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Fear of a FOAF planet? (Etech 2004)

Original abstract follows. What we did in the end was a short talk from me, followed up by Edd Dumbill on FOAFboat, and making space for a run of short llightning talks from various fun people like Mark Canter, Jo Walsh, Marc Powell, ... --danbri

The Friend of a Friend (FOAF) project is creating a (Semantic) Web of machine-readable RDF/XML homepages describing people, the links between them, and the things they make and do. This session introduces FOAF, giving a lightning tour of its origins, goals, current status and possible futures.

What would happen (to privacy, to the media, to commerce) if search engines evolved into structured, aggregating databases? What would happen if machines could exchange, merge and reason about descriptions of people using standards-based, freely available tools? What should we do as these 'ifs' become 'whens'?

This session will outline the basics of FOAF, illustrated with discussion of ongoing work including FOAFMobile ("show me weblogs and profiles for people sitting nearby"), FOAFCorp ("Reveal the hidden structure of contemporary capitalism! Build a better corporate intranet!"), as well as the issues arising from the convergence of social networking, activism and Indy media concerns ("I'd like to talk to a FOAF who has been to Iraq...").

FOAF has many possible futures: utopian, dystopian, and the spaces in between. Modest technologies can have unexpected consequences. As a simple technology designed to encourage coincidence, FOAF opens up many possibilities. Moving towards mainstream use, we must balance wide-eyed optimism with sober assessments of possible unwelcome futures. FOAF is both a driver for change, and a readily accessible tool for understanding, adapting to and participating in this changed world. While FOAF is at heart a tool for describing and modeling our world, the Semantic Web is a tool for changing it.

Fear of a FOAF planet? (Etech 2004)

  1. 1. FOAF Session logistics <ul><li>4.30-4.55 Danbri- FOAF </li></ul><ul><li>4.55 Questions </li></ul><ul><li>5.00-5.10 Edd Dumbill - FOAFBot </li></ul><ul><li>5.15 Lightning talks (8 x 5 mins) </li></ul>
  2. 2. Fear of a FOAF planet? Dan Brickley (W3C) [email_address] O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference February 9-12, 2004
  3. 3. Overview <ul><li>What is this FOAF thing? </li></ul><ul><li>What can we do with it? </li></ul><ul><li>Why is it interesting? </li></ul><ul><li>How do its technical and social characteristics relate? </li></ul><ul><li>Where next? Are we ready to go mainstream? </li></ul>
  4. 4. Friend of a Friend (FOAF) basics <ul><li>Machine-readable home pages </li></ul><ul><li>FOAF files (pages) and vocabulary (a dictionary of terms) </li></ul><ul><li>RDF markup for “Person”, “mbox”, “homepage”, “workplaceHomepage”, “schoolHomepage”, “knows”, … </li></ul><ul><li>Linked in a (semantic) Web to other FOAF files </li></ul><ul><li>Freeform, loosly constrained, designed to be independently extended without breaking </li></ul>
  5. 5. An example FOAF profile <ul><li><foaf:Person> </li></ul><ul><li><foaf:name>Peter Parker</foaf:name> </li></ul><ul><li><foaf:gender>male</foaf:gender> </li></ul><ul><li><foaf:title>Mr</foaf:title> </li></ul><ul><li><foaf:givenname>Peter</foaf:givenname </li></ul><ul><li><foaf:family_name>Parker</foaf:family_name> </li></ul><ul><li><foaf:mbox_sha1sum>cf2fd069302feb63fa7f20bd82</foaf:mbox_sha1sum> </li></ul><ul><li><foaf:homepage rdf:resource=&quot;;/> </li></ul><ul><li><foaf:weblog rdf:resource=&quot;;/> </li></ul><ul><li><foaf:knows> </li></ul><ul><li><foaf:Person rdf:nodeID=&quot;harry&quot;> </li></ul><ul><li><foaf:name>Harry Osborn</foaf:name> </li></ul><ul><li><foaf:homepage rdf:resource=“” /> </li></ul><ul><li><rdfs:seeAlso rdf:resource=&quot;;/> </li></ul><ul><li></foaf:Person> </li></ul><ul><li></foaf:knows> </li></ul><ul><li></foaf:Person> </li></ul>
  6. 6. Visualising FOAF: FOAFNaut
  7. 7. Try it and see: the FOAF experiment <ul><li>What if machines could read our homepages? </li></ul><ul><li>What do we lose by dumbing down to their level? </li></ul><ul><li>What might search engines evolve into? </li></ul><ul><li>How do we deal with lying, trust, reputation? </li></ul><ul><li>Sneaking up on the big hard problems… </li></ul>
  8. 8. Saying things in FOAF: <ul><li>“ I’m Dan and I work at W3C and I know Libby who works at ILRT and her FOAF profile is [over here] and here are the titles and descriptions of some documents we wrote together.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Here’s my photo like I’d use on my homepage. And here are some other photos, with info on the people and objects depicted in them” </li></ul><ul><li>using FOAF extensions: ” I’m vegetarian. I’m a capricorn. I’m friends with Edd. Here’s my calendar in RDF form. I like the bands Massive Attack and New Order.” </li></ul>
  9. 9. FOAF tech: the acronym view… <ul><li>FOAF profiles are RDF/XML documents </li></ul><ul><li>They can say anything (or nothing) </li></ul><ul><li>FOAF vocabulary provides 50+ terms for making simple claims </li></ul><ul><li>FOAF files can use any other RDF terms as well: eg. MusicBrainz, RSS1, Dublin Core, Wordnet, Creative Commons, FOAF Relationship schema, blood types, starsigns, [your idea here] </li></ul><ul><li>The FOAF vocabulary is defined using W3C RDF Schema (RDFS) and the Web Ontology Language (OWL) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Why FOAF uses RDF and OWL <ul><li>RDF guarantees freedom of independent extension </li></ul><ul><li>OWL provides fancy data-merging facilities </li></ul><ul><li>-> Freedom to say what you like, using any RDF markup you want, and have RDF crawlers merge your FOAF documents with others and know when you’re talking about the same entities. </li></ul>
  11. 11. FOAF recap: low-tech hi-tech <ul><li>New kind of Web page for machines (RDF) </li></ul><ul><li>Echoes freedom and flexibility we enjoy in our homepages </li></ul><ul><li>Low-tech solution: like RSS, just a file on your site </li></ul><ul><li>Or published on your behalf by services </li></ul><ul><li>A Web of files describing a Web of people </li></ul>
  12. 12. FOAF on the Web <ul><li>Planning for lies, mischief, mistakes </li></ul><ul><li>Importance of who-said-what (PGP, RDFdb, UI) </li></ul><ul><li>Anyone can describe anyone </li></ul><ul><li>Dataset is out of control, distributed </li></ul><ul><li>Legal, privacy and etiquette issues </li></ul>
  13. 13. Lessons from Social Networking tech <ul><li>“ I want my data back!” </li></ul><ul><li>Each site partially describes our world </li></ul><ul><li>He’s on Friendster; she’s on Orkut… </li></ul><ul><li>Import/export sorely needed </li></ul><ul><li>Friends, fans, ratings: “you have no foaf:friends” </li></ul><ul><li>Allow for fakesters, fun, gaming, personas, secrets and lies. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Where are we today? <ul><li>Growing number of self-hosted foaf-a-matic files </li></ul><ul><li>Several services produce and/or consume FOAF profiles (Ecademy, TypePad/Cocolog; LiveJournal and Tribe looming) </li></ul><ul><li>Chatbot, visual, HTML and machine interfaces to aggregated FOAF </li></ul><ul><li>FOAF terms being used in other RDF formats </li></ul>
  15. 15. Styles of FOAF description <ul><li>Explicit: FOAF extensions for “friend”, “best friend”, “arch-nemesis”, “cousin”, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Implicit: work for same organisation, went to same school, co-authored a doc, contribute to same project, appeared in same photos </li></ul><ul><li>FOAF and image description </li></ul>
  16. 16. Applications <ul><li>Local: FOAFMobile, BlueFOAF </li></ul><ul><li>Activist: FOAFCorp (fatcat FOAFs), DeanLink, Media annotation </li></ul><ul><li>What is FOAF for? -> What is data for? </li></ul><ul><li>Anything you can say in RDF/FOAF, you can ask of harvested FOAF data… </li></ul>
  17. 17. Recap and conclusions <ul><li>FOAF and RDF as freeform platform for experimentation </li></ul><ul><li>‘out of control’ by design </li></ul><ul><li>Tech machinery (harvesting, merging) works </li></ul><ul><li>Plenty of room for experimentation, evolution, stylistic variations </li></ul><ul><li>Mainstream? A few lines of code can generate 1000s of new profiles </li></ul><ul><li>Social, legal, privacy, issues need serious attention </li></ul>
  18. 18. Questions and further reading <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> and rdfweb-dev mailing list. </li></ul>