Thursday, May 29, 2008

Semantic Technologies Conference Coverage Wrap up

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The fourth annual Semantic Technology Conference took place in San Jose, California from May 18th-22nd. It was the first SemTech conference that i have attended but i have been watching SemTech output for about the last three years so i certainly was primed for it. With all the Semantic Web buzz lately i was fairly certain that the conference was going to definitely be worth my time. I wasn't disappointed.

I had the privilege of attending both the full conference and workshops as well as working the exhibit booth for Synaptica the taxonomy and metadata management tool that i am the Business Development Manager for at Dow Jones. Many of our existing customers use Synaptica to build and maintain business taxonomies, thesauri, name catalogs, authority files etc. that become cornerstones of their semantic activities.

In this post, i will outline some of the tools that i and others used to 'socialize' the physical conference as well as outline some of coverage i have been collecting over the last week to provide my readers and many customers who could not make it to the conference a good overview of what happened. According to conference organizers there was an increase of 30% from the previous year and in my next post i will write a bit more about the attendees and why I am particularly interested in semantic technologies and believe my clients should be as well.

Being in the 'cloud' while at the conference>>>

I attend a lot of local bay area conferences where technology on the stage is highlighted and the technology in our hands is used to connect, discuss, share and socialize. I also however attend a lot of 'corporate' conferences where the conference rooms have no WIFI, they hand out 30lbs of paper as conference collateral (with presentations that NEVER match up with the ones the speaker is doing!) and the only connections we make are either by being scanned at the booth or doing the ritual business card trading ceremony. As to be expected the SemTech crowd was in the know and the conference coordinators did their best to accommodate.

During SemTech many attendees took advantage of tools like
  • Twitter (here is a view using and the tags we loosely agreed on #semtech08 or #semtech2008 (and by default were always alerted as to where the post session drinking was happening or which rooms had power strips!)
  • tags like semtech08 or semtech2008 to tag web content during and post session presentations
  • Of course the darling of the semantic web, Twine with a collaborative Semantic Technology Conference Twine (unfortunately at this time you need to be a member- drop me a line if you need an invite daniela.barbosa [at]
  • Flickr to tag and post photos
  • One of my favorite ways that thoughts were shared in 'real tine' was Nico Adam's Seesmic session reviews- it was like i was almost there at the sessions i missed!
All and all the social interacting in the 'cloud' was not only useful but also great for furthering engaging with like minded people, many who i hope i will remain connected to.

So the 'conversation' back channels and the hallway conversations were great but what about the Conference sessions themselves?>>>

The sessions were a combination of keynotes, tutorials, industry sidebars (Finance, Health, Govt), and 'use/case study' presentations. They ranged from introductory business sessions to Technology advanced sessions so there was plenty for everyone- and some slots turned into a dilemma for me to decide which way to turn.

Although all the presentation slide decks are being made available to conference attendees (and many presenters are also publishing their own)- there really was no recording on the sessions (although the conference coordinators did tell me that some sessions were recorded via audio and they are checking the files to see which ones are publishable to attendees) [my personal opinion is to make everything open to the public- but i am a natural born sharer ;-)

I did manage to convince the kind Eric Franzen one of the main conference coordinators to allow me to video tape two sessions that Christine Connors from Dow Jones did- one titled Semantic Coding at 120mph that focused on some of the semantic work Dow Jones is doing as part of the products and services we offer (she is our Director of Semantic Technology Solutions) and the second one the Final KeyNote Panel about bringing Semantic Technologies Back to Business which i have embedded below:

Here is some other coverage from the conference that you might find interesting:

Alex Iskold Founder, CEO of AdaptiveBlue and a regular contributor to ReadWriteWeb on Semantic Web topics and was on the The Rising Stars of the Semantic Web: A Status Report and Future Survey panel that David Scott Lewis moderated has two great write-ups as part of his coverage.
Ivan Herman the Semantic Web Activity Lead for the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) who was on the Final KeyNote Panel, posted on his personal blog a wrap up post of the sessions that highlights some of the sessions that he attended and some of his own thoughts on what attendees should bring back from the conference - the bottom line is that it is not about just talk anymore the buzz is real and companies are in the marketplace with semantic technologies solutions.

John Breslin a researcher and adjunct lecturer at DERI, NUI Galway, Ireland in the areas of the Semantic Web and social software who i was very please to meet in person and spend some time with speaking about DataPortability covered some of of the sessions including:
  • Overview of Nova Spivacks Keynote presentation on "Experience from the Cutting Edge of the Semantic Market" where Nova provided an overview of Twine (many people raised their hands in the crowd as existing users which was excepted). I was please to see Nova also speak about some enterprise market opportunities for Twine- for companies to do knowledge sharing etc. (who doubts that is a Twine play?)
  • Overview of Eric Miller from Zepheira talk on "The Next Generation of Semantic Development Tools" outlining Zepheira's new service REMIX.
  • John Breslin, Stefan Decker and Uldis Bojars also presented a tutorial on The Future of Social Networks on the Internet: The Need for Semantics and have posted their slides on slideshare. I am really bummed i missed this session because i had signed up for the Ontology tutorial because i thought all sessions were going to be video archived.
Carla Thomson's summary of the panel she participated on Taking Semantic Technology to the Masses in this post Geekery Fiefdoms at SemTech in which she quotes Tom Tague from Reuters "Thomas coined a term I’m stealing that sums up the semantics space perfectly: geekery fiefdom. It’s a great description of a sector that is striving to achieve traction in the consumer space, but continues to pepper its messaging with semantic buzzwords and discussions of the plumbing behind it all. As Thomas quoted one of his customers in the financial sector, “If you have to explain it, I don’t want it.”

Beyond all the buzz, the instructive tutorials and the cool demos however there was little mainstream press or even 'mainstream' bloggers, or analysts covering the conference as David Scott Lewis says in a comment he left on Ivan Herman's post....perhaps next year but until then i have lots of presentations that i need to download of sessions that i missed that either sound interesting or that i heard were very good.

1 comment :

Alex Iskold said...

Nice summary Daniela!