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Ruben Verborgh


Serendipitous Web Applications through Semantic Hypermedia

A moneymoon won’t find me
My head’s my only home
With nothing to remind me
But my vinyl wrapped-up soul
Ozark Henry, Icon DJ (2002)

Like all things in life, research is not about the papers or processes, but about the people behind them. They often say it takes a village to write a book; I found out it takes several to successfully finish a PhD. Research is standing on the shoulders of giants, and a few of those giants deserve a special mention for their contribution to this work.

My supervisor Rik has given me the opportunity to work on a PhD among some of the finest researchers in Belgium. I’m thankful for the enlightening discussions we had, and I look forward to learning more from him. My co-supervisor Erik has always been there for me with understanding and support. His empathic and engaged leadership style continues to be an inspiration. Also thanks to Davy, who taught me the art of research and led me on the path of the Semantic Web.

On that path, I met many people, several of whom became friends. Two encounters in particular have profoundly influenced me and my research. When attending Tom’s talk in Hyderabad, I couldn’t have suspected how many nice projects we would collaborate on. This book would have been a different one without him. Only a month later, we would both meet Seth on a beach in Crete. The ideas we envisioned there that week will one day surely reshape the Web ;-)

At Multimedia Lab, I’m surrounded by helpful colleagues who have become too numerous to name, but here’s a tip of the hat to Sam, Miel, Pieter, Anastasia, Tom, Laurens, Dörthe, Pieterjan, Gerald, Hajar, Joachim, Sebastiaan, Glenn, Jan, Steven, Fréderic, Jonas, Peter, and Wesley. A special thanks to Ellen and Laura for their tremendous efforts in keeping everything running smoothly—we all appreciate it!

To all members of the jury, which includes prof. Patrick De Baets, prof. Filip De Turck, dr. Herbert Van de Sompel, prof. Erik Duval, prof. Geert-Jan Houben, prof. Peter Lambert, and Jos De Roo, I wish to express my sincerest gratitude for validating the work in this thesis. I especially thank Jos for all he taught me about logic and the Web, and for his fantastic work on the EYE reasoner—the best is yet to come.

My profound gratitude goes out to Jean-luc Doumont, whose quest for more efficient communication has forever changed the way I write papers and deliver talks. This book’s language, structure, and typography wouldn’t nearly have been what they are now without Trees, maps, and theorems. Clearer writing makes research usable. Thanks to the Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology for providing me with a research grant for four wonderful years. Sadly, high-quality education is not a given right for everybody in this world, yet I do believe the Web will play an important role in changing this.

I am very grateful to Vincent Wade for inviting me as a visiting researcher to Trinity College Dublin, and to Alex O’Connor and Owen Conlan who worked with me there. This unique experience allowed me to broaden my professional view in an international context.

Also thank you to many people I had the pleasure to meet over the past few years for shaping my research in one way or another: Rosa Alarcón, Mike Amundsen, Tim Berners-Lee, Peter Brusilovsky, Max De Wilde, Marin Dimitrov, John Domingue, Michael Hausenblas, Jim Hendler, Eelco Herder, Patrick Hochstenbach, Kjetil Kjernsmo, Craig Knoblock, Jacek Kopecký, Markus Lanthaler, Maria Maleshkova, David Martin, Simon Mayer, Sheila McIlraith, Peter Mechant, Barry Norton, Natasha Noy, Pieter Pauwels, Carlos Pedrinaci, Elena Simperl, Nora Srzentić, and Erik Wilde. The discussions I had with you—few or many, short or long—definitely turned me into a better researcher.

Then of course, a warm-hearted thanks to my family and friends. Thanks mom and dad for your lasting encouragement regardless of the choices I make. Niels and Muriel, I’m proud to be your brother. Thanks grandmother, I believe I inherited your sense of perspective. A special thank you to my great friend Eddy, who told me I could do anything I wanted, as long as I strived to be creative. It worked out!

Finally, I can’t say enough how I admire Anneleen for walking the whole way with me.
Thank you, my dear, for being everything I’m not.

January 2014

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