It occurred to me, towards the end of day one of this conference, that I’ve been making my panel choices based on the speaker more than the on the topic. Now that I know more about who is doing what, this seems to be a better indicator of whether I’ll find the presentation interesting. Of course, I still take the topic into consideration, but my knowledge of the speaker will carry equal weight and will certainly come into play as a tie breaker.

So, today I went to one tutorial by some guys from DERI and one by some guys from Metaweb (makers of Freebase), and then a presentation by Tom Ilube, of Garlik. All three were just as excellant as I’d hoped.

First up, I went to a tutorial called “The Future of Social Networks: The Need for Semantics,” led by Stefan Decker, John G. Breslin and Uldis Bojars of DERI (Digital Enterprise Research Institute). They talked about the proliferation of Social Networking Services and how they developed an ontology called SIOC (pronounced “shock”) to wrap around networks, users, and content so that data about these people and items a) would be published in a semantic form and b) could be interoperable. I’ve been trying to think of a good metaphor for this. Still working on it.

Afterwards, while Eric Hoffer and I were talking to John about the cool logo he designed for SIOC, Uldis wrapped up his conversation and turned to me and asked “Did you go to Hack Day London?” I figured he had seen the “Hack London” sticker on the back of my laptop while he was speaking. I wonder if social networks will ever be as good at facilitating secondary social connections as a sticker on a laptop. No reason why they couldn’t, right?

In the afternoon I went to a tutorial called “Creating Semantic Mashups: Bridging Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web” presented by Jamie Taylor, Colin Evans and Toby Segaran of Metaweb. I love that they’re here doing this because Freebase is not really using semantic web standards, but I always felt that in spirit it is a semantic application. Now I see why that’s the case.

For one thing, their attitude towards Semantic Technology is, essentially, just use what you need. They don’t use semantic technology for the sake of using it, they mix in the unique elements that support what they want to do. They operate on the principal of collaborative semantics: ontology as a social contract. And finally, they believe that data wants to be free. So, of course, I loved it.

Finally, I went to Tom Ilube’s presentation called “The Semantic Web, Social Graphs and Social Verification“. He’s a very engaging speaker, and the topic is one that really needs to be addressed – how to people create, maintain and protect their online identity.

Towards the end, we had a spontaneous Twitter convergence when Uldis, who was sitting behind me, received a tweet from Pete Thomas, who commented on a recent blog post I wrote about this conference. Neither of us had met him before. Awesome coincidence!

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