a different language, and being able to able to see it in another, without having to go look it up somewhere!
That’s exactly what the Word Lens app from Quest Visual does – which you’ve got to see to believe (if not understand)!
I don’t know if this is exactly right, but “bastante salvaje” if you ask me!
Mon 25 Jan 2010
Early in my career, when working as a data jockey with an economic consulting firm, I was on a team for a particular project where, I’ll always remember, we were referred to (in the New York Times) as “nitpicking zealots”. While I knew it was meant as a criticism, I took the reference then (as now, for that matter), as a complement – emphasizing the attention-to-detail in our analysis.
Image via Wikipedia
For me, that focus has long been coupled with heavy emphasis on usefulness (ok, and logic) as a driving factor in doing or creating anything. “Stick-in-mud” – maybe. “Drive you nuts” – sure, the family says this sometimes… But things just need to make sense.
So it shouldn’t surprise me (or anyone else) that, in my recent Experience Design mini-masters project, I had an overriding need for the product idea my team was to come up with, to be of real use and value. The first task was to evaluate whether design principles had been followed in the creation of a particular product (the Roadmaster – a single-line scrolling text display for use on a car). Then we were to apply these design principles to come up with a different product/application making use of the technology for the context. We performed our review by considering the Roadmaster’s affordances (what the design suggested about its use); its mapping of controls to meaning or functionality; whether it provided feedback during use; its conceptual model and obviousness of purpose; any forcing functions, limters or defaults. Having developed a “sense” of the product, as it was, we were embarked on the design effort by adding interviews/surveys to gather research on potential market need/desire.
Without getting into our conclusions about the Roadmaster product itself, of particular interest is where we ended up going with our design as a result of performing our own contextual inquiry. Some great ideas emerged among the different teams, for which each team prototyped their design (using Axure), performed usability testing, and presented results. Most of the teams designed mainly for social-media driven applications. With our own goals including not just usability, but the usefulness factor mentioned above, we discovered potential in re-purposing the device – to be directed not to other drivers, but to the driver of the vehicle in which it is installed. Specifically, to aid hearing impaired drivers – whether for receiving guidance from a driving instructor, instructions from a gps, or conversing with a passenger.
The design, which at one point we dubbed the “iDrive” (for reasons that will reveal themselves), involves mounting of the scrolling text display out in front of and facing the driver, and integration of speach-to-text conversion, so that as words were spoken, the driver would see these words displayed out in front of them, without their having to turn to see the hands or lips of a person commnicating with them, nor would they have to look away from the road to read directions on a gps screen. In its simplest form, the design calls for an iPhone (or similar) application to perform the voice-to-text conversion, transmitting the resulting text to the display for the driver. An extension of this concept could incorporate detection and display of other sounds, such as a honk, and which direction it is coming from. Since the program, we’ve found that the required voice-to-text conversion capability, in a mobile app (e.g. for the iPhone) as we called for in the design, does exist, so with the combination of the technologies (display, conversion, mobile application, and gps capability), the serving the hearing-impaired-driver market in this way should be within reach.
A side-note to this post: The faculty of the UXD program, Dr. Marilyn Tremaine, Ronnie Battista, and Dr. Alan Milewski, helped to revealed for me that the formal processes of experience design, and particularly contextual inquiry, parallel closely with what I’ve sought to achieve through the joining of the disciplines of Usability, Value Network Analysis (perspectival), and a dash of Semantic (extensible and interoperable) thinking.