Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Data Portability and the Semantic Web

In the last week, I started emailing back and forth with @michellegreer. After her wuffie blog post, I got in touch with her about social media and stuff, because it is something that is starting to interest me a lot.

At the same time, in the Semantic Web community, the International Semantic Web Conference is coming up and the submission deadlines are around the corner (meaning Friday!). One of the new workshops that are going to take place is "Social Data on the Web", which I am really looking forward to! This workshop puts together my new interest of social media with the love of my research life: Semantic Web.

The last couple of days I started reading about Social Media, Data Portability and the Semantic web and came up on a lot of cool papers. I still of tons of stuff to read, but I am going to recommend one that stands out the most right now: "Data Portability with SIOC and FOAF" (slides of the presentation here). I immediately emailed all this stuff to @michellegreer because I new she was going to be at Social Media Camp Austin, and host a session on Data Portability. (Just this morning we talked about holding the session together, even though I am in Zurich right now. I was able to get my voice across for a couple of minutes, but looking forward to talking more about this at the next Semantic Web Austin meetup.)

Once you understand the interaction between the Semantic Web and Social Networks, you realize that the Semantic Web is THE solution to all this Data Portability problem.

Quoting from the paper:
To better enable a user's access to multiple sites, portability between social media sites is required in terms of (1) identication, personal profiles and friend networks and (2) user's content expressed on each site, whether it is about blog posts, pictures, bookmarks or any type of data. Such portability would allow users to easily exchange content between services, or merge and share their social network between various websites.
So what is FOAF and SIOC?
Two Semantic Web projects SIOC (Semantically-Interlinked Online Communities) and FOAF (Friend of a Friend) can be combined to enable data portability between social media sites:
  • The FOAF vocabulary allows us to represent people and their social networks, providing the social network component of data portability. It can be used in a combination with the the OpenID identity system.
  • The SIOC vocabulary is an open format for expressing information about user-generated content in an interoperable way. It provides the content object component of data portability. The SIOC Types module can be used to further specify different types of Social Web / Web2.0 objects that we may want to describe.
If you read the paper and look at the slides, you will definitely realize how FOAF and SIOC can solve the Data Portability problem.

I still have a lot more reading to do! But more importantly, I would like to know what common social media users think about the current problems of social network, social media, etc. I would really appreciate your comments.

In a couple of weeks, we will be hosting our next Semantic Web Austin meeting and this will be our first topic! So hopefully I can get a lot of feedback about problems the common users see in the social media world, and see if/how the Semantic Web can help.


Anonymous said...

The biggest issues with Social media is the target aim. Once you acquire users generating content how show links between content; sorting content;and delivering content to users. Content can range from information of a person, blog posts, pictures uploaded etc. Lacking the Ability to have a single page/post where all this content can be placed regardless of what other sites user is registered on. An example of this is with twitter: i can not see the replies i have had with someone or someone has had with me. Or knowing what common people i follow with a certain user. Presentation of this content to the user in a single form is what i believe is lacking in most social sites.

johnbreslin said...

Glad you found the paper / presentation interesting!


CeeBee said...

Developments with SIOC and FOAF and creation of a digital persona that spans social networks is fine as long as the person has the opportunity to identify which components of their contributions they want aggregated. We must ensure privacy is respected when desired. Jon Stokes's recent series about IT Consumerization discussed the issue of sandboxing personal and professional identities. Even though it might be hard, you still might want to try to separate them. SIOC and FOAF might make it even more difficult.

Looking forward to future installments on your research.

Laura Alter said...

My thoughts:

1. It's my data and I should be able to do what I want with it. It shouldn't be locked into any one place.

2. The web is meaningful because of relationships. Those relationships are formed between websites, topics, ideas, and *people.* Defining those relationships makes the web more meaningful to me - without them, nothing is relevant to me without major digging and effort.

Website and content relationships are defined by search engines, but my relationships with people are only defined within certain sites, in certain ways, and only when I choose to take the time to disclose those relationships.

As you have pointed out, it doesn't have to be that way. :)

I love doing Google searches for thesis papers on FOAF and other geeky stuff. Pretty easy when you search only PDFs. (so, "+foaf +semantic +thesis filetype:pdf") Some seriously good stuff out there from some really smart people.

Looking forward to continuing the conversation at the Semantic Web Austin meeting! :)


Juan Sequeda said...


I agree and the privacy issue is a social trend. FB at the beginning wasn't hard on privacy. Everybody published everything, then suddenly, people realized that they had published too much and they wanted some privacy. When that moment arrived, FB started implementing all these privacy controls.

In my opinion the same thing is happening in the SW. Right now it is about publishing Linked Data.

The time will come (not sure when) that we are going to say "oh.. we published to much.. now I want privacy"

Juan Sequeda said...


Your data should be yours! API's have been built and you can now export your data, but all these SN still have a copy of your data. If you read the paper, there are examples of some apps that let you export data from twitter and others. They also talk about an "open social network"

Thanks for your comments! This is great stuff!

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