The 25th International World Wide Web Conference was held in Montreal, which meant I was able to attend the whole week. Nevertheless, with 118 papers, 72 posters, 30 demos, 21 workshops, and 7 tutorials, I still had to miss plenty of intriguing-looking sessions. One in particular I was sorry to miss was the presentation of a paper on how the qwerty arrangement of letters on a keyboard affects perceptions of the positivity of words – words with more “right hand” letters are considered more positive that those with more “left hand” letters. So, presumably, anything with an “-ing” ending is more positive than anything with an “-ed” ending.

Linked Data Workshop

I thoroughly enjoyed the Linked Data day and it seems we are moving closer to tools and apps that will help people publish and manage their data as Linked Data. As the opening speaker noted, it is hard to evangelize the use of Linked Data when many end users just want a familiar Excel spreadsheet. It is also hard for Linked Data enthusiasts who don’t have a development team familiar with rdf on hand to publish their data, even if they want to. Publishing Linked Data should be as easy as posting to social media!

A step in this direction is Annalist – A practical tool for creating, managing and sharing evolving linked data.

A very interesting paper was on semantic annotation of scholarly work on the Qur’an. Islamic scholarship is particularly well suited to a linked data approach, as so many verses of the Qur’an need to be read alongside other verses, as well as tracing the history of interpretations over the centuries.

Keynote Addresses

There were three very impressive keynote addresses, by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Mary Ellen Zurko, and Peter Norvig.

Sir Tim‘s opening keynote called for re-decentralization of the web, pointing out that all the effort of contributing photos, news, etc. to sites such as Facebook, is that these contributions are not being made in an open way that will benefit humanity, but are locked in, so that they only benefit Facebook’s shareholders.

Mary Ellen Zurko talked about security on the web, how it remains vitally important as a socio-political as well as technical concern, and if she could turn back time would find an alternative to passwords!

Peter Norvig described machine learning algorithms, which can find correlations in datasets but still need human input to give context to the results.


I was delighted to be introduced to pataphysics – the science of imaginary solutions – and patadata. It is pleasing that there are still people trying to defend the vision of the web as a playground for creativity, against the push to make it no more than an efficient commercialized virtual high street for shopping.

The spirit of surfing the web just to wander about in the hope of encountering unexpected juxtapositions and spontaneous serendipities – in contradiction to Google’s drive to give you exactly what you were looking for – is captured in the syzygy surfer. The Syzygy Surfer aims to delight you with its search results, without trying to match your preconceptions of what a “correct result” might be!