Semantic Camp London

I spent this weekend at Semantic Camp learning all about RDF and speaking about parsing microformats. Although the focus of the event was very small, it attracted a nice group of people who were all passionate about open data portability in one way or another. I think I have a much clearer view of how RDF fits into the concepts of the semantic web. Over the next few weeks I am going to take some time to explore SPARQL. I had a chance to talk to a number of interesting people

I used my talk to try and answer the question Drew McLellan posed a year ago in his presentation Can Your Website be Your API? I used some of my experience building ufXtract and parsing social networks information to see if it is possible in the real world.

Presentation: Can your website be your API and real life (pdf 1.25Mb)

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I believe with a few small changes you can create successful ‘read only APIs’ using only microformats embedded in your html. The Q&A moved onto whether you could create ‘read/write APIs’ and some sort of HTTP verb discovery mechanism.

After my talk I spent some time chatting with Dan Brickley author of FOAF. We exchanged a few ideas about where microformats and RDF are going and talked about parsing issues. Dan has made me think hard about the lack of a formal framework for developing microformats parsers. This was reinforced by

Gareth Rushgrove discussion on different microformats parsers. There are three things that seem to be missing:

  1. A codified specification, something along the lines of XSD or even a propriety profile that all the current parsers could use.
  2. A strong set of tests which we could use to check whether a parser works to a pre-defined standard. We should have both positive and negative tests to make things like required attribute validation work.
  3. A standard output format so that developers can abstract libraries easily swapping from one to another. It would also allow us to do programmatic comparative testing.

This whole area is something that needs to be raised on the microformats-dev list.

Andrew Walkingshaw did a great talk on automatic indexing using natural-language processing. The whole area of NLP keeps re-surfacing in my work at Madgex and I am becoming more convinced that there is a place for this technology in the aggregation of structured and unstructured information sources. The guys from the BBC should have a special mention for all the great work they demonstrated.

Jon Linklater-Johnson created Semantopoly for the event, yet another great effort from the man who gave us the very cool CSS specificity card game. Just take a look at the flickr pictures, Semantopoly was a great game made better by the twitters that where created around it.

I would like to thank to Tom and Daniel for organising a fantastic event and to the sponsors who helped support it: BBC Backstage, Hedgehog Lab, OpenLink Software, Osmosoft and Talis.

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