That was the year that was: 2011 edition

December 27, 2011

Ah December, the month of the top ten list and the year in review.

I love it; it’s like a cram session for people like me who don’t pay good attention. Come January, I’ll put my head back down, and ignore what the rest of the world is doing. But for now, I’m energized as I belatedly stumble across everything that happened in 2011. (Hey, look, it’s html5. And is that a sparkly vampire chasing it?)

The folks at semanticweb.com have the standard “Best of the semantic web in 2011” round up post running, and there’s a lot of good stuff there. Siri of course remains the golden child of the semantic app world, even if it sometimes acts like, well, a computer. And just as in 2010, some of the most excitement and movement came around open data, linked data, government data and big data. All that data without clear models to structure it makes a modeler nervous, but it’s a good lesson in the need for pragmatism. If you can’t quickly develop and publish simple, general, reusable models (which mostly we can’t), people are going to move on without you.

Just as good is the site’s “Misses and misteps” article. I don’t think I’ve come across an annual post-mortem like this before, and I really appreciate everyone taking off the rose-colored glasses for a few minutes to take a critical look at the year. My favorite quote from it is this:

2011 was the year — well, the latest year — that the Semantic Web didn’t pan out.  The Semantic Web is the New AI: Technology that’s always on the verge of revolutionizing computing that never seems to deliver.  It’s a shame, but at least we’ve learned to focus on what’s practical and more likely to produce business value, semantic technologies such as text analytics are here-and-now rather than perpetually just over the horizon.

A little cynical? Maybe, but it fits my own view of the semantic world. We’re probably never going to achieve the full-blown vision of the semantic web’s original architects, and personally I’m okay with that. That vision is driving a lot of really practical sematically-influenced work that will infiltrate and improve all sorts of technologies and techniques, whether or not it results in a purely semantic solutions.

Also, for historical completeness, here’s a post I wrote for SmartBear’s Software Quality Connection rounding up 2010’s semantic web highlights. I get points for posting the link within the calendar year of the year I wrote the article, right? No? Well, here’s to more regular blogging in 2012.

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