Blog, Semantic Intelligence, Technology

Semantics and the BBC: What we can learn from early adopters

I always enjoy hearing from the BBC on their use of semantics, and appreciate how they are sharing this journey with the rest of the world. With such a visible and well-known medium, they are a great champion for semantic technology, especially in terms of bringing it into the mainstream conversation about all the possibilities that exist with information.

An article on Semanticweb.com this week highlighted the BBC’s Linked Data Platform and how their use of semantics has evolved since their 2010 World Cup project. In it, David Rogers, the Senior Technical Architect for BBC Future Media (News & Knowledge) brought up a topic we hear frequently: simplicity.

I believe Rogers is right when he says that semantic technology “needs to focus more on simplicity” and that “there must be better ways to hype the inevitable complexities of sem-tech so that outside people can pick the technologies up more quickly and more effectively.” However, the situation is different when you compare the consumer world with the enterprise.

The average information consumer takes for granted that their search will bring up all and all of the right possible results, and they are fully unaware of what they are missing. Consumer search engines can therefore easily talk about semantics and “make it simple” by claiming that semantic search is basically providing access to a knowledge graph.

The situation is different inside an enterprise. Missing information or ineffectively managing information is visible and costly. When results are lacking, these types of organizations often know there is a problem and they no longer believe the overly simple explanations legacy vendors provided in the past. Thus they want on one end to understand the complexity and back end work necessary for making content discoverable, and at the same time, they are looking for easy ways to describe this complexity. Both sides will have to make an effort.

Organizations with significant data access needs, as well as any organization who wants to take advantage of the tremendous amount of information available are having to re-think their strategies for not only how to access data, but also how to get value out of it. It may seem overwhelming, but there is a lot that can be learned from some of the technology’s early adopters, such as the oil industry, and organizations like the BBC that immediately understand the potential and benefits of semantics.

On the other end, “us” vendors should focus more on how we communicate. Customers deserve to know how things work, but they also need to clearly understand the strategic value of this perfect machine. I admit that despite the effort there is still a long way to go to achieve this, but it’s probably a critical success factor we can’t ignore.


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