It feels strange, but last Friday, after a good 7 1/2 years (that’s 2829 days!), I finally had my last day at DERI, the Digital Enterprise Resarch Institute at the National University of Ireland in Galway.
Coming from a background as a linguist and knowing very little about the Semantic Web, I started as a fresh PhD student in January 2004, when DERI was still only a handful of researchers. Very few people had ever heard about this “Semantic Web” (let alone “linked data” – that label was only coined a few years later), and those who did mostly considered it to be a rather far-fetched, purely academic exercise. I experienced the somewhat crazy early years at DERI (read about it in the paper…), saw the institute grow, change management, change location and eventually turn into the largest (currently 137 members) and probably most successful SW research institute world-wide. I’m pretty sure that for many if not most SW or linked data-related projects and activities you will come across today, there will be someone involved who either did or does work at DERI. Or someone who will work at DERI in the future – during the almost 8 years I have spent there, many outstanding personalities I met in the community eventually joined our little institute.
I experienced DERI as a fantastic place to work: I learned an immense amount of things (skills and experiences that definitely helped me find my new job), made good friends from all over the world (some of the for life, I’m sure), had the opportunity to work and engage with some of the most interesting and influential people in the community (both at DERI and in collaboration with outside partners) and even managed to finish a PhD along the way. Of course, part of the DERI experience is the (mostly) beautiful city of Galway, where the institute is located – but that’s a whole different story. I feel privileged having been very close to the centre of a development which saw the idea of a meaningful, machine-interpretable, “smarter” Web evolve from something that was either ignored or laughed at, into something that is now (in one form or the other) on the agenda of virtually all the big players who define what the Web is today – to pick a few arbitrary examples, just look at schema.org (Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft), Opengraph (facebook) or the adoption of linked data by the BBC.
So, now that my time at DERI is over, I’d like to say “thank you” once more to everyone I have met there, worked with, laughed with, argued with, drank Guinness, whiskey and wine with (or coffee and tea), or walked through the rain with – go raibh míle maith agat! We’ll meet again!