*** Originally posted on the Adaptive Path Blog ***
This week I joined 1100 other folks at the Semantic Technology Conference in San Jose. I attended this conference back in 2007 and I'm happier to say I really see a difference in the past two years. Back in 2007, everything about the conference was about the technology. What was the code that made this stuff go? I tried to keep up in a number of sessions where they kept flashing XML up on the screen. I'm happy to report that my experience was much different this year.
From the moment of the first keynote, folks were talking about the user experience. Yay! Our message is finally getting out there. It seems to me that they have finally gotten the technical bits mostly figured out on how to make this semantic web thing go. Now it's time for the fun stuff: using it to power things that make people's lives better.
There seemed to be two big uses for semantic technologies that I heard at the conference. First were the groups of folks talking about plug-ins and snippets of code that anyone can drop into their browser or onto their web pages to make an enhanced experience. Yahoo!'s Search Monkey and Google's Rich Snippets are both examples of simple XML bits that you can add to your pages to enhance your results listing on their engines. Adaptive Blue is a Firefox plug-in that let's you see your friends' reviews of books, movies and other stuff as you look at these items on different sites.
The other use is more like what I traditionally think of when I think semantics. There were lots of examples of vendors who can create ontologies and connections by parsing the corpus of unstructured text you give it, whether that text be email, Wikipedia or the Bible. These tools let you see what topics occur in given populations (such as football and the Longhorns in Enron internal email) as well as moving through those related topics. The guys at The New York Times talked about how they use semantic tools to publish their topic pages as well as their news alerts, widgets, RSS feeds and to automate their editorial process.
Join me on Wednesday, June 24 for my virtual seminar on the semantic web. I'll explain the basics of how this stuff works and why user experience folks need to be involved.