Tim Berners-Lee: The next Web of open, linked data

20 years ago, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. For his next project, he’s building a web for open, linked data that could do for numbers what the Web did for words, pictures, video: unlock our data and reframe the way we use it together.

This is an inspiring talk by Tim that goes to the heart of the work that we are doing at Talis with our Platform and the new generation of products we are building on the platform, such as Talis Aspire and Talis Prism.

    "Data is relationships!"
    "The really important thing about data is that the more  things
       that you have to connect together the more powerful it is."       

A wonderfully simple and succinct way of describing the importance of Linked Data. It’s a great talk and well worth watching.

WWW2008 – Day Four

The day got off to a very slow start I wasn’t feeling very well so I missed the keynote. I made my way to the Dev Track and got there in time for the first session. The opening talk was by Giovanni Tummarello on Semantic Web Pipes which seemed like a great idea. Semantic Web Pipes are analagous to the Yahoo! Pipes framework but differ in that the Yahoo framework uses RSS and the item lists in RSS do not lend themselves to the graph based modeling that RDF has. Giovanni explained that with Semantic Web Pipes you can fetch, mix and process RDF files published on the Web because the output of a Pipe is an HTTP retrievable RDF model, simple pipes can also work as inputs to more complex Pipes.

There were a couple of other memorable talks one by Rajat Agarwalla on Scrabulous, in which he explained how and why they developed the game., and what they experienced having to scale up very rapidly to satisfy the phenomenal demand they had. The one thing Rajat said that resonated deeply with me was (im paraphrasing here because I can’t fully remember it) “if you build something you love you’ll make money eventually, but if you build something just for money then you won’t“. This sentiment echoes what Confucius once said:

"Choose a job that you love and you will never
     have to work a day in your life"
              - Confucious

The other talk that both Rob and I wanted to listen to was by the Sebastian Kruk on MarcOnt Mediation Services. He told us that they had completely rewritten the MarcOnt portal and it should now be available, but it wasn’t clear to me that they were planning to do anything with Marc21 or that they had engaged with any of the other people working in this area, which was disappointing.

There were other talks during the day, after which we all got carted off to the evening Banquet at the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square. Our colleague Jingye had told us how rare it was for anyone to be invited to dine there and that it was a very special venue – and he was right! My only regret was that I didn’t take my camera or phone with me. We had been told earlier in the day that camera’s weren’t allowed and that phones with camera’s might not be allowed either, so we decided to leave them in our hotel rooms. When we got there it was apparent many others had brought theirs with them and no-one was stopping them taking pictures – so I was kicking myself all evening.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee gave his keynote before the banquet and shared with us his hopes for the WWW, many of which seemed to be centered around the Semantic Web and the Linked Data movement, both of which we at Talis are heavily involved in. Tim talked about the need to get better at communicating our ideas and to engage with each other more., about breaking down barriers and get better at communicating with each other across both the physical and social/political borders and barriers that exist. Paul has a done great writeup of the keynote over on ZDNet, so I won’t dwell on it too much – suffice to say that I thought it was great keynote, and quite inspirational in some ways.

After the keynote the banquet and the evenings entertainment got under way. The food was great as were the performances, particularly one by the Peking Opera. We all had a great time. It was a very memorable evening.

Tim Berners-Lee rejects net tracking

Read this interview yesterday on the BBC News Site, in which Sir Tim Berners-Lee voices his concern about the practice of tracking activity on the internet — with particular reference to Phorm, a Company that leading internet service providers are planning to use, which tracks users web activity in order to create personalised advertise. Tim explains some of the dangers of this …

“I want to know if I look up a whole lot of books about some form of cancer that that’s not going to get to my insurance company and I’m going to find my insurance premium is going to go up by 5% because they’ve figured I’m looking at those books,”

and elaborates on this by explaining that as an individual his data and his web history belongs to him …

“It’s mine – you can’t have it. If you want to use it for something, then you have to negotiate with me. I have to agree, I have to understand what I’m getting in return.”

Privacy concerns are never going to go away. The problem though is that most users don’t understand privacy and more often than not social networking sites, like Facebook, have tried to take advantage of this. As was the case recently when Facebook tried to introduce Beacon, another ad system which leveraged users activity. Facebook was subsequently forced to provide a mechanism for users to opt out of this after some pretty damning coverage in the media.

I think it’s a good thing that Tim has made his views public, perhaps others will now stop and reconsider some of their actions … you can watch the interview below