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TheWebConf 2018 Trip Report

From: Sarven Capadisli <info@csarven.ca>
Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2018 23:29:27 +0200
To: W3C Semantic Web <semantic-web@w3.org>
Message-ID: <bb9872e3-a660-cec3-f2e5-206b4f0692c2@csarven.ca>
#TheWebConf was all around great! Nice to catch up with folks. I won't
bore you with further pleasantries :P

I noticed that the organisers were quite engaged and caring on various
fronts, even way before the event. They took some cool/important
initiatives which will hopefully pave the way for future events. One in
particular is the Code of Conduct:


People are encouraged to give feedback.


I particularly enjoyed the "Journalism, Misinformation and Fact
Checking" track. Panel + talks were well done, and the topic matter is
of course timely. See also:



The plenary sessions were all around thoughtful and fresh.


The rumours are true! ACM is now doing the rocket science Web stuff by
publishing HTML representations of the "papers". The initial state is
quite poor, but there is room for improvement.

"But, Sarven, why can't you just be jolly and dance for once?"

Ok, cool, in the grand scheme of things, a magnificent step forward for
humankind in 2018 by a well-established giant computing society?

What are the requirements to get that HTML?

1. Authors sign away the copyright of their works to IW3C2.
2. Authors can only essentially express whatever ACM is willing to
process eg. bottom line: whatever primarily works with LaTeX.

Other issues:

* URIs of the works are a disaster. Privacy concerns (eg IP address in
the URL). Unreusable (sessioned.. goes dead after 10 minutes or so):


* Images for tables/listings/code:


As for the rest of the HTML, suffice it to say that it is horrendous.

Well, that's what the community gets for "free" and "open access".
<insert world's smallest violin here>

Remark: let's be absolutely clear here. Next time someone points at any
"issues", imperfections, or their opinions about self-publishing
(certification, and archiving), please refer them to this email so we
can do a fair comparison with the level of quality that a third-party
(ACM) offers (and what they get in return), as well as its mass

Another remark: compare self-published:


with ACM's:


(click on the HTML if/when it is available again.. it is not available
at the moment.. heh)

ok one more remark: I'd love to see reviews published. The broader
scientific community can't publicly audit the reviews right now.


(LDOW chair hat off)

All around good presentations and discussions. People were engaged, so a
very good sign.

Let me now skip right to the end - my favourite part:

Asked if we can drop PDF and stick to HTML. Some grumbling (not a
surprise at this point, heard it all).. The issue that I saw was that as
long as PDF lingers, people are going to default to it.. because hey,
the "Linked Data on the Web" community speaks LaTeX, not HTML/RDF and
self-publishing on the Web. 11 years on, and what LDOW has to show for
its knowledge is PDFs. That's how it is preserved. Indisputable facts.
So much for eating our own dogfood? Maybe we aren't completely convinced
of this Web/LD thing taking off and investing on the stack? Maybe it'll
build itself? Or maybe it is all about "show me the money!"?

The biggest shocker for me was when the keynote speaker flat out asked
(and I paraphrase): "What's the incentive?"

In my head I was like, "seriously?" but I said something like: "I can't
convince you of LD at this point."

So awkward all around.

This whole thing was even after a panel on the future directions for LD,
where the panellists and the participants touched on read-write,
provenance, interfaces..

Paul Groth suggested to do something like arXiv by accepting one source

I passed the mic to Tim and he wrapped it up with "ok, so, uhh, just
make HTML as source then" (paraphrased).

Remark: PDF can be still welcomed because fundamentally there shouldn't
be any discrimination on how someone wants to communicate their work
(*). If a "Linked Data" researcher feels that PDF is the best way to
communicate and disseminate their knowledge, that's their call. So, I
think we shouldn't set that restriction, but then we are damned to make
it hard on ourselves. Ohwell, let's see how else we can move things
forward... perhaps more how-tos and stuff - something the other chairs
suggested before the event even.

* I forget about this from time to time, but talking to Jeni Tennison on
a related topic reminded me that "all should be welcome".

My concern is not with the senior LD researchers getting on board with
the LD bandwagon for publishing scholarly contributions - because that
ship has sailed - but what they may be imposing or limiting what their
students/colleagues can achieve/learn.

Aside: Looking at what's going on out there, the imec Ghent team have
picked up on the "Linked Research" initiative - or what have you - quite
well. They appear to be investing in their team's know-how in particular
to publishing/consuming their own stuff from ground up. Again, I think
that's "the next generation" right there. Don't quote me, but I'm told
that their new students are not learning LaTeX. That's a win for them
because that's a down payment on a whole set of other stuff they'll be
investing their time on instead.


Researcher Centric Scholarly Communication was.. awesome of course (yes,
I'm entitled to say that):


Minutes of the event is here:


Thanks to Amy Guy for out-of-this world scribing skillz (level 11).

Our tiny little workshop - half a day, about 30 attendees - documented
and archived and everything. It was great to see Dame Wendy Hall's
positive vibe carry the whole workshop. Many great folks like her have
been hacking at this problem (from many fronts) for like three decades.

The event brought folks from different backgrounds. That was unplanned
and exciting. So, it wasn't just (Semantic) Web fanatics. More like
people interested in Open Science, decentralisation, interop. So,
blockchainers, dat-protocolers, recommendation systemers, annotators,
people wanting to improve data reuse, psychologists, philosophers, and
the old skool, the inventor of the Web... was on board.

TimBL found out that the conference pays for Easychair. oh oh oops. He
said some stuff that I'm not going to type here, but essentially: drop
Easychair, and asked the community to build something like it with
Solid. So back to ground-zero: self-publish/review/archive...,
ActivityPub, LDN anyone? Get your personal storage/profiles/WebIDs polished!

Read the minutes!

Anyhew, looking forward to more LR stuff. Want to join forces? Say hello at:



My #MinuteMadness talk about #LinkedResearch was okayish? I can't
remember what I said.. probably gibberish.


I've presented/demod:



It was complete chaos. I had billion browser/terminal tabs open. Moved
my mouth without breathing for 15 minutes (probably at 1.61803 timble
speech-rate). Result: "My head is spinning" was Thomas Steiner's first
response, and I think he was being polite and welcoming. Later on Olaf
Hartig told me in person: "it made no sense", but that he got what I was
rambling on about apparently. I'm like, yea, that was pretty mangled. It
is all intertwined!

Remark: I should do a screencast to clarify and reach to you humans.


The #TownHall was hosted by IW3C2 and current/future TheWebConf
organisers, and it was pretty great. I'd argue that it was the most
transparent and welcoming session that I've been to in all of (Semantic)
Web confs. I'd like to urge anyone interested in the matters of
improving or even understanding what's going on behind the scenes to
check it out and voice themselves. Definitely exemplary for the other confs.

IW3C2/TheWebConf organisers disclosed costs breakdown eg. didn't even
shy away from how much ACM got per publication. That's pretty cool in my
books (even if I'm not so in favour of the whole thing). Completely
taboo subject for the other confs (for obvious reasons, heh)

IW3C2 welcomed feedback on ACM's HTML so that it can be relayed to ACM.
Ping Ivan Herman.

I asked if it'd be possible to only get the certification (peer-review)
from the TheWebConf community, opt out of the copyright/ACM dance, and
self-publishing/archiving to take place. That is, just have the conf
website link to the self-published/archived URLs. IW3C2 said that while
there are no legal issues with that, ACM "might not like it". heh.

Remark: Apparently TheWebConf 2019 is going to double-down on the "open
and inclusiveness" theme next year. I propose to work together to agree
on the essentials and ensure some uniformity/quality on the
self-publishing possibility.

Another remark: I was shocked by how little some of the commenters were
aware of the world of archiving... thinking that ACM is the only
possibility or something - and as if they do it themselves, and that by
self-archiving we'd be repeating ACM. Tsk tsk. Not like there are any
web archives, national archives, open archives, libraries, institutional
repositories... and pretty much all the doors OAI opened up,
(C)LOCKSS... and about million other digital preservation


Crazy "vegan" thing was an option in the registration. Cool! But hang
on.. what happened was that the dietary stuff was while marked quite
well - better than any other conf that I've been to - however, there was
barely any real meal available. So, it was an after thought, ie.
non-vegan meals were prepared, and then they were marked. Surprise,
surprise, you'll never believe what happened next.

The organisers truly cared about this issue and attempted to fix
throughout the whole week, but I guess there was a communication issue
with the catering service. Apparently they got it resolved on the last day.

Remark: any conference that wants to be inclusive and stuff, incorporate
vegan options from the start - not as an afterthought. A boring salad is
not a "meal". Water with 3 pieces of carrot is not "soup". :)

Oh, and proper coffee would be nice (ISWC 2013 had a proper espresso
stand. do that.)

Received on Monday, 30 April 2018 21:29:59 UTC

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