Monday, 13. November 2006

promoting the semantic web

Last week I attended the Fifth International Semantic Web Conference (more reports will follow), and it was interesting indeed.

At the moment we see that Semantic Web is picked up by big business, and that more and more people are putting data on the web. For example, Yahoo Food uses RDF for some detail problems (see Dave Beckett's post). Bot looking on the semantic web website, I see no guide how to enable my website to be semantic-web conformant. The best practices group published documents how to use it, but they aren't so easy to find and may not cover everything (for example 303 redirects).

I am annoyed by organizations like , that make advertisment for "RDF-like" solutions, because:
  • they have great websites that tell you how to use metadata in 5 minutes
  • they look good
  • they got statements in the sense of "Our company uses RDF and it changed my life. TCO lowered, ROI is sooner and RDF cleans my teeth while I sleep. Vernor Doe, CEO of".
  • we don't have such a site
Look at the classical version of a limited simple site, saying what it is, how to use it and who uses it. Perfect.


So I explained this view of mine at the web 2.0 panel at the conference and asked "Why can't the W3C hire one marketing person that creates such a "how to use Semantic Web for dummies" website?"

Reactions were negative, TimBl said that W3C is a standards organization and does not make marketing, Dave Beckett says (and blogs) that he does not want a hype and should instead:
Start from concrete data-centric approaches that build up to use layers of technology solutions to different problems as they emerge, only if needed and demonstrating usefulness at each stage.

Indee, but the use should be shown on a simple example and some success stories - we need a website to collect those. And we need a few guys that transfer the knowledge into understandable bullet points and demos. So TimBl suggested that instead of hiring a marketeer, Leo should just join the Semantic Web Education and Outreach (SWEO) group. Point.

[Update]: Antoni Mylka found a video of this panel discussion, and thus of this discussion.

So, I will evaluate if my current position allows me joining SWEO and if yes, try to contribute somehow to better marketing.

My statement would be: Yes, we need a hype for Semantic Web. Buzzword it out, smush your data, swoogle the web, make the Service Oriented Architecture that takes metadata middleware and enterprise application application integration to the next level.

lookout for our upcoming guide for concept URIs (based on 303 redirect and hash-uris) and more...
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Harald (guest) - 13. Nov, 19:03

Hi Leo,
I think you've really hit the point. The Semantic Web lacks some public relations. In difference to every minor-league Web 2.0 application [that is hyped simply because it is 'Web 2.0'] sophisticated Semantic Web applications (or at least their potentials) remain in the ivory-tower of research labs and universities.
Tim Berners-Lee stated last wednesday that 'the W3C uses their funding to hire scientists and not to hire marketing people'. But we need also public attention to get public (and also industry) funding.

Lee Feigenbaum (guest) - 13. Nov, 20:56

In my perfect world, the right approach is controlled hype. Hype is bad when it's projected from a third-party, as it's often full of inaccuracies and unfulfilled promises, which are then easily torn up and destructed by critics.

But eliminating hype and only pushing for step-by-step evolution on a case-by-case basis stymies the growth of a market and itself furthers criticisms that the vision in question (here, the Semantic Web) is but a pipe dream.

So it seems that the way forward is controlled and directed hype: where the community coins the buzzwords and also maps them to the grounded technical details.

(At a certain point, third-party hype is desirable since it forms the basis of objective assessment of a new technology. But from the community's point of view, it only becomes desirable when there's a fair amount of certainty that it will be based on solid and accurate premises.)


pavel (guest) - 13. Nov, 22:46

Hype needed?

Well, maybe it will just be called "Web 3.0". Check out this article in the NY Times... ;-) [via Stephen Downes]

ossi1967 - 14. Nov, 12:13

I'm a Dummy!

You're right in there is an information gap that needs to be closed by a (proposed) „how to use Semantic Web for dummies“-site. I for my part consider myself an interested amateur. I had no problems following the W3C through their HTML and XML technologies. When I first read about RDF and the semantic web, I was excited; it was only 2 days later that I hat set up a FOAF file und tried to push my limits in this field.

The frustration came when I got into the details of URIs. Its fun to read in the mailing lists how the RDF-gurus think its the XML serialization that scares people off. I don't think it is. I think it's the vague concept of "anything is a URI", which in turn means "a URI means nothing". I for my part never found an answer to all the questions that evolve around the URI-thing… and eventually stopped following RDF as a technology.

I would very much appriciate a „Semantic Web for dummies“ (or „RDF for dummies“) site that does not only close the gap between the Guru-talk on the mailing lists and those who want to use the technology, but also provides some low-level forums/chats/... where people like me could get their questions answered.

leobard - 21. Nov, 16:25

and you will be helped

Hi Ossi1967,

thanks for your comment! Good answer, I can feel with you.

you will get your "RDF for dummies" page, for example Chris Bizer ( is working towards such a site, and many people (including me) will possibly contribute there.

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