There has been much emphasis on the semantic web during the conference, with an entire track dedicated to the subject and the opening keynote by Dame Wendy Hall, Professor, Computer Science, and Nigel Shadbolt, Professor, Artificial Intelligence and Deputy Head, School of Electronics and Computer Science, both at the University ofo Southampton, specifically addressing The Semantic Web Revolution: Unleashing the World’s Most Valuable Information. Another track concentrated on the socialo web. There seem to be several ways of looking at the semantic web. Some use it as a synonym for Web 3.0, others used linked data and relationship terminology. Regardless of how it is described, it strikes me that the semantic web is data-driven while the social web is people-driven. I’m sure that’s an over-simplification.
But I do find it interesting that, as the speakers in both tracks extol the bright and shiny future of semantic and social web, many delegates are puzzled as to how this really affects their working lives. Two projects I saw demonstrated in the semantic web track, one from the UK government and one from HealthFinland, show the practical applications of the semantic web. Very impressive, particularly the Finnish project. As for the social web, I still hear delegates saying it’s too time consuming, it has little practical value in a professional sense, and that they just don’t see why they should use these tools.
The challenge we face, as information professionals, is to assess semantic and social web tools and technologies, sorting out what works for us and what doesn’t, but to do that assessment fully informed, which is why we go to conferences like Online Information.