Branch chairman Sheila Lloyd-Lyons opened the AGM by welcoming members to the meeting and thanking the committee for their support during the year. Sheila, who had taken over as branch chairman part way through the year when her predecessor, Robert Ward, found it too much to combine the role of chairman with the demands of new fatherhood and the day job. Robert continues as a member of the branch committee and will continue to sit on the national BCS Branch Management Committee.
Sheila referred members to her letter, copies of which were available. The letter reviewed the past year’s programme and looked forward to the programme for 2006/7, preparation for which is well under way.
Branch Treasurer, Tony Cox, reviewed the branch’s finances which, thanks to his careful management, allow us to deliver a high quality programme to our members.
The Semantic Web: too clever for its own good?
In a fascinating talk, Dan Zambonini started by reminding us about the Semantic Web and how it developed. He described metadata, RDF schemas and triples, OWL, and reviewed some of the 100+ Semantic Web applications which exist today: Edutella, MusicBrainz, Annotea, foafnaut, the Yahoo! Creative Commons Search, Haystack and PiggyBank.
He then suggested that interest in the Semantic Web was declining, or had at least levelled out. This was supported by stats from google.com/trends which showed a lower level of hits for "Semantic Web" than, for example, Fortran. Amazon’s book list shows far more books on the latest hot topic, AJAX, than RDF.
He surmised that this could be because search engines such as Google have made it very easy to find information on the web without authors having to classify their pages using what may appear to be complex RDF schemas. He quoted a respected blogger who had written "I get the feeling that in trying to achieve the ontological purity needed for the Semantic Web, it’s starting to leave the desperate hacker behind".
He concluded by saying that if you want to participate in the Semantic Web, you should expose your data as RDF. The basic technologies are ready, the potential is huge, but you may not see any effect, not for a while, anyway.