Semantic Web Light Beer

Image by davidflanders via Flickr

This was to be a pre-conference post to give an overview of what to expect during the week-long, 150-or-so session Semantic Technologies Conference – a gathering of all things semantic.

I wanted to mention a few “views” by which you can consider the landscape, to help navigate the more than 150 sessions:

  • Sector / Industry (such as e-gov, health/life science and pharma, publishing, financial…)
  • By stack-/layer-cake component (the individual technology or standard)
  • By function performed (search, data integration, dynamic categorization…
  • Technical Level – from highly technical, to purely business focused
    W3c semantic web stack

    Image via Wikipedia

And there are related “tracks” that can help you follow any one of these. Whether you’re interested in what the Semantic Web is in general, intricate architectural aspects of the various segments of the semantic web layer cake/stack (RDF, OWL, SPARQL…), it’ll be covered during the week.

Since it is now under way, I’ll mention a few of the points made during the Semantic-Link live podcast on Sunday, an opening sessions that I was part of.  In particular, I wanted to touch on the “Advice to new attendees” (who represented a surprisingly massive portion of those who had already checked in for the week) included [full mp3 here]:

  • Talk to anyone about anything.  This is an extremely diverse, giving, open and accessible group of people.  (Andraz Tori of Zemanta added: while it is great to see people you haven’t seen in a year, don’t talk to the ones you know.  Meet and talk with new ones!).
  • Try to sample from the uniquely WIDE variety of topical material covered.  It is rare that you’ll find the range of material that is accessible.
  • Don’t try to get deeply into the intricacies of each component of the stack.  Instead, get enough of a sense of how each of the components relates to one another – so you can then consider the context of anything you encounter here.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk out of a session you determine is not for you, and head into another you were considering.
  • Value the hallway conversations as much as the sessions themselves.
  • Decide whether you are trying to learn everything and anything you can – or if you are seeking out specific solutions or material to justify an agenda – and navigate accordingly.

One topic released too recently to be on the agenda, is the schema.org arrangement between Google, Bing and Yahoo around the common use the Microdata vocabulary (vs RDFa or Microformats), which is less expressive and easier to implement.  The question put out during the opening panel discussion was whether this good, bad, important, unimportant… to the Semantic Web community.  The only consensus of the panel was that it will generate much discussion on all sides of the matter during the week – and that is a good thing.  Christine Connors added that the SEO world will likely jump on this standardization for annotating – and a cottage industry might emerge around people offering to annotate pages.   From my own relatively non-technical perspective, it is strategically positive for the Semantic Web.  To the extent that this opens up the floodgates and generates masses of annotation, there is then much more to be worked with, for RDFa to be added where higher degrees of expressiveness are still desired – and these will surely emerge.

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