Connected Data London 2019: learning and growing together

Top speakers and sponsors, an energetic and engaged community, and organizers who are an active part of that community. This is what makes Connected Data London what it is: a shared learning experience for practitioners, thought leaders and newcomers to the exciting intersection of AI, Knowledge Graphs, Graph Databases, Linked Data and Semantic Tech.

Connected Data London has been the leading conference for those who use the relationships, meaning and context in Data to achieve great things since 2016, and 2019 was no different. Except this year the community grew bigger than ever. Thankfully we just about managed to squeeze over 250 attendees into the Hilton Doubletree but the space is booming, getting bigger and better all the time, and so are we – we’re already looking for a bigger venue for CDL2020.

A big thanks to everyone who joined us, and a brief recap of Connected Data London 2019.

Keynotes

A work of art. This is what Joshua Shinavier’s presentation on the Search of the Universal Data Model was called. Joshua, Uber Research Scientist and Apache Tinkerpop co-founder, embarked on a journey from the basics of using graph data models to intellectual challenges such as defining AI or comparing RDF and property graphs, all in his elegant visual style.

David Gorena, Microsoft AI Program Manager, was more down to earth, but not less impressive. David talked about the Largest Graph of Human Activity at Work ever Created: how Microsoft uses knowledge graphs to power products millions of people use every day, like Bing and Office. David discussed how Microsoft addresses the issues of coverage, correctness, freshness.

Giovanni Tummarello, Siren CPO and founder, was bold enough to do something not many keynote speakers do: a live demo. Giovanni did not just talk about Siren’s approach to discovering the knowledge graphs in existing enterprise data, he showed it live on stage, and it worked. Augmented analytics, anyone?

After the keynotes, it was time for breakout sessions. It would be hard to cover those in their entirety, and we honestly have not yet digested everything ourselves. All presentations have already been uploaded to our Slideshare, and videos are being uploaded on YouTube too. Following us on our social media is the best way to stay up to date with all the goodness!

That said, however, here are some of the talks that stood out – primus inter pares.

The Nodes track: industry leaders, mainstream topics

SEO has become an entry point for knowledge graphs, and experts from both communities explored how they can learn from each other in this lively panel discussion. Moderated by David Amerland, featuring Jono Alderson from Yoast, Panos Alexopoulos from Textkernel, and Andrea Volpini from WordLift.

What are our Graph realities? How did knowledge graphs get to where they are today, what can history teach us, and what does the future look like? Paco Nathan, Derwen.ai founder and O’Reilly author, explored knowledge graph use cases, use of open standards and open source, how this enhances reproducible research, and how all that can be used in the industry.

The Edges track: innovative concepts, applications and research

How do you connect people, data, and apps without centralization? Why does monopolistic data collection kill innovation? And what can Sir Tim Berners Lee’s vision of a Semantic Web of Linked Data do to change that? These are just some of the topics Ruben Verborgh, Professor of Decentralized Web technology, also affiliated with MIT and Inrupt, covered in his talk.

And to follow that up, Ruben was joined by Sebastian Hellman, DBpedia CEO, and Andre Garzia, Mozilla TechSpeaker, in a panel moderated by Jonathan Holtby from Hub of All
Things to discuss how this vision can become a reality. Hint: it will have to win the hearts of minds of software developers everywhere. For some people, those two sessions were the highlight of the day.

The Educational track: lively, interactive presentations and demos

Tara Raafat, Mphasis Chief Ontologist, is a returning speaker. Tara’s 2017 talk on RDF and OWL was called “the best introductory explanation about semantics”, and Tara lived up to her own legacy with her 2019 talk: SHACL and how it can help with data integration, data interoperability and data quality.

How can graph technology help feed the world? This is part of what Mario Bastande, Cash Projects and Data Manager at Action Against Hunger does, and he shared his journey on empowering NGOs with graph for good with the world. A little graph analytics can go a long way!

The Life Sciences track

Provenance, linking, quality assessment, reasoning, and applying FAIR principles to data are all things knowledge graphs and semantic technology excel at. This is why so many Pharma organizations have been championing the use of this technology, with adoption on the rise. This year we hosted a special Life Sciences track, aided by SciBite CTO James Malone.

We were excited and honored to host Bayer’s Alexandra Grebe de Barron, GSK’s Samiul Hasan, EMBL-EBI’s Simon Jupp, and the University of Manchester’s Robert Stevens. Making data FAIR, the underpinnings of Ontology and offering Ontology services, and question-driven problem solving were the topics they shared with us.

Connecting data, people, and ideas

This is what we have been doing since 2016, and we are already looking forward and making plans for the 2020s! We engaged in many conversations, not just during the event, but also before and after with informal feedback and surveys in addition to our own ideas. We can promise some exciting things for 2020, some of which we can talk about already.

One area we are targeting for CDL2020 is improving diversity. Our community is open and inclusive, and we want our lineup to reflect this, too. We know there are talented people from under-represented backgrounds out there but despite our speaker recruitment efforts and work on platforms such as Diversity Tickets the results were disappointing in 2019.

Statistically our demographics more or less aligned with the underlying industry demographic in 2019 but we want to go beyond this and structure the event to promote positive change in this space. Thus after engaging with speakers, sponsors and delegates there are a number of changes afoot for 2019. Watch this space.

Another point we want to improve on is our video coverage. We know it could have been better, and we were let down by an AV supplier whom we won’t be using again. Hence, we apologise for the delays publishing the videos onto our platform.

We are learning and growing together with the community and enjoying every moment of it – we hope you are too and looking forward to an exciting 2020!. We do maintain the future will be connected, and open minded, and we are looking forward to exploring it together. Onwards and upwards for Connected Data, People, and Ideas in the 2020s!