Friend or FOAF: The Building Blocks of Content and Identity Federation
I started this whole thought experiment as someone who knows quite a lot about research and quite a lot about technology and the social web. But not all that much about how they go together. Sure I’ve trained others in researching the web, using social networking and bibliographic management with Zotero. And I’ve advised academics on how to set up websites and build communities. I’ve even toyed with the idea of setting up a consulting company to make a living that way – see http://dacademic.com for what’s left of that. I’ve done e-learning inside and out with Drupal, Moodle, Mahara and even Blackboard and WebCT. I’ve even designed my own system: http://tuit.glottalstart.com. I’ve been involved in Corpus Linguistics since before there was a BNC. I wrote my first paper in LaTeX and my first website in Notepad so the notion of markup is second nature to me. And I’ve kept an eye on the semantic web if only by a squint. But it’s only been relatively recently since I’ve paid any attention to the Digital Humanities movement or Digital Scholaship. And this made me realize what a beginner I am in this. I have many of the building blocks necessary to think about Digital Academia but I can only build very small structures before they start crumbling. I would compare this to knowing many of the words and grammatical rules of a language but very few idioms and realia. So as in my quest for an academic/practitioner research community led I was forced to start thinking about a federated academic identity, I’ve been only able to express myself in a halting manner. But since then I’ve collected a few more idioms and facts about this field. So below is a list of some of the things which I think a person entering this field will need to learn to fake talking about to pass the Digital Scholarship Turing Test and therefore bootstrap themselves into real competence. So this is really for me but I hope someone else might find this useful and/or will learn more by correcting my inaccuracies.
Language and protocols
Motto: “Let’s put the entire cultural history of the world on the web annotated in RDF.” (paraphrase of a sentiment expressed by Faith Lawrence at THAT Camp London 2010)
- RDF with its various ontologies is the prerequisite, with XML as one of the ways of expressing these (see here and here for perspectives on their relationship)
- OWL, RDFa, LEAP2A, HEAR, etc.
- DublinCore (http://dublincore.org), Outline of Cultural Materials (http://www.yale.edu/hraf/outline.htm)
- FOAF+SSL: This seems to be the most fundamental protocol for a federated identity (http://esw.w3.org/Foaf%2Bssl)
- FOAF companions:
- DOAC (Description of a Career): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Description_of_a_Career
- DOAP (Description of a Project): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DOAP
- SIOC: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantically-Interlinked_Online_Communities
- There are many others systems for marking up other types of things:
- TEI-based mark up languages: HEML – http://heml.mta.ca/, CBML – http://www.cbml.org/, etc.
- Bibliographic markup – this area seems to be defined mostly by its tools but there are CSL (http://citationstyles.org) and BIBO (http://bibliontology.com)
- Video, Audio, Object mark up: http://contextus.net/ontomedia
- RSS and Atom are ways of marking feed information for the Syndication of content
- Creative Commons is necessary to mark up content as to its reusability
- Of course the existing identifier metadata systems are also essential: URI, DOI, etc.
- SPARQL makes it possible to search all of this
- Transfer/messaging protocols like XMPP or Pubsubhubbub (http://pubsubhubub.com) (see here for comparison) are necessary to ensure the transfer, publication and subscription with SSL providing secure connections.
- OpenID and OAuth are two increasingly popular ways of authentication and rights delegation across networks; plus there’s Shibboleth (based on SAML) used for instance by e-journal repositories
Services and tools
I feel I’m on much shakier ground here. Drupal now has RDF in core (in the soon-to-be released version 7), there are plugins for WordPress, and other CMSs but it seems rather piecemeal? Mahara and Pebblepad can exchange data (albeit only through import/export) from their user’s portfolios. Moodle 2.0 uses services in ways which I still need to explore but achieving some of the effects I’m interested in.
Institutions, events and sample implementations
Here are some links in no particular order, I’ve collected in this area. Perhaps the most fragmented area of them all, at least in my mind – suggestions appreciated.
Institutions, initiatives and standards bodies
See more listed above related to individual standards.
- http://jisc.cetis.ac.uk/ – particularly http://bit.ly/a15B5S
I’m sure many important events are missing. Would appreciate corrections and additions.
Implementations and services
Some of these may not use all (or any) of the building blocks described here but they implement the ideas that can be expressed by these building blocks.
- A number of federation related projects:
BTW: I came up with the title of this blog post first, then thought this must be the most tired pun in all of semantic web, Googled it and no, the people of the web are too refined to stoop as low and obvious as this, they only use the ‘orFOAF‘ bit to elaborate ‘Friend of a Friend’. But not me.