Thomas Thurner

Semantic Web Company’s Florian Kondert starts his mission in San Francisco

Semantic Web Company’s Florian Kondert takes part in the technology initiative “GoSiliconValley”, which is part of the go-international export initiative run by the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber and the Federal Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth. It allows Austrian IT to complete a 3-month program using the Business Accelerator “Plug and Play Tech Center” in Sunnyvale to kick-start their businesses. Florian Kondert has just arrived there and told us about his first impressions.

CC by sa / Coolcaesar

Florian Kondert: The Valley is famous for innovations in high tech – for a good reason. Professionals from varying domains share their expertise and discuss about opportunities to fix a problem faster and more intensely than anywhere else on the world. In my point of view semantic technologies are considered as a very normal approach to face information-intense issues. But – here you don’t talk about how the technology works in detail – you focus on living examples, business use cases and benefits that you could receive by using semantic technologies. Long story short: “if you can help me to solve my problem, I don’t care what it is.”

Semantic Puzzle: Somehow it seems that leading US companies in the field brew their own kind of Semantic Web. Google’s Knowledge Graph and Facebook’s Social Graph are the Semantic Web re-brushed and renamed. Is this some kind of adoption of the technology by the US market? And as a European visitor, how do you see this uncooporative gesture to the Semantic Web (which has a lot of roots on the old continent)?

Florian Kondert: People understand “knowledge” and people have an idea about “social”, but how many people know what’s behind “semantic”? Here it might happen, that you don’t use the word “semantic” during a whole discussion once. From a visitors perspective I have the impression that communicators here work really hard to make 120% sure that people understand what you are talking about. Thus, you use your opposite number’s vocabulary. Another reason is again the speed of interaction. You can’t stick within definitions or explanations. So you “simply” engage people to understand the benefit, like “it is more social” or it “helps you to enlarge your knowledge”.

Semantic Puzzle: In Europe, Linked Data still attracts only companies and institutions of a bigger scale. SME and smaller organizations do not invest in this technological change. Is this the same in the US or is linked data a broader issue?

Florian Kondert: Based on the discussions I’ve had until now, linked (open) data is a new thing for most people, even here at Silicon Valley. But SME guys are totally positive towards the idea of using freely available, structured data. Why? Because competition here is amazing. There are probably 10 companies in an area of 20 miles developing pretty much the same service. The more efficient (integrating data) and valuable (data mash-ups) the service is, the better the position on the market. Within one week 6 SMEs asked me to show them more about linked data principles and the technologies that should be used. People here are very curious, not afraid about new things.

Semantic Puzzle: From now on you are on a mission to meet and talk to various experts in the field. What are the next planned stops and events? How can someone meet you?

Florian at SFNewtech

Florian Kondert: I’m grateful that I can meet some real semantic web and linked data ambassadors like Roger MacDonald form (Leader of Semantic Open Media Platform Project at Internet Archive) or Jeanne Holm (Evangelist at; W3C Co-Chair eGovernment Interest Group, Chief Knowledge Architect at NASA). Just on Tuesday I had my first US-presentation at SFNewTech and I’m invited to present what SWC does at Lotico meetup in San Francisco on Wednesday 8th of August and at the LA Semantic Web meetup Group on Tuesday 14th of August. From August 21-23 I’ll join NoSQL Now! conference in San José. More to come.

You’ll most probably meet me around in Sunnyvale, San José, Palo Alto and San Francisco – whenever the discussion turns towards sophisticated information management. I’m drinking a lot of coffee these days – so let’s get one and discuss about´ your issues.

Get in touch with Florian:
+1 408 421 7428
skype: kondertpunkt

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Andreas Blumauer

Has Google hi-jacked the Semantic Web?

Just recently Google has launched the ‘Knowledge Graph‘ (GKG) which “understands real-world entities and their relationships to one another: things, not strings.” Has Google hi-jacked the idea of the ‘Semantic Web’ or at least its vocabulary?

Sean Golliher has compared the most central concepts of the SemWeb community to the wording of Google in his blog post, for instance: Google doesn´t talk about ‘Linked data’ or ‘URIs’ but rather about ‘things and their relationships’. We don´t know if Google uses standards like RDF but obviously a lot of concepts and ideas developed by the SemWeb community in recent years were implemented in GKG. Some people complain that Google should clearly state that this is an implementation of the ‘Semantic Web’ (which was not invented by Google), others say that most concepts like ‘taxonomies’ have been around for hundreds of years anyway.

I believe that both sides have now a great chance to work together: Whether Google’s goal, to “build the next generation of search, which taps into the collective intelligence of the web and understands the world a bit more like people do”, can be reached or not is a matter of the intelligence of the employees. A lot of potential can be found within the semantic web community: If Google gives credit where it is due, semantic web people will be a bit more inspired to support an eco-system built around GKG – and it won´t last long until an ‘Open Knowledge Graph’ will fit together with Google´s revenue model.