In association with the IT Association of Galway, DERI recently invited Radar Networks‘ Nova Spivack to speak at our research institute in the National University of Ireland, Galway (Nova also gave a keynote talk at BlogTalk 2008 in Cork).
Nova is CEO of one of the companies that is practically applying Semantic Web technologies to social software applications. Radar have a beta product called Twine which is a “knowledge networking” application that allows users to share, organise, and find information with people they trust. People create and join “twines” (community containers) around certain topics of interest, and items (documents, bookmarks, media files, etc., that can be commented on) are posted to these twines through a variety of methods. The seminar room was full of both “DERIzens” and members of Galway’s IT community for Nova’s talk on the Semantic Web and Twine (see his slides here), and after a lengthy question-and-answers session, this was followed by some presentations to Nova of ongoing research work in DERI.
I personally find Twine very interesting, and as well as using it to gather information about SIOC, I intend to use it to gather and publish personal interests that I think will be of interest to the public (once it leaves beta). As well as producing semantic data (just stick “?rdf” onto the end of any twine.com URL), Twine features some cool functionality that elevates it beyond the social bookmarking sites to which it has been compared, including an extensive choice of twineable item types, twined item customisation (“add detail”) and the “e-mail to a twine” feature, all of which I believe are extremely useful. (I have a few Twine invites left for readers of my blog; drop me an e-mail if you need one.)
There is also the community aspects of twines. I forsee that these twines will act as the “social objects” (see presentation by Jyri) that will draw you back to the service, in a much stronger manner than other social bookmarking sites currently do (due to Twine’s more viral nature, its stronger social networking functionality, better commenting, and a more identifiable “home” for these objects). Of course, having more public users will help, but from experience I know that it is a good idea to build on a core group of regular users (in Twine’s case, mainly techies) before increasing the user base too much.
It’s been an exciting few months in terms of announcements relating to commercial Semantic Web applications. As I mentioned recently in an interview with Rob Cawte for the web2.0japan.com blog, this is becoming obvious with the attention being given to startup companies in this space like Powerset, Metaweb (Freebase) and Radar Networks (Twine), and also since many big companies including Reuters (Calais API), Yahoo! (semantically-enhanced search) and Google (Social Graph API) have recently announced what they are doing with semantic data. There has been a lot of talk recently about the social graph (notably from Google’s Brad Fitzpatrick), which looks at how people are connected together (friends, colleagues, neighbours, etc.), and how such connections can be leveraged across websites. On the Semantic Web with vocabularies like FOAF, SIOC, etc., it is not just people who are connected together in some meaningful way, but documents, events, places, hobbies, pictures, you name it! And it is the commercial applications that exploit these connections that are now becoming interesting…
(Edit: Nova Spivack has blogged about his visit.)