The Semantic Weblog. [1].

The Semantic Weblog..

A first draft of my contribution to Sam Ruby‘s Well Formed Weblog wiki.

1 Summary

Packages of structured data are becoming post components. [PhilWolff]

2 Description

The virtue of blogs has been their simplicity. Each post only needs one field, and maybe a title and url.

Not everyone is served well by this lowest common denominator. Sometimes you have a burning need for more structure, at least some of the time. 

When you know a subject deeply, and your observations or analysis recur, you may be best served by filling in a form. The form will have its own metadata and its own data model.

Consider a school soccer coach. An after game report typically includes:

  • which teams played,
  • where and when,
  • officials, and
  • a list of game events

    • who scored (and when and how),
    • who received penalties (when and for what), etc.

Wouldn’t it be handy for your blogging tool to:

  • understand this structure,
  • present an editing form,
  • render the form in html to your blog, and
  • render the post (including the form) to your rss feed?

News aggregators and news readers should be able to:

  • Autodiscover an unknown schema.
  • Notify the user that a new schema is available.
  • Learn the schema, including entry forms, pick list sources, rendering guidance, and default style sheets.
  • Make it available when the blogger is ready to write.

“The Semantic Weblog” will create a happy blend of natural, human unstructured words, pictures, sounds, and video with machine readable and highly comparable more-structured data.

3 Use Cases and Potential Applications

I don’t want to put a cap on this. It’s like saying “web pages will be used for…”

3.1 Recipes and Golf Scores

You should be able to define your own structure. The most common use of Microsoft Excel is making lists of things. No reason blogs can’t give similar freedom to define a new package. Build from scratch or on the shoulders of other package definitions. Just for diversity sake:

  • What I’m listening to now. (with enough info that a newsreader could find and play that tune, when the package comes in via RSS.)
  • Concert review. (3 points for lighting, 2 for sound, 4 for audience involvement, …)
  • Strange things in my referral log. (A real blog)
  • Beer reviews. (A real blog)
  • Dating reports. (6 stars on manners, 9 on heat, 2 on wardrobe, …)

Companies that make personal planners (filofax, Day Timer, Day Runner) sell paper forms. These help you:

  • plan projects,
  • manage your to do lists,
  • control your diabetes,
  • remember birthdays,
  • record expenses, mileage,
  • plan parties,
  • take phone messages,
  • take meeting minutes,
  • prioritize goals.

This behavior should translate nicely to blogging, especially as blogging tools support faceted presentation (you see what you’re intended to see).

3.2 Work related blogging

Organizations have been using forms since the Ottoman Empire. Forms help:

  • standardize routine communication,
  • shorten the time people take to report information,
  • make it easier for human readers to parse familiar formats,
  • improve completeness of information (blanks stand out),
  • and other wonderful things that make organizations work smoothly.

And that’s when people fill out forms.

By having machines deliver transaction notes and reports to a blogger’s news reader, you can provoke commentary about those transactions in the blog.

3.3 Interop with enterprise applications

So I define a “new customer bio” structure. My customer relationship management system writes RSS for me that includes new customer info. Not only can I cite that post in my blog, but:

  • my blog can notify the CRM via trackback
  • the CRM can take note of the permalink of my post (for CRM users), and
  • the CRM can append changes to data I made with my blogging tool (“He’s not really the decision maker.”).

Along the way…

  • information locked inside an enterprise system become visible to our intranet search engine via my blog.
  • more useful content finds its way into enterprise systems.
  • transactional data takes on context.

4 Architecture

4.1 Packages

  • Envelope

    • Descriptive stuff about contents (names, how many packages, etc.)
    • URL of structure definition
    • Version/Release/Modification Date of structure definition

  • Package(s)

    • URL of structure definition

4.2 Package Syndication

  • Blogging tools should be able to wrap each structure in RSS, RDF or whatever we’re using for syndication.

4.3 Package Discovery

I’m thinking we could follow the example of:

  • Little orange XML links (on pages and with rendered packages)
  • the RSS Autodiscovery metatag form

4.4 Package Aggregation and Analysis

4.4.1 Aggregation

Why should anything be different?

4.4.2 Analysis

We now have comparable data! I subscribe to all the local soccer RSS feeds in my league. An aggregator can show trends, averages, rankings, etc.

4.5 Rendering

4.5.1 Edit Form

Didn’t Mozilla put out a protocol for defining simple UIs?

4.5.2 HTML


4.5.3 RSS

RSS namespaces?

5 Live Examples

5.1 Qlogger

Qlogger is a blog application and hosting service. Sub-schemas describe activities (golfing, commuting) and reviews (movies, marijuana). You can see how this creates more comparable data (show me all the movie reviews by warbloggers rated 4 out of 5 stars). Read trend charts so you can see if you golf game is getting better or getting worse, or if you commute times are better on some days.

5.2 JemBlog

The Jena Semantic Web Server.

Development Diary, Notes, Download, Mailing List, SourceForge.

6 Discussion

* [PhilWolff] This extension may be out of scope per Sam’s blog post

I’ll take feedback in the comments to this post or, even better, on the wiki page.

[a klog apart]