A fine Saturday: Semantic Web and Friends

Yesterday Lauren and I went to Semantic Web Austin’s event with Peter Mika of Yahoo! Research.

Peter delivered an excellent presentation on getting started with RDFa.

I feel like one of the biggest challenges with getting started with Semantic Web is that it’s so hard to get up and running quickly. Being a W3C specification, the documentation doesn’t immediately lend itself to easy practical implementation. It seems that most of the time introductions for beginners dance around specifications, semantics, IETF councils, and theoretical specifications.

I think it probably turns off a lot of people actively working to advance the cause. And the cause is worthy! Making the data on the web informative to non-human agents will make for a far better internet experience, but the first step has to be making it possible for Perl/Python/Ruby hackers, CMS tool authors, PHP people etc. to actually think “Oh, I’ll embed these SemWeb” features.

The last programmer-friendly product that integrated web of data concepts at the user-programmer level was years ago when Matt at Wordpress put in FOAF ontology references in the Wordpress code. I could be wrong here, but I’ve not seen massive adoption as yet. Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up and saying “Can anybody give me a coherent story on how to do this, you know like a ‘Hello, World’?”

Peter’s presentation was very accessible and “hands-on.” This was a welcome change.

Helpful resources are:

In the early evening we headed down south and met up with our friends Ryan and Jamie. After a bit of visit discussing semantic technology (Ryan works for the University’s library system and they’re certainly in the business of considering how to expose relationships between data stores), we headed to Trudy’s south. I had a great gulf shrimp chimichanga and a fine margarita.

We headed back to their home and Ryan cracked open a Glenfiddich 15-year single malt which was smooth and oaky with richness. We had made substantial progress into it, and conversing with our lovely ladies when we were joined by Matt and Nicole. We hadn’t all been together just hanging out in many months, so I really enjoyed it.

Most of the time when we see one another it’s during a dinner or a party, so it was nice to have a quiet evening just catching up.