Develop + Function + Release = Critical Mass for Semantic Technologies

The 2008 Semantic Technologies conference wrapped up this week and I walked away with a feeling of (yawn) nothing much going on here. True, the conference did have a record-breaking 1000 attendees, and Oracle was a major sponsor, but where was IBM, where was Google? Yahoo was there in strength and had a few sessions. But from what I saw on the registration list, Google only sent a couple of scientists and IBM sent a small handful of researchers. This tells me that the majority of big players are keeping an eye on things but are not committing their front-line grunts to anything, at least not yet, and the conference is going on four years running now. In tech years, that’s like a 100 years.

I don’t think I’m the only one not getting it…

To paraphrase a few conversations I overheard in the hall, “They’re trying to link this language with this technology, but I don’t see why when you can do it easier with something else.”

To paraphrase a lunch conversation, “RDF is way too complicated. Only top scientists and A+ students are really working with it right now. There’s far too steep a learning curve for the average developer to pick this up and run with it.”

Even with a lack of Big Names and a reputation of being complex, the folks who did attend are calling for semantic technologies to reach critical mass. That’s putting the horse behind the cart. The industry needs to show functional applications that are easy to implement. If they can do that, then critical mass will follow. If you have to ask for critical mass, it won’t come, it has to come to you.

I heard a few challenges put out there for companies to start releasing applications, not just in theory, but in functionality. Hopefully, Radar Networks will do that with Twine in the Fall, and maybe MySpace might actually make some real announcements. But the real challenges, as I understand them, is to lower the learning curve and bring front-line developers into the fold.

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