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June 02, 2007


PMR: This is an important post and if my server hadn't blown up I'd reply there...

I am surprised and somewhat terrified to announce that I will be attending Science Foo Camp 2007 in August, about two months from now.

PMR: Don't be terrified. I haven't yet been but my feedback is from my colleague Peter Corbett. This at least holds for last year. You can talk or listen as much or as little as you like. There are parallel breakout groups where the most active people create themes and see if they can get a critical mass of attendees.

The main conference site isn't up yet, but I have created a discussion group on Nature Network


PMR: The exciting thing about all of this is that ideas like this are easy to implement. Some survive by a process of evolution.

I've also been having a bit of discussion back and forth with Peter Murray-Rust in the comments of his posting Who’s going to FOO 2007? I've thought a lot about conference communication issues and how both conference organizers and participants can find ways to plan and discuss together.

In my opinion, an agreed-upon tag (I'm using scifoo2007) is a central tool for discovering discussions.

PMR: This seems to work pretty well. I have used both www2007 and xtech2007 as tags and have learnt things about the meeting that I didn't know.

However, while we all enjoy individually blogging our various opinions, a central site like a wiki or discussion group can be valuable as an information resource about area amenities, airport and travel arrangements, and other such topics that benefit from the wisdom of conference crowds.

I would like to see conferences providing information in more standard ways, even if it's just in creating a "Here's the page for machines" output of semantically-harvestable information about CFPs, dates, times, locations, tags, discussions, etc. It seems instead every conference (and every list of conferences) still has its own, hand-crafted, custom pages, without any microformats or other easy-to-parse semantic information. Automatically generated maps, calendars, and itineraries should all just take one click, but I still find myself doing all that work manually.

PMR: I have a recollection that some conferences are starting to use RDF for this. It would be an ideal thing to do - locations, times, institutions have - or will have - URIs. So, for example, I have been invited to Uppsala tewice in quick succession. I only need to know the location once, the airports, the buss connections, the exchange rate, the time zone, the electric plugs, the map of the university, the 300th anniversary of Linnaeus, etc. Many of these things are already indexed under Dublin Core, vCard, DBPedia, foaf, etc.

PMR: This means that I can issue a general SPARQL something like: who will be going to the same meetings as me - like:

?person blog:hasBlog ?blog .
?blog blog:tag "scifoo2007" .
?conf conf:attendee ?person .
?conf dc:date 2007 .

This reads as find all persons where on (or more) posts have been tagged with literal "scifoo2007" and find all conferences with date 2007 where those people are registered as attendees.
The vocabulary is speculative but there is a system SIOC for managing blog info and dates are a solved problem (DC is not the best I suspect).

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