Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Another Semantic Web short video introduction: RDFa

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I am increasingly becoming a semantic web junkie (we might have to call for an intervention) and one of my fixes has been Danny Ayers' 'This Weeks Semantic Web" weekly post which provides selected links related to Semantic Web Technologies. I admit it takes me most of the week to get through everything and some of it goes right over my head- but i always find gems.

This evening on that list, i found another short video from the folks at Digital Bazaar who produced this simple Semantic Web introduction, this time describing RDFa. I think that this new way of presenting concepts is awesome and i am glad to see many folks utilizing this methods (hats off i think goes to Michael Wesch for his inspirational "Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us" YouTube video which now has 4,195,123 views!!)

RDFa stands for 'RDF in HTML Attributes'. It is supposed to empower bloggers and web designers to add semantic information to web pages without affecting what the page looks. So RDFa is basically Semantic HTML. It allows you to add extra “structure” in your HTML to indicate a calendar event, contact information, a document license, etc… RDFa is about total publisher control: you choose which attributes to use, which to reuse from other sites, and how to evolve, over time, the meaning of these attributes.

Adding semantic content to web pages is extremely beneficial whether using RDFa or other standards like Microformats. (I am trying to get my head around the pro and cons of each, how they could be used jointly etc. RDFa is sported by the W3C while Microformats has grown out of Microformats.org and the developer community. i got myself the Microformats book for christmas but haven't had the chance to get far).

So here is a practical example using RDFa but which could probably be accomplished with hCalendar as well.

Over at the Taxonomy Warehouse which is a Dow Jones property that i am now actively working with in my new role, there is a page for events that has been hard coded. At some of these events someone from Dow Jones will be there and others we won't. Using RDFa as a method to publish an event, a user using a RDFa-enabled web browser (currently available as plugins) notices a calendar icon next to the event description. By clicking on it, she gets the option to add the event to her calendar of choice. In addition a predicate (you did watch the video already didn't you??) can be presented to the visitor that is adding the event to her calendar that states something like daniela:attendee and allows the user to invite me to meet up with them at the conference- potentially sending me an invite during a break in the conference proceeding because the conference agenda was also published with RDFa and linked. Fantasy? I don't believe it will be for long.

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