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Monday October 19, 2009

Semantic Web Installfest - meeting notes

I recently organized an Installfest for the San Francisco Semantic Web Meetup. It was held at PariSoMa, a co-working venue in SoMa (South of Market Street in San Francisco). Given that this was my first attempt at pulling together this sort of "hands on" meeting for the group, I think it went pretty well.

I had several reasons for organizing the meeting, but the primary one was to bring together a group of SemWeb enthusiasts who want to learn about the technology, try things out, discuss alternatives, etc. I love hearing about successful Semantic Web projects, but I also want to "get my hands dirty" using the tools.

Venue, Timing, Attendance

As I had hoped, holding the event on a Sunday afternoon allowed folks to come in from the South Bay, etc. The timing also worked well with PariSoMa's informal setting to produce a relaxed feeling among the attendees. The resulting group conversations covered a wide range of Semantic Web topics, contributing greatly to the value of the event.

Parking in SoMa is wide-open and free on Sundays. I was able to park right in front of the venue, greatly easing the task of bringing in equipment and supplies. This helped to compensate for the fact that PariSoMa's loft is at the top of a substantial (30+ riser) staircase.

Although we had 30+ RSVPs (and the Meetup page shows 24 attendees), my count was more like 15. This was a fine size for an initial meeting, but I wish that more of the no-shows had registered as "Maybe". Fortunately, I was able to donate the leftover food to PariSoMa for use at their party (scheduled just after the Meetup).

I'm grateful to PariSoMa for providing the venue and to Franz Inc for subsidizing the refreshments. Even with careful shopping, food and drinks add up! I'd like to thank the folks who donated money at the meeting, bringing the event back into the black...

Agenda and Reality

Although I had sketched out a loose agenda, I didn't really expect to keep the group on track, or work very hard to do so. As Helmuth von Moltke the Elder observed, "No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's main strength" (ie, no plan survives contact with the enemy).

So, I gave a short presentation (slides) on the tool set we would be installing, covering its inspiration, interactions and roles, etc. I also discussed visualization of RDF and OWL and Protégé (eg, history, user interface). The attendees then spent about an hour quietly installing the tool set, mostly using archives from the USB thumb drive I passed around.

Most of the laptops were running Mac OS X, which my HowTo seemed to handle pretty well. There were also a couple of other OSes (eg, Linux, MS Windows) in evidence, but nobody seemed to have much trouble installing the tools on them.

Once the installation was out of the way, I gave a short "show and tell" on Protégé 4. There was a small glitch when I tried to load an example ontology: Protégé 4 was unable to get a list of packages from the TONES Repository. Fortunately, I was able to use cURL to grab a copy of the Pizza Ontology.

Follow-on Plans

PariSoMa has scheduled the room for us again in November (11/15) and may make a short presentation on some of their SemWeb-related ideas. I'm also hoping for presentations from Franz and Zemanta. Finally, I'll try to have some exercises, presentations, and discussion topics ready. If you're in the area and interested in this sort of thing, please come!

Public planning and follow-up discussions for these meetings will take place on the sw:sfba (Semantic Web: San Francisco Bay Area) mailing list. Announcements will be made there and on the San Francisco Semantic Web Meetup's web site and mailing list.

Semantic Web Installfest - meeting notes in Computers , Semantic Web , Technology - posted at Mon, 19 Oct, 17:01 Pacific | «e» | TrackBack


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