At Frankfurt Book Fair, I gave a presentation on “Semantic Web for Publishers”, including what semantic search means and how it affects our current and future business. Since all chairs were taken – some people even had to stand at the back – and nobody in the audience left before the session was over, one can certainly conclude that the buzz word “semantic” has caught the attention of the publishing community.
But what does that mean?
I think that one hint to that can be derived from the questions that were asked by the audience. One was for example: “Do you use neural network technology for your search?” So, people are definitely looking for technical solutions.
When I was talking about the fact that we need to include our domain expertise in the core of our search algorithms, there was a great deal of agreement and support in the audience as well. This is in general not surprising, since our expertise as an information provider has always been based on the domain knowledge and the knowledge about our customers and their specific needs. People are aware of and accept that there is a technical and a content/data dimension.
But there is much more to that!
It already starts at the acknowledged content/data dimension. I have been working for years in developing and modeling domain knowledge beyond the existing textual contents that we are used to deal with. This has an impact on the skills that we develop within our organizations. People with domain knowledge have to learn what kind of information a machine needs in order to be able to act smart in the interaction with the customer, which changes our organizations.
And last but not least, the customer and her/his requirements also change dramatically, which puts a third, a cultural, dimension to it. Customers want to have the information they need on the device they are currently using with the granularity they are expecting, and they want a much closer interaction with people, technology, and their daily work than ever before (e.g. Social Web). I know that especially those colleagues within Wolters Kluwer working on innovative products come across this finding quite extensively.
But in general, these additional dimensions have not yet fully reached the entire publishing community, even though the technical part can in my opinion be solved already with existing technology.