The first TopBraid Open User Group Meeting (UGM) was held on May 21, 2008 in conjunction with the 4th Annual Semantic Technology Conference, San Jose, CA.
The UGM was open to all conference attendees, and split into two sessions –morning-through-lunch and late-afternoon -- to allow attendees to also catch most of the main conference events that day.
See the Agenda with links to the slides used for the talks, demos and panel discussion.
Participation in the UGM was gratifyingly strong with a large, engaged and articulate audience of TopBraid users. Over 40 people (not counting TopQuadrant staff and presenters) attended the morning sessions and 30 or more returned for the late afternoon sessions and stayed to the end meeting on the last day of the conference!
The morning session was kicked off with two keynote talks from long term users.
Dr. Parsa Mirhaji, U. of Texas, gave a witty and energetic recounting of the extensive ways in which TopBraid tool capabilities have enhanced productivity in building complex semantic-enabled public health surveillance and medical informatics applications. He outlined how he is using TopBraid as his main tool for Ontology Editing/Management, Triple Store Management, Visualization and Navigation , Prototype Design and Implementation (OPAL project), and as his strategic Semantic Application/GUI Design Framework of choice.
J.R. Gardner of Digitas showed how the capabilities of TopBraid have supported and inspired a comprehensive approach to constructing integrated enterprise ontologies accessible by multiple types of stakeholders and instrumental in connecting them and vital business processes. Through a central theme encouraging adopters of semantic solutions to ‘model early and model often using the right tools’ stressed that it is important to image both data and process by building models OF the solution not just IN the solution.
This was followed by an overview of TopBraid Suite product Features and Best Practices by Holger Knublauch of TopQuadrant in the form of a presentation and live demonstration of selected capabilities. Both the specific slides used by Holger at the meeting and a more extensive presentation of TopBraid capabilities are available on the Agenda page.
Over Lunch, a user feedback session was conducted (facilitated by Ralph Hodgson of TopQuadrant.)
… the UGM took a break in the afternoon so participants could attend other SemTech2008 sessions …
The evening session began with two demos illustrating use of TopBraid capabilities:
Willie Milnor of TopQuadrant walked the audience through a demonstration of the construction of a model-driven faceted search application using …. [brief description of the demo and what it showed by Willie]
Daniel Mekonnen of TopQuadrant (standing in for users of TopBraid from the Constellation Program at NASA who were called away from the conference to urgent meetings) showed a demonstration of the generation of documentation of complex models (ontologies) in an end-user friendly reporting format. …. [brief description of the demo and what it showed by Daniel]
The user group meeting closed with a stellar keynote panel discussion made up of a wide variety of TopBraid users and partners. While some speakers (Phil Ashworth, UCB, and Xavier Lopez, Oracle) emphasized scalability and others (Tim Smith, Procter and Gamble, Simon Robe, Semantic Arts) emphasized richness of models, one theme came out as important to all speakers - the ability to organize model imports, transformations, and exports in an understandable and repeatable way.
So it is unsurprising that of all the features mentioned, SPARQLMotion was the one feature that was on everyone's list of "must-have" capabilities. Nice as it is to hear praise for the state of the tool (including a glowing mention by Xavier Lopez about integration with Oracle's own key feature, customized rule sets), the panel session provided a forum where real users could explore how their work pushes the boundaries of today's capabilities.
Concluding the user group meeting, with a stalwart group of more than 30 users who stayed engaged until after 7:15pm, Robert Coyne gave some brief closing remarks of appreciation for the audience and their lively participation and interest and well-deserved thanks the presenters and panel members. Given the level of interest, it was clear that many users would appreciate continuation of interaction and exchange in some form. An announcement was made that there would be an effort to organize further user group meetings starting perhaps with a virtual, quarterly conference call / user webinar with shared screen format. See Organizing Future TopBraid User Group Events.