[rdfweb-dev] fwd: (brian kelly's) Trip report on WWW 2003

Dan Brickley danbri at w3.org
Tue Jun 3 22:42:45 UTC 2003

interesting w.r.t. foaf and the semantic web


----- Forwarded message from Brian Kelly <B.Kelly at UKOLN.AC.UK> -----

From: Brian Kelly <B.Kelly at UKOLN.AC.UK>
Date: Fri, 30 May 2003 10:52:21 +0100
Subject: Trip report on WWW 2003
Message-ID: <002301c32691$2a495bf0$d513268a at ukoln.ac.uk>
Reply-To: Brian Kelly <B.Kelly at UKOLN.AC.UK>

(Apologies for cross--posting)

Last week (19-23 May) I attended a W3C AC meeting and the WWW 2003
conference, held in Budapest.  An initial trip report follows.  A more
complete report will be published in the next issue of Ariadne

This was my first International WWW for two years.  I described the
WWW10 conference two years ago as an occasion at which the "Web Geeks
Meet the Ontologists" [1].  In previous conferences Tim Berners-Lee had
outlined his view of the Semantic Web (e.g. see my trip report of WWW8,
May 1999) [2].  At WWW10 the knowledge representation community appeared
to recognise that the Semantic Web would not go away, and felt that they
had to explain its flaws and how the Semantic Web should be done (this
had parallels with the occasion a few years prior to this when the
hypertext community told the Web community how hypertext should be done
- which resulted in the development Xlink, Xpointer and related specs).

So 2 years ago there was much debate - and also concerns that the
Semantic Web was too theoretical and would not impact the Web to a
significant extend.

Since then the ontologists and Web geeks seem to have been working
together productively (for example, there are a number of joint projects
going on in the UK HE community in this area).

There has also been a recognition of the need to provide demonstrators
to outline the potential for the Semantic Web.  And at WWW 2003 we saw a
number of very interesting demonstrators.  One that I have been aware of
for several months and would like to make use of (perhaps with members
of this list) is FOAF (Friends of a Friend).  This is based on the
notion of 6 links between any two people in the globe - the idea was, I
understand, developed at ILRT, University of Bristol - indeed much of
the interesting developments in the Semantic Web is taking place in the
West Country (we're not all cider-drinking country bumpkins!   So, for
example, I know Wendy Hall (Professor at Southampton University and
plenary speaker at WWW 2003); Wendy knows Tony Blair (she showed a photo
of her with Tony Blair at a British Council event) and Tony Blair knows
George W Bush.  Frightening, isn't it.  These sets of relationships can
be modelled in an RDF application known as FOAF.  This is extensible, so
(as one poster at the conference did) you could include the relationship
"attended the conference x" and (as another application I saw does)
"speaks language y".  So you can ask "how many people at this conference
speak Spanish".  So what, you may ask?  That's trivial if you use a
database.  The point about RDF is that it allows data to be connected
with each other, even if it is located elsewhere.

There are still some missing aspects to the Semantic Web, however.   As
one person pointed out, how about if you explore FOAF-space and find
that Saddam Hussein knows Bin Laden.  So you follow a link to establish
who has asserted this relationship, and the answer is the CIA.  They're
a trusted body, so it must be true then!  (Note that this isn't a major
downer for the Semantic Web as the same criticisms can be made of the
normal Web - e.g. Google for "how many cows in Texas" and see what the
UFO network has to say!)

FOAF is very interesting as it provides an opportunity for interested
individuals to dabble in the Semantic Web (just as the Web took off in
UK HE by interested individuals setting up Web servers before our
institutions recognised the potential).  However as well as well as the
potential for individuals, there are also a number of applications which
show the potential for institutions.  I number of people asked me if I'd
seen the application developed at Southampton University which explored
relationships based on the data from the recent RAE exercise - I've not
yet managed to track it down.

So for me, WWW2003 was the conference in which real applications of the
Semantic Web were made available.

I will be giving a brief summary of this at the IWMW 2003 workshop
(unfortunately John Slater now cannot attend, so his opening plenary
talk will be replaced by a talk on the Semantic Web and related
developments).  I'm hoping that one of the leading Semantic Web
developers in the West Country will be giving most of the talk and, if
he can make it, he will also run a Semantic Web BoF on the final morning
(in parallel with the debates).  I will confirm this on Tuesday.

The other good news from Budapest was the announcement that the
Patent-Free policy for W3C recommendations has now been accepted.

There were a number of other interesting talks - on the user interface
side of things, XHTML 2.0, Xforms and CSS 3.0 look interesting but the
prize for the best demo went to Dean Richards who showed the potential
for SVG 2.0.  The W3C Track slides are available at
D'oh - Dean Jackson's demo isn't available (probably because it needs
special plugins, as the spec, and probably plugins which implement the
spec haven't been publically released yet.

Some Blogs about WWW2003:

(emiller: "that's one of the most sexy RDF talks I've seen")
http://weblog.semanticpool.de/archives/000016.html  ;-)

Going back to the Semantic Web / FOAF stuff have a look at:

http://xmlns.com/foaf/0.1/ - the 'friend of a friend' vocabulary
http://rdfweb.org/2000/08/why/ - Intro to FOAF
http://xml.mfd-consult.dk/foaf/explorer/ - FOAF viewer
http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/ukoln/staff/b.kelly/foaf/ - Sexy FOAF Visualiser
http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/ukoln/staff/b.kelly/foaf/ - My first play with

1 http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue28/web-focus/
2 http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue20/web-focus/
Brian Kelly
UK Web Focus
University of Bath
Email: B.Kelly at ukoln.ac.uk
Web: http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/
Phone: 01225 38 3943

----- End forwarded message -----

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