STC 2008 – Day 3

Started out the day with my own presentation – Survey of Taxonomy Tools (follow the link to view the slides). It seemed to be pretty well received, for the most part. I included some time for discussion, and several people contributed interesting comments and questions. I was pretty happy with the turnout considering that this session was first thing in the morning.

After that I was so relieved, I’m surprised I could do anything, but I jumped right back into some interesting presentations, including a panel on Developing Semantic Web Applications, a talk on Calais, and a keynote that included several of the Rising Stars of the Semantic Web. Then I ended the day on the speaking side of the table again.

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Semantic Technology Conference 2008 – Day 1

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.

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Is relevance enough?

I’ve been thinking a lot about semantic search and what makes something relevant. I realized that, in addition to something “having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand” (M-W), there are at least two other factors that affect how useful an item of content is.

The first is: Quality. Something can be very pertinent to a topic, but if it’s unclear, incomplete, inaccurate, or just plain bad then it probably isn’t going to do you much good. A blurry image of someone doesn’t really let you know what they look like.

The second is Timeliness. This one is tricky – it has to do with the lifecycle of a content item. The most common offenders on the web are usually really old content (often with no date stamp, so you can only guess how old and out-of-date it is). But premature content can be just as worthless. How many times have you seen something of interest, months before you had reason to act on it, then when the appropriate time rolls around you’ve forgotten about it? Or maybe you read something at a time when you really didn’t understand the significance, then later you couldn’t remember where you saw it, or how to get back to it?

So, if semantics are a better way of expressing relevance, and perhaps social media sharing can help us navigate to high quality content, what’s going to help us determine the timeliness of content?

Information glut: It’s gonna get worse before it gets better

I’ve been thinking lately about information overload. It’s ironic, in a way, because I’m pretty convinced that what needs to happen in order for the semantic web to take hold is for more people, sites, and organizations to expose their data. There are a lot of control issues involved – trust, security, confidentiality, copyright – but there’s also a real danger of accelerating the general movement towards digital saturation.

I haven’t used Twhirl, but apparently it prompted Erick Schonfeld to speculate about Web 3.0’s noise cancelling powers over on TechCrunch. I’ve heard it said many times that one of the goals of the semantic web is to deal with complexity. There’s definitely a need for it, and that need is only going to get more urgent as the information-providing services multiply. Bring on the intelligent information-filtering services!

Essentials of Metadata and Taxonomy

About a month ago (was it really that long? tsk, tsk!) I went to London to speak at a one-day conference held by Henry Stewart Events. The event was organized by Madi Welend Solomon, who I met a couple years ago at the Semantic Technology Conference. There were some excellent people speaking, and I was really happy to be in their company.

It was really amazing to participate in a complete day of discussion about metadata and taxonomy. Each speaker took a different angle and addressed a different aspect of the issues and the work. The individual presentations complemented each other and came together to tell a whole story.

Here’s what some of the other participants had to say about it:

Semantic Technology Conference 2007 Recap

I suppose it’s very old news, but I recently stumbled across this short recap I wrote of STC07 last summer. I didn’t publish it here at the time because I thought it was going to be used elsewhere. Since that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, I figured I’d post it now in honor of those submitting proposals for Semantic Technology Conference 2008. Due date for proposal submission was today.

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OpenID and the Social Graph

First, full disclosure: I don’t know a lot about OpenID. But I do know that there are some serious issues related to online identity. Here are two of the questions I find most pressing:

  1. How do I create a persistent identity, across all the different web services I use? This is a question of convenience. Registering for a website that I’m going to use once is kind of ridiculous. Even if I wanted to use it again, chances are I will have forgotten my password, or even that I ever registered there in the first place. I could always register again, but that isn’t useful for me, or the service provider.
  2. How do I take ownership of my personal information? This is a privacy and security question. I’m online a lot. There’s a lot of digital information about me that could be gathered up to paint an interesting picture of who I am. Ideally, I should be the person who owns that picture and controls who has access to it.

Now, I’m not saying that OpenID has solved these problems – far from it – but it has created the opportunity for people to test things out and discuss what works and what doesn’t. As far as I can tell, the first issue is being addressed more directly than the second. Still, I don’t think we’re going to have a meaningful approach to the privacy question until we get some more experience with persistent identities.

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Two Semantic Webs

I was reading this post by Nova Spivack when I finally understood that there are two semantic webs. Nova calls them The Intelligent Web and The Data Web. (I think this is in some way related to the longstanding debate about Semantic Web vs. semantic web, which never really made any sense to me before). To put a slightly different spin on it, I like to think of these as the Orderly Semantic Web and the Chaotic Semantic Web.

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