WWW2008 – Day Three

The full WWW2008 Conference got under way yesterday with a Opening Ceremony that involved music and dancing and fancy lights. There were some introductions from key dignatories, before the Plenary Keynote by Google’s Dr Kai-Fu Lee. He talked about Cloud Computing and explained how it liberates the user from having to remember where data is, how it enables the user to access information from anywhere, and how cloud computing makes services faster and more powerful by leveraging what could be an infinite amount of information and massively scalable infrastructure. He explained at a high level how Google uses thousands of small cheap servers rather than fewer large expensive servers in order to create a massive network of commodity servers that form its cloud, he explained how replication works and how every piece of information is replicated to at least three different servers in this cloud. we also learned a little about how Google’s Translate service works and saw some examples of how and why its better than many of the alternatives out there.

After the keynote I went to to the Panel discussion on The Future of Online Social Interactions: What to Expect in 2020. The discussion was about how Online social interactions will evolve in the next decade – I didn’t get a lot out of this discussion it was hard take bits of it seriously, I found the thought that one might review someones rating, before allowing them to come over and sleep on one’s couch just a little far fetched … or am I just too cynical?

After lunch I attended the W3C Track, in which Tom would be giving his presentation on Linking Open Data. Tom presented this with Chris Bizer and they both did a great job conveying both the importance of opening up data and then linking data. Following Tom’s talk Raphael Troncy gave a short presentation on Semantic Multimedia, most of which I had already seen earlier in the week during his tutorial session on the same subject, nevertheless it was a good presentation. The final talk in the session was given by Huajun Chen on Semantic Web Development in China. This was a really useful talk that gave us an insight and a sense of how much Semantic Web research is going on in China – which was encouraging to hear and also very impressive.

Following the afternoon break I went to the Panel Discussion on WWW in China. This proved to be very useful, not only did we get a sense of the kind of WWW research going on in China we get a very real sense of how much academics from the various universities represented by the panelists want to engage with their colleagues outside of China to further their research. Some of the specific research discussed included Spam Filtering, Search Clustering, Modelling and Mining the emergent web etc. After the talk I got a chance to talk briefly with one of the panelists, Professor Xiaoming Li (pictured), from Peking University and suggested to him that the data he and his colleagues where capturing and mining from the web might be ideally suited to being modelled in RDF and Linked to other sources which he seemed to think was an interesting idea. I offered our help which he seemed to welcome 🙂

Since this was the final session of the day we headed back to the hotel. Rob suggested that he wanted to skip going to the evening Reception in favour of exploring Beijing on foot and taking some pictures. Chris and Paul decided that they wanted to go to the reception and meet up with Tom ( and make sure he came out with us for a bite to eat 😉 ) so I decided to go on walkabout with Rob. Turned out to be a great decision – I haven’t had so much fun in ages.

I don’t know how far we walked but we were walking for a couple of hours, we explored the area around the new National Stadium, and whilst it is still a building site no one said anything to us in fact everyone was really polite and very welcoming. I have traveled a great deal in my life and it’s very rare that I’m out and about anywhere and don’t feel that I need to be alert in fact I’m usually always aware of my safety. Yet, yesterday, as we wandered around with our Camera’s in our hands, snapping pictures of anything and everything at dusk and into the night, I never once felt unsafe or felt the slightest bit of anxiety – I loved that. I haven’t had so much fun in very long time. I also learned a lot about my buddy Rob, he was behaving like a school kid at times, climbing up onto pallets of bricks, or onto a crane, to take pictures, willing to walk to anyone and say hello, At one point late into the evening we stopped near the stadium and Rob was trying to ask a bunch of young police officers if they could give him permission to get onto something higher to take a picture. Obviously they didn’t understand english and he doesn’t speak a word of Chinese and yet we were all laughing as they tried to translate what he was saying.
It was good to see him laughing so much …sometimes I think Rob thinks too much about things, we are both very similar in that respect, we can become hugely introspective … but I know we all need to let our hair down from time to time and just have fun … and we did! As some of the pictures show.

Later in the evening Paul, Chris, Tom, Denny and Gloria met up with the two of us and we all headed to a restaurant that Rob and I had passed on our walk that we thought looked nice, it turned out to be a wonderful place and we all had a wonderful meal, before heading back to the hotel. Rob and I did walk back over to the Stadium to take some more pictures and this is when he got permission to climb up onto one of the cranes on the building site to take a few pictures.

All in all I had a great time at the conference yesterday and one of the most memorable evenings I have had in a very long time exploring a strange new city with a great friend.

I have just uploaded just under 200 more pictures to my flickr account here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kiyanwang/