The world takes a breather and I get to consider Linked Data and the Semantic web.

It's that slow time of the year when everyone is either on holiday, going on holiday or just back from holiday. A great time for making plans, reaching out to people we haven't kept up with as we should and having a look around at what's been happening outside of our normal sphere.

First though the news announcements. In September I will be attending two conferences. There is an afternoon / evening event at the BCS London on "Latest Approaches to Data Migration" on 16th September 2010. The programme kicks off with registration at 1 o'clock. I'm up first at 1:30 and will be speaking on Data Migration methods. My friend Dylan Jones of Data Migration Pro follows at 2:20 talking about Data Migration Technologies - a thing he is well qualified to do and is well worth listening to.  Finally Chris Banister and Monica Howat are presenting a case study based on a SAP migration at Severn Trent Water.

There will then be a networking opportunity to meet the speakers, ask awkward questions etc.

The event is in the BCS building on Southampton Street just off Covent Garden. Having hosted events there myself I can vouch for this being a great venue in the centre of London. I will certainly be sticking around afterwards for a chat and looking forward to catching up with the data migration cognoscenti (and anyone else who wants to talk Data Migration).  The event is free but you will need to register at the BCS website.

Well I say the BCS headquarters is easy to get to but not, of course, if you live in Scotland. However never fear, because the following week I will be speaking at the BCS Health Scotland conference in Glasgow. The event will be covering all aspects of the use of IT within a health framework and will run from 22 to 23rd September. I'm speaking on the first day in the afternoon at 2:00. The event is at the Glasgow Science Centre. Again there is a networking session at the end of day 1 and I look forward to meeting as many interested people as possible.

So what else has been happening this week? Well I went to another of the Big Potatoes meetings, this time with the ICT working group. There were an interesting bunch of people there. One issue that came up was the difference between the Semantic Web and Linked Data. The terms are used interchangeably but are they the same thing really? Then there is the kindred issue of the UK Government’s attempts at transparency with their publication of data. The potential for great strides in our understanding of the world, when we can link data sets from disparate sources, is massive. At the moment, if I want to perform an enquiry into a link between income distribution and school achievements I would have to find the data, maybe from three institutions or more and link them together. With a fully semantic web I could use a semantic search engine to find them for me and perform the query.

The ideas behind TB-L's vision are huge (well what do you expect from the inventor of the World Wide Web?). And lots of questions come to mind - is just putting "stuff" out there and expecting us to make the links, enough? Will we be overloaded with disparate data sets, each defined differently? Do we need ontologies (or Canonical Modelling to use the Lean Integration terminology)? How do we overcome the semantic issues of synonyms and homonyms that so bedevil us in system integration in general and Data Migration in particular?

These are, as I say big issues, too large for this blog, but ones I will be returning to. One thing is for sure though, we may not be experts on the underpinning technology of the web but we are uniquely positioned to comment on the tools and techniques of data integration. Heck we put disparate data sets together every week don't we?

Johny Morris

About the author

John Morris has over 20 years experience in IT as a programmer, business analyst, project manager and data architect. He has spent the last 10 years working exclusively on data migration and system integration projects. John is the author of Practical Data Migration.