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Information at Your Programming Fingertips

July 9, 2012 | By Microsoft blog editor

Information at Your Programming FingertipsA growing trend in both the theory and practice of programming is the interaction with rich information spaces. This trend derives from the ever-increasing need to integrate programming with large, heterogeneous, connected, richly structured, streaming, evolving, or probabilistic information sources—be they databases, web services, or large‐scale, cloud‐based data analyses. However, as the complexity of programs and information structures increases, the coupling between the two is far from seamless, requiring many manual programming and modeling efforts. These manual processes often lead to brittle programs and thwart the easy application of novel compiler technologies and novel information mastering methods.

Fortunately, the Semantic Web provides rich means for ad‐hoc information structuring with querying and type-inference possibilities, while novel programming languages, like LINQ and F#, lower the entry bar to the information-rich world for the developer. In addition, innovative information mastering methods, such as Hadoop and Dryad, are frequently positioned as functional paradigms, and huge potential exists to combine information‐rich sources with both scalable and traditional programming models.

These approaches were on display this May at the Spring Mindswap in St. Goar, Germany, where researchers from around the world examined information spaces from the perspective of programming, looking for fresh insights into the promise and challenges of the design and applicability of the Semantic Web and new data-representation techniques. This workshop described the state of the art, elucidated the challenges that are required to bridge the gap between current information management and current programming language technology, and delineated concrete ways by which providers of information spaces can better serve the needs of programming languages, and vice‐versa. Of particular interest were the breakout sessions on three critical issues: (1) the handling of data versus schema, (2) the effect of information-rich programming on types in programming languages, and (3) the need to consider data quality. We would like to extend our thanks to Professor Steffen Staab of the University of Koblenz-Landau, who was the primary organizer of the Spring Mindswap.

Now, we want to invite the community to extend these discussions at the First Workshop on Programming the Semantic Web, which will be offered as part of the International Semantic Web Conference in Boston this November. In particular, we invite the submission of papers that discuss and promote the programming facet of the Semantic Web. Abstracts should be submitted by July 24, with papers due by July 31; further submission information can be found on the workshop website.

Evelyne Viegas, Director of Semantic Computing, Microsoft Research, and Don Syme, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research Cambridge

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