Talis gets some nice Semantic Web coverage

Last week Talis has had some interesting coverage on Read/Write Web, a popular semantic web blog. It started off with the article ‘Ten Semantic Web Apps to watch‘, by Richard MacManus. I enjoyed reading Richard’s article and it was interesting to see who else he thought was worth watching in this space. Richard seemed to capture the essence of some of what we are trying to achieve with our platform quite well …

They are a bit different from the other 9 companies profiled here, as Talis has released a platform and not [just] a single product. The Talis platform is kind of a mix between Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web, in that it enables developers to create apps that allow for sharing, remixing and re-using data. Talis believes that Open Data is a crucial component of the Web, yet there is also a need to license data in order to ensure its openness. Talis has developed its own content license, called the Talis Community License, and recently they funded some legal work around the Open Data Commons License

That’s exactly right, by building applications on our platform the data that these applications rely on is stored in a way that allows it be easily re-used and re-mixed. What’s more is that the platform does hide away some of the underlying complexities inherent in Semantic Web technologies by presenting developers with a easy to use, RESTful API that allow you to store, query and manage heterogeneous data. Whilst the platform will continue to grow and evolve it’s already matured to the point where we are building and deploying commercial applications on it i.e. Talis Engage. For me personally the last twelve months have been very exciting and challenging as we’ve seen the Platform mature to the point where we can do the very things we’ve been talking about for ages.

Soon after Richard’s article was posted, my colleague Paul Miller was interviewed by Read/Write Web’s Marshall Kilpatrick. Paul provided more of an insight into the platform and Talis and offered some of his own views on the future of the Semantic Web which is well worth reading.

And then yesterday Andreas Blumauer, of the Semantic Web Company, posted this nice little piece up on his blog.

Talis is a “domain-agnostic” technology platform which supports developers to build applications on the principles of “mass collaboration”. It is a new breed of a distributed programmatic interface heavily deploying all opportunities the Web of Data may offer …. Talis tries to establish a new way of organizing information flows throughout the Web of Data. Since it relies on open standard protocols like RESTful Web Services a lot of applications will use Talis technologies. Talis as a company has a well founded background since it has been provided services for governmental organizations or libraries for the last 30 years. Some of the people working at Talis rank among the best semantic web thinkers.

… Is it wrong to admit that reading that gave me a nice warm fuzzy feeling … ?

Edit your photos directly in Flickr

Flickr has partnered with the online image editing website Picknik to provide users with the ability to edit their photos directly inside their Flickr account. It’s very easy to use, you simply log into Flickr, click on one of your pictures and then click on the new Edit Photo button, then once you have confirmed that you are happy to have Picnik open in your Flickr account, the Picnik photo editor will appear and you can now crop, resize, sharpen etc. your image. You can also have some fun playing around with the preset effects.

Whilst this won’t replace Photoshop it does provide a very convenient way of editing photos for users who don’t really want, or need, to get to grips with mainstream graphics or image processing applications, and you don’t need to be a professional photo editor to get to grips with it.

Beowulf – 3D

For those of you who haven’t seen it, go out and watch Beowulf! It’s an amazing movie. Richard and I watched it tonight at Cineworld on Broad Street, who were showing the whole movie in 3D which is absolutely stunning … the action literally pops out of the screen (and Angelina Jolie 😉 )

Be warned IMHO this is definitely not a movie for the kids, I don’t care what the 12A certificate says!!

On the up side though it’s an extremely moving piece, in fact I’d expect no less from any adaptation written by Neil Gaiman, who succeeds in portraying Beowulf as both a hero but a also a man, who in many was was deeply flawed and fallible.

Benefits of Open Sourcing Code

Open Source Developers @ Google Speaker Series: Ben Collins-Sussman and Brian Fitzpatrick

What’s In It for Me? How Your Company Can Benefit from Open Sourcing Code

As the open source community continues to clamor for more companies to open source their code, more and more executives are asking themselves just what open source can do for their company. There are a number of ways for a company to open source an internal project: from tossing code over the wall on the one hand to running a fully open development project on the other to any combination of the two.

This talk will discuss the costs and benefits associated with each method as well as how to successfully launch your new open source project.

I really enjoyed this tech talk about the benefits of open sourcing code. and Brian briefly summarise what motivates people working on projects to make them open source:

  • a desire to create better software,
  • or to create a relationship with you users,
  • or in some cases it’s simply good PR,
  • or perhaps it’s simply goodwill on the part of some techies,
  • or it can be a way to get free labour .
  • or it can be a way to change or subvert an entire industry ( take over the world )

They also provide a useful set of criteria with which to measure the health of an open source project, you can do this by measuring the health of the community:

  • Lots of usage ( not users! )
  • A number of active developers
  • Constant improvements and releases
  • No community == dead software

I liked their descriptions of the various differnt approaches organisations take when open sourcing software, these range from the Fake Approach, where organisations rather cynically decide to Open Source their code but do so without using a license approved by the open source initiative, this is little more than a PR exercise and in real terms means the code isn’t really open source and it can alienate both users and developers.

The second approach is to Throw Code Over The Wall, this basically means you remove any names from the code files, you add the appropriate licenses, you tar the whole thing up, post it and then simply walk away. This generates PR and is relatively effortless but it still doesn’t create a community nor does it really attract real techies. You often find that organisations that no longer wish to continue maintaining some piece of software use this approach.

Then there is the Develop Internally, Post Externally. You have a public code repository, where you develop in house but allow the external world to see what your doing. This allows occasional volunteers to submit patches but really there’s no incentive for outsiders to get involved because your not really giving anyone outside the organisation a sense of ownership … this can lead to mistrust, and creates barriers..

Next you have the Open Monarchy, where there are public discussions, there is a public repository, but committers are mostly employees and occasionally individuals outside the organisations. However in this approach one organisation or one individual rules the project and makes all the key decisions. This approach has the benefit that it will garner more credibility from the technical community and you probably will find more volunteers stepping forward to participate in the open discussions your having and to sometimes contribute. But the reality is that this is virtually the same as the previous approach except the discussions are taking place in public and as thus people can participate even though the corporate agenda always wins.

Finally there is Consensus Based Development, in which almost everything is public, all decisions are based on a consensus of the committers – project is its own organisation it exists independently of any organisation. In order to join the community you have to earn your access in other words you have to earn commit privileges. The advantage of this approach is that you build a long term, sustainable community, with a passionate following of committed developers which invariably results in better software.

I found the talk to be extremely informative and it raised my awareness or certainly made me re-think what my definition of open source actually is. In fact this is all particularly relevant to me at the moment given that our development group at Talis is beginning to Open Source some of our software, and I’m wondering what the best way of doing this might actually be.

This is an excellent video to watch and it will challenge your definition of what constitutes an Open Source project.