Wherein the IngentaConnect Product Management, Engineering, and Sales Teams
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FOAF for the lazy, with embedded RDF

Thursday, May 25, 2006

So, in the New World Order... all documents and things on the web must have machine readable RDF Metadata. But, I'd never until this week actually bothered to produce some DC+ metadata for our project pages, or a FOAF file for the team, or myself.

Why? Well:

1. Who the heck wants to write machine readable metadata?

- I mean, seriously, tapping out angle brackets in notepad is grim enough if you have to write a bit of HTML, at least then you get to hit refresh and see something shiny. But writing RDF/XML ? Come on.

2. I'm too lazy to keep it up to date.

- It will become yet another piece of internet junk, caused by me.

3. There's something faintly embarassing about it.

- The prospect of writing a FOAF file gives me the shivers - like writing a CV. A 'homepage' with a tiled background and a picture of my hamster/holiday - now that would be fun. But a FOAF file? I suspect it's supposed to be rather more swish and work-ish with an impressive list of things I've done and VIPs I've met. Eww.

So I was quite keen on Ian from Talis's talk about embedded RDF at XTech . Basically the idea is to write an HTML page first - so the prose is aimed at humans - and then add a few extra tags and attrs to the HTML to define the things that would be needed to make some RDF metadata. Then you use some XSLT to scrape it out on the fly - there's even a webservice to do the transform for you.

My efforts mainly consisted of putting 'rel' attributes in my existing <a href>nchors, and adding a few extra <span>s.

<p>My name is Katie.</p>
<p>My name is <span class="foaf-firstName">Katie</span></p>
-> creates the triple:
_x foaf:firstName Katie


<p>I work at <a href="http://www.ingenta.com/corporate/">Ingenta</a></p>
<p>I work at <a href="http://www.ingenta.com" rel="foaf-workplaceHomepage">Ingenta</a></p>
-> creates the triple:
_x foaf:workplaceHomepage http://www.ingenta.com

Obviously there's much more to it than this. Eg, how to get rdf:types in there.

But I just got to grips with the basics. I was able to make this foaf metadata from my new homepage.

The con is:
The *extra stuff* in your HTML does make it a bit crowded.

The pros are:
1. It's lo-fi. Just a text editor and basic HTML skills required to get going - people may even do it.
2. It gets kept up to date automatically, as you update the human-readable page - which you *might* do.
3. You don't have type out RDF/XML.
4. Less ewww.

Now I've been inspired to produce this nice machine readable page, I can query it with Leigh's newly extended SPARQL service, to get results like this.

posted by Katie Portwin at 5:02 p.m.


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