Tim Berners-Lee and Group of Boston Web Gurus Leading New MIT Class to Get Linked Data to Market

6/16/10Follow @xconomy

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awarded with leather motorcycle jackets embroidered with their title of winners of the competition, Sturtevant says. He adds that “an element of fun is definitely part of [the class].”

“The basic premise was instead of just having students leave a course or workshop understanding something, can we help them work towards having an impact in the field?” he says. (Off the subject aside: Sturtevant has a signature style quirk of wearing black Converse high-top sneakers starting each Labor Day and switching to white low tops come Memorial Day, so he had only recently made the switch to white when we spoke).

The teaching team is adding content to the January format for a semester-long, graduate-level class this fall that will also culminate in a competition. About 40 students will be accepted into the class, which will eventually break into teams to develop linked data prototypes. The majority of the class will be those studying computer science, but instructors also plan on letting in some business students (somewhere between one-quarter and one-third of the class), Waterman says.

The “lion’s share” of the course centers on instructing students in the nuts and bolts of linked data technology. Applicants aren’t required to have much experience in the area, just “some skills and a lot of enthusiasm,” Waterman says. But the team of instructors is injecting an entrepreneurial focus into the curriculum, in order to teach the students how to convert the technology into businesses. And it is thought that having a group of business students alongside them will help with that.

“It’s bringing project and entrepreneurial thinking to what would have otherwise been a more technical class,” Sturtevant says.

The objective is to help students sort through all the information they learn about linked data and figure out which of their ideas have the most promise of making it to the market, he explains. “It’s a strong course for engineers to step back and think, ‘Now that I understand this, how do I bring it to life in the real world and help spur this trend?’”

The team aims for the Linked Data Ventures students to get their prototypes out in the world through a number of avenues, such as offering them as freeware, entering MIT’s $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, or working on raising venture capital.

“As an entrepreneur, the linked data trend has the potential to spawn any number of successful businesses,” Sturtevant says.

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