Humbly Report: Sean Bechhofer

Semantics 'n' stuff

School’s in for Summer

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View from Puerto de Fuenfria

I’ve just spent a week at the Summer School on Ontology Engineering and the Semantic Web (SSSW’11) in Cercedilla, Spain.

Dating back from the early days of the OntoWeb Network, this is the eighth time the school has run, and over the years, the content has been finely tuned to provide a balance of practical and theoretical work, with both individual and teamwork elements. The programme includes invited talks, technical lectures, hands-on sessions, and a mini-project that has students working in small groups to develop an idea over the course of the week. A poster session also provides attendees the opportunity to present their work and gain valuable feedback.

Invited speakers this year included Jim Hendler, Steffen Staab, Harith Alani, Peter Mika, Martin Hepp and Oscar Corcho (stepping in at the last minute for an indisposed Manfred Hauswirth). All gave interesting talks, with Martin Hepp’s being perhaps the most lively — starting a talk with the claim that the Semantic Web was facing a similar collapse as that suffered by Constantinople is an interesting opening gambit. And any talk that mentions Horse Muesli is going to get my attention.

With nine tutors present all week, and six invited speakers, most of whom spend a few days in Cercedilla, there are many opportunities for one-to-one and detailed discussions. As ever (this is the sixth Cercedilla school I’ve tutored at), it was a pleasure to be involved, and to spend time interacting and being with fifty very smart, motivated people (it’s quite nice hanging out with the other tutors too). Last but not least, as well as the technical content, the school puts a strong emphasis on a social programme that involves everybody. This makes for an action packed, but pretty exhausting week (especially for the over 40s).

The week ends with a series of miniproject presentations on the Saturday morning. Topics this year were as varied as in past years, including ontology mapping, holidays from hell, analysis of twitter behaviour, e-commerce ontologies, patterns for modularisation, research ratings and a modern take on the I-Spy books from the 50s and 60s. The groups also made short videos which were shown after Friday night’s dinner. These were mostly light-hearted rather than technical, but they did showcase some additional artistic skills! The winning video included novel use of the iPhone Word Lens app.

There was a twitter stream running during the meeting, but it was refreshing to see that an audience actually following talks rather than sitting absorbed in laptops! The talks, hands-on sessions and projects had quite a strong Linked Data feel to them, but as @rich_francis tweeted, it was

Great to see two families (linked data and Ontology Engineering) coming together #sssw11

For some reason, travel home from Madrid is never simple, and there was a crazy mad dash through LHR to make a connection, but that’s another story. I just suggest that you never travel with Fabio……

Congratulations to Enrico Motta, Asun Gomez-Perez, Oscar Corcho, Mathieu D’Aquin and all the local UPM team for the management and organisation, and we’ll look forward to SSSW 2012. But now I need to sleep for a week.


Written by Sean Bechhofer

July 18, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Posted in owl, teaching

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