Back home now after Semantic Technologies 2007. It was a good few days, instructive on different levels. The two Jena sessions I facilitated went reasonably well from my point of view, despite a rather shaky start to the tutorial (I was nervous, and the preparation I thought I'd done enough of turned out to be insufficient ... I'll know better next time). I've yet to receive formal feedback from the conference organizers, which I'd expect to come in the next few weeks. The delegates are asked to fill-in evaluations for each session.
This was my second year at ST, and both times it was a very well organized event. The days were perhaps a little on the long side. Sessions started at 8.00 or earlier, and continued to around 6 pm. On the plus side there were lots of breaks, which was a good chance to meet and mingle. The venue (Fairmont Hotel) is very nice and the food was actually quite good.
The conference sessions I attended were a little mixed, but included some very good talks. It's interesting contrasting this conference, which essentially has a business orientation, with the more academic conferences like ISWC. The style of presentation is different, lacking the organising pattern of 'problem-hypothesis-solution-validation' but not necessarily worse for that. I also think that I missed some good talks (there were eight parallel tracks): somehow I need to get better at mining good candidates out of the conference programme. The talks were generally longer than the common academic pattern of twenty-minutes-plus-five-for-questions which had an interesting effect: most presenters left lots of time for questions. These question sessions were often the best bits of the talks.
There was a trade show too, with (at a guess) around 25 exhibitors from large companies (Oracle) to small one-or-two person outfits. Lots of tools, including ontology development (e.g. TopBraid Composer, SandPiper) and semantic application development (Metatomix, TopBraid). Quite a few approaches to extracting structured semantics from unstructured text sources. Being a geek technically-minded person, I gravitated towards the more techy-looking stands. The good ones were very good at explaining their pitch, while at others (who shall be nameless) I met some marketing person with that rabbit-in-the-headlights smile who answered all my questions with "you need to talk to the technical guy". Sigh. Overall I think the trade-show was larger and more active than last year. There was some very good technology and tools, but no applications that made my jaw drop. Or even hinge downwards a bit.
There were several panel sessions, one of which I missed most of due to illness. On the whole, they were well organized but not very informative. I think they made a mistake in making the panels too large, which meant that each panelist had too little time to develop much of a theme. The investors and analysts panel was especially disappointing: I didn't get much insight there at all. I had been looking forward to hearing Nova Spivack speak, but he didn't get much air-time from the moderator and didn't say anything about Radar Networks except "we're in stealth mode".
Would I go again? Yes. Let's hope Wilshire invite me back next year!