In September 2005, I took the daunting step of leaving the safety, familiarity and final salary pension of the UK public sector to join the Senior Management Team of a commercial technology company; Talis.

I will be taking a bigger step in 2009, when I move from full time employment with Talis to see what else I am capable of as an independent consultant.

A lot has happened since 2005. I joined a provider of software to UK libraries that had aspirations to be something bigger, and played my part in the team that made sure we got there. Operating entirely on money the company earned through its existing product lines, with no debt and no external investors, we set about refreshing those existing products and challenging many of the sector’s long-held presumptions about engagement, participation, openness, innovation, and control. From Library 2.0 to Open Data, we were visible on a global stage, we were active, and with white papers, public speaking, blogging, podcasting, facilitation, cajoling, challenging and networking Talis played a significant part in shaping perceptions that are now widely viewed as norms.

The company had bigger fish to fry, though, having embarked upon an ambitious development programme to deliver a technology Platform upon which the next generation of Semantic Web applications could be built. Talis set about assembling the talent required to build that Platform, and I set about building brand recognition in markets and territories where Talis was previously unknown.

In November last year, Richard MacManus of ReadWriteWeb listed Talis as one of 10 Semantic Apps to Watch;

“Talis is a 40-year old UK software company which has created a semantic web application platform. They are a bit different from the other 9 companies profiled here, as Talis has released a platform and not a single product. The Talis platform is kind of a mix between Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web, in that it enables developers to create apps that allow for sharing, remixing and re-using data. Talis believes that Open Data is a crucial component of the Web, yet there is also a need to license data in order to ensure its openness. Talis has developed its own content license, called the Talis Community License, and recently they funded some legal work around the Open Data Commons License.

According to Dr Paul Miller, Technology Evangelist at Talis, the company’s platform emphasizes ‘the importance of context, role, intention and attention in meaningfully tracking behaviour across the web.'”
(my links)

Last month, he revisited the ten and concluded;

“Over the past year, Talis has continued to make a name for itself as an evangelist for the Semantic Web, most notably through the blogging and podcasting [1, 2] activities of Paul Miller. Talis also produces a great magazine for Semantic Web, called Nodalities, and has an active company blog under the same name. As for the company’s products, the platform seems to be iterating nicely and is being used in niche library and government applications.

RWW verdict one year later: Talis has successfully positioned itself as an authority on Semantic Web in the blogosphere, which we love because it’s a great way to keep track of Semantic Web trends!”
(my links)

Through our blogs, our podcasts, our magazine, our presentations and our support for the community, Talis has played a key role in raising awareness and credibility for the Semantic Web as something more than an academic exercise. Talis, and others, have set about demonstrating that it offers a viable set of technologies that reach to the heart of business processes in a wide range of areas. Through activities such as the monthly Semantic Web Gang and ZDNet’s Semantic Web blog, I have played my part in bringing together some of the key players and giving them a Platform on which to share their ideas and experiences.

We have been concerned with more than just technology, though, and have devoted as much time to understanding and illustrating the economic, strategic and organisational disruptions that face businesses now and moving forward. Our early and ongoing support for the Open Data cause is a case in point, underpinning our shared belief that value is shifting at many points throughout the enterprise; previously hoarded data is no less valuable than it was, necessarily, but the opportunities to benefit when the value proposition is reconsidered from the perspective of the open Web are enormous.

I have played a significant part in all of this, and have learned much from the differing perspectives, backgrounds and experiences of my colleagues inside Talis… and all of the people I’ve met outside the company.

As Talis moves into 2009, ready to focus far more on showing how its products and solutions will solve customers’ problems, the time has come for me to look for new challenges. I’ve been careful not to gratuitously push Talis products over the years, and I believe that I have been successful in explaining complex issues in an accessible fashion along the way. I hope that I have demonstrated neutrality, authority, and perspective, even whilst in the full time employ of a single company. There’s a lot to build upon there, and a real opportunity to extend that reach even further. So I’m going to be setting out on my own and taking on work with clients that can benefit from that track record. Analysis, consulting, advice, speaking engagements and more.

I’ve started talking to a lot of people recently, and am already noticing some very interesting prospects which I will be firming up now that this news has entered the public domain. I’m always open to additional offers, of course!

And the first customer for the newly independent me? Talis. My current employer will be contracting part of my time to continue working on some of the broader external activities I was already doing for them. The Semantic Web Gang, for example, will continue to be underwritten by Talis, and I remain its host.

So interesting times lie ahead. I’m excited by the opportunity and daunted by the challenge in almost equal parts. I look forward to seeing where this leads next, and I am sure that I shall see many of you along the way.


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