Early in 2011, I wrote a piece here on SemanticWeb.com which explored the relationship between Semantic Technologies and super-computing’s venerable rock star, Cray. Then, earlier this year, Cray spun out a new division to focus upon exploring massive graph databases; something which should resonate with the semantic technology community. The new division — YarcData — differentiates itself quite clearly from its parent, leading with a data-led proposition and typically operating at quite a different pricepoint to its eye-wateringly expensive parent.
I sat down with YarcData President Arvind Parthasarathi during the Semantic Technology & Business Conference in San Francisco, to get an update on YarcData and to hear why the company is investing $100,000 in prizes for a new ‘Big Data Graph Analytics Challenge.’ Read more
I’m a fan of the waterfowl model of semantic technology. Clever semantics — as well as ‘advanced’ search boxes, arcane query syntax, and consumer interfaces that require user training — can paddle away as frantically as they like, but only while hidden well below the waterline. SPARQL, SKOS and SQL really shouldn’t be visible to most users of a web site. Ontologies and XML are enabling technologies, not user interface features.
With this week’s unveiling of the Knowledge Graph, Google has taken another step toward realising the potential of their Metaweb acquisition. The company has also clearly demonstrated its continued enthusiasm for delivering additional user value without requiring changes in user behaviour (well, except that those of us outside the US have to remember to use google.com and not our local version, if we want to try this out).
For those who don’t remember, Metaweb was one of those companies that got people excited about the potential for semantic technologies to hit the big time. Founded way back in 2005, Metaweb attracted almost $60Million in investment for their “open, shared database of the world’s knowledge” (Freebase) before disappearing inside Google in 2010.
Remember the days before Wikipedia had all the answers? We looked things up in libraries, referring to shelf-filling encyclopaedias. We bought CD-ROMs (remember them?) full of facts and pictures and video clips. We asked people. Sometimes, school home work actually required some work more strenuous than a cut and paste. We went about our business without remembering that New Coke briefly entered our lives on this day in 1985.
Wikipedia is far from perfect, and some of the concern around its role in a wider dumbing down of thought and argument may be justified. But, despite that, it’s a remarkable achievement and a wonderful resource. Those who argued that it would never work have clearly been proven wrong. Carefully maintained processes and the core principle of the neutral point of view mostly serve contributors well.
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