Don’t Miss: Semantic Web Gang, Web 3.0 Conference, Semantic Technology Conference

April 25th, 2009 by Greg Boutin

I am finally back “on the air” after a long period of intensive work for clients of my consulting practice. My blog didn’t miss this chance to give me the usual guilt trip in return. Those things take a life of their own…

Things happened nonetheless in the semantic web space:

  • On the business side of the web 3.0 and the semantic web, I had a number discussions with a few start-ups in the field. A generation of
    companies is growing and coming up with mind-blowing technologies
    focused on solving real problems,
    ranging from detecting the broader interests of an advertising audience, to enabling intelligent platforms to manage complex insurance businesses, and to tagging online content and enabling more intelligent sharing and product recommendations. [Plug alert!] I look forward to helping them fine-tune their market approach, scale their operations and revenue, and raise funding where needed. A current client of mine received an excellent term sheet from a VC, so there is still money around for start-ups with a good business story. I helped them secure it by running a full market program for them (now in phase 2) involving a number of components (see my services at www.growthroute.com) and helping them present a coherent and well-supported story on the revenue side [end of plug!]
  • We recorded two podcasts with Paul Miller and the rest of the Semantic Web Gang. The March edition didn’t make it due to recording quality issues (being scattered on two continents and often using VoiP doesn’t help…). To make up for it, the April recording is available here, and it rocks!
    We had almost the whole gang present, and I can honestly say this has been one of the best discussions I’ve had with it. We raised a couple of points I have long wondered about:

    • Why do we create a semantic web that relies so much on human-generated ontologies (you can double-click that word for a definition)? Those ontologies are destined to become rapidly obsolete, and obtaining agreement on them is a huge investment with an uncertain ROI.
      My suggestion to entrepreneurs: work on a way to facilitate the creation of ontologies, using both folksonomies and text analysis to build hierarchies of concepts. Start small, with baby steps, and progressively increase the level of automation. Given the wide cottage industry in the human creation of ontologies, such tools should be attractive to this immediate market. And over time, they will get to replace the industry all together. I may be optimistic, but it doesn’t strike me as an impossible problem to solve.
    • Which successful start-up in the semantic web is actually built on Linked Data, or uses it extensively? Tom Tague mentioned he doesn’t know of any, and neither do I. That raises doubts in my mind as to the commercial potential of this technology. It may be that it’s just an enabler, with no direct financial benefit, but then where are the start-ups taking advantage of the Linked Data and even semantic stack technologies?
      During the podcast, I promised a Cost-Benefit Overview of Linked Data and the Semantic Stack on this blog. Patience. I am putting the finishing touch to it and that will be my next post. Feel free to already send me your thoughts on the subject, I’d like to integrate your views in my post.
  • The second volume of the Web 3.0 conference is on, and it will take place in New York next month. I will participate to the opening panel on Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 10am, nicely entitled the “Idiots’ Guide to the Semantic Web and Web 3.0″. We need more introductory sessions like this, and we need them to focus on what we are trying to achieve with the semantic web, as opposed to the nuts and bolts which is often what this community is obsessed with, because that’s where it spends its time. And vice-versa.
    I have a promotional code for anyone looking to attend the conference: SPKRW3GB will give you a 15% discount on the registration. And if you sign up before April 29 you’ll receive that on top of the early bird rate.
  • A month after that, I will be at the Semantic Technology Conference in San Jose, to attend what is possibly the largest conference in the space. On June 17, I will discuss Business Models and Market Opportunities for Semantic Start-Ups with Fraser Kelton of AdaptiveBlue. Our panel unfortunately takes place at the same time as the respective sessions of Paul Miller and Peter Mika, which should be terrific (too!). I’d encourage everyone to go back and forth between those!

That’s it for now, but I’ll be back soon with my thoughts on the cost and benefits of linked data and the semantic web. And I hope to see you in NY and San Jose soon. Feel free to contact me at gregboutin [at] growthroute.com to arrange discussions.

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