I’ve been at the Semantic Technology Conference for a day and a half. The first half day was an introductory talk by Dave McComb. I was hoping this presentation would arm me with some good information and inspiration to become an evangelist for semantic technologies in my organization. I think it did the trick. 

At the beginning of his talk, McComb was saying that the Semantic Web has hit the mainstream, and he knows this because more and more people are calling and asking to interview him about it. One of his recent interviews was with Business 2.0, and he admitted that some of the things he said in that interview were better than the things he had in his presentation, and it made him rethink the things he was going to say today. Then Barbara, my friend who works at Time Inc Interactive, leaned over to me and whispered that she told the editor of Business 2.0 to call Dave McComb!

I thought McComb did a great job of spelling out the basic principles involved, the problems that semantic technology is designed to solve, the differences and similarities with designing relational data models, and the pieces of the technological puzzle that make it all possible. I mean, it seemed like a great introduction to me, but I’m already familiar with most of these concepts. I’m not sure how it went over with people in the audience who were completely new to this. 

Some things that McComb said reminded me of a linguistics class I took in college. We were essentially studying developmental psychology – at what ages people learn to make certain linguistic distinctions. At some point a child learns the word “bunny” and for a little while they think everything white and fluffy is a bunny – even a cotton ball. This always makes me think of the zone of proximal development, which I think is a really fascinating and useful idea. More about that another time.

It’s interesting how many different disciplines come together in the understanding of semantic technology. Aside from technology, of course, there’s linguistics, philosophy, psychology, and probably several others I’m not thinking of at the moment.

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