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Pull: The Power of the Semantic Web to Transform Your Business Hardcover – December 31, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to Siegel (Futurize Your Enterprise), the semantic web, a more standardized version of today's Web where our data will be so precisely parsed as to make logical conclusions possible, will enable our online information to be stored in a personal online locker from birth, keeping all vital information such as addresses automatically updated and vastly streamlining how we do business. He posits that the semantic web will morph our current push oriented strategy, in which providers push products and services, to an individually customized pull economy. Using bowling as an example, Siegel explains that in the past, a bowler scored every game by hand; in the mid-1980s, many bowling alleys moved to pin-setting machines tied to computers that automatically calculated and displayed scores (pushing); in the future, he predicts, a bowler will enter any venue, bowl (possibly against players in other venues worldwide) and all the data will be collected and housed in a personal online locker along with statistics of past games (pulling). This thought-provoking read is sure to spark ideas about what it will take to succeed in tomorrow's marketplace. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Siegel was an early proponent of the Internet and started blogging in 1994, before the term was invented. He built some of the first Web sites and has been writing and lecturing about the Web since 1997. Always ahead of the curve, Siegel envisions the future of “smart computing” which will unfold over the next 10 years, where your data “follows you around” and is accessible from anywhere through the Web, predicting that hardware and operating systems will become obsolete as the Web itself becomes the computer. We’re already seeing a move in this direction with cell-phone data and the introduction of the Netbook; “smart chips” embedded in products now allow for more efficient tracking from manufacturing to distribution and retail. Next, these smart chips will be able to relay data to customers and repair facilities about part numbers, manufacturing date of the product, and much more. Some of the trends Siegel portends have a bit of a “future shock” quality to them, but he seems to want to shrug off the anxieties and focus instead on the possibilities. --David Siegfried

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover; 1 edition (December 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591842778
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591842774
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,486,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover 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.
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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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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