SWIG-UK Semantic Web workshop

Last Friday I attended and spoke at the SWIG-UK Semantic Web workshop in Bristol, organized jointly by Hewlett-Packard Research and the Oxford Semantic Web Interest Group (OxSWIG).

It was a fun day, with a number of interesting speakers. I’d say that the common theme was that the speakers generally were using Semantic Web technologies to solve real world problems, without being too concerned about the “Semantic Web” in abstract. Alberto Reggiori of Asemantics described their “RDF on the inside, Web 2.0 on the outside” approach that they’re using for work around the BBC Memoryshare site, and this pragmatic approach was typical of the other speakers.

A talks that particularly stood out for me was the first talk, from Ian Davis of Talis, talking about their “Platform as a Service” model: providing a hosted RDF datastore with a REST API. It seems very much like a higher level version of Amazon’s S3 – but rather than providing a simple data-bucket API, they’re providing a more sophisticated SPARQL interface, as well as a full text search.

I was also very interested in what Graham Klyne of Oxford University said about their experience in providing access to scientific data on the web. I’ve been working with Graham recently, so I’m generally familiar with their work, but it was good to hear more background. They are using a “Data Webs” approach – putting a SPARQL endpoint on top of their existing ePrints repository, so the data stays in its original location. The key points from his talk were the importance of the loose coupling enabled by their current approach, the advantages of leaving data in place rather than extracting it to a separate store, and that rapid progress is possible

I talked about applying Semantic Web technologies to data integration and visualization, working with Oxford University to help visualize gene expression in fruit flies; and working to combine customer data from several sources including a CRM system and visualize it. My slides are available. In the same session as me, Daniel Lewis spoke about the intersection between the Social Web (i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) and the Semantic Web. Unfortunately, he borrowed my laptop to do so, so I don’t have any detailed notes on his talk.

There were a few discussions on the day about a follow-up meeting. With luck, there might be another meeting, possibly in the Oxford/Milton Keynes area, early in the new year. It also sounds like Talis might be arranging a SWIG meeting for next year.

In any case, the next evening meeting of the Oxford SWIG is on Wednesday 12th December, at the Lamb and Flag in Oxford.