From Fourthought to Kadomo

I founded Fourthought in June, 1998 with three other friends from college. Eight and a half years doesn't sound that long when I say it, but the near-decade fills my rear view mirror so completely that I can scarcely remember having done anything before it. That's probably a good thing as it means I don't much remember the years of perfunctory consulting at places such as IBM Global Services and Sabre Decision Technologies prior to making the leap to relative independence. It was in part the typical entrepreneurial yen of the immigrant and in part the urge to chart my own high-tech career course that drove me to take the risk and endure the ups and downs of running a consultancy.

And I did say Fourthought is in the rear-view mirror. Last week I accepted a position at The Kadomo Group, a very young solutions company focused in the semantic Web space. Kadomo was founded by Eric miller, former Semantic Web Activity Lead at the W3C. Eric and I have always looked for ways we could work together considering our shared interest in how strategic elements of the semantic Web vision can be brought to bear in practice. He and the other bright and energetic folks coming together under the Kadomo banner were a major part of my decision to join. It was also made clear to me that I would have a sizeable role in shaping all aspects of the company. I would be able, and in fact encouraged to continue my leadership in open source projects and community specification development. Last but not least the culture of the company is set up to suit my lifestyle very well, which was always one tremendous benefit of Fourthought.

--> Without a doubt we have the seeds at Kadomo to grow something much greater than Fourthought was ever likely to be. The company has not neglected resources for high-caliber business development, operations nor marketing. Committing to these resources was something we always had a hard time doing at Fourthought, and this meant that even though we had brilliant personnel, strong client references and a market profile disproportionate to the resources we devoted to marketing, we were never able to grow at a fraction of our potential. I've learned many of these lessons the hard way, and it seems clearly to me that Kadomo is born to greater ambition. One good sign is that I'll just be Chief Technical architect, allowed to focus primarily on the company's technology strategy. I will not be stranded juggling primary sales, operations as well as lead consultant responsibilities. Another good sign is that product development is woven into the company's foundation, so I can look forward to greater leverage of small-company resources.

Considering my primary responsibility for technology strategy it may seem strange to some that I'd join a semantic Web company, knowing
that I have expressed such skepticism of the direction core semantic Web technology has taken lately. I soured on the heaping helping of gobbledygook that was laden on RDF in the post-2000 round of specs, I soured on SPARQL as a query language when it became clear that it was to be as ugly and inelegant as XQuery. There have been some bright spots of lightweight goodness such as GRDDL and SKOS but overall, I've found myself more and more focused on XML schema and transform technology. My departure point for the past few years has been that a well-annotated syntactic Web can meet all the goals I personally have for the semantic Web. I've always been pretty modest in what I want from semantics on the Web. To put it bluntly what interests me most is reducing the cost of screen-scraping. Of course, as I prove every day in my day job, even such an unfashionable goal leads to the sorts of valuable techniques that people prefer to buzz about using terms such as "enterprise mashups". Not that I begrudge folks their buzzwords, mind you.

I still think some simplified version or profile of RDF can be very useful, and I'll be doing what I can to promote a pragmatic approach to semantic Web at Kadomo, building on the mountains of XML that vendors have winked and nodded into IT and the Web, much of it a hopeless congeries. There is a ton of problem in this space, and I believe, accordingly, a ton of opportunity. I think mixing in my somewhat diffractive view of semantic Web will make for interesting discussion at Kadomo, and a lot of that will be reflected here on Copia, which, after all, I share with Chimezie, one of the most accomplished users of semantic Web technology to solve real-world problems.

One ongoing opportunity I don't plan to leave behind is my strong working relationship with the Web Platform Engineering group at Sun. With recent, hard-earned success in hand, and much yet to accomplish, we're navigating the paper trail to allow for a smooth transition from my services as a Fourthought representative to those as a Kadomo representative.

I hope some of you will consider contacting Kadomo to learn more about our services and solutions. We're just getting off the ground but we have a surprising amount of structure in place for bringing focus to our service offerings, and we have some exciting products in development of which you'll soon be hearing more. If you've found my writings useful or examples of my work agreeable, do keep me in mind as I plough into my new role.keep in touch-->.

Updated to reflect the final settling into Zepheira.  Most other bits are still relevant

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