Semantics vs real world

I will develop this into a post later, but I have an unfinished thought about semantic discussion vs real world system building.

I’m sat here at the DataSharingSummit, using the free wifi kindly provided by Innovis, eavesdropping on a couple of different concurrent sessions. Yesterday’s discussions were very down to earth; today has broken down into a number of different semantic issues.

There’s a tension between the people who actually want to build and market a system, and the people who want to have academic discussions about the ideas. Both are important, but I’m very much in the “build something” camp. If you have a bottom line to look after, as I do as the director of a company, there’s no other possible solution; you need to create a product that real people can pick up and use. The deeper, longer discussions are good and important, but that’s what universities are for. That’s not to say that those discussions aren’t important; they are (although some are arguably cul de sacs and echo chambers). It’s simply not what we do: we create products. Microsoft and Google can afford to have academic research divisions; Broadband Mechanics, Crowdvine, SixApart and Curverider cannot. We can certainly create new ideas and do research, but we do so through building them.

In the educational technology world, where Elgg originally came from, this conflict is obviously in the air. I’m not a little surprised to see it here in Silicon Valley, in an environment so thick with people doing it for themselves.

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