User Experience (UX)

UX Design Considerations for Semantic Technology

Incorporating semantic technologies into applications is more practical than ever, and so the uses – and range of users – have become very broad. As leaders in this industry find ways to incorporate these advances into new products, we have to be as innovative with the human element… the user experience.

How and when do you incorporate user experience design activities into your process? What questions are answered, and what value does it bring?

It helps to reflect on the role of UX through an example where it is second nature. We often use the metaphor of a dinner party to explore the intersections between user research, experience design, data design, and technology development.

Know Who’s Coming (User Research)

Know Who's ComingA successful dinner party is one that cares about the people who are there, and plans an experience that meets and exceeds their expectations. Are the people compatible socially? Do you know their interests and concerns? Have you learned if they have any allergies or diet preferences, so you don’t give them something they find unpleasant or harmful?

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Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2013

Global Accessibility Awareness Day logoToday is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (#GAAD), and there are programs taking place all around the world from Bangalore, India to Washington, DC. The purpose of the day is to get people talking, thinking and learning about digital accessibility and users with different disabilities.

GAAD is the brainchild of Joe Devon, a Los Angeles based technologist and entrepreneur. Devon says, “The target audience of GAAD is the design, development, usability, and related communities who build, shape, fund and influence technology and its use. While people may be interested in the topic of making technology accessible and usable by persons with disabilities, the reality is that they often do not know how or where to start. Awareness comes first.”

Last year, I wrote a piece about the inaugural Global Accessibility Awareness Day (#GAAD), and the strong connections between Semantic Web and Assistive Technology. Or rather, I posited that there were connections that were inherent, but not being maximized, or even explored.

One year later, I’m very pleased to report that things are progressing! There are now formal efforts to connect Semantic and Assistive Technologies.

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With MarkLogic Search Technology, Factiva Enables Standardized Search And Improved Experiences Across Dow Jones Digital Network,

Dow Jones & Company’s Factiva information service has long been distinguished by the semantic tools it applies to its content to surface relevant search information. Last week the company announced what it says is one of the most significant investments it’s made in the Factiva product suite, licensing new search technology from MarkLogic Corp.

The arrangement is positioned as providing standardized search technology across the Dow Jones digital network, including Factiva, WSJ.com and Dow Jones Financial Services products. To be specific, the investment in one underlying search technology that will be used by the company’s multiple businesses and products means that, “one powerful, unified search platform will service the search needs of our consumer and enterprise customers around the world,” says Georgene Huang, head of Factiva. “Any improvements or customizations we build atop this infrastructure will be scalable and efficiently accessible to all.” That will allow better and easier synergies between the development, products and the content, she says.

The new search technology, Huang says, complements its continuing investment in Factiva’s core metadata and taxonomy strengths in many ways.

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The Semantic Link – September, 2012

Paul Miller, Bernadette Hyland, Ivan Herman, Eric Hoffer, Andraz Tori, Peter Brown, Christine Connors, Eric Franzon

On Friday, September 15, a group of Semantic Technology thought leaders from around the globe met with their host and colleague, Paul Miller, for the latest installment of the Semantic Link, a monthly podcast covering the world of Semantic Technologies. This episode includes a discussion about Big Data and Semantics, as well as some discussion of general trends in the Semantic Technology space.
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Explore #SemTechBiz San Francisco on FluidOps IWB

Last week, we published Under the Hood: A Closer Look at Information WorkBench, an interview with Peter Haase conducted by Kristen Milhollin as part of her series on Dynamic Semantic Publishing.

We are pleased to announce that FluidOps has created a viewer for the SemTechBiz conference program in Information Workbench.  The viewer is a good example of a faceted, semantic viewer for the conference program data, including map, timeline, and graph views, and tying in data from disparate sources such as Facebook, Twitter, and the conference program itself.

Screen Shot of SemTechBiz 2012 - San Francisco as seen in FluidOps Information Workbench.

You can view this event browser here:
http://conference-explorer.fluidops.net/resource/semtech:semtech-SF-2012

Of course, we have the conference agenda-at-a-glance here, and will make the program available to conference attendees via the Guidebook app for mobile devices, but this is an interesting example of Semantic Technology at work in a human-friendly user interface.

Thanks to Peter Haase and the FluidOps team for this work!

Google’s Knowledge Graph Is No Ugly Duckling

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.

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Web Developers Can Now Easily “Play” with RDFa

Kids playingYesterday, we announced RDFa.info, a new site devoted to helping developers add RDFa (Resource Description Framework-in-attributes) to HTML.

Building on that work, the team behind RDFa.info is announcing today the release of “PLAY,” a live RDFa editor and visualization tool. This release marks a significant step in providing tools for web developers that are easy to use, even for those unaccustomed to working with RDFa.

“Play” is an effort that serves several purposes. It is an authoring environment and markup debugger for RDFa that also serves as a teaching and education tool for Web Developers. As Alex Milowski, one of the core RDFa.info team, said, “It can be used for purposes of experimentation, documentation (e.g. crafting an example that produces certain triples), and testing. If you want to know what markup will produce what kind of properties (triples), this tool is going to be great for understanding how you should be structuring your own data.”

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Global Accessibility Awareness Day is Today – but where’s the Sem Tech?

Global Accessibility Awareness Day LogoToday, May 9, 2012 is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (#GAAD). What started with a simple blog-post by Los Angeles Web Developer, Joe Devon, has grown to include events around the world designed to increase awareness about web accessibility issues. To read more about the day and these various activities, see the official GAAD Website and Facebook page.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Today, about 50 million Americans, or 1 in 5 people, are living with at least one disability, and most Americans will experience a disability some time during the course of their lives.” In other parts of the world, this number may be significantly higher.

In the interest of full disclosure, Joe Devon is a personal friend of mine, and I must admit that if he were not, I likely wouldn’t have seen his blog post or explored the issues of accessibility as deeply as I have in recent weeks. But I have been exploring, and I’ve been surprised at what I’ve found. In my opinion, Semantic Technology and Assistive Technology are a natural fit for one another, but there seems to be very little discussion or work around the intersection of the two. I have looked, but have not found much collaboration between the two communities. I have also found few individuals who possess much knowledge about both Semantic Tech and Assistive Tech. Of course, if I’ve missed something, please let me know in the comments!

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Burying complexity for the sake of good user experience

buried cable warning“There’s our SPARQL endpoint.” Or “Just view the page in Tabulator.” I have lost count of the number of times that either of these have been the only response to an innocent request to see what some new piece of semantic wizardry can do. For a developer seeking to integrate one semantics-rich data set with another, SPARQL may very well be the tool for the job. And for someone (probably a developer, again) who wants to track the way that data is pulled together to build a page, Tabulator has a lot going for it. But as a shop window for the power of semantics? As a demonstration of what’s possible? Seriously, is it possible to pick worse ways to show off to the world?

In January’s episode of the Semantic Link, we were joined by serial entrepreneur Nova Spivack (perhaps best known to readers as the Founder and CEO of Twine) for a discussion about the importance of delivering a good user experience. In the time available, we only scratched the surface, and I’m sure it’s a topic to which we’ll return. Read more

Nova Spivack joins the Semantic Link to discuss the user’s experience of semantic technologies

…and we want to hear from you.

Photos of our regular panelists.

After December’s episode of the Semantic Link, we asked for your thoughts on both the topics we should cover, and the ways in which you would like to interact with the podcast. You spoke, very clearly asking for an opportunity to pose questions for the team to answer during recordings. This is that opportunity.

Photo of Nova SpivackJanuary’s episode of the show will be recorded this Friday, 13 January, and we’re joined by a guest with much to contribute. I’m sure he needs no introduction for most of you. Nova Spivack was behind semantic technology startup Twine, and has subsequently turned his hand to supporting a range of semantically relevant offerings such as Bottlenose (our coverage) and StreamGlider (our coverage).

Drawing upon some of Nova’s experiences, and digging further into questions that we have touched upon before, we’re going to take a look at the following topic this month:

Is it important to hide semantic smarts behind a simple user experience/interface? If not, why not? If so, how are we beginning to see that manifested?

Siri‘s obviously one example that we’ve discussed before, but there have been other examples recently that also attempt to hide significant power behind UI simplicity. Read more

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