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Newsletter No.160


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                             FreePint
         "Helping 68,000 people use the Web for their work"
                     http://www.freepint.com/

ISSN 1460-7239                                    27th May 2004 No.160
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           ALTERNATIVE NEWSLETTER FORMATS AVAILABLE AT:
            <http://www.freepint.com/issues/270504.htm>

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                           IN THIS ISSUE
                           -------------

                             EDITORIAL

                       MY FAVOURITE TIPPLES
                          By Roger Mills

                           FREEPINT BAR
                    In Association with Factiva
                   a Dow Jones & Reuters Company

                               JOBS
                  Corporate Documents Researcher
                Fixed Income Information Specialist
                       Research Analyst x 2
             Research Executive (Business Development)

                           TIPS ARTICLE
 "Online Information Online - behind the scenes of a virtual event"
                        By Katherine Allen

                             BOOKSHELF
     "Information First: Integrating Knowledge and Information
               Architecture for Business Advantage"
                    Reviewed by Stephen D'Arcy

                          FEATURE ARTICLE
                 "The Semantic Web is Your Friend"
                  By Libby Miller and Simon Price

               EVENTS, GOLD AND FORTHCOMING ARTICLES

                        CONTACT INFORMATION

             ONLINE VERSION WITH ACTIVATED HYPERLINKS
            <http://www.freepint.com/issues/270504.htm>

                      FULLY FORMATTED VERSION
            <http://www.freepint.com/issues/270504.pdf>


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               "Marketing for the Info-Entrepreneur:
              Top Techniques to Build Your Business"
                        ISBN 1-904769-05-5

This new report by Mary Ellen Bates provides techniques to build the
profile of your information services within your client base, whether
you are a new info-entrepreneur, someone who has been in business for
several years, or even someone who is working within an information
centre and needs to promote your services within your organisation.

Published by FreePint, May 2004 <http://www.freepint.com/shop/report/>

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                     >>>  ABOUT FREEPINT  <<<

FreePint is an online network of information searchers. Members
receive this free newsletter twice a month: it is packed with tips
on finding quality and reliable business information on the Internet.

Joining is free at <http://www.freepint.com/> and provides access to
a substantial archive of articles, reviews, jobs & events, with
answers to research questions and networking at the FreePint Bar.

Please circulate this newsletter which is best read when printed out.
To receive a fully formatted version as an attachment or a brief
notification when it's online, visit <http://web.freepint.com/>.

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                             EDITORIAL

Last week I attended a vendor/user debate held by the City Information
Group <http://www.cityinformation.org.uk/>. Issues discussed included
how vendors continually keep sensitive to the market, and how they can
best involve end-users in product development. Most vendors said they
used a feedback chain upwards from customer service and sales teams,
with some having user panels and boards. Both vendors and users
agreed, however, that one of the most effective ways was through
direct contact with clients at trade conferences and exhibitions.

Katherine Allen's piece today describes how and why the London-based
Online Information exhibition and conference has developed a virtual
'Online Information Online'. She raises the important point that
although nothing can replace the immediacy of face-to-face
interaction, online interaction at a virtual event can help to spot
hot topics and trends that can feed into a live event. Libby Miller
and Simon Price of the Bristol Institute of Learning Research and
Technology make the same point in their interesting piece on the
semantic web and social networking in our other article today. Online
applications like <http://www.foaf-project.org/> can help to make
connections between people that may not have otherwise occurred.

One of the ways that end-users can have an impact on product
development, or raise a debate that may not always get through the
customer service chain, is to get involved in our own VIP Lounge
<http://web.vivavip.com/forum/Lounge/>. Business information vendors
can keep users briefed by posting press releases up on the VIP Wire
too <http://web.vivavip.com/forum/Wire/>. You can also have your
own RSS content feed of these press releases.

VIP is a truly interactive information industry journal because
product reviews and articles are driven by your suggestions and
feedback. You can either post to the Lounge or email editor Pam
Foster in confidence . As a direct result of
feedback, VIP did an in-depth review of social networking software
in the January 2004 issue. If you are not a subscriber and missed
it you can always purchase back issues <http://www.vivaVIP.com/>.

Just as information and IT professionals naturally demand input into
products in which they are investing, we should also be taking
opportunities to respond to important developments in the news that
will impact on our industry. The story broken last week by David Henke
in the Guardian <http://digbig.com/4bfec> of the UK Government's
proposed significant increases in FOI charging, will effectively mean
that only the very largest organisations will be able to afford to
gain access to documents. The story was picked up by the Washington
Post too. Our FreePint consultant FOI experts Paul Pedley and Steve
Wood are busy lobbying on the matter. If you want to get involved, you
can read more at <http://www.keepinglegal.com> and
<http://foia.blogspot.com>, and download a letter to send to your MP.

Please also send this copy of FreePint to any of your colleagues and
friends who might find it interesting.

Annabel Colley
Editor, FreePint
<annabel.colley@freepint.com>

FreePint is a Registered Trademark of Free Pint Limited (R) 1997-2004

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                    What is the ResourceShelf?
                   <http://www.resourceshelf.com>

ResourceShelf is a free daily update containing news of interest
to information professionals around the world.

Topics include the latest news with web search engines, research
tips, new web resources, and much more.

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                  >>>  VIP No.5 Now Available <<<

The latest issue of VIP reviews WorldData (from the EIU, EcoWin and
Alacra) and Advanced Country Analysis & Forecast (an integrated
intelligence service from WMRC).

                <http://www.freepint.com/go/b28563>

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                       MY FAVOURITE TIPPLES
                          By Roger Mills

* German Rail's site <http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en>
  is by far the best for train information and online booking
  throughout Europe, including the UK.

* <http://www.busstation.net/busstneus.htm> is excellent for worldwide
  bus and coach travel information links.

* <http://www.oxford-chiltern-bus-page.co.uk> is my favourite for
  local bus travel news: up-to-date, informative and well
  illustrated; a model of its kind.

* The Man in Seat 61 <http://www.seat61.com/> is a great source of
  advice and links for travel by train and ship throughout Europe and
  beyond - unofficial but extremely helpful.

* <http://www.pti.org.uk/> is the official site for UK public
  transport information, with bus, rail, coach, air and ferry
  timetables and fares across the country.

Roger Mills is Plant Sciences Librarian for Oxford University Library
Services and a life-long supporter of public transport.

Submit your top five favourite Web sites. See the guidelines at
<http://www.freepint.com/author.htm>.

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              >>> SIGN UP TO FACTIVA'S NEWSLETTER <<<
 
Keep up to date on Factiva and information industry trends by signing
 up for the free InfoPro Alliance newsletter. This monthly email will
 provide you with tips on how to better use Factiva, more information
  about Factiva sources, and link you to other items of interest to
                global information professionals.

 Go to <http://www.factiva.com/infopro/register> and sign up today!

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                            FREEPINT BAR
                    In Association with Factiva
                   a Dow Jones & Reuters Company

The big news for the FreePint Bar is that we are now offering XML/RSS
content feeds for our forums. This means that you don't have to
remember to visit the Bar to see the latest 10 items (excluding
replies). If you'd like to find out more about how to access the
feeds, see <http://www.freepint.com/go/b28803>. Remember, if you want
to see all the postings (not just the latest 10) and to include
replies as well as initial posts, then it's still best to subscribe to
the twice-weekly FreePint Bar Digest. To sign up, modify your account
at <http://web.freepint.com/>.

Two words you wouldn't normally associate with each other -- 'library'
and 'software' -- have together been by far the most popular topics at
the Bar. Lengthy threads have developed, with valuable experience
being shared. Topics include whether or not to build a library
catalogue using Microsoft Access <http://www.freepint.com/go/b27882>
and where to start when choosing software to manage a library
collection <http://www.freepint.com/go/b28513>. There's advice on
library enquiry tracking software <http://www.freepint.com/go/b28743>;
or you can read the many opinions expressed about choosing library
management software <http://www.freepint.com/go/b28107>.

One FreePinter, an ex-television co-star of mine in fact (see
<http://www.freepint.com/press.htm#bare> if you don't know what I'm
talking about) has taken the trouble to put together a site which
pulls together information and opinion on library-related software.
Take a look at LibraryReview.com <http://www.freepint.com/go/b28598>.

There have been various other disparate questions at the Bar,
including how to generate a list of URLs from a Web site
<http://www.freepint.com/go/b28762>. Is there a definitive list of UK
eShopping portals <http://www.freepint.com/go/b28754>? Do you have a
comment on the changing face of journal-article delivery now that
Google is moving into that space <http://www.freepint.com/go/b28732>?
Or can you recommend a personalised and email-based journal contents
alerting service, with access to abstracts
<http://www.freepint.com/go/b28432>?

Finally, if you're an independent information professional, then you
may be interested in the thread which is talking about consultant fees
<http://www.freepint.com/go/b28571>. This is a topic you rarely see
discussed in the open, so it's useful stuff. There is also now a
selection of photos online of my visit to the recent conference of the
Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP)
<http://www.freepint.com/go/b28767>. I was demonstrating the Willco
community hosting system, for which we've just launched the "Willco
Portico". The Portico is where we are posting news about enhancements
to the Willco system, as well as tips for community operators and
publishers <http://www.willco.com/go/p1>. There is also an XML/RSS feed.

William Hann <william.hann@freepint.com>
Managing Editor, FreePint

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The FreePint Bar is where you can get help with your tricky research
questions, for free! <http://www.freepint.com/bar>

Help with study for information-related courses is available at the
FreePint Student Bar <http://www.freepint.com/student>.

Twice-weekly email digests of the latest postings can be requested
at <http://web.freepint.com/>.

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How do you ensure the success of your Knowledge Management initiative?

 By drawing on all the experience of the KM community at KMUK 2004 in
  London, 14th-16th June. Ark Group's new three day event will bring
 together accomplished KM professionals and world renowned pioneers to
share their experiences with you and help you achieve real KM results.
              Register now at <http://www.km-uk.com>

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                           FREEPINT JOBS
                   <http://www.freepint.com/jobs>

The FreePint Jobs Update is being circulated widely every two
weeks. This free newsletter now has 1,900 direct subscribers and
is posted at the Bar and in the Bar Digest (circulation 11,000).

To see the Jobs Update No.73 visit <http://www.freepint.com/go/b28709>
and to subscribe, modify your account at <http://web.freepint.com>.

Here are some of the latest featured jobs:

Corporate Documents Researcher
  Search for and deliver corporate documents such as profiles,
  financials and prospectuses.
  Recruiter: City Professionals
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/j3212>

Fixed Income Information Specialist
  Use your knowledge of financial markets & online sources to become
  info specialist at leading fund managers. Good pay & bonus.
  Recruiter: Sue Hill Recruitment
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/j3214>

Research Analyst x 2
  Primary and Secondary Research, face to face client service and web
  research and corporate fundamental data.
  Recruiter: Intelligent Resources
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/j3216>

Research Executive (Business Development)
  Bright and proactive Business Development Research Executive for
  involved role with potential at prestigious law practice.
  Recruiter: Glen Recruitment
  <http://www.freepint.com/go/j3239>

NB: There are 29 other jobs in the current edition of the Jobs Update
<http://www.freepint.com/go/b28709>.

[The above jobs are paid listings]

FreePint Jobs -- the best place for information vacancies.

*  VACANCY SEARCHING -- Free search and sign up to the Job Update.
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       Find out more today at <http://www.freepint.com/jobs>

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      >>>  Content Feeds for the VIP Lounge and VIP Wire  <<<

 Content feeds (XML/RSS) are now available for a range of FreePint
  forums, including the Bar, Student Bar, VIP Lounge and VIP Wire.

 Find out more about how to monitor postings remotely, by visiting:

                   http://www.vivaVIP.com/feed/
                   http://www.FreePint.com/feed/

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                            TIPS ARTICLE
         <http://www.freepint.com/issues/270504.htm#tips>
  "Online Information Online - behind the scenes of a virtual event"
                        By Katherine Allen


Why a virtual exhibition?
-------------------------

Online Information Online is the first virtual event for the
information industry, and was launched this month. This article gives
a flavour of the processes behind the development of the site and 
provides some insight into the synergy between the virtual event and
London's Online Information exhibition, which we have organised for 27
years.

Live events such as Online Information offer unique benefits to
visitors and exhibitors. These include the chance to perform hands-on
comparisons of a range of competitive products, to quiz vendors about
specific needs, to attend free education sessions, and to network with
professional peers and industry experts. Nothing can replace the
immediacy of the face-to-face interaction gained at a live event, but
increasingly, people are demanding access to the information they want
via multiple channels. The exhibition world is no exception. FreePint
readers, among others, have voiced the desire for events to
change with the times and to innovate in order to remain relevant.

With this in mind, we have created 'Online Information Online', a
virtual exhibition which complements the live event, with
functionality designed specifically to meet users' needs in a 24-7
world. Our goal was to provide a tool which, over time, will grow to
be a unique collection of resources for the information industry,
accessible via the internet from anywhere in the world. The virtual
event features two exhibition halls: information content and
information management, with exhibitors including Factiva, Ovid,
Thomson Dialog, RedDot Solutions, Web-Labs, Scope e-Knowledge Center,
Mondosoft, Sitekit Solutions, Euromonitor, Swets Information Services,
VIP and CILIP already signed up.

The concept of a virtual event takes key building blocks of the
traditional trade show and translates them into an internet format.
So, at a virtual event, you can visit exhibitors' stands or booths to
find out more about their products and services, you can interact with
exhibitors to find out the answers to your questions, and you can view
presentations and then take away product information and brochures.
Just as you would in a live event, you'll find educational material
and have access to expert opinion. Not surprisingly, each of these
building blocks had to be specifically adapted to work in a web
environment.

Virtual exhibitions have been around for some time, but in the early
days the services available tended to focus on clunky visual
representations of an exhibit 'hall' without investing enough time and
thought to the content of the event. As event organisers, we have been
monitoring developments in the virtual exhibition space for some time
but chose to wait until the concept was sufficiently mature - and
sufficiently focused on the needs of the users - before developing
'Online Information Online'.

Building the site
-----------------

The first challenge was to create the look and feel of the virtual
exhibition. The hall needed to exploit the familiar metaphor of an
exhibit hall, but at the same time provide easy-to-use navigation. Our
technology partners Miramedia painstakingly built an entire 3D model
of the 'building', so that views can be created from any angle.

Next the exhibitors' stands needed to be developed. We wanted these to
be immediately recognisable as booths. At the same time the stands
needed to provide plenty of visitor functionality in an
easy-to-understand way, and to allow each exhibitor to customise
their stand with logos and corporate colours.

Thirdly, we wanted to bring to the site some of the tools which are
familiar to e-shoppers. So, for example, when you enter Online
Information Online, the site automatically creates a 'Personal Event
Guide' for you based on your specific interests. And at any point in
your visit, you can download brochures, white papers, product
information, or educational papers to 'My Bag' which allows you keep
everything together in one place until you need them.

We then needed to address search and navigation, being very aware that
the Online Information Online audience knows a thing or two about
search! Our search partners Mondosoft, whose clients include the
Vatican and Marks and Spencer, provided an enterprise search engine
which delivers categorised search results in context, so users will
know what is relevant to them. In addition, for visitors who prefer to
search in a more structured way using the Product Finder tool, we
created a taxonomy of exhibitors and their products and services.

The content of the virtual event is of prime importance. The show
features a news feed from Information World Review, and contains an
Education Centre where visitors can download reports and white papers,
find materials for professional development, read conference and
seminar papers from the live event and opinion from influential
thinkers such as information architecture expert Peter Morville.

Virtual events and live events working together
-----------------------------------------------

We also felt that it was important that the virtual event and the live
event complement one another. For any live event, there will be people
who would like to attend but simply cannot make it, perhaps due to
pressure of time or travel difficulties. In addition, visitors who do
attend the live update are likely to want updates and follow-ups at
any time during the year. Online Information Online should provide a
resource for both these groups as well as a useful tool for visitors
to pre-plan their time before the live event in December.

One unexpected outcome we encountered was the degree to which the two
event formats cross-pollinate one another. The virtual event provides
us with a powerful market research tool which allows us to spot
information professionals' hot topics as they emerge; these can then
be featured in the live event in December. Conversely, the live event,
with its networking and debates, generates issues which can be
developed throughout the year in the virtual space.

Developing Online Information Online has been a voyage of discovery,
which has driven us to think about the structure of the live Online
Information show as well as the format of the virtual event. Our aim
is to provide a trusted reference tool for the information community,
and to this end we really do encourage feedback and suggestions from
visitors.

Online Information Online can be found at
<http://www.online-information.co.uk/online>.
We hope to welcome you there soon!

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Katherine Allen is Director of the Information Division at VNU
Exhibitions Europe, leading the team responsible for information
events including Online Information, the world's number one event for
information content and information management solutions, and Content
Management Europe, Europe's definitive content management event, as
well as the new virtual event Online Information Online. VNU
Exhibitions also partner with Resources Exhibitions as organisers of
the Library and Information Show. Katherine is also a columnist for
Information World Review.

VNU Exhibitions Europe (formerly Imark Communications), a company of
VNU Business Media, is a B2B information provider specialising in
producing highly focused trade exhibitions for the IT, telecoms and
information industries. VNU also publishes Information World Review,
the information industry's news magazine, as well as Computing, IT
Week, Accountancy Age and Financial Director.

For more information, contact Joanne McKeirnan, telephone
+44 (0)20 7316 9581, joanne.mckeirnan@vnuexhibitions.co.uk;
<http://www.online-information.co.uk>.

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Related FreePint links:

* 'Information and Libraries' articles and resources in the FreePint
  Portal <http://www.freepint.com/go/p69>
* Post a message to the author, Katherine Allen, or suggest further
  resources at the FreePint Bar <http://www.freepint.com/bar>
* Read this article online, with activated hyperlinks
  <http://www.freepint.com/issues/270504.htm#feature>
* Access the entire archive of FreePint content
  <http://www.freepint.com/portal/content/>

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     >>>  Email newsletter and forum hosting from Willco  <<<

    Willco manages the subscriptions and distribution of email
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                         FREEPINT BOOKSHELF
                <http://www.freepint.com/bookshelf>
     "Information First: Integrating Knowledge and Information
               Architecture for Business Advantage"
           Written by Roger Evernden and Elaine Evernden
                    Reviewed by Stephen D'Arcy

Last month, one of the main themes of the EBIC 2004 conference in
Lisbon was Information Architecture. It's interesting that Information
Architecture (IA) has become a staple topic on the conference circuit,
but the question I was asking myself when I volunteered to review
'Information First' was: is Information Architecture any different
from the same issues and theories surrounding 'Strategic Information
Management', 'Knowledge Management' or even 'Knowledge Architecture'?
Or is it simply this year's fashion?

Certainly, IA isn't something new; it's a mixture of technology,
substance, style, access and location. 'Information First' is a
'big picture' book; it combines techniques from KM and IA and is
primarily aimed at Information and Knowledge professionals. The
author, Roger Evernden, is an acknowledged expert in techniques for
the effective use of corporate information, specializing in IA and KM.
To complement the book there's a website <http://www.4thresource.com>
that outlines some of the ideas, as well as pointing users to other
resources and theorists.

The first half of the book explores what IA is all about. The author
draws heavily on the use of analogies and metaphors: IA is like
cooking a meal, using the right ingredients; or it's like
construction, using the right materials for the job; etc. The
over-dependence on analogies seems to be because IA is a slippery
concept for people to grasp. Once you understand what IA is, you can
then decide what changes are required and why changes are required,
using why-why diagrams; when changes are required, using timescales
and deadlines; and how to change, using action plans.

The core of the book, Evernden's eight essential factors for information
management: categories, understanding, presentation, evolution,
knowledge, responsibility, process and meta-levels, all underpin each
chapter in the book. These can then be used to discover the
relationships and values in ownership, responsibility and evolution of
information. They are all umbrella disciplines, drawn from a number of
other theories and approaches, and the author makes no apology for
this.

The second half tackles the more practical aspects of IA. It's here
where I think the value of the book lies: where information
professionals can dip in and out for ideas and techniques that they
can adopt and use in their own libraries or information departments.
Creating information maps and audits, action plans, checklists and
examples of information categories and of architecture scopes.

Overall, because this book best describes strategic tools for
Information Architecture, the 'big picture' method, it lacks in-depth
tactical detail. It's a good introduction to the discipline, but I
can't help feeling that more on taxonomies and KM would have been
useful. Explicit knowledge only is dealt with here, and if information
is the most important part of the IA layer then the taxonomy applied
is essential, but there's no mention of taxonomies in the book. I
think a more detailed exploration into what makes a good taxonomy,
what tools are available and what meta data standards are out there
would have been useful when discussing IA.

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Stephen D'Arcy (BA Hons. Inf. Dip) is a research analyst for Magus
Research <http://www.magus.co.uk>, a company that specialises in
Information architecture and visual design, Information integration,
bespoke content management and business-to-business online information
systems and services for multinational corporations. Before working
for Magus he worked for Vrisko Ltd, an enterprise search software
company and before that for the Financial Times.

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Related FreePint links:

* Find out more about this book online at the FreePint Bookshelf
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                           FEATURE ARTICLE
         <http://www.freepint.com/issues/270504.htm#feature>
                 "The Semantic Web is Your Friend"
                  By Libby Miller and Simon Price

The Semantic Web <http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/> is an initiative of the
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to enable, "... an extension of the
current Web in which information is given well-defined meaning, better
enabling computers and people to work in cooperation". At the
technological level it "... provides a common framework that allows
DATA to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and
community boundaries".

True as that may be, the Semantic Web is probably best understood in
terms of its applications; by what it lets you do rather than by its
underlying technology. This approach was used to good effect in a 2001
article <http://digbig.com/4bfbf> in Scientific American, by Tim
Berners-Lee (inventor of the Web) and colleagues, to provide a highly
readable introduction to the Semantic Web. Now, three years on, the
Semantic Web is rapidly making the transition from research to
mainstream application <http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/interest/> and it
seems appropriate to take a look at what this means for information
researchers.


Jargon busting
--------------

Typical of an emerging technology, the Semantic Web literature is
veiled in a bewildering array of technical jargon. So much so that a
time-pressed researcher might be forgiven for concluding that the
Semantic Web is something for geeks and that it has no bearing on real
work and real people; that it (unrealistically) requires everyone to
create all online content in the RDF (Resource Description Framework)
Semantic Web language. This, of course, could not be further from the
truth. Take the Weblogs (Blogs) phenomenon as an example. Few users of
Weblogs are aware that they are publishing, syndicating and
aggregating data onto the Semantic Web as well as the human-readable
Web. Weblog technology revolves around the RSS (Rich Site Summary or
RDF Site Summary) family of languages that vary in their human-
readability but are united in their machine readability.

This resultant machine processibility is exploited to connect even the
most human-centric RSS vocabularies into the Semantic Web directly, or
through automated transformation to RDF. Weblogs thus form a valuable
(and vast) source of richly interconnected information (e.g.
<http://www.feedster.com/>) that requires little or no knowledge of the
Semantic Web in order to create and use it.

For the information researcher, the Semantic Web view of this data
enables seamless fusion of Weblog data with data from completely
different sources such as dictionaries, thesauri, catalogues,
databases as well as the 'traditional' Web. Where all this will lead
is uncertain but the jargon is no obstacle to its creation and use.


Bottom-up revolution
--------------------

What seems certain is that both evolution and revolution will occur,
and that the latter is all too easily overlooked. For instance, given
the proliferation of data about data (metadata) that underpins the
Semantic Web, it is tempting to focus in on the obvious prospect of a
better-than-Google search engine. Such a "semantic search" engine is
able to determine whether the query "orange" refers to the colour, the
fruit, the mobile phone company, or a chemical weapon used by the
United States. As clever and useful as this may be, it is only an
evolutionary enhancement of something that is already possible on the
Web today. By looking in a little more detail at what is happening on
the Semantic Web today, it is possible to gain a deeper insight into
where revolution is starting to occur. In this article we will do just
that; we will take a look at one of the most exciting new developments
on the Semantic Web. Joined-up information about people, emanating
not from some centralistic database but from individuals themselves.


I don't know but I know someone who does
----------------------------------------

In many ways, the explosive growth of social networking software,
sites and data is representative of the way the Semantic Web is
emerging. Weblogs were the first wave of this evolution/revolution;
they allowed individuals to publish data in a sufficiently structured
format for machine processing of that data to be relatively trivial.
Communities formed around weblogs in a bottom-up fashion, defined
implicitly through syndication and through the lists of other weblogs
("blogrolls") that frequently accompanied weblogs. The next step,
perhaps more revolutionary than evolutionary, is to explicitly define
these (and other) communities in a way that is more easily machine
processible. The Friend Of A Friend (FOAF) project 
<http://www.foaf-project.org/> is one such initiative that is making
this possible and, like weblogs, it does this from the bottom up.

One of the aims of the FOAF project is to improve the chances of happy
accidents by describing the connections between people (and the things
that they care about such as documents and places).

FOAF is a vocabulary for describing people, used analogously to Dublin
Core metadata for documents. The idea is to use FOAF to describe the
sorts of things you would put on your homepage - your friends, your
interests, your pictures - in a structured fashion that machines find
easy to process. What you get from this is a network of people instead
of a network of web pages: the Web now contains descriptions of real
things in the world - people - and because the Semantic Web is
designed to be open and extensible, information about what these
people do (their calendar), what they own (cars, houses, pets), what
they create (documents, pictures, weblogs), can all be described as
well. Several million FOAF documents are out there on the Web already,
created both by individuals and by various social software and
networking sites. FOAF documents can be created by hand, but
increasingly, FOAF is being created from existing databases or by
mining the existing Web.

When people need to know something and the area is outside their
expertise, they need a way into the information landscape. They need
to find out what the main topics of interest are; who is well thought
of; what where the important issues and papers in the area. People
often serve as conduits for this type of information, with personal
contacts serving as a way into an area and the key individuals within
a field serving as a way of finding the main issues.

FOAF applications cannot replace the subtle social interactions which
characterise personal information exchange, but they can help to make
connections that might not otherwise have occurred: for example, by
enabling certain sorts of information to be accurately processed by
computers and therefore much easier to search.

Privacy and trust are clearly issues in FOAF as with all digital
information on the Web or elsewhere. Organisations of various sorts
already intensely mine the Web for information about individuals,
email spammers being the most frequent example. FOAF includes
protection against email spammers but in wider terms the very network
of connections described in FOAF is likely to be its greatest asset in
assessing reliability and quality of digital information on the Web.


Conclusion
----------

From the perspective of the information researcher, the Semantic Web
promises to provide and exploit joined-up information that goes way
beyond the Web's traditional page-to-page links. Analysing the impact
this will have on the day-to-day work of information professionals is
not trivial. As with most new technologies, the Semantic Web is likely
to create entirely new ways of working while simultaneously rendering
others obsolete. Applications like FOAF are at the vanguard of the
Semantic Web, enabling a glimpse of what might be achieved. Their
implicit and explicit definition of social networks offers the
information researcher a wealth of new channels into the information
cloud around individuals and communities.

Other useful links include:

<http://infomesh.net/2001/swintro/>
<http://logicerror.com/semanticWeb>
<http://www.ilrt.bris.ac.uk/projects/semantic_web>.

> - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Libby Miller is a Semantic Web developer working at ILRT at the
University of Bristol, where she leads the Semantic Web group, and
works on the EU funded SWAD-Europe project. She leads the RDF Interest
group taskforce on calendaring, and is also interested in image
annotation and RDF query. Dan Brickley and Libby are the co-creators
of FOAF. Simon Price is a technical consultant in the ILRT Internet
Development group where he is currently working on applications of
FOAF to support research. Simon is also a member of the Machine
Learning and Intelligent Systems groups at the university where he is
investigating applications of machine learning to the Semantic Web
<http://www.ilrt.bristol.ac.uk>.

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