Practical use for semantics

We spend a great deal of time ourselves online trying to find information, comparing and contrasting data from different web sites.  A number of us are well used to using sites such as to assist in checking out travel options.

Read an interesting piece on  For now offering comparison shopping re electronic goods and apartment rental (in US).

Authors claim to be using the power of their semantic search engine to extract the relevant data from multiple sites to present detailed product purchasing options and comparisons.  In presenting the apartment data they include very good mashups to present the locations.  In the case of electronic goods still seems to me that there is a lot of scope for variation in the additional items e.g. additional memory for a camera.  However, even allowing for this, certainly shows the power of applications which can process data presented on web sites – and that is a basic objective for web 3.0/ semantic web.

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Interesting list of potential application for semantically aware applications

This month’s Cutter report includes a piece by Mitchell Ummel as guest editor.  He suggests a number of areas ripe for use of semantically aware applications:

  • Business intelligence (BI)
  • Data mining (across structured and unstructured
    data stores
  • E-discovery (across centralized and distributed
    data stores)
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) systems,
    leveraging the entirety of the social networking fabric
  • Dynamic business rules (inference engine)
  • Ontology-based security/trust credentialing,
    private social networks, and public referral/viral
    product marketing using FOAF (Friend of a Friend),
    POWDER (Protocol for Web Description Resource),
    and other maturing standards
  • Extract, transform, load (ETL) services (RDF-izers),
    which automatically transform and publish enterprise
    data into private and/or public ontological stores
  • Embedded control, telemetry, and data acquisition
    systems relating to devices, equipment, and sensors,
    including (but not limited to) enablement of smart
    grid3 energy management systems

Driving success of semantic web

Printing press from 1811, photographed in Muni...
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Read an interesting survey re traction around the semantic web.  Listed a number of barriers to adoption of semantic web:

  1. organisational culture
  2. the complexity of the technology
  3. a general lack of experts
  4. a lack of success stories
  5. a lack in quality of available software and
  6. the problem to quantify the benefits

I thought it would be interesting to consider each of thse in some more detail in a series of postings – designed to assist in promoting a greater understanding of semantic web and its potential use.  Would welcome any feedback/ ideas on this subject.

The referenced survey targeted a fairly technical, web savy, group, across Europe.  Am keen to engage more directly with business poeple – amongst many of whom I am not sure there is a clear understanding of, or interest in, the semantic web.

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Barriers to the semantic web

Read an interesting survey re traction around the semantic web.  Listed a number of barriers to adoption of semantic web:

organisational culture,

the complexity of the technology, a general lack of experts and

a lack of success stories are the biggest obstacles to the application of Semantic Web technologies.

On the contrary research-oriented participants believe that the lack of success stories, a gerenal lack of experts,

a lack in quality of available software and

the problem to quantify the benefits

Where is my university? Where does it need to be?

:Cricket ground at Trinity College Dublin
Image via Wikipedia

I was lucky enough to spend four great years in Trinity College Dublin – way back when (1980-1984) – studying for an engineering degree.  A combination of study, growing up, socialising, forming many friendships which survive to now, playing lots of sport.

We did not have lap tops, we did not have mobile phones, we did not have social networks.

In truth much of what we were taught as undergraduates was as well, if not better covered, in various text books.  There were limited opportunities for practicals, tutorials, projects, opportunities to interact with lecturers and/or Phd dtudents.  These opportunities were actually the potential added value over and above the text books.

As I work and live in a web 2.0 and, increasingly, a web 3.0 world I wonder how my children will participate in 3rd level education – should they choose to do so.

The real opportunity I see for current and future undergraduates is collaboration.   It seems to me that undergraduates attending TCD should be involved in online collaboration with undergraduates and people in industry – based across the world.  The technology allows for this.  The challenge is for the universities to become more open and collaborative.

An interesting piece this week by Kevin Maney in Business Week: Next, An internet revolution in higher education. Kevin, with a slightly different perspective, seems to point to a lot of the same ideas and challenges for third level insitutions.

I think the opportunities in education and ‘global development’ for young people now are greater than ever.  I hope that universities can continue to provide a great experience to be shared by people (predominantly young – but with much more integration with ‘mature’ students) – while exploiting the news technologies to broaden the horizons for all.

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Managing your online research

An example of both Zotero and OpenURL referrer...
Image via Wikipedia

I expect I am no different to millions of users out there on the web conducting my own research & learning.  I have many avenues for reaearch:

  • meet with experts,
  • read books,
  • participate in various groups (e.g. through linkedindin, facebook, etc.),
  • follow certain users (twitter),
  • subscribe to various blogs,
  • subscibe to somesome sites for paid content,
  • read various journals online,
  • aggregate/ read various blogs (via google),
  • use search engines, access wikipedia, etc.

I publish various thoughts/ ideas ( and engage in dialog arising from feedback.

Initially I was probably a hoarder – a modern day ‘newspaper cuttings’ man.  Not surprising really – would have grown up in an environment where people maintained files of newspaper cuttings (when this service was not available ubiquitously and cheaply) – in fact probably goes back to my own days as a kid when we used to keep albums of photos and newspaper articles about our favourite football team.

Then you realise you do not need to hoard – generally the ‘links’ suffice.  And there are many products to assist in this e.g. and

However I have struggled with the tagging and the number of related and interrelated fields in which I am directly interested e.g. cloud computing, web 2.0, web 3.0, venture capital, etc.  I also struggled with the note taking etc. related to specific articles I had read.

Recently I was introduced to  To quote the site: ‘Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. It lives right where you do your work—in the web browser itself.’

Have not yet come  to any final conclusions.  But is it certainly a stepup for me – in supporting my research and writing activities.  May not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ – for instance I have not thought through implications for some of my collaborative activities.

I would not claim to be any authority on bibliography type thinking – nor on the merits of zotero versus any other products (free or paid) in the space.  But for anyone like me, who may not have tried any such product to date, would strongly recommend taking a look.

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