[foaf-protocols] revisiting FOAF project goals

Melvin Carvalho melvincarvalho at gmail.com
Sat Jun 20 12:50:38 CEST 2009

On Fri, Jun 19, 2009 at 1:59 PM, Dan Brickley<danbri at danbri.org> wrote:
> I haven't explicitly written about goals for this project since 2000,
> when we called it RDFWeb (and before that RDFWebRing).
> That original document is here,
> http://www.foaf-project.org/original-intro (with one major change, I put
> the new name everywhere that it used to say RDFWeb).
> Here's what the project website said about goals in mid 2000:
> """Goals
> We want a better way of keeping track of the scattered fragments of data
> currently represented in the Web.
> We want to be able to find documents in the Web based on their
> properties and inter-relationships; we want to be able to find
> information about people based on their publications, employment
> details, group membership and declared interests. We want to be able to
> share annotations, ratings, bookmarks and arbitrary useful data
> fragments using some common infrastructure. We want a Web search system
> that's more like a database and less like a lucky dip. We need it to be
> be distributed, decentralised, and content-neutral.
> FOAF, if successful, should help the Web do the sorts of things that are
> currently the proprietary offering of centralised services.
> RDF seems to offer a lot of promise in this area. While RDF is defined
> in terms of a rather abstract information model, our needs are rather
> practical. We want to be able to ask the Web sensible questions and
> common kinds of thing (documents, organisations, people) and get back
> sensible results.
>     * "Find me today's web page recommendations made by people who work
> for Medical organisations".
>     * "Find me recent publications by people I've co-authored documents
> with."
>     * "Show me critiques of this web page, and the home pages of the
> author of that critique"
>     * etc...
> All this sounds a bit ambitious (and it is), but we think we've a
> reasonable sense of how to build a linked information system with these
> capabilities. """
> As I look at getting a revised statement of goals written, I'd love to
> hear more about what folk on the FOAF mailing lists find interesting,
> compelling or intriguing. What motivates you to spend time working with
> FOAF and RDF and linked data? Why do you care? How did you end up on
> this mailing list, or interested in RDF and Semantic Web?

Will try and give some answers to this:

I've followed FOAF on a casual bases for quite some time, recognising
it as an important technology, due to its open and extensible nature.

However, the thing that really got me interested was when I realised
you could use your FOAF profile, as a global identity, just by adding
a public key to it.  As such, this allows single sign on accross the
whole web.

FOAF has inspired two important technologies, in this respect:

1) FOAF+SSL [1] which piggy backs off SSL, to allow a client prove
that they own a profile
2) OpenID ("Your global identifier throughout the web isn't
"happygirl234324" or an email address, or
"bradfitz at identityserver.com", but your FOAF URL" -- Brad Fitzpatrick
[2] )

Both of which I find interesting, though OpenID seems to have veered
off the original FOAF concept.  I like FOAF+SSL again because if it's
openness and extensibility, and it also has the advantage of not
requiring a 3rd party Identity Provider, you can authenticate using
your browser alone.

I find this an attractive model for the web, and this lead to my
interest in the group.

FOAF appears to be quite "grass roots" which is something I like, so
one of my aims is to add some contributions to the ecosystem.

I think FOAF is perhaps the sleeping giant of the internet, and may
become the biggest social network.  What interests me is leveraging
the power of machine readable linked data, in conjunction with a
massive network, and building intelligent systems to allow people to
interact, in ways not thought of before.

Perhaps my only reservation about FOAF is that it can be a bit
overwhelming from the point of view of a beginner.  The amount of
information out there is good quality but it's hard to know where to
start, and which links to follow.  Also there isnt really a book on it
(though there is a section in practical RDF).  I think perhaps one of
the goals of FOAF might be to try and make it more accessible to a
wider audience, one idea might be in targetting and organising the
wiki page [3] to be aimed at beginners, while having more advanced
content on the main foaf project site

Overall, I find the FOAF community to be an amazing group of people,
not only in terms of the intellect and thought put into their
solutions, but also the approachability and helpfulness that seems
ubiquitous.  I've benefitted greatly as a beginner learning about this
technology over the last year, and so would be keen to make sure I do
my bit, to help others as well.  Pehaps a longer term goal might be to
work in the field, or be part of a start up, but I think some more of
the infrastrcutre needs to be built out before I'd consider that.

I hope that explains some of my motivations, but above all, I want to
be around with all this takes off! :)

[1] http://esw.w3.org/topic/foaf+ssl
[2] http://community.livejournal.com/lj_dev/683939.html
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FOAF_(software)
> Am interested in any and all responses to this, on-list, or offlist,
> blogged or emailed.
> Thanks for your thoughts!
> cheers,
> Dan
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> foaf-protocols at lists.foaf-project.org
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