KESW Conference in Saint Petersburg, Russia

This year, the 4th conference on Knowledge Engineering and Semantic Web (KESW) took place in Saint Petersburg from October 7 – 9. The week before that i.e. from September 30 – October 4, the KESW school was organized. Three researchers from our group, Amrapali Zaveri, Ivan Ermilov and Konrad Höffner were invited to the conference and to give talks at the school with the main focus on Linked Data. Furthermore we were invited to give lectures at the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow.

KESW School

On Day 2, Konrad introduced the students to the RDF data model, various serializations and Linked Open Vocabularies. The next day, Amrapali taught the basics of SPARQL to the students including a practical sessions on issuing SPARQL queries to DBpedia. On the last day, Ivan spoke about conversion of data to RDF, applications that use RDF and RDF data visualization. All the talks were presented using SlideWiki, in particular the slides in the Semantic Data Web lecture series.

The rest of the talks were focused towards Ontology Engineering covering topics such as ontology languages, semantics of description logics, ontology based data access etc. This year, however, there was a very limited number of students participating in the school. Also, some of them did not bring laptops along with them, which made it difficult to conduct practical sessions.

Lectures at HSE in Moscow

Between the KESW School and the KESW Conference, we were invited to Moscow to give lectures about basic Semantic Web topics at the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow. On Friday, October 4,  2013, we went there from Saint Petersburg by the Sapsan, which is a train by Siemens similar to the ICE (in Germany).

When we arrived in Moscow just four hours later, amazed by the sheer size of the city and everything within it, we went to our hotel to check in but there was some problem that was fortunately very quickly resolved by the energetic and friendly Irina, one of our hosts of University in Moscow, who came to our rescue and also helped us on our late-night quest to find a vegetarian restaurant.

Some pizza and beer later, we learned more about the modalities of our presentation. The audience was to expected to be unknowing about the Semantic Web and around 200 in number (in the end the audience was smaller however, I guess because the presentation was on an Saturday). This changed our plans from explaining the intricacies of some methodologies to presenting basic introductions to the Semantic Web and RDF along with a few use cases.

The day of the presentation, we went to the HSE lecture room which was professionally prepared with a camera, presentation-recording over HDMI, wireless microphones and a translator. Our lectures are now available on YouTube in English with Russian translations and even a Russian transcript: russian page with all videos, transcripts and materials, Google Translate version, just the Videos of Amrapali, Konrad and Ivan.

Amrapali was the first one and she talked about “Principles of Linked Data and Data Quality”. Having a translator took some getting used to but it really helped speaking slowly and clearly and also gave us some time to think about what we just said. I was also impressed by the amount Ivan Begtin could memorize and translate later in case I forgot to keep my sentences short and I also felt like speaking with him as a translator made the presentation more lively and interactive. The students were quite interested in our use cases, like the the conversion of open spending data to increase transparency in government spending and had many questions about them. Afterwards, our hosts thoughtfully invited us for dinner in a vegetarian restaurant which I was told was really good.

I (Konrad), however, met a friend who showed me a fantastic light show on the red square which takes place in Moscow several days a year. However, because the place was prepared for the passing of the olympic torch, it was really difficult to get around the maze of blockades until we found a security check point through which we could enter. The Bolshoi Theatre was projected in a way that cleverly took its architecture into account, one moment showing its top-down construction and deconstruction and the next moments having its horse statues running away. While this effect was novel and quite amazing for me (see, it didn’t have much variance, so after a while we went over to a different building which had kind of a computer graphics demo competition videos on it, of course also using the shape building but with more extravagant ideas.

On Sunday, our last day in Moscow, we wanted to show Amrapali the red square, as she had never been in Moscow before. Unfortunately, because of the ceremony of the Olympic flame, it was impossible to enter the red square from any direction so we did some sightseeing around it. We went back to Saint Petersburg early afternoon and practiced our slides for the conference.

KESW Conference

The KESW conference was the last event of our trip to Russia. The venue of the conference was located almost in the center of the city, in a hotel, but a bit far away from the KESW school venue. Inside the hotel the participants (overall around 60 people) resided in two rooms: one was for the presentations of the papers, keynotes and guest talks, while other one was for coffee breaks. Overall the conference lasted for three days.

On each day of the conference one of our researchers presented a system demo paper. On the first day Konrad described his User Interface for a Template Based Question Answering System, a paper about building user interface for question answering system. The live demo of his work is available online. On the second day Amrapali presented her TripleCheckMate: A Tool for Crowdsourcing the Quality Assessment of Linked Data, a paper about tool for checking the quality of Linked Data, in particular it was used in DBpedia Evaluation Campaign. And on the last day Ivan presented Linked Open Data Statistics: Collection and Exploitation, a paper about LODStats, tool for collecting statistics over the LOD Cloud.

At the end of the conference on the award ceremony a delightful event happened. Our Linked Open Data Statistics: Collection and Exploitation received the best system description award (see pic below).

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