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One Big Happy Family

This document summarizes a meeting about connecting people on the social web using open standards. It discusses the history of semantic web projects like FOAF and RDF that aim to make web documents machine-readable and link people and information. It also addresses disagreements between groups working on these issues and emphasizes finding common ground through collaboration and focusing on shared goals of a more decentralized and interconnected web.

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‘One Big Happy Family’
Dan Brickley, microformats vEvent,
      London 27 May 2008


                                     danbri@danbri.org
Problems & non-problems
                                       Facebook
    fragmented social Web
                                                      Google
                      ‘war etc.’
  censorship
                                   more than 1 way to do it
               global warming
                                              disagreement
needless data entry
                                   too many friends
    silly disagreements
If we can’t learn to disagree nicely...




                                  ...we’re all screwed.
One Big Happy Family
“Humanity is a tangle, which the
 Web lets us see...” (TimBL ‘08)




                      photo credit:
                      Hamed Saber (Iranian Flickr users meetup)
In the real world, people are kept apart by distance. Because of the vastness of
the earth, different cultures have developed. People live in separate countries,
divided by boundaries and sometimes by walls with soldiers and guns.

On the Web, people come together - they connect - because they care about
the same things.

The real world is about distances keeping people apart.

The Web is about shared interests bringing people together.

                       David Weinberger, ‘Small Pieces Loosely Joined (for kids)’

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One Big Happy Family

  • 1. ‘One Big Happy Family’ Dan Brickley, microformats vEvent, London 27 May 2008 danbri@danbri.org
  • 2. Problems & non-problems Facebook fragmented social Web Google ‘war etc.’ censorship more than 1 way to do it global warming disagreement needless data entry too many friends silly disagreements
  • 3. If we can’t learn to disagree nicely... ...we’re all screwed.
  • 5. “Humanity is a tangle, which the Web lets us see...” (TimBL ‘08) photo credit: Hamed Saber (Iranian Flickr users meetup)
  • 6. In the real world, people are kept apart by distance. Because of the vastness of the earth, different cultures have developed. People live in separate countries, divided by boundaries and sometimes by walls with soldiers and guns. On the Web, people come together - they connect - because they care about the same things. The real world is about distances keeping people apart. The Web is about shared interests bringing people together. David Weinberger, ‘Small Pieces Loosely Joined (for kids)’
  • 7. Group hug. Back to reality. “RDFa is microformats done right.” “MFs are very un-web-like...” MFs are... “real world”... “beyond academics and theoretical discussions” MFs aren’t... “a panacea for all taxonomies, ontologies, and other such abstractions” “...defining the whole world, or even just boiling the ocean”
  • 9. Group cringe. Can we do this better ? ‘We’ ?
  • 10. a slippery word “We...”
  • 11. “There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don't.” Robert Benchley, Benchley's Law of Distinction
  • 12. Them and Us XML ‘vs’ RDF Semantic ‘vs’ Syntactic Academic ‘vs’ Commercial Practical ‘vs’ Theoretical Naïve ‘vs’ Wordly Dataportability ‘vs’ OpenID
  • 13. But there’s only one Web activists standards lawyers entrepreneurs researchers liars writers hackers usabilitists So we all do our bit. students journalists troublemakers scientists XML academics accessibility funders criminals *-ologists politicians logicians designers ... marketers ... librarians ... bloggers
  • 14. Back to the future... Some RDF, Semantic Web, FOAF history. Perhaps context helps understanding. Similar goals, complementary methods? Shared experiences...
  • 15. 1989 In the beginning... ...was the Web
  • 16. “To a computer, the Web is a flat, boring world, devoid of “For example, a document might describe a person. meaning. This is a pity, as in fact documents on the Web The title document to a house describes a house and describe real objects and imaginary concepts, and give also the ownership relation with a person.” particular relationships between them.” “Adding semantics to the Web involves two things: allowing documents which have information in machine-readable forms, and allowing links to be created with relationship values. [this will] help us exploit the information to a greater extent than our own reading.” Tim Berners-Lee quot;W3 future directionsquot; keynote - 1st World Wide Web Conference Geneva, May 1994
  • 17. Web pages describe the World Each makes ‘claims’ They can disagree ... Web pages reflect a (complex) world
  • 18. Henry says, “My name is ‘Henry Story” Joe says, “I know Henry who knows Jane” Joe knows someone called “Henry Story”
  • 19. The Semantic Web project: ‘let machines use the claims made in Web pages’ what objects do they describe? what relationships do they claim? who made the claims? what other claims support them? Convergence ’08: Who made the claims? (OpenID) What about private data? (OAuth) Better publishing in HTML? (Microformats/RDFa) Querying all this data? (W3C SPARQL)
  • 21. 1996 Warwick Framework History gets lost. “...allows the designers of individual metadata sets to focus Time flies. on their specific requirements, without concerns for generalization to ultimately unbounded scope Memory fades. It allows the syntax of metadata sets to vary in conformance with semantic requirements, community practices, and functional (processing) requirements for the kind of metadata in question. It separates management of and responsibility for specific metadata sets among their respective quot;communities of expertisequot;. It promotes interoperability by allowing tools and agents to selectively access and manipulate individual packages and ignore others.” Carl Lagoze, D-Lib Magazine, July/August 1996 RDF’s motivating history is hidden away...
  • 23. structured chaos incrementally extensible
  • 24. FOAF is a project about sharing information in the Web. It's about ways of describing things using computers, so that those descriptions can be linked together, mixed up with other data, and searched. Friend of a Friend People, groups, accounts, photos, IM, life on the Web. Machine-readable pages, de-centralised, freely extensible.
  • 25. Everyone’s connected? Don’t say it, show it: ...the evidence friendship leaves in the world and Web Work. Fun. Beer. Travel. Writings. Events. Music. Photos. Life. “Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.”- Harvey Pekar
  • 27. Common SW themes Decentralised ‘division of labour’. Data merging architecture. Pluralism. No central control on vocabulary. Domain-neutral infrastructure. Dealing with data fragmentation. (6 ways to say the same thing?)
  • 28. FOAF/XFN in Google Social Graph API: 'The Social Graph API makes information about the public connections between people on the web more easily available.' Based on open standards ... Google “currently indexes the public Web for XHTML Friends Network (XFN), Friend of a Friend (FOAF) markup and other publicly declared connections. By supporting open Web standards for describing connections between people, web sites can add to the social infrastructure of the web.”
  • 29. FOAF/RDFa/MFs in Yahoo search Without a killer semantic web app for consumers, site owners have been reluctant to support standards like RDF, or even microformats. We believe that app can be web search. ...we plan to support vocabulary from Dublin Core, Creative Commons, FOAF, GeoRSS, MediaRSS, and others. ... we will support RDFa and eRDF markup to embed these into existing HTML pages
  • 30. Digression: practical stuff Three things to collaborate on. 1. parser testing & datamodels 2. databases and querying 3. inclusive vocab & UI
  • 31. Parser interop RDF’99: world of pain RDF’04: pain gone away Can we share a test-case methodology? ‘What claims does this page make?’
  • 34. Queries & claims: SPARQL PREFIX xfn: <http://gmpg.org/xfn/11#> PREFIX foaf: <http://xmlns.com/foaf/0.1/> SQLish. SELECT * WHERE { GRAPH ?g1 { blah-blah-blah } Claim-centric. GRAPH <http://danbri.org/> { blah-blah-blah } } Webby. Used in RDFa test suite. We can compare the claims made by versions of a document, or between different documents...
  • 35. M/F? “In most cases the foaf:gender value will be the string 'female' or 'male'” “...not intended to capture the full variety of biological, social and sexual concepts” associated with the word 'gender'.” Great. But how do I do this with HTML forms?
  • 36. Back to the sermon Habits to avoid: ‘what they don’t get is...’ ‘our tech is more semantic/ extensible/simple than their tech’ Gloating. Uncharitability. Oneuppery. Framing disagreement as conflict.
  • 37. Common values Love of the Web; as it is, and as it could be. A concern for decentralised data. Gradual progress. Small steps and collaborative work. Machines doing the things they’re best for. Pages that can be treated as data. Web standards. Accessibility. HTML. Re-use, creativity, hacking. A more Social Web. Small pieces, loosely joined.
  • 38. TODO.txt Read ‘their’ blogs, email, wiki, IRC. Have a bit of empathy. Play with ‘their’ tools, data, specs. For fun. Try saying ‘we’ instead of ‘they’. Coming up: W3C Social Web Incubator Group
  • 39. Questions? OpenID: <http://danbri.org/>