'Semantic Web for Business' ultimately misses the mark

'Semantic Web for Business' ultimately misses the mark

Summary: Weighing in at 416 text-packed pages, Semantic Web for Business could have been the latest attempt to bridge the divide between the university hotbeds of Semantic Web research and a business community ripe for persuading of semantic technologies' multifarious benefits.

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Weighing in at 416 text-packed pages, Semantic Web for Business could have been the latest attempt to bridge the divide between the university hotbeds of Semantic Web research and a business community ripe for persuading of semantic technologies' multifarious benefits. In that, though, the volume proves ultimately unsatisfying and a statement in the book's own back cover blurb suggests where it really belongs;

"Covering topics such as business integration, organizational knowledge management, and Semantic Web services, this book provides academic research libraries with a comprehensive reference to the commercial capabilities of Semantic Web technologies..." (my emphasis)

So not so much the 'How the Semantic Web can help Business' that the title led me to expect as 'Semantic Web researchers talk to other Semantic Web researchers about some possible business applications... sort of,' which I personally felt to be a missed opportunity.

The volume's price ($195) and format (8.5" x 11") also work against any real chance of it being picked up speculatively by readers more comfortable with the $30 price tag and familiar octavo format of the typical 300 page business book.

Edited by Roberto García of Spain's Universitat de Lleida, the book is dominated by 16 case studies that illustrate a number of areas in which projects have successfully made use of semantic technologies.

Given its position as the focus for much of today's Semantic Web research, we shouldn't be surprised to see Europe's researchers dominate the list of more than sixty authors for those case studies, but for only three to self-identify as being from beyond Europe's borders (one from Pakistan, two from the USA) must be considered at best disappointing. A good third of the group are from Spanish institutions, and although that country remains associated with a good deal of today's research the editor's own network of contacts must be at work here (as he recognises in his Preface.)

Any reader still confused as to the audience for this book (as I was) is surely left in no doubt by the 'Semantic Web technologies overview,' pp xix-xxi;

"The Semantic Web is rooted on a data model, a way to represent data, geared towards interoperability. It is based on a directed graph, i.e. a set of nodes connected by edges with a direction, from node A to node B. This graph model constitutes the first building block for semantic interoperability because a graph can be used to represent many other kinds of data structures.

For instance, it is easy to model a tree using a graph - it is just a graph without cycles - or a table - each row is represented by a node that is connected to the different row values by edges labelled after each column name. This makes it easier to integrate data coming from XML documents or relational databases into the Semantic Web. Moreover, it is easier to mash-up data from disparate sources into a graph because the result is always a graph."

So not a book for the interested newcomer, it seems!

As has hopefully become all too apparent, I felt let down by this book. Given the title I wanted and expected it to be something that it isn't. Maybe I wanted it to be something that it never set out to be, and maybe I came to it with unrealistic expectations rather than being 'misled' by the title.

Putting that aside, though, it is a worthwhile collection of case studies that will make a useful addition to the library shelves of those universities (in Europe and elsewhere) in which the Semantic Web is taught or researched.

And me? I'll go back to waiting for The Semantic Web for Business.

Topic: Browser

Paul Miller

About Paul Miller

Paul Miller provides consultancy and analysis services at the interface between the worlds of Cloud Computing and the Semantic Web.

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