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When Mark Finnern approached me to do a BOF in San Diego I asked him what topic he had in mind for me. He responded that I should simply do something I feel passionate about. So I decided to go out on a limb and talk about the connections of disparate technologies that I see leading to the inevitable rise of the semantic web. Some things you can’t know, you have to feel them. When it comes to what’s next in software I think this is the path many of choose to follow. Sure, you can do market analysis and research on emerging trends and go after them, but how did you learn what to look for to start with? Its that hunch. That gut feeling. That’s why I’ve chosen this as my topic.

There are a lot of things happening today on the web. And I like a lot of us think that something big is just around the corner. To some of us that next thing is the semantic web. Others may dispute that, but in my mind the evidence is stacked against them. Everywhere I turn I see evidence of it. What my BOF is going to cover is these observations. There will be no power point slides. Instead I’m going to simply tell you the story of how I see this using nothing more than my trusty web browser to provide examples as needed. I want this to be as interactive as possible. If you have questions or observations of your own please share them. I want this to be a discussion. I know it’s going to be fun.

To give you an idea of how this is going to go consider the following.

The semantic web contains the idea of a web that is accessible to autonomous machine agents. One of the technical underpinnings of the semantic web is a XML data format called RDF. I’m sure you’re aware (since you’re here) of the rise of blogs. Did you know that there is a literal sea of RDF based data out there underneath these? While RSS (the most common syndication format out there) is not necessarily RDF based, there is one variant (1.0) that is. Lots of blogs, maybe even most, out there use a license provided by theCreative Commons that is provided in an RDF format. The question is have we seen agents making use of these?


Recently FeedBurner, a service that creates RSS/ATOM feeds from existing feeds including the capability to splice multiple feeds together began offering the capability to pass through Creative Commons licenses associated with the originating feed or provide one defined by the user. This is a big deal as more commercial uses of blog feeds began to appear. There are a lot of bloggers out there, myself included, who believe in a share alike license but do not want to see commercial derivatives of our content. FeedBurner is now able to pass that licensing information along when they generate a feed. With all of the IP concerns around content these days I think this is a great success story and a big deal.

Now how about the intersection of all of this with REST and web services? Where does social software come into this? Well for starters how do you think these agents are going to communicate with resources on the web? What is a blog if not social in nature? I have more examples and we will discuss them at the BOF. I also fully intend to put a human face on this by talking about some of the people behind this technology (including amusing anecdotes from my encounters with some of them). I have even created a page for this BOF on the TechEd wiki which I will use to link to anything I talk about during the session so you don’t have to write down a single URL during the discussion. It is a wiki, so if you think I’m missing anything add it before the BOF tomorrow. The BOF will be in theatre D from 6:30 to 7:30pm.

An hour is only enough time to just scratch the surface of this, so this is going to be fast paced and I doubt we’ll get to everything. We will definitely get into the walled garden issues and the meta data vs. meta crap arguments. When the session is over we can retire to the bar and argue whether or not enabling the semantic web is going to cause the singularity or not (think SkyNet).

And yes I will be moblogging as soon as I land in San Diego tomorrow morning. I’ll collect some pictures intermittently here, or you can search flickr for the tag sapteched which I encourage everyone there to use.

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