For me, the best bits of a good industry conference are always any well-run panel discussions. Not those panels where the 'moderator' has more to say than the panellists. Not those panels where panellists completely fill the allotted time by standing up in turn to deliver one over-long prepared presentation after another. Not those panels where every member has exactly the same story to tell, and any differences of opinion are left outside. Not them.
The panels I mean - the panels I love - are the ones where the panellists talk to one another and their audience. The ones where different perspectives are brought to the table and shared. The ones where knowledge and prior experience are self-evident. The ones where differences of perspective or opinion inform and enrich rather than disrupt and divide. The ones where the moderator knows to keep (reasonably) quiet. Them. They're great, but sadly all too rare.
Working with the team at SemanticWeb.com we're going to try recreating that 'great panel' vibe in a form that everyone can easily consume, without the horrors of air travel or the cost of hotel rooms. To do this, we're launching a new monthly podcast called The Semantic Link, a PodPanel if you will, and assembling what I hope you will agree is a great team of panellists to get it going.
I shall be moderating each month and, hopefully, saying as little as possible. I'm there to herd the cats, not to make you listen to my opinions. SemanticWeb.com have given me this column for the opinion dispensing...
Peter Brown is a Brit in California, currently Chair of the Board of Directors of standards body OASIS, and a consultant covering semantic technologies, interaction design, SOA, identity management, and Cloud Computing.
Formerly Global Director of Semantic Technology Solutions at Dow Jones, Christine Connors is now a consultant specialising in ontology and taxonomy design and related issues.
The man who persuaded me to set about assembling this group, Eric Franzon recently joined SemanticWeb.com's owner, WebMediaBrands, as Vice President responsible for building up the community around their Semantic Web activities both online and off.
Ivan Herman is a Hungarian based in Amsterdam, and fills his days as Semantic Web Activity Lead for the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). His cat-herding responsibilities make my role here look positively straightforward.
Eric Hoffer is a New York-based consultant with a background in economics and financial data. He is focussed on helping semantic technology startups to refine their product strategy and messaging.
Bernadette Hyland is CEO of Talis Inc., the newly established US subsidiary of semantic web company Talis. She is currently focussed on Open Government initiatives in the United States.
Andraz Tori is based in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, and is CTO of semantic technology startup Zemanta. He has an interest in delivering rich semantic tools in the consumer space.
Even the best podcast, of course, fails to capture some of the feel of a physical event. On the positive side, we can't use PowerPoint. Less favourably, the panel has to anticipate your questions rather than see you ask them, and we can't get together in the pub to continue the discussion. Social media has a role to play here; we can use it to invite questions before recordings take place, and we can all talk with one another in the comments area of this site. Other tools could also be put to work if a clear need emerges as we explore what you, our audience, really want. Don't be shy about letting us know.
The Semantic Link will be recorded each month, and published here on SemanticWeb.com. The first episode went online today. As well as the regular team, we'll invite guests on from time to time; if there are people you want to hear from, or stories you want told, do let us know. To keep up with the podcast follow @TheSemanticLink on Twitter or subscribe to this site. When we line up a topic in advance, we'll post it on Twitter before we record, and invite your questions. If you have comments, please do share them here or by sending them directly to me.
Alongside moderating The Semantic Link podcasts, I am going to be writing a monthly column for SemanticWeb.com from now on. This is the first, and its topic was easy. From next month, I'll be taking a topical look at things that interest me in the semantic technology space. What, I wonder, should be first?