Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The first pages of the Semantic Web? (1998), and Web2.0?

I guess everybody now and then performs an “ego search” or “ego surf”, to see what search engines give back by typing in your name and then navigating to those pages. In my case, since more than 10 years, “Richard Benjamins” gives my (old) homepage of the University of Amsterdam, where I worked between 1989 and 2000 (with temporal yearly stays at universities in Sao Paulo, Paris and Barcelona), until I joined iSOCO. Today, Google still gives the same result: (sometimes a bit frustrating, where is the (Google) impact of my current work? :-).

Since I left the University of Amsterdam, I have had no access to my former homepage, so I have not been able to make any changes. At the bottom of the page you can read: “This page was last updated on 12/08/1998.” Almost 10 years ago! At the beginning, I was annoyed that I could not update the page. However, now I am actually quite happy that the page hasn’t changed since then, because it may qualify for the oldest Semantic Web page still accessible on the web (even though I think that Jim Hendler’s semantically annotated homepage appeared even earlier).

To check the “semantic webness” of the page, view the source code of the following pages:

The home page: You will see tags in the html code “onto” that represent the semantics of terms appearing on the web page.

<a onto="page[firstName=body]">Richard</a>
<a onto="page[lastName=body]">Benjamins </a>
<A HREF="" onto="page[affiliation=body]"target="_top">
Dept. of Social Science Informatics (SWI)</A>
<A HREF="" onto="page[email=href]">

Or the publication page:

A semantic annotation for a book publication:

<a name="Plaza:97a" onto="name:Book"> </a>
<a name="Plaza:97a" onto="name[editor=body]"> Enric Plaza</a>,
<a name="Plaza:97a" onto="name[editor=href]"
Richard Benjamins </a> (Editors),
<a name="Plaza:97a" onto="name[title=body]"> LNAI 1319:
Knowledge Acquisition, Modeling and Management.
Proceedings of the 10th EKAW. </a>
<a name="Plaza:97a" onto="name[publisher=body]"> Springer-Verlag</a>,
<a name="Plaza:97a" onto="name[year=body]">1997</a>. <P>

Or on the projects page:
onto="href:Project" onto="page[worksAtProject=href]">
Cordis entry of Using a Library with Reusable Problem-Solving
Methods to Configure Flexible and Robust Problem Solvers</A>

All those terms are (or were) specified in an ontology that was located somewhere else on a server, in this case in Karlsruhe at the AIFB institute.

This was at the time that XML began to become popular, and way before RDF and OWL came into existence. The project was called (KA)2: Knowledge Acquisition for the Knowledge Acquisition Community. How it works (or worked) can be read in:

V. R. Benjamins, D. Fensel, S. Decker and A. Gomez Perez: (KA)2: Building Ontologies for the Internet: a Mid Term Report. In the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 51:687-712, 1999, of which an extra official version can be found at here.

This was -to my knowledge- the first European Semantic Web project, whose idea was born at IJCAI 1997 in Nagoya, Japan during a train trip from Nagoya to Kyoto which I made with Dieter Fensel.

A lighter version of the paper can be accessed at the former so-called Banff Workshops, in 1998: V. Richard Benjamins and Dieter Fensel, Community is Knowledge! in (KA)2. I guess that should be one of the first papers on Web2.0, in 1998 :-)


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Technology Evangelist?

One of my principal activities these days is to bring Semantic Technology to markets and society in order to improve our (for the moment, professional) lives. This involves, among others, understanding of technology and market mechanisms, business insight and business development, and knowledge of processes related to innovation. Many times I find myself talking to people trying to convince them about the great things, the major leap forward, that this new technology can bring us. I am convinced myself; for sure. I often use the term: “to evangelize”, in analogy to the evangelists of the Bible.

Recently I found out that this is actually a know position in organizations, and I found a study that analyzes several important technology evangelists of Silicon Valley (I think Apple appointed the first one). The study can be found here, and I found the reference at the blog “How to Change the World” of Guy Kawasaki, quite an interesting and entertaining blog (e.g. check out the video on “The Art of the Start”).

The abstract of the study is as follows (taken from

"The purpose of this study was to gain a clearer understanding of the relatively new phenomenon known as the "technology evangelist." By our exploration, we aim to help readers improve their management functions, and to understand how best to integrate “evangelists” within their organizations.

In order to do so, we analyzed the roles of those who hold this position and leadership styles. Our research included surveying and interviewing 29 technical evangelists worldwide from a variety of cultures and organizations.

Some general tendencies regarding the role did, indeed, emerge. However, we also discovered variable character, or personality, patterns among the participants. Therefore, we proceeded to examine the gap, between the role of the technology evangelist and the subject’s personal character.

We contrasted individual competencies with these character patterns, and created a grid to analyze their qualities of leadership. This paper includes our recommendations for recruiting, integrating, developing and managing the technology evangelists."