Bootstrapping the semantic web

'Sussing out the Semantic web' festered in the inbox for quite a while last year.

Some enlightenment finally came in December, and I've just posted a report on a British Comupter Society event I attended then on the mothership website. [ A PDF download is also available]

The night intrigued me a lot. And not just becuse I'm largely clueless in the technical domain [why else d'ya think this blog is so widget/everything-unfriendly?].

Turns out the crowd was pretty homogenous – very academic and computer-sciencey – largely due to their marketing methods, I guess. Which is fine in its way, but I know a lot of folks who would have lapped-up this kind of thing, and asked some more pertinent questions.

I did however bump into regular Geek Dinner compatriot BBC developer Ian Forrester, and he was enthusing me with his ideas for a Geek Camp.

Apart from that, the night's main point of interest was the questions raised by the semantic web project both by the speaker, Professor Ian Horrocks of Manchester University, and by one person in the audience.

Here comes Microformats…

The headwrecker in question was – will commercial companies pay for the collossal amount of ontological annotation that needs to be done for the semantic web to become widespread? Moreover, will commercial companies – and other backers – want all their information to be available on the open web and to be mashable with web services?

Despite Horrocks' hopeful response, the feeling I was left with was that the Semantic Web is still some way off in the future. But then, a month later, I started hearing about microformats and then I bumped into a few folks in March at SXSW Interactive… hmmm.

To a non-geek like me, is this the sound of dots joining? Can't tell for sure just yet, but it's definitely the sound of microformats landing in my inbox 🙂

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