Posted:October 17, 2007

Wesch Provides Another Winner with Information R/evolution

Michael Wesch, assistant professor of cultural anthroplogy at Kansas State University, initiator of the Digital Ethnography program, and creator of the previous video wonder “Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us” (among others), has produced another fantastic 5 and one-half minutes of viewing pleasure (NOTE: may not show properly in IE; click on large white space):

Posted:October 5, 2007

Why not Web 4.0? Heck, why not Web 98.6?

I am again puking from all of the recent references to “Web 3.0″ as a code number for the pending semantic Web. (As if the semantic Web is a version release, as opposed to a process and an approach.)

The purveyors of this pseudo-debate know who they are and should know better. Shame, shame.

To settle my guts, I decided to I recover this posting I made from about a year ago:

I don't generally rant on this blog, but after having just about puked on too many Web 2.0 references, I'm now choking on new Web 3.0 references. (For those not in the know, Web 3.0 is the “real” semantic Web stuff, while Web 2.0 is that oh-so tired tagging and mashup shit.) Well, the escalation now appears clear. We're now seeing a proliferation of Web 3.0 posts today in order to set some distinctions. Don't like 3.0, not enough horsepower? How about I see that and raise you to 4.0? But why end there? After all, high school was so terribly fun and clever. . . . So, the heck with it. I decided to jump right to the jugular:

Hey, ninety eight point six, it's good to have you back again. oh, Hey, ninety eight point six, her lovin' is the medicine that saaaved me, Oh, I love my baby. *

Web 98.6. It's so cool to be on the cutting edge . . . .

* Lyrics for Keith 98.6 (written by G. Fischoff/T.Powers) provided by http://www.smoke420.com/lyrics.

Posted by AI3's author, Mike Bergman Posted on October 5, 2007 at 11:46 am in Semantic Web | Comments (2)
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Posted:September 16, 2007

Sweet Tools Listing

AI3's Sweet Tools Listing Updated to Version 10

This AI3 blog maintains Sweet Tools, the largest listing of about 800 semantic Web and -related tools available. Most are open source. Click here to see the current listing!

AI3's listing of semantic Web and -related tools has just been updated to version 10. This version adds 36 new tools since the last update on June 19, bringing the new total to 578 tools.

This version 10 update of Sweet Tools also includes an upgrade to version 2 of the lightweight Exhibit display (thanks again, MIT's Simile program and David Huynh, plus congratulations on your Ph.D, David!) and is separately provided as a simple table for quick download and copying.

Background on prior listings and earlier statistics may be found on these previous posts:

With interim updates periodically over that period.

Because of comments expirations on prior posts, this entry is now the new location for adding a suggested new tool. Simply provide your information in the comments section, and the tool will be included in the next update.

Posted:September 10, 2007

Astoria is Whistling Past the Graveyard to Irrelevance

I was pleased to see in my blog reader this morning a post from the Microsoft Astoria team on anticipated data formats for its pending formal release. I have been working on modeling Web data models and hoped to see some insight in the piece.

As the project team states,

The goal of Astoria is to make data available to loosely coupled systems for querying and manipulation. In order to do that we need to use protocols that define the interaction model between the producer and the consumer of that data, and of course we have to serialize the data in some form that all the involved parties understand. So protocols and formats are an important topic in our design process.

With that said, the team announced that the first formal Astoria release will support these three formats (with the single HTTP protocol):

  • ATOM / APP
  • JSON, the JavaScript Object Notation, and
  • Web3S, a Microsoft marketing wonder that as far as I know is only used by the MS Live group.

The later is a strange mapping of a tree data model to the record base of Astoria, in the process also abandoning a straight XML implementation in earlier versions.

Also notable for its absence is RDF (Resource Description Framework). The defensive response of the Astoria team to this absence speaks for itself:

The May [announcement on Astoria] included support for RDF. While we got positive comments about the fact we supported it, we didn't see any early user actually using it and we haven't seen a particular popular scenario where RDF was a must-have. So we are thinking that we may not include RDF as a format in the first release of Astoria, and focus on the other 3 formats (which are already a bunch from the development/testing perspective).

My personal take is that while I understand how RDF fits in the picture of the semantic web and related tools, the semantic web goes well beyond a particular format. The point is to have well-defined, derivable semantics from services. I believe that Astoria does this independently of the format being used. That, combined with the fact that we didn't see a strong demand for it, put RDF lower in our priority lists for formats.

There was a funny Glenn Ford movie from 1964 called “Advance to the Rear”. The problem is, this is not a movie, but the largest software company in the world taking two steps back for each one forward. Congratulations on alienating still further many thought leaders on the Web.

This is yet another stunning and lame attempt by Microsoft to replace open standards with proprietary ones. Get a clue, Redmond!

Posted:August 18, 2007

RDF123

UMBC’s Ebiquity Program Creates Another Great Tool

In a strange coincidence, I encountered a new project called RDF123 from UMBC’s Ebiquity program a few days back while researching ways to more easily create RDF specifications. (I was looking in the context of easier ways to test out variations of the UMBEL ontology.) I put in on my to-do list for testing, use and a possible review.

Then, this morning, I saw that Tim Finin had posted up a more formal announcement of the project, including a demo of converting my own Sweet Tools to RDF using the very same tool! Thanks, Tim, and also for accelerating my attention on this. Folks, we have another winner!

RDF123, developed by Lushan Han with funding from NSF [1], improves upon earlier efforts from the University of Maryland’s Mindswap lab, which had developed Excel2RDF and the more flexible ConvertToRDF a number of years back. Unlike RDF123, these other tools were limited to creating an instance of a given class for each row in the spreadsheet. RDF123, on the other hand, allows users to define mappings to arbitrary graphs and different templates by row.

It is curious why so little work has been done on spreadsheets as an input and specification mechanism for RDF given the huge use and ubiquity (pun on purpose!) of the format. According to the Ebiquity technical report [1], Topbraid Composer has a spreadsheet utility (one that I have not tested) and there is a new plug-in for Protégé version 4.0 from Jay Kola that was also on my to-do list for testing (which requires upgrading to the beta version of Protégé) that has support for imports of OWL and RDF Schema.

I have also been working with the Linking Open Data group at the W3C regarding converting the Sweet Tools listing to RDF, and have indeed had a RDF/XML listing available for quite some time [2]. You may want to compare this version with the N3 version produced by RDF123 [3]. The specification for creating this RDF123 file, also in N3 format, is really quite simple:

@prefix d: <http://spreadsheets.google.com/feeds/list/o15870720903820235800 etc., etc.> .
@prefix mkbm: <http://www.mkbergman.com/> .
@prefix exhibit: <http://simile.mit.edu/2006/11/exhibit#> .
@prefix rdfs: <http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#> .
@prefix rdf: <http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#> .
@prefix : <#> .
@prefix e: <http://spreadsheets.google.com/feeds/list/o15870720903820235800 etc., etc.> .
<Ex:e+$1>
  a exhibit:Item ;
  rdfs:label "Ex:$1" ;
  exhibit:origin "Ex:mkbm+'#'+$1^^string" ;
  d:Category "Ex:$5" ;
  d:Existing "Ex:$7" ;
  d:FOSS "Ex:$4" ;
  d:Language "Ex:$6" ;
  d:Posted "Ex:$8" ;
  d:URL "Ex:$2^^string" ;
  d:Updated "Ex:$9" ;
  d:description "Ex:$3" ;
  d:thumbnail "Ex:@If($10='';'';mkbm+@Substr($10,12,@Sub(@Length($10),4)))^^string" .

The UMBC approach is somewhat like GRDDL for converting other formats to RDF, but is more direct by bypassing the need to first convert the spreadsheet to XML and then transform with XSLT. This means updates can be automatic, and the difficulty of writing XSLT is replaced itself with a simple notation as above for properly replacing label names.

RDF123 has the option of two interfaces in its four versions. The first interface, used by the application versions, is a graphical interface that allows users to create their mapping in an intuitive manner. The second is a Web service that takes as input a combined URL string to a Google spreadsheet or CSV file and an RDF123 map and output specification [3].

The four versions of the software are the:

RDF123 is a tremendous addition to the RDF tools base, and one with promise for further development for easy use by standard users (non-developers). Thanks NSF, UMBC and Lushan!

And, Thanks Josh for the Census RDF

Along with last week’s tremendous announcement by Josh Tauberer for making 2000 US Census data available as nearly 1 billion RDF triples, this dog week of August in fact has proven to be a stellar one on the RDF front! These two events should help promote an explosion of RDF in numeric data.


[1] Lushan Han, Tim Finin, Cynthia Parr, Joel Sachs, and Anupam Joshi, RDF123: A Mechanism to Translate Spreadsheets to RDF, Technical Report from the Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Dept., University of Maryland, Baltimore County, August 2007, 17 pp. See http://ebiquity.umbc.edu/paper/html/id/368/RDF123-a-mechanism-to-translate-spreadsheets-to-RDF; also, a PDF version of the report is available. The effort was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

[2] This version was created using Exhibit, the lightweight data publishing framework for Sweet Tools. It allows RDF/XML to be copied from the online Exhibit, though it has a few encoding issues, which required the manual adjustments to produce valid RDF/XML. A better RDF export service is apparently in the works for Exhibit version 2.0, slated for soon release.

[3] N3 stands for Notation 3 and is a more easily read serialization of RDF. For direct comparison with my native RDF/XML, you can convert the N3 file at RDFabout.com. Alternatively, you can directly create the RDF/XML output with the slightly different instructions to the online service of: http://rdf123.umbc.edu/server/?src=http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pGFSSSZMgQNxIJUCX6VO3Ww&map=http://rdf123.umbc.edu/map/demo1.N3&out=XML; note the last statement changing the output format from N3 to XML. Also note the UMBC service address, followed by the spreadsheet address, followed by the specification address (the listing of which is shown above), then ending with the output form. This RDF/XML output validates with the W3C’s RDF validation service, unlike the original RDF/XML created from Sweet Tools that had some encoding issues that required the manual fixing.