Last Friday I spoke at the Open Knowledge Foundation Open Data & The Semantic Web event. I was giving the opening talk of the day and thought that I’d take the opportunity to lay out a view that I’ve been meaning to articulate for some time: that integrating data with the web maximises its utility. Moving from data dumps, through APIs, and to Linked Data we maximize utility by reducing the amount of effort required to interact with data.
While there’s clearly still a lot of work to do around creating ways to visualise and explore Linked Data, the simply utility of being able to browse a dataset means that we move beyond publishing for a developer audience to publishing for anyone who can wield a browser. This is the angle to the Semantic Web vision that is most often overlooked in my opinion.
Developers often claim that “I can do the same thing using technology X, so why use technology Y”. In this early adopter phase of the Semantic Web its perfectly valid and important to critique the technology; to measure its ease of use and benefits for developers. But for me the end game is to move to a world where anyone can easily do complex manipulations on data — without resorting to writing code — because there’s enough machine support to make it achievable. That’s what standard vocabularies and a common data model enables. And its a natural part of the evolution towards increasingly declarative ways of manipulating information.
I’ll do a proper write-up of the presentation some other time, but for now here are the slides: