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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.

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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:

  • What company, technology or issue caught your attention in 2011
  • Are we “there” yet?
  • What are people watching for 2012

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).

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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.

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Here’s the latest installment of our Semantic Link podcast, hosted by Paul Miller of Cloud of Data

and joining with me were Christine Connors, Trivium RLG, LLC, Eric Franzon, SemanticWeb.com, Bernadette Hyland, 3 Roundstones, and Andraz Tori, Zemanta

Topics covered this month were:

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I’m finally getting a break from chipping ice and shoveling snow, so before the next round comes in, I wanted to get this post up about our second episode of the Semantic Link podcast.

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In brief, we had an interesting discussion around how we anticipate Drupal 7 will impact the landscape and why – specifically its built-in ability to generate semantic annotation of content. To date there has been a chicken-and-egg situation, where the development of semantic-consuming applications has been waiting for consumable content – while efforts to generate semantic content have been awaiting the incentive of there being systems to consume, digest, and expose it. Call it CM-antics or C-Mantics – either way it is easier than saying “CM Semantics” – but perhaps it’ll reduce some of the antics.

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Other parts of the conversation included discussion of how semantic solutions find their way into companies; and about the way that semantics has influenced the division of labor and the definition of IT roles within companies (CTO vs CIO) due to its changing the nature of information itself, and making it more of a technology – or part of the machine itself.
Other parts of the conversation included discussion of how semantic solutions find their way into companies; and about the way that semantics has influenced the division of labor and the definition of IT roles within companies (CTO vs CIO) due to its changing the nature of information itself, and making it more of a technology – or part of the machine itself.

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Give a listen, and enjoy: Semantic Link – Episode 2

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What do you get when you cross a set of technologies with an evangelist, a community activist, a business strategist, a Hungarian from the W3C, an ontologist / library scientist, a standards expert, a seasoned Internet executive, and a Slovenian entrepreneur?

Hopefully, what you get is an interesting discussion.  Eric Franzon from SemanticWeb.com and Paul Miller of  Cloud of Data have organized just such a cross-section of participants for a monthly discussion – The Semantic Link podcast series – on things Semantic and/or Linked – from multiple perspectives.

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I had the honor of being included at the table, and at this week’s inaugural conference call and Semantic Link podcast, we covered our different thoughts on the highlights for the space over the past year, and our hopes and dreams for the year to come.

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