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Semantic Tech in 2011: The Year's Misses and Missteps

By   /  December 26, 2011  /  No Comments

Courtesy: Flickr/ myaimistrue

We recently rounded up some thought leaders’ perspectives on the big semantic trends of 2011 – most (if not all) of them positive. Here’s some further perspective about where hopes and expectations fell a little short of reality:

  • The biggest lost possibility was not rethinking the whole RDF stack. Instead of actually reducing complexity, it seems the direction is hiding complexity. This makes its proposition unattractive for web developers. — Andraž Tori, Founder and Director, Zemanta

  • Clearly we have had a problem with the pace and target of R&D relative to adoption in both the private and public sectors, due in no small part to economic conflicts in each. What is the incentive for incumbent IT giants to adopt technology that reduces lock-in and their power over customers? Similarly, what is the incentive for academia to provide easy to use tools that reduce the need for their consulting services, or the need to hire post docs? We can’t overcome these issues without first recognizing that they exist and seek pragmatic solutions that are hopefully balanced. – Mark Montgomery, founder and CEO, Kyield


  • I haven’t noticed the splitting of OWL into more tractable profiles (EL, QL, and RL) resulting in increased adoption of OWL. – Bob DuCharme, solutions architect, TopQuadrant


  • I actually don’t know that semantic web has moved that far. The intrinsic complexity of agreeing on ontological definitions has held back adoption being much more broad, or it being more than a supporting technology for inference in siloed data sets. [As for missteps], I think that we’ve had a big investment in “analytics” that is typed to visualization and ontologies and that’s lead to a lot of hype and a lot of weakness once you get beyond structured data. I also think that the confusion of very simple routines (like word counting) on unstructured data with analytics has confused the market and set incorrect expectations. This is a key point in the development of a next wave of software and it’s key we don’t overhype, oversimplify, or mislead the buyers and early adopters with promises just to get market share. I worry that’s happening with some vendors and am hoping that the buyers won’t end up with the short end of the stick before real solutions work and are in the market. –– Tim Estes, CEO, Digital Reasoning


  • Measuring sentiment analytics hasn’t been cracked quite yet. For example, if one were to see “Obama condemns terrorism” on Twitter, it might typically be noted as a Tweet with negative sentiment. In reality, however, is that a negative Tweet if one were measuring sentiment for Obama? No it isn’t. The greatest success might be in the financial markets—i.e. examining the market direction (up and down). It is typically very easy to infer positive or negative sentiment from these analytics. – Greg Merkle, VP of Product Strategy & Design, Dow Jones


  • Big Data cast a big shadow. Big Data created by the explosion in social media users is driving the need for social analytics (including text analytics). Comments from the 800M users on Facebook cross large organizations on a daily basis, not to mention the 230M+ tweets sent every day, with over 20 percent of these tweets concerning products and services. Text analytics has been around for years, but this explosion of Big Data is forcing enterprise organizations to look for ways to analyze and get insights from social customer conversations. Even though 2011 saw significant inroads in their ability to mine social media (such as Attensity’s Facebook Analytics Module), there remain challenges. – Rebecca MacDonald, VP of marketing at Attensity


  • 2011 was the year — well, the latest year — that the Semantic Web didn’t pan out.  The Semantic Web is the New AI: Technology that’s always on the verge of revolutionizing computing that never seems to deliver.  It’s a shame, but at least we’ve learned to focus on what’s practical and more likely to produce business value, semantic technologies such as text analytics are here-and-now rather than perpetually just over the horizon.— Seth Grimes, founder, Alta Plana Corp



What added up to disappointments for you? Let us know below.









About the author

Jennifer Zaino is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology journalism. She has been an executive editor at leading technology publications, including InformationWeek, where she spearheaded an award-winning news section, and Network Computing, where she helped develop online content strategies including review exclusives and analyst reports. Her freelance credentials include being a regular contributor of original content to The Semantic Web Blog; acting as a contributing writer to RFID Journal; and serving as executive editor at the Smart Architect Smart Enterprise Exchange group. Her work also has appeared in publications and on web sites including EdTech (K-12 and Higher Ed), Ingram Micro Channel Advisor, The CMO Site, and Federal Computer Week.

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