Courtesy: Flickr/ RambergMediaImages

Attendees at the fast-approaching Semantic Tech & Business Conference in Berlin will find one of the opening conference sessions, The Simple Power of the Link, to provide a good introduction to the value proposition of Linked Data.

Presenter Richard J. Wallis is happy to be on the docket early, so that those in the audience who aren’t coming from a died-in-the-wool semantic web background will get a sense of the big-picture benefits to be realized, and incented enough to explore the possibilities that they won’t be scared off by the more technical discussions later in the program. “Later on, when presenters start talking about graph models and SPARQL endpoint performance, hopefully they can harken back to the simple basic benefits I’ll be discussing,” says Wallis, who will be conducting the session as an independent associate on behalf of Kasabi, the Linked Data marketplace from Talis Systems Ltd. Wallis, currently Kasabi technology evangelist, is launching his own semantic web consultancy this month.

The message he hopes to convey to attendees from both the business and traditional developer communities is the power of the links in Linked Data – of the globally unique identifiers of things and relationships described by URIs (Uniform Resource Identifier) in RDF – for more seamlessly interconnecting data within users’ own domains and with other data in other domains, too. “That is the key power of the Linked Data web, though it is not what people [in the community talk about,” he says.

And for the well-versed semantic web technologists attending, he hopes to make the case for talking less about in-the-weeds tech concepts and more about helping others in the organization understand how the Linked Data approach ultimately will make it easier to build on top of their own work. “By the time you get to the third [Linked Data] project, when people now are thinking openly and not in a restricted database structure way, and they are looking at datasets they’ve already exposed as Linked Data that they can use in Project 3 without having to do any work, that’s where the ROI kicks in,” he says.

Wallis expects to showcase examples of Linked Data sites such as BBC Nature WIldlife to explain the effect of using URIs; that is, that you “end up with a follow-your-nose approach to navigation…I’m trying to dispel the myth that you will create better search, because it’s not search but navigation around something you’ve already found. This won’t destroy Google. But Google is just one side of the coin and we’ve had a one-sided coin for the last decade and a half. Navigation around related things, concepts and subjects is the other half of the coin now starting to appear.”

Enterprises Still Hesitate To Embrace Linked Data

He points out that one problem to tackle is the lack of real Linked Data examples in the enterprise space. Why aren’t such examples more prominent? One reason may be that business leaders still often may interpret Linked Data as necessarily having to be open data. “When they see the phrase Linked Data people automatically put the word ‘open’ between those two. It’s almost subliminal. They don’t realize that the open bit is optional – not all linked data is open and not all open data is linked,” Wallis says. Enterprise Linked Data can be closed and live inside the firewall. “It may link to stuff outside to bring value in through the firewall, but only if you want bits of it to.”

Another misconception, he thinks, is that some believe that if you designate some enterprise data as Linked Open Data, you have to open it all up. And even the fact that Linked Data terms are in general use can create obstacles. “If you talk to a traditional developer about linking data, he may visualize an Apache web server with a copy of MySQL behind it and all the problems that go with it. So he thinks he can do that with tools he has now, so what’s different?” he notes.

Driving to Success

When will Linked Data be a success, in the enterprise and consumer space? When people stop talking about it, he says. “It’s the same way that the Internet is a success because we all talk about the Web now. The real killer is the Internet, the fact that things can connect together. The Web adds tons of value to that, and we talk about that. But we’ve stopped talking about things like TCP IP, and I think Linked Data will be a success when we stop talking about it as a specific thing, and it just becomes part of the underlying infrastructure that people use to solve business problems.”

Kasabi, of course, could help facilitate that result. “We’ve proven the technology on top of the Talis platform that underpins it, and proven that you can build a basic data marketplace that has Linked Data as its secret sauce,” he says.

Six months into its beta launch of Kasabi, Talis now is focusing heavily on turning Kasabi into a success, including redirecting much of its consultancy talent to driving greater scalability of the data marketplace, to grow the community of developers, and to explore other ways to enhance the technology and help organizations add data to it. The business model specifics are still being worked out – a great deal of the data to be stored in Kasabi will be free and open, but not all of it, Wallis notes. (See Kasabi’s post here.)

“The objective is to get it out of beta fairly soon and to start competing in a different way with the general data marketplace providers” that don’t have the Linked Data benefits of facilitating the mixing and linking of data sets, he says.

“Kasabi enables you to use data as raw material so that you can manufacture data products out of it,” he says. “It’s simply adding value.”

Register for Berlin SemTech by Jan. 13 for early bird rates here.