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Semantics (and Summer Solstice…) in San Francisco

This year’s edition of the Semantic Technology conference has the clear objective to prove, to a still partially skeptical market, that semantic technologies and the broader semantic web are for real, and that they can significantly contribute to create business value to organizations in many different industries. Just by looking at the comprehensive agenda, organized very smartly in tracks covering specific topics and areas of applications, I was pleased to realize that speeches and panels, instead of focusing on standard and technical aspects like in past years, will cover concrete business applications that are easy to understand, even for people who have never written a line of code.

Considering these points, and last but not least, the fact that the event is in San Francisco (apologies to San Jose…), I am really looking forward to the conference to start, also because the event represents a unique opportunity to meet entrepreneurs, analysts and investors to understand whether their mood and vision on the future of the sector has changed after the difficult recession of the last 18 months. Among the long list of presentations, I am particularly interested in the following:

  • David Siegel (keynote scheduled for Wednesday at 8.30), the author of what I believe is the most enlighting book (titled “Pull”) on the potential of the Semantic Web. If you haven’t read the book yet, I really would suggest that you buy it because you won’t be able to find any other books or papers that can present a list of clear, concrete, and comprehensible case studies and thoughts on the revolution that is going to impact not only the way of doing business in many sectors but also our normal way of living. David Siegel thinks, and I agree with him on many points, that this big change is almost here and will be triggered by the more effective and intelligent way to handle the information that surrounds us enabled by Semantic Technologies.
  • David Recordon, product manager of Facebook’s open graph, will instead introduce, hopefully without too much emphasis and exaggeration, the practical and concrete potential of a tool that could be at the core of a new wave of really innovative applications, if we consider, of course, only the positive aspects of this not so hidden control on our online experience. The possibility to leverage the willingness of consumers to share their preference to their network of friends has, I believe, a strong potential to improve the online and offline experience of individuals. What I hope is that this presentation will go beyond the propaganda of claiming that Facebook has now replaced Google as the real reference point of the Internet, and communicate to the audience the vision and the concrete value that Facebook open graph can bring to developers and entrepreneurs in the industry.
  • Finally, I think that the whole track of presentations on marketing and advertising will be particularly interesting, mainly because I think that these are the areas that will probably be impacted first by a mass adoption of semantic technologies. (Disclosure: Expert System will present twice, once covering semantic advertising and a second time covering mobile.)

Personally, I will make a speech on Wednesday at 10.15 inside a panel dedicated to the application of semantic technologies to publishing. I find fascinating, and at the same time particularly confusing, the debate in this sector. On one side, you have the traditional players that are under a great deal of pressure to try to retake a leadership position, and financial profitability, after having allowed Google to almost destroy their business model and weaken significantly their competitive position. On the other side, you have the new online only players, like the Huffington Post, that are forced by their somehow unexpected success to continue to innovate to ensure they can continue to offer a unique a difference experience to their readers. Both sides see semantic technologies as strategic because these technologies, and the applications deriving from them, can help them to increase revenue by improving the user experience and providing a more effective way to serve advertising, and to reduce costs by automating the work of content creators in order to let them focus on the most valuable part of their job (creating content) instead of wasting time in low value activities like manually tagging the content to make it easier to search and access by the user.

If you are in San Francisco this week, don’t forget to visit Expert System’s booth (#207) or to follow us on this blog or on twitter @scagliarini and @brookeaker.


Author: Luca Scagliarini

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