Archive for the ‘RDF’ Category

RDF, the idea of the connected web.

April 27, 2008

I have been struggling to learn about RDF lately. Rdf is a way to write/store/exchange information that is usable in many ways. If i write a paper in english and send it to a person that doesn’t speak english the information in the paper is worthless. However the beauty of rdf is that the information is written in a such a way that it can almost universally be able to be understood, by a person using almost any language. What is really special is that a machine/computer with the proper programing of course, can also read and understand this information.

Language has been a barrier to human communacations since the beginning of language itself. But teaching computers to read and understand what they are reading has been a even bigger problem. Words are only understood in the context that they are used. RDF encodes the information in a fixed or rigid context that can be understood by anyone or any computer programed to do just that. The way this is done is called ontologies. Ontologies are structured vocabularies. These Vocabularies are found on the Web and so when you reference the word you are trying to encode in a rdf document with the URL of the definition of that word, then the word can be understood in context by another human being anywhere that they can access the web or any machine/computer that can also access that information on the web. Many of these ontologies are being cross referenced to many different languages around the world, so if the word is cross referenced or translated into the language you are sending the information to, then the other person who speaks the other language can also understand what you are saying.

To give you a simple example, if I say my mothers name is Joy in english, and the ontology I am using to reference the word mother, is also referenced in the language of the person I am sending this informations to, they they will know that the English word Mother means Mother in their own language and that my mothers name is then word Joy.

Now to do this I must list the name of the ontology I am using and the URL of that ontology, and use proper reference word to the word Mother in that ontology, then the person receiving the information can access the ontology using the url giving and access it in their own language and then lookup the referenced word used for Mother in their own language, then they will know what I am talking about. The same system must be used for each term/word I talk about in the paper.

{Me} {Mother’s} {Name}

{ME} the person making the statement –

{Mother} the relationship to me –

{Name} her name –

Marks mothers name is Joy.

Now do this for every statement you make and you now understand RDF.

This system can be applied to any topic that there is a ontology to express. Most of the ontologies are scientific in nature, such as in Genetics, or Biology or in other fields of Medicine. However there are ontologies for recipes for cooking, or describing books or papers written. There are even ontologies for describing the discussions on the Internet. This is what they are describing when they are calling the Internet the connected data network. As more and more information or data is encoded into the rdf type formats more and more information will become connected. This will make information on the web searchable by computers and understandable by anyone anywhere using any language.


Foaf, an idea whos time has come.

April 27, 2008

I am very excited about Foaf. Foaf is a technology that has been around awhile but i think its time has come. More and more websites are adopting Foaf. Foaf allows you to list information about yourself and your friends in a way that is both human readable and machine readable. So you say what is so important about being machine readable. Ok, that is a fair question. How many times have you joined another social website and had to tell it all over again who your friends are, when they are already listed in the last half a dozen social sites you have joined.  Well Foaf solves that problem. Write your foaf file once and if the new site can read the foaf format it can add your information and your friend’s information to your new social web site automatically.

There are issues around foaf file’s that still need to be solved like privacy and security. But it seems to me that these issues are finally being addressed and hopefully will be solved in the very near future. Some real smart people are looking into this problem and are coming up with some pretty cool ideas about how to solve them.

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