Report of Conference on Business Information 2008

Business Information Systems conference logoI spent the beginning of the past week in Innsbruck for the 11th International Conference on Business Information Systems.
My presentation went well but I’ll post about it later. Overall the conference was interesting and worth the trip.
Many talks were mentioning Semantic Web. What extremely positively surprised me was that the approach to Semantic Web was very very pragmatic in all the presentations, a sort of Pragmatic Web or, as I prefer, a lowercase semantic web.
The peaks of the conference were a great keynote speech by Fabio Ciravegna titled “Challenges and Methodologies for Acquiring and Sharing Knowledge in Large Distributed Environments”. He presented the approach of his group at the University of Sheffield on knowledge capture, which is very very pragmatic and just makes sense. Among others, he reported how noting that what workers in a big company (Rolls-Royce) were doing was creating word and excel forms and passing them around via email, they decided to provide a simple web interface for creating forms. This simple change allowed a lot of interesting services on top of it, services which use semantics when it adds value and not for the sake of it. I cannot resume his very interesting many points here but you might want to check his slides (from a different presentation) at around page 71 or just his Web page with a list of the many projects in which semantics is used in a pragmatic and reasonable and adding value way.
Another peak was a great tutorial by Emanuele Dalla Valle titled “RSWA 2008 – Realizing a Semantic Web Application”. He explained how to develop step-by-step a Semantic Web application that expects a music style as an input; retrieves data from online music archives and event databases; merges them and let the users explore events related to artists that practice the required style. He challenged the Semantic Web technologies on the Web 2.0 ground of realizing a mash-up that reuses, transforms and combines existing data taken from the open Web (namely MusicBrainz, MusicMoz and EVDB). Again a clever use of semantics when semantics can add some value and a clear explanation.
I suggested him to record this tutorial next time and put the video somewhere on the Web because it is really a great example (the first I’ve seen) in which Semantic Web really add value over more simple way of developing applications (Web2.0). For now you can just check his slides (released under a Creative Commons license). And also check the Semantic Web Activities group at Cefriel which has many interesting projects and ideas.
And there were few other peaks: Couchsurfing is always a great experience which never ceases to amaze me. We were 6 people (Khrista and Sarah, 2 canadian girls, Bruno, a dutch guy which is spending one year traveling around Europe , see, myself, and Manuel and Yvonne, our 2 lovely hosts) sleeping in a small house with mattresses everywhere.
And I started twittering thanks to the push by Andre’ Passant at the conference, who also helped me to make my foaf file to remain always up to date by automatically including the results of export of facebook, flickr and other web2.0 services. However for now the foafing didn’t really work out though.
And I also started geocaching thanks to jailway: after the conference dinner we found my first cache near the Golden Roof.
Summaryzing: lowercasesemanticwebbing, couchsurfing, geocaching, twittering, foafing, and some more *ing …

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