Find the needle in the haystack that is semantic web


Find the needle in the haystack that is semantic webSpending time at the IKS Paris Workshop this week, what strikes me first and foremost is the sheer distance; the distance between the skilled state-of-the-art developers and vendors, working with semantic web and the absent practitioner.

One thing is bringing semantic web to web content management. Another more decisive distance that needs to be covered is the one between the smart people at the IKS sponsored projects and the end user.
Today, the distance is still vast.

The use of semantic web is still far from reaching its full potential. To achieve that and make the phenomenon a truly successful one, the end user needs to enter into the equation and become an integral part of the mix.

How can the end user make the use of semantic web viable?

Inspired by the sessions at the IKS workshop, here are 5 possible ways to bridge the gap between technology and the end user. All to the benefit of you – the practitioner.

  1. Develop a business case
    Make it a business case that your management can understand and support. You need to show that using semantic web technology can make a difference for your business.
  2. Can you use it?
    Can you use the user interface (UI)? Don’t accept the developer’s view on the product, but insist on your own user experience.
  3. Stick to the important things
    Insist that semantic search and web should ultimately be designed for your organisation; its people and their tasks.
  4. Speak human
    People working with the semantic web speak about technology in an often obscure terminology instead of talking about user stories. You should insist that they speak your language.
  5. Think user tasks
    Semantic-enabled offerings can either be evaluated from a pure technology innovation point of view or from an end user benefits perspective. Insist on not talking technology but about user tasks. Which tasks are you going to solve?

IKS stands for Interactive Knowledge Stack and is an open source community, whose projects are focused on building an open and flexible technology platform for semantically enhanced Content Management Systems (CMS). John Pereira is managing the community and working at Salzburg Research in Austria.

IKS is co-funded by the European Union with €6.58m.

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One thought on “Find the needle in the haystack that is semantic web”

  1. Doing things with a computer needs to be more like driving a car. Almost nobody understands how a modern engine works, but even your grandmother can drive.

    The business software market needs to be more like the car market.

    Cars are complicated. It takes skilled engineers to build cars. Today cars are great because the car market is highly competitive and only allows great car makers to survive.

    That and time. The car was invented almost 100 years ago.

    This is obviously not the case with business software.

    The desktop computer is a relatively recent invention, and business software is often targeted at small markets. This means software companies can’t get big enough to support the kind of skills needed to build great products.

    Alas, the business software market needs time. And it needs to be international and highly competitive. Then maybe someday working with a computer will be as easy as driving a car.

    Until this happens, businesses need to understand the current state of business software and work around it:

    1. Don’t buy software you don’t really need or understand. Even if it is free.

    2. Don’t use poor software. If software isn’t extremely good, your employees won’t know how to use it. They will get frustrated, and it will be expensive to train them to use poor software.

    3. Don’t buy software that was tailored to your unique needs. Unless you are a very large corporation, tailored software will almost certainly be bad software. Your unique needs can’t support companies big enough to build great products. If you need software, choose a product that was developed for a large market. Then structure your workflow around how the software works.

    4. You can’t solve everything with software. Sometimes you need to settle with doing less.

    The distance between software developers and end users will shorten. With time, in an international, competitive market that produces standardized products for large markets.

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