Nevertheless, webmontag was really great again. Had an interesting chat with mixxt's Oliver Ueberholz about the practical problems of adding social data export to SNSs. It seems that microformats are not always the obvious answer when the public export of machine-readable profile information is meant to be implemented as a user option, or when you want to be able to block certain bots from crawling your networks. They are thinking about external files now and wonder if RDF might be an option. Keeping the template code clean, and the ability to serve content for "online social graph aggregators" like knowee from separate machines are two potential benefits. At least the "hidden information is not maintained" argument is moot in their case, as the data is auto-generated anyway.
Last week I had lunch with Alexander Linden, the guy who used to position Semantic Web on the Gartner Hype Cycles. He left Gartner for his own venture (HumanGrid), a crowdsourcing platform. Surprisingly, they are not using SemWeb technology directly, but he said that their solution could be very helpful to generate and quality-improve RDF instance data.
We also talked a bit about SemWeb startup funding, and despite Gartner's latest Hype Cycle, which put SemWeb into the trough of disillusionment for the next 10(!) years, venture capital invested in semantic technology companies is apparently increasing. At least if you are in the US, that is. In Germany, a lot of money still seems to vanish in dodgy projects like smartweb. I hope that theseus is going to have more practical outcomes. They are going to run a competition for non-partners, that's a step in the right direction.
Related to startups and their technology choice is a concern about the lack of end-user semantic web applications that demonstrate the utility of RDF. A Semantic Web is going to be one of the Next Big Things, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it'll be built with W3C technologies. The only big-potential (US) startup with an RDF infrastructure, for example, is generating so much hype that they are doomed to disappoint, no matter what they are going to launch (if they'll ever do). Maybe RDFers should hurry up a little if they want to help avoid a possible backlash. I will, at least.
Alexander said the RDF stack has always been rather tough to sell (especially OWL), and identified some strategies that the SWEO group could focus on during the next couple of months:
- Admit that the full technology framework is not trivial, it's web-scale information integration after all. If you present it to newbies, always present a consumable subset only, not the full thing (Uh, I'm guilty).
- Organise more local meetings, BarCamp-style, open to people with related interests (i.e. not-yet-semweb developers)
- Provide convincing solutions that clearly show how RDF saves money and/or time, or increases productivity in a way that no alternative technology can. CEOs are just one group, a new technology has to attract the developers, because they decide how much friction losses they are willing to accept before they get at the benefits of a new technology. (SWEO is already building a collection of success stories, the Community Projects address these points, too, I think)
- Something to download and play with for those with initial interest (that's basically Danny's Semantic Web in a box suggestion)
- Public datasets (Yay LOD project)
16:37:57 [danbri] best thing we ever did, was make those tshirts!
So, it seems the SWEO activities are moving in the right direction, but it'd be great to get more ideas. What do you think is still missing or should get a high priority?