Who’s doing it?

So I’m researching an article on semantic technologies for web publishers, for which I’ll probably be paid about one percent of my usual consulting rate. But, the perks can’t be beat – I get to talk to really cool people who want to spend time explaining their stuff.
Right now I’m trying to find out who exactly is using semantic technologies outside of the semweb world. I want to find a bureaucrat, a small business owner, a non-software engineer, who can tell me what is great about some semantic-enabled application. Or at least one concrete benefit that is there today.

The first few conversations I had were not so promising. I talked to Marwan Sabbouh at the MITRE corporation, a large nonprofit that develops a lot of new technologies for government consumers. Marwan told me that as principal investigator his job was to ‘ensure deployment’ of semantic technologies – but after 7 years of going to customers and telling them the benefits, and getting a clear response of ‘no’, he is now focusing on finding the missing piece that would change that answer to a ‘yes’. It seems that the overhead of adopting RDF and creating domain-specific ontologies was too high, even though many clients were already using XML schemas. So Marwan is working on a prototype tool to convert XML schemas to full-fledged ontologies.

Hm. Next, I talked to Michel Biezunski, who is indeed implementing topic maps for the IRS – so that is a hit, though not the one I was first looking for. More on Topicmaps later – I still have to read up on them. Michel pointed me to Duane Degler who has done some consulting for the social security administration. Duane is not a techno-geek but gave me some pretty insightful thoughts on how semantic stuff is needed as social networks scale – most of that I have to save for my article. But he’s not doing semweb work now, because his clients don’t want it – they want traditional websites.

I did hear there is a lot going on inside the military but I can’t quote anyone on that.

Ok. So. The search goes on. Eric Neimann, who works in the MIT Simile project, implied there are just too many applications out there to list, and gave me a few to check up on. I’m gonna do that, and will report back here what I find out. If you have a semantic application happening outside academic space, tell me and maybe I can write you up – but send it before Mar 15! I don’t know if this site lets folks contact me directly, but you can do it anyway at http://webglimpse.net/contact.php

Well, fun stuff. Will see where this next week takes me…

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