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Pull: The Power of the Semantic Web to Transform Your Business

Pull: The Power of the Semantic Web to Transform Your Business [Kindle Edition]

David Siegel
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

The first clear guide to the Semantic Web and its upcoming impact on the business world

Imagine that, in 1992, someone handed you a book about the future of something called the World Wide Web. This book claimed that through a piece of software called a "browser", which accesses "web sites", the world economy and our daily lives would change forever. Would you have believed even 10 percent of that book? Did you take advantage of the first Internet wave and get ahead of the curve?

Pull is the blueprint to the next disruptive wave. Some call it Web 3.0; others call it the semantic web. It's a fundamental transition from pushing information to pulling, using a new way of thinking and collaborating online. Using the principles of this book, you will slash 5-20 percent off your bottom line, make your customers happier, accelerate your industry, and prepare your company for the twenty-first century. It isn't going to be easy, and you don't have any choice. By 2015, your company will be more agile and your processes more flexible than you ever thought possible.

The semantic web leads to possibilities straight from science fiction, such as buildings that can order their own supplies, eliminating the IRS, and lawyers finally making sense. But it also leads to major changes in every field, from shipping and retail distribution to health care and financial reporting.

Through clear examples, case studies, principles, and scenarios, business strategist David Siegel takes you on a tour of this new world. You'll learn:

-Which industries are already ahead.
-Which industries are already dead.
-How to make the power shift from pushing to pulling information.
-How software, hardware, media, and marketing will all change.
-How to plan your own strategy for embracing the semantic web.

We are at the beginning of a new technology curve that will affect all areas of business. Right now, you have a choice. You can decide to start preparing for the exciting opportunities that lay ahead or you can leave this book on the shelf and get left in the dust like last time.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 883 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio; 1 edition (31 Dec 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002YJK5KK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #489,085 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
From the cover, the contents page, to the end of the book, this is an extremely well designed, researched and written book. I read it on holiday far away from the stresses of work and I got so inspired that I couldn't wait to get back and put it into practice. I love all the points of views from the various departments in an organisation and how every idea is backed up with an example of where this kind of approach is already working. It's inspirational and pragmatic.

There are so many interesting facts and original ideas that you feel as if you're being let in on tens of secrets and thought process, which will make you more successful in the future. I'm recommending the book for my delegates at The Chartered Institute of Marketing, my staff and clients.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A fine piece of futurism 19 Feb 2011
I read this book expecting a primer in semantic web with some vision tacked onto it (to maybe get me enthused). What I found was a raft of futurism (of around the ten years hence type). Now, I actually don't think there is enough futurism around right now (ten years hence is too far though) so I wasn't disappointed and it was quite a fun read but it should perhaps be more honest in its intention.

The core vision is - the personal data locker. This is a sort of Facebook; but one that places the data back with you in an open/linked format (rather than Facebook's walled-garden). This enables you to have more control, great data-integration and better services - through competition (in theory, you can give your data to whoever you like). In turn, this means that futurist scenarios (of which many are described) can be realised. The logic here is undeniable and this concept is the most interesting aspect of the book. I particularly liked the "passive commerce" idea. It doesn't go far enough though. The scenarios described require literally hundreds of preferences to be maintained for each person. Who will do this? The consumer won't certainly. Syllogy could maybe do it (through semantic web reasoners) but the book doesn't have much to say about this (or any of the steps required to practicably realise the personal data locker).

I think the vision eventually gets a little confused since it revolves around the semantic web, the personal data locker and the concept of "pull". This is too much for a vision. If the author had stuck with the personal data locker; he'd have more than a best-seller - he'd have a real manifesto for the future (and VC's biting his arm off).
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good in parts 8 April 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book has its good bits and its not-so-good bits. It is certainly thought provoking and sparked off all kinds of ideas about what is possible. It is very wide ranging (libraries, the health care system, tax) and appears in general to be very well researched.

It was marred by several things. Firstly in a few particulars it was factually inaccurate (e.g in the assertion that print-on-demand - POD - books do not have ISBNs. The author misses a trick here - the ramifications of POD are potentially huge). Secondly the book is very ethnocentric. Just for example, Chinese internet usage is closing fast on the US. By mid century, China will have eclipsed the US and what China is doing on line will matter more to us than what the US is doing. Another example of ethnocentricity: the assertion that what Africa needs is the Internet. This is just asinine (try clean water).

The third weakness was an overliberal application of semantic pixie dust. We have "semantic information" (what other kind of information is there?), "semantic formats", "semantic legal documents", "semantic feedback" etc: and although I suspect that the author knows what he means by the term, he doesn't define it adequately for the rest of us. For example, he talks about "semantic" meaning (among other things) "unambiguous". I think what he means is that "there is never any doubt what a piece of data represents or to what/whom it applies". So "semantic" data combines the data value itself (39.4), what it represents (weight in kgs) and what it refers to (a particular make and model of lead-acid battery): but that is my extrapolation, not the author's.

The fourth weakness is that his depiction of the future does not even acknowledge the risk of the wholly disruptive.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lots of hype but not much clarity 12 Jan 2011
By Yaron - Published on
Verified Purchase
As someone involved with the Semantic Web (I'm a developer on the Semantic MediaWiki project), I was naturally quite curious about this book. There's been so much vague, buzzword-y and contradictory hype about the Semantic Web that the time is ripe for a book that cuts through the BS in clear language, and still manages to make a compelling case for the Semantic Web. David Siegel's "Pull" is not that book - it ignores the ambiguity that currently exists, and adds some more of its own. This is a book that often sacrifices clarity for hype.

Despite the subtitle, the basic idea of "Pull" is not actually about the Semantic Web at all: it's that, in the future, the services and products we use will know everything they need to about us - so that, for example, when we enter a hospital, the systems there will already know our complete medical history. In the book's parlance, each device or process "pulls" the necessary information to it, rather than requiring us to "push" the data - and the source of the information will be some sort of personal online "data locker" that each of us owns. It's hardly a new idea - variations of it a staple of speculative magazine articles for maybe 20 years; and I'm even aware of some failed '90s startups that tried to do a subset of it, like online "agents" that make purchases for you. Which is not to say that all of this stuff won't happen, of course; but it's an indication that there's no guarantee that any of it will come any time soon.

The new idea in the book is that the Semantic Web will be the thing that brings us to that point. But the way Siegel defines "Semantic Web", that's basically a tautology. He uses the term to refer to any set of data that is contained in a standard, non-ambiguous format, and is available online. Well, if you have distributed smart devices and services, they're going to have to send data back and forth with other systems - and if so, the data would have to be in a standard, non-ambiguous format, and sent over a network. It's really just a restatement of one of the challenges involved (though hardly the only one). And the concept of more-universal formats for communication, too, is a fairly old one - the book's description of a sort of global language of data closely resembles a lot of the hype around XML that emerged in around 1997. In fact, some of the projects Siegel mentions simply *are* XML, like XBRL, the business-based XML format that makes financial reporting easier to process. It looks like a case of existing technology being rebranded to fit the new buzzwords.

To add further to the confusion, some parts of the book have nothing to do with either "pull" or the "Semantic Web", but seem intended just to champion Siegel's pet causes, or maybe just to pad out the book - like his praise for replacing the income tax with the FairTax national sales tax, and his discussion of "robotic ants" that, in the future, will crawl around your house to check the wiring. The connection seems to be that, like smart devices, these innovations will make your life easier - but if so, maybe he should have just called the book "Ease".

For a book as nebulous as this one, it still manages to get a lot of technical details wrong. To give two examples: it confuses "data" with "metadata" - a pet peeve of mine; contrary to the book's description, a business card doesn't hold metadata, just regular data. And the book mentions my project, Semantic MediaWiki, as well as a somewhat related project, Freebase - but only for long enough to refer to them both - incorrectly, in both cases - as "Wikipedia-based efforts".

"Pull" quotes from Bill Gates' 1995 book "The Road Ahead", and one of the review blurbs compares "Pull" to that book - which is unintentionally appropriate here, because "The Road Ahead" is a cautionary lesson in the dangers of techno-futurism. Gates' book covered some of the same ground as "Pull" - smart houses and all that - but gave only brief mention to the World Wide Web, at least in its first printing. It's only a year after "Pull" was published, and already one can see it headed for a similar fate. Siegel advises Apple to get out of the computer-hardware business and into the data business: this was four months before the launch of the iPad. He also writes, "I expect Google Squared and WolframAlpha to be quite popular by the time you read this." Both currently languish in (semi-)obscurity, after some initial buzz. And he lavishes praise on other projects that have failed to get much excitement elsewhere, like NEPOMUK, LarKC and UMBEL. If you're reading this review more than a year or two after the time of this writing, it could be that one or more of those names have become a bigger deal - I doubt it, but unlike Siegel, I don't claim to be well-acquainted with the future.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and comprehensive but lacking in some key ways 22 Jun 2010
By John D. - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Although I enjoyed this book and have recommended it to others, I can only give it 3 stars. It merits another half-star but I couldn't honestly give it 4 stars.

First, the good. This is a clearly written, non-technical introduction to the "semantic web" in its broadest sense. The author's vision extends beyond semantically enriching the current web to a world where metadata about everything is unambiguous and available on the web in standard, royalty-free formats. "Pull" refers to how this data will be readily available for users and applications. We won't have to go retrieve it explicitly; instead, "we automatically get what we need when we need it" (p. 11).

Much of the book elaborates on numerous companies and efforts to make this the case. Although they all fall short in some way, Siegel argues that they are headed in the right direction and that realizing this vision will increase efficiency in many areas and open up whole new opportunities (e.g. in retail, healthcare, financial reporting and compliance, etc). If you're looking for a comprehensive overview of how semantic technologies are gaining ground, I would recommend the first section of his book.

In the world where all this data is interconnected your personal data will be pulled from what Siegel calls your "personal data locker". It will hold your identifying information and financial credentials as well as various bits of personal information, such as information about your allergies and airline seating preferences. With your permission your bank would pull data about your credentials to provide you with your balance and a restaurant would pull allergy information so they wouldn't serve you food that would make you sick. Your data locker might also contain data about what you're interested in buying (like a car) and for how much, data that somebody could pull in order generate an offer your data locker would pull based on preferences you've set.

While the data locker concept is compelling and developed in detail, Siegel overlooks or gives short attention to two obvious major issues. The first is fraud. As our lives become more entwined with semantically rich data "out there in the cloud" how can we be sure that content is protected from misuse? Siegel says little of value here except to urge caution in sharing our data. He notes that as security and protections increase criminals will have to become more advanced, but he overlooks the fact that the consequences of breaching a centralized representation of one's entire personal data store could be catastrophic.

One also has to wonder how this data locker will persist. Will it have the portability that mobile numbers have (remember what a burden number portability was going to be and how the carriers resisted it)? Will it be controlled by the government or an enterprise that isn't out to profit off you? The most likely scenario is that, much like e-mail services, it will be held as a free service by at least more than one technology giant that will be under pressure to share this data in a limited way that you presumably control. Siegel doesn't address this very plausible scenario nor the likely problems, and history shows that we're often not told the full details on how our personal information might be shared.

All of this aside, my central criticism of Siegel's book and the reason that I gave it 3 stars is that he commits what I call "The Big Ontology Fallacy". The fallacy is to assume that once you have all this metadata open and available, that once your ontological representation is rich and comprehensive enough, that everything else just falls into place. But semantically connected data is simply a better data representation. The processes and infrastructure that will pull this data and utilize it are just as complex. Better metadata doesn't pull itself.

This is important because a book that aims to convince businesses leaders of the value of making relevant data available in an open and unambiguous format should speak to all aspects of this effort. What often happens is that they see the value in the open and available data portion without realizing the massive effort required to build all the applications that will use this data, and once this happens ideas like the data locker seem hopelessly far-fetched. I wish Siegel had said more about this other component because in my experience it is a significant barrier to getting businesses to move in the direction he advocates.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heads Up for Entrepreneurs! 1 Jan 2010
By David Wineberg - Published on
What I really like about Pull is that not only does Siegel explain the Next Big Thing, but he shows us exactly how it will benefit us in dozens of different domains. So unlike some other books, this is not pie-in-the-sky stuff. It is all very real, under development, test and deployment right now, and very accessible. (I just read about Cisco now using its entire 45,000 staff as an alpha for its healthcare systems - systems straight out of Pull!) It's a fun read if you want a glimpse of how you are in fact going to live in the not too distant future.

It never occurred to your grandparents that they would ever own two cars. It never occurred to your parents that they would carry mobile phones everywhere. It never occurred to us that nearly every room would have a computer in it. Now Pull shows you an engaging and enormously useful set of tools for the future. For entrepreneurs, it's a heads-up. For the rest of us, it's a well written, worthwhile book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Push is based on process, PULL is based on outcomes 7 Aug 2010
By vpbeerman - Published on
It seems the debate over the Semantic Web is all about semantics. Most of the critical reviews written about David Siegel's Pull argue over the definition of `Semantic Web' more than they critique his book. Or they suggest that he has gone too far in imagining the future of the Web. Given he doesn't put timeframes on his predictions, and the world is notorious for underestimating what technology will make possible, I find this a hollow argument as well.

I strongly agree with Siegel's first premise: "Today, the information ecosystem is a loosely connected, ad hoc collage of data that generally doesn't work very hard. It is complete with partners, predators, and parasites."

Rather than diving into the debate over Ontologies and Artificial Intelligence, Siegel recommends a more flexible definition of the Semantic Web - "a new way of packaging information to make it much more useful and reusable... unambiguous, tagged in a royalty-free format, governed by a nonprofit org, that all software can understand." If you think this is a good idea, you should read his book.

Siegel goes on to paint a picture of a future where this `unambiguous, tagged metadata' will enhance our everyday lives by dramatically improving processes from retail and tax collection to manufacturing and garage sales. However distant some of these realities may be, entrepreneurs and executives alike should monitor these trends.

Clay Shirky offers this clear-headed assessment in his essay: The Semantic Web, Syllogism, and Worldview: "Much of the proposed value of the Semantic Web is coming, but it is not coming because of the Semantic Web. The amount of meta-data we generate is increasing dramatically, and it is being exposed for consumption by machines as well as, or instead of, people. But it is being designed a bit at a time, out of self-interest and without regard for global ontology. It is also being adopted piecemeal, and it will bring with it with all the incompatibilities and complexities that implies. There are significant disadvantages to this process relative to the shining vision of the Semantic Web, but the big advantage of this bottom-up design and adoption is that it is actually working now."

Whatever your opinions on the exactitudes of the Semantic Web, I think most of us can see that "we're about to go through a disruptive period where customers can see all offers and gather deep industry intelligence as easily as the most seasoned industry insider," albeit as Shirky points out `a bit at a time, out of self-interest.'

Ubiquitous, unfettered access to unambiguous information is what Pull is all about, and "pull" leads to performance. In the "performance economy," your company's economics are aligned with your customers'. "Push is based on process, pull is based on outcomes."

The most encouraging conclusion I drew from Pull is that data tagging gives people around the world a chance to participate in the globally connected, interdependent economy. Even with limited training and a mobile phone, anyone can tag data, from anywhere. "The only person who can categorize everything is everybody." - Clay Shirky

Don't get caught up in semantics. Read Pull with an open mind and think of what YOU can create, today and tomorrow, with the tools and tagged data of the Semantic Web.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Semantic-Web is Coming 5 Jan 2010
By Holger Buerger - Published on
The book is full of great information on how the Semantic Web will shape the next generation of the web in which we will stop pushing information but rather pull the information from the various product or service provider.

I was looking for something that explains the Semantic Web more from a strategic rather then a technical perspective. This book really helped me to understand how the Semantic Web can be applied. There are numerous real-live examples. From shipping products to health-care, tax, real estate, financial data (XBRL), search & security - everywhere you will find examples of businesses that already use or transition to the Semantic-Web.

This book was a great read and I highly recommend it for everyone interested in this topic.


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Another word for semantic is unambiguous. In the semantic web, we declare what we mean in precise, standardized terms. Data that is semantic means exactly the same thing to any system or person who uses it. &quote;
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In the semantic web, the data allows us to make inferences and draw conclusions. &quote;
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on the semantic web, data never moves - it stays in one place where we can always find it, use it, pull it, and combine it with other information. &quote;
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