Posts Tagged Hakia

Searching for Answers in Search

There has been an influx of announcements in the search world lately – Wolfram Alpha, Bing, and Siri among the most high profile – so our upcoming panel at SemTech 2009 really couldn’t come at a better time. Set for next Wednesday, June 17 at 8:30am at the San Jose Fairmont, our Executive Roundtable on Semantic Search will pick some of the biggest brains in the business to share their insights on where search is now, where it should be going and what role semantic technology should play in this complex sector.

With both Microsoft and Google represented, we’re sure to discuss Bing and its new place in the search game. Yahoo and Ask.com will share their experiences as legacy sites that must constantly innovate to stay viable. And up-and-comers True Knowledge and Hakia can give perspective on what it’s like to battle the behemoths in a space that is always hungry for more. In short, we’ve got every aspect of the search game covered so you won’t want to miss it.

If you’re not already registered for SemTech, do so now. Friends of Guidewire Group get a $300 discount on a full-conference pass. If you’re only interested in semantic search, the conference is offering a special Semantic Search Day pass for $195. This gets you access to our panel, a one-on-one Wolfram Alpha interview by Nova Spivack, and access to the exhibit hall.

Hope to see you all in San Jose next week!

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Geekery Fiefdoms at SemTech

For all my stewing about presenting an effective panel here at SemTech, I think we did it in spades this morning. I’m biased of course but if the amount of active, engaged audience members and lively conversation following the panel was any indication, Taking Semantic Technology to the Masses was a success. Thomas Tague, Josh Dilworth, Mark Johnson and I had an excellent discussion about the mess the semantics space is currently in, marketing-wise, and how to dig it out and shine it up for mass consumers. We spent the first 25 minutes parsing the problem – an indication of just how deeply semantics geeks can gaze at their navels – and about 20 more minutes discussing possible solutions.

Thomas coined a term I’m stealing that sums up the semantics space perfectly: geekery fiefdom. It’s a great description of a sector that is striving to achieve traction in the consumer space, but continues to pepper its messaging with semantic buzzwords and discussions of the plumbing behind it all. As Thomas quoted one of his customers in the financial sector, “If you have to explain it, I don’t want it.”

We came to a couple of good conclusions worth mentioning:

1) Companies in the semantic space need to take a portion of their impressive brainpower and turn it toward marketing. With literal rocket scientists on the benches, finding innovative, well-packaged messages around a product and company philosophy should be a piece of cake.

2)UI, UI, UI. Mark mentioned this several times and he should know; Powerset has one of the best out there right now. Once you’ve parsed out the complex algorithms of your semantics company, spend some time on a great design. An easy-to-use, intuitive interface can vault a product to the head of the pack.

3) Play nice and share. (I’m reminded of that annoying book/poster from the early 90s – Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.) It’s simple but true. If semantics companies were more open to partnering with each other, the resulting applications would without a doubt take this industry to the next level. The close-to-the-vest attitude is understandable in semantics, as some very sophisticated and complex platforms and algorithms are at stake, but I think we’ve reached the point where it’s time to open up a little.

Everyone seemed to agree, including members of the audience, that semantics is poised to graduate; that it’s time to dust off this fiefdom and take it out into the countryside among real users. When and how that will happen is still undecided but I’d bet on later this year or early next.

That’s it for the moment from SemTech. I’m huddling with Hakia in a bit and can’t wait to hear their news, then it’s time to concentrate on the French Tech Tour for the next 12 hours. More tomorrow…

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The Other End of Semantics

I wrote about Songkick last week, praising its focus on technology for the mass consumer and referenced an impending announcement. That announcement came yesterday, with the launch of a music recommendation service. Put three bands you like into the system and it returns recommendations of area concerts you might enjoy. Simple but brilliant. It works pretty nicely, too. I typed in two current obsessions – The National and Vampire Weekend – and one mainstay, PJ Harvey, and it returned Radiohead and The Cure. Two concerts I’m actually interested in seeing and will try to get tickets to. It should be said that I did stump the engine by throwing U2 in once. But perhaps it’s trying to tell me I need to update my music library.

What I like about Songkick, as previously mentioned, is that its creators aren’t interested in parsing the ins and outs of the technology. They instead want to spread their love of music through enabling technologies. I called it “music semantics” and, though the pundits in the semantic realm may take issue with that label, it’s time we embraced apps that are less wonky in their approach and focus. While Twine, Hakia, and MetaWeb are laboring in the code mines, working to build what will be the framework for the semantic Web, companies like Songkick are out in the market, showing consumers real-world applications of semantics. It’s vitally important all such players are represented, in order for semantics to develop fully and organically.

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